Stress Part 2: Hormones
Last week I discussed how stress can affect the skin. Today I’ll be talking about some different ways stress can make hormones go haywire. Most women remember a time when their period went wonky during a stressful episode in life. This is just one example of how stress can impact hormones. Read on to find out how stress can play a role in hormonal conditions.
IRREGULAR/ ABSENT PERIODS
Amenorhea is the term used for when you miss your period for multiple cycles. When this is caused by stress it’s known as hypothalamic amenorrhea. This fancy term is used because when you’re stressed the part of the brain called the hypothalamus triggers a release of different stress hormones like cortisol. This can cause the brain to release less of the hormones important for your cycle (like LH and FSH). This ends up disturbing the ovulation process and the whole cycle. A similar process can lead to irregular periods.
One of the most common pieces of advice given to women trying to get pregnant is to be less stressed. Like with hypothalamic amenorrhea, stress can lead to less consistent ovulation. This can make getting pregnant more complicated. Preliminary studies have found that stress can lead to something called reproductive aging. This involves decreased ability for the ovaries to produce a healthy egg.
There is some research suggesting that stress hormones like cortisol can make your body respond less to the hormone insulin. This makes it harder for your body to control blood sugar. Blood sugar may remain high for longer after meals when you’re stressed.
Improving stress levels has been shown to improve thyroid hormone levels. Cortisol can reduce thyroid hormone levels.
Don’t think that stress only impacts women’s health! Hormones in men are also affected by stress. The effects are less understood though. There is research suggesting that stress may lower testosterone levels in men.
As you can see stress management is an important part of a plan to treat any of these conditions. If you need help with your hormones or your stress levels book an appointment or free 15 minute consult.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected].