MANAGE YOUR STRESS
I know it is easier said than done, but chronic stress wreaks havoc on hormones, and if you have a hormonal problem you really need to assess your stress levels and ability to cope with stress. Eating well, exercising regularly, giving yourself time-out and also facing what is causing stress in your life are absolutely vital to the health of your hormones.
The primary hormone released in times of chronic stress is cortisol. The building block for cortisol is pregnenolone, which happens to be the same building block for the sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone). When we have chronically high cortisol levels from stress we do not produce sufficient quantities of sex hormones and so suffer from imbalances such as infertility, menstrual disorders, mood swings and low libido.
One of the functions of cortisol is to raise blood glucose levels. However, constantly high levels of glucose in the blood stream lead to insulin resistance and the effects of insulin resistance include fatigue, increased appetite, abdominal weight gain, and eventually type 2 diabetes mellitus.
In addition, chronically high levels of cortisol upset sleeping patterns. Cortisol is released in a cyclical rhythm, peaking in the mornings at approximately 8 am and then waning in the afternoons, between 3 and 4 pm. This rhythm enables you to get up and function in the mornings and then relax and ‘switch off’ at the end of the day. If, however, cortisol is constantly being released into your bloodstream due to ongoing stress, then this natural rhythm, and hence your sleeping rhythms, become displaced. High levels of cortisol circulating in your bloodstream in the middle of the night means you will be wide awake in the middle of the night. And when these levels crash early in the morning you will too.
So dealing with stress is of paramount importance to the general functioning of your hormones. What is important to be aware of is that chronic stress comes in many forms, not just the obvious emotional, financial, relationship, work stress that we are all so aware of. Long-term illness, injury, pain or inflammation are also stressors to the body, raising cortisol levels and disrupting our hormonal balance.