Stress as a Cause of Hormone Deficiency
Stress has become such a routine part of our lives that we rarely give it the attention it deserves. In recently conversing with a patient, she told me that she only knew how to function in a stress state. Asking for clarification upon her comment, she went on to tell me that her life has become so inundated with stress and the seemingly perpetual growth of her “to do list”, that when she was not pushing to tackle the next line item that she was not being productive. On top of this she went on to tell me that she was suffering from unrelenting fatigue and that her menses had become increasing irregular.
The more I listened to my patient, it was clear that she was suffering from a hormone deficiency. Worse yet, it did not appear to be a single hormone, but multiple hormone deficiencies that were affecting her. The interesting part about this patient is that she is not alone. In fact, she is one of many that I see with similar presentations. Further emphasizing a broad scale problem is that hormone deficiencies secondary to chronic stress are. not gender specific; Males are equally as susceptible. The bigger picture is that we all live in a world that can trap us and make us victims if we allow it to. The secret is having the tools to help your body better deal with stress.
The onset of hormone deficiencies secondary to stress is not a mystery, but it is rarely talked about in the full context of its significance. I could walk into almost any clinic in Houston, or across the United States and find patients nearly identical to my patient that I initially described. Why? The answer goes back to the need for our bodies to handle stress. Stress is the priority for the body. It is the classic “fight or flight” response. Chronic stress requires consistent production of the hormone cortisol.
Many think about cortisol as being the hormone that promotes increased fat around the midsection. While this is a real consideration for cortisol, the main objective of cortisol is to increase the availability of glucose so that you can continue to accommodate to your stress. Cortisol has many affects in the body, but the primary action is glucose (blood sugar) regulation. Given that our body has a build in mechanism to handle stress, we are meant to endure it. The problem becomes when that stress is unrelenting. Our body can manage intermittent stress. In fact it actually does better when we are exposed to intermittent stressors. In contrast, relentless stress damages our body. This is where hormone deficiencies begin to present themselves.
Balancing Hormone Production
When you are dealing with stress and the demand for cortisol is high, the ability to produce other hormones is reduced. There is only a limited amount of total hormone that can be made each day. If the majority of that is going towards your stress hormones, then this leaves little to support the hormones such as progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and the estrogens, just to name a few. As a result you end up with hormone deficiencies. Again, these are not just usually one hormone, but many, thus further explaining why symptoms can feel so relentless.
Overcoming a hormone deficiency means dealing with the cause. For most, that is going to be stress. According to research, we can actually use intermittent stress to help us better accommodate to chronic stress, whether physical or psychological. For example, routine exercise is a valuable part of the hormone restoration process when properly applied (). However, true restoration does not mean just using hormone replacement therapy. It means getting back to the core of the dysfunction, and in this case, that means aiding in your body’s ability to manage stress on a day to day basis while also offering the necessary precursors that would allow your body to inherently make its own hormone. You can beat hormone deficiencies, even those related to stress. It just takes a game plan that is specific to you and your needs.