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How Does Stress Impact Thyroid Hormone and Sex Hormones?

Hormones play a huge role in our energy levels, mood, and overall health. With imbalances, they can cause symptoms like fatigue, depression and anxiety, PMS, eczema, acne, low libido, weight gain, and even digestive issues. Many women often come in to see me first with complaints of fatigue and or difficulty around weight loss. These women frequently will also will have menstrual issues, whether it being irregular cycles or bad PMS. The interplay of the adrenal glands, thyroid gland, and ovaries is huge, and an imbalance in one area can cause the other areas to tip. For instance, where we are in the heart of Silicon Valley, the fast-paced demanding jobs and lifestyles don’t leave a lot of room and space to rest and restore. This constant drive to keep up, whether it is with work, hobbies, kids, etc. takes a toll on our adrenal glands. Over time, our adrenal glands which put out the long-term stress hormone, cortisol, as well as the short-term hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine, start to fall and production of these hormones decrease. Eventually, as cortisol falls, many symptoms can arise, including fatigue, anxiety, more colds/flus, increased allergies to foods, increased hay fever, skin conditions like hives, eczema, or psoriasis, increased sweating, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and difficulty handling stressors that may not have been a problem before. On top of this, stress can also affect the thyroid by decreasing amounts of active thyroid hormone circulating in the blood. When thyroid hormones begin to drop, this will also impact people’s energy levels along with decreasing metabolism, making people feel more lethargic, cold, depressed, and have a tendency to gain weight or have difficulty losing weight. Stress affects the balance of sex hormones as well, which can lead to hormonal imbalances like estrogen dominance, where there can be more PMS symptoms including bloating, irritability, and breast tenderness before a woman's period. Cycles can also become irregular and even stop completely. Because there is a close connection between the adrenals, thyroid, and ovaries, I often look at all of these areas at once through symptoms and lab work and balance the areas that need to be supported.

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