Stress for Minnesotans, whether it’s perceived or not perceived, can be physical, mental, emotional and environmental in nature. There are often events and periods of time in life that can be identified as particularly stressful such as a car accident, death of a loved one or job loss. Stress is not only negative but can be associated with positive circumstances as well, such as a wedding or job promotion. In addition to these major life events, there are many factors that add to an individual’s stress load including: infections, allergies, depression, chronic disease, overworking, guilt, sleep deprivation, toxic exposures, blood sugar fluctuations, medications and more.
Hormones, including cortisol and DHEA from the adrenal glands, are an integral part of the physiological stress response. While the body’s intricate hormonal system is adept at handling isolated stressful events, Minneapolis’s busy world equipped with cell phones, fluorescent lights, traffic and more, presents a taxing environment of consistent stressors. This state of consistent stress increases the body’s demand for adrenal hormones and often results in hormonal dysregulation.
Pregnenolone, the primary precursor hormone to all steroid hormones, including cortisol, DHEA, estradiol, progesterone and testosterone, is essential in the body’s guest to maintain adequate cortisol levels during times of chronic and consistent stress. While pregnenolone can be directed toward the production of any of these various hormones, increased demand for cortisol due to constant stress results in the shunting of pregnenolone down the pathway that favors cortisol production thus leaving less of this pro-hormone available to produce the other steroid hormones. The hormonal imbalance that ensues further contributes to the overall stress burden of the body, further compounding the existing picture of chronic stress.
Estrogen dominance refers to a state where there is a greater influence of estrogen than progesterone on tissues. There are many situations and conditions that can contribute to this imbalance including increases in estrogen production, exposure to exogenous estrogens, and decreased progesterone production. Because the body can convert progesterone to cortisol, increased stress (and a higher demand for cortisol) often results in decreased progesterone production, thereby exacerbating the imbalance between the estrogens and progesterone.
Stress = Adrenal Fatigue
Our endocrine system is designed to handle an acute stressful event and allows us to protect ourselves from danger or flee from it. The constant barrage of micro-stressful events such as traffic, social stresses, infectious agents, chemical exposures etc. often result in a chronically stimulated adrenal response. While most other animals rest and allow their systems to calm after a stressful encounter, we rarely give our bodies the actual break we need. Over time, with continued stimulation, the stress response becomes less sensitive and the signal to produce cortisol lessens, often to the point of very little cortisol output at all; this is called Adrenal fatigue or exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue can happen to some people after a single stressful event, while for others it occurs after an accumulation of smaller stressors. We are all different, and the length of time we can “keep up the pace” is variable, that is why it important to get your hormones tested and balanced at One Stop Wellness Center in Edina, MN.