Stress is the state of heightened worry regarding a situation we’re facing. It is a natural mechanism that helps us cope with a perceived challenge or threat. However, when stress extends in time and grows in intensity, it can cause a hormonal imbalance, leading to various health issues.
This article examines how stress and hormones are related and how to treat hormonal imbalances caused by stress.
The stress response starts in the brain. The hypothalamus sends an alarm signal through the autonomic nervous system to the adrenal glands, causing a surge in the secretion of stress hormones, including cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine.
This activity in the nervous system enables the fight-or-flight response to a stressful event, which evolved as part of the survival mechanism. This process manifests physically as quickened breathing, a pounding heart, tense muscles, increased sweating, sharpened senses, and a burst of energy.
The occasional stress response is a welcome reaction, helping us overcome a threat. When the threat passes, hormonal levels and physiological activities return to normal. However, we experience stressful events daily and may lose the ability to go back to a state of calmness. Chronically elevated hormonal levels compromise the immune system and increase the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, endocrine disorders, depression, and other serious conditions.
Stress triggers an increased production of several hormones and diminishes the activity of others.
The stress response begins on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the primary regulator of the stress response. When the hypothalamus perceives a threat, it releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release another hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which prompts the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
Note: Learn what adrenal fatigue is and how to manage its symptoms.
The adrenal cortex secretes cortisol in response to stress. Cortisol belongs to the group of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids. It is the primary stress hormone, causing various changes in the body that help it deal with stress.
Cortisol inhibits insulin production, increasing blood sugar levels and providing the body with instant energy. It also limits other functions, including digestion, reproduction, and growth processes, because they interfere with the fight-or-flight mechanism.
When released in the brain, adrenaline and noradrenaline act as neurotransmitters, conducting signals from the brain to the rest of the body. When the adrenal glands secrete these chemicals in response to a stressful event, they act as hormones helping to release sugar and fats into the bloodstream and supply energy to the body. They also increase blood flow to the heart, lungs, and skeletal muscles, gearing up the body to react.
Gonadotropins are hormones secreted by the pituitary gland, stimulating the activity of the reproductive organs. They include follicle-stimulating (FSH), luteinizing (LH), and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
In situations of heightened stress, the brain produces gonadotropin-inhibitory hormones (GnIH), limiting the activity of LH and GnRH. Scientists speculate that prolonged stress may lead to fertility issues.
Thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) are the two main thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, brain development, and other functions. Research shows their levels decrease during heightened stress due to inhibited secretion of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) caused by elevated cortisol. Prologued stress increases our susceptibility to autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.
Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can lower estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, causing a hormonal imbalance. The symptoms include reduced sex drive, fatigue, weight gain, disrupted periods, night sweating, hair loss, skin issues (such as skin tags or acne), and more.
Note: Long-term exposure to stress often manifests through various unpleasant symptoms. Eventually, it can lead to more severe diseases. Learn more about stress-induced hormonal complications in the following articles:
Patients can restore healthy hormone levels through a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments. The process begins by introducing simple but crucial modifications to your diet, increasing physical activity levels, and paying attention to your sleep habits. These changes combined will help you eliminate toxins and excess hormones from the body.
Read on to find advice on how to counteract the negative effects of stress and improve your hormonal status.
A balanced, nutrient-rich diet is at the core of every solution for optimal health. It consists of sugar-stabilizing, energy-building, and stress-relieving vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, fiber, and other ingredients that help restore healthy hormonal levels. The basis of such a diet includes:
Avoid toxic ingredients that increase cortisol and interfere with healthy energy metabolism and blood flow, including sugary, salty, and processed foods, alcohol, and tobacco.
Note: Learn more about the relationship between gut health and hormones.
Daily exercise can improve hormonal levels to stabilize sugar, decrease cholesterol, improve sleep, stimulate weight loss, and help with many other health issues. The best way to cope with stress and restore hormonal balance is to engage in at least 150 minutes of low to moderate weekly exercise, such as Pilates, yoga, or brisk walking. Refrain from high-intensity workouts because they may increase cortisol levels.
Disrupted sleep patterns hurt hormonal activity. They hinder cortisol release, affecting other sleep-regulating, appetite-controlling, and sugar-stabilizing hormones (melatonin, leptin, ghrelin, estrogen, etc.) Aim for seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to balance your hormones.
Note: Learn how to lower cortisol levels naturally.
Vitamin deficiencies often cause hormonal imbalances. For example, many adults have insufficient vitamin D and magnesium levels, which can disrupt the activity of sex hormones, insulin, and thyroid hormones.
Sometimes, it is difficult to restore depleted nutrients only through food. That’s where dietary supplements can help. If a blood test shows a specific vitamin deficiency, use an adequate dietary supplement.
Natural products containing a blend of soothing botanicals and vitamins can also improve stress-related conditions, including disrupted sleep, anxiety, and weight gain. The Vibrant Vitality Clinic team recommends Relora and Hormone Relief Elixir as a quick way to relieve stress and balance hormones.
IV therapy is the quickest way to restore depleted nutrients. It involves the intravenous delivery of a cocktail of vitamins and minerals, enabling rapid and high nutrient absorption. Unlike dietary supplements, which provide gradual symptom relief, patients feel the benefits of IV therapy immediately. They report reduced stress and anxiety, mental clarity, and more energy after the first treatment.
Note: Learn mote about the different types of IV fluids and their use cases.
Lifestyle changes can help with mild symptoms of stress-related hormonal imbalances. However, more severe symptoms often require medical help.
Hormone replacement therapy is an innovative treatment that helps men and women manage hormonal fluctuations that occur in middle age and during menopause. The treatment involves restoring depleted hormones via hormone pills, gels, patches, injections, or pellets, depending on the patient’s unique needs.
Note: Learn more about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and how it helps women during perimenopause and menopause.
Stress and hormones go hand in hand, affecting one another and potentially leading to severe diseases. Learn how to recognize a hormonal imbalance caused by stressful situations and adopt lifestyle changes that will help you cope with daily pressures.
If you need professional help, contact our medical team at Vibrant Vitality Clinic!
4325 E Indian School Rd, Suite 130
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Monday - Friday: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm