Today I had a conversation with a lovely mama of 3 about how stress negatively affects our hormones and we were chatting about the ‘pregnenolone steal’. So I thought I’d go into the details a little more for anyone who is looking to learn more about how physical, chemical, and emotional stress negatively affects our sex hormones.
Let’s jump in, pregnenolone it is created within the adrenal glands through cholesterol. Cholesterol has received a bad rap over the years but it truly is important for our body. Fun fact, only 25% of cholesterol in our body comes from food. The other 75% is produced by our body. Pregnenolone breaks down to then progesterone and DHEA. Most people are familiar with progesterone through pregnancies but it general it is important for our body to produce proper amount of progesterone.
Here is where the tricky part comes into play, from progesterone we either produce aldosterone or cortisol. Aldosterone helps regulate blood pressure. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is released from the adrenal glands. Now stress can sometimes be good. For instance, going to the gym can be a micro stressor to the body but in general this is what we call a eustress (aka good stress for the body). Although, when we are under large amounts of negative stress it affects the pathway because the body will prioritize creating cortisol above the other pathways. And the important thing to know if that your nervous system perceives running from a bear the same way it perceives work stress, not sleeping because of small children, diet stress, emotional stress through everything that has gone on in the world the last few years, etc.
So now just imagine your body is prioritizing sending cholesterol down the pathway of cortisol over the last few years because it perceives its environment as constantly running from a bear…pretty crazy right! When this happens it affects aldosterone, meaning your blood pressure might slowly rise. Your youth hormone, aka DHEA, starts to get affected and you feel your body looks more worn down. You don’t have the energy to get stuff done because testosterone is low. Your cycle is no longer a ‘normal’ cycle because your estrogen is no longer regulated. Some other symptoms I often see when the body is under stress for a long period time is thyroid dysfunction, leaky gut (which leads to food sensitives, bloating, allergies), and decrease in sleep. These are just a couple things that can happen when we are under stress for long periods of time.
This is why it is important to understand why stress can negatively affect our body instead of just trying to push through it. If you are looking for ways to reduce or manage stress in your life, jump back to the blog post from October. If you are looking to test your hormones to see where you might be struggling, let me know and we can get you started down the right path!