Stress - how is it linked to hormonal imbalance?

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

When asked to identify triggers and drivers for stress, most people would list work deadlines, financial issues or the death of a loved one as key factors. However less obvious ones such as poor diet, circadian rhythm disruption (our 24 hour sleep/wake cycle) and environmental toxins (think toiletries, cosmetics and household cleaning products or toxic fumes), are equally important. When looking at stress from from this wider perspective, it is clear that everyone regardless of age or situation is susceptible.

The manner in which a person responds to a situation or stimulus is key to the underlying cause of chronic stress. Whether threats are real, anticipated or imagined our stress response is triggered. Our main stress hormone cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and takes priority over other systems such as the reproductive, metabolic and digestive systems. When cortisol is continually elevated this can really affect production of sex hormones causing hormonal imbalance, thyroid hormones as well as affecting digestive health. All of which can have a negative impact on menopausal symptoms.

The good news is that we can all take small steps to change some of our stressors.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Regulate circadian rhythms. We are designed to be active in the daytime (preferably outside in nature) and to wind down - in preparation for restorative, restful sleep - at night. This mechanism gets disrupted by exposure to melatonin-suppressing blue light, melatonin being the regulatory hormone of circadian rhythms. Blue light is emitted by artificial light and screens (including computer screens, tablets, smartphones and televisions) so it is best to limit exposure to these at least two to three hours before bed.

Observe your thought patterns. We identify so much with the constant chatter in our heads that we frequently perceive it to be the unequivocal truth. It is possible to train oneself to not be a slave to our thoughts and to frame events more positively. For example, the person who just pushed past you in the street may have just received some bad news, rather than deliberately trying to upset you. In the same vein, "failure" could be perceived as an opportunity to work out what could be done differently, without judgement, to achieve a desired result. Meditation is a great way to train your mind to not get too attached to your thoughts.

Limit exposure to environmental toxins. Granted, we all have to live in a world where toxicity is rife but we can choose to make our homes, our food and our products as natural and organic as possible. Buying the best quality food we can afford, reading labels and choosing ethical brands are all a step in the right direction.

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