Stress. We can’t live with it, and we can’t live without it. Imagine how boring life would be if we never had stress. We wouldn’t date, buy a house, or have kids. The best things in life are stressful, don’t you agree? But of course negative stress, or a chronically high level of stress, can damage our health. How do we protect ourselves against the demands of modern life?
We’re all familiar with the “fight or flight” response triggered by stress. Our heart starts to race, our vision and hearing become sharpened, and emotional reactions dominate our logical, thinking brain. This is an intelligent move by the body because it is intended to get us out of danger, but it is intended for short-term use only, to let us escape a threatening situation.
Chronic stress contributes to heart disease, diabetes, digestive difficulties, and decreased mental performance. Under chronic stress, the adrenal glands produce high amounts of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). This can eventually cause adrenal fatigue and also disrupt hormone balance, which is common for both men and women in their 40’s and 50’s.
Using menopause as one example, here’s what happens. After menopause, the adrenal glands are tasked with producing estrogen once the ovaries decrease their production of estrogen. If a women is in a state of adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress, her adrenal glands can’t produce enough estrogen, and the hormonal changes of menopause become too drastic for her body to adapt to. Symptoms like mood changes, insomnia, and hot flashes can be disruptive to a woman’s life.
Female reproductive hormones can be thrown out of balance by chronic stress. When stress hormone output is high, the hormone progesterone is depleted. This can cause a state of progesterone deficiency, which is similar to estrogen dominance. In a cycling woman, this can result in heavy bleeding, cramping, water retention, headaches, and moodiness.
Toxicity, in the form of estrogen-mimicking chemicals, can contribute to hormonal imbalances in two ways. First, the sheer amount of estrogen-like chemicals contributes to a state of estrogen dominance. Second, excess toxicity overloads the liver and prevents it from properly breaking down both natural and artificial estrogens.
Next week, we will discuss solutions for balancing hormones naturally and protecting ourselves against chronic stress.