Updated: Apr 5
It seems that almost everyone I speak to is running through their life at a frantic pace, constantly in high-performance mode with little downtime or rest. It’s true that we live in a type A society where productivity, speed and working long hours are valued, but what kind of impact is it having on our health?
I tend to view women’s health though a hormone lens, because this is where the imbalance first starts to show for most of us – more PMS, a change in our cycles, changes in energy patterns, weight fluctuations and disruption in sleep to name a few. And I believe that if we start to pay attention to these cues first, it can prevent some of the deeper health issues related to chronic high stress from developing.
Busy women are burning out – and they often have the same hormonal imprint
Running non-stop through life certainly impacts our hormones, and the pattern that I see time-after time is:
high cortisol (eventually drops to low cortisol)
low free T3
I’ve named this the “too busy hormone triad”. The important thing to note is that this pattern of hormone changes are all your body trying to protect you, to slow you down, to prevent pregnancy when stress is too high, and to make you rest. Unfortunately though, when your hormones go out of balance, so do you. Here are some of the signs of these hormone imbalances:
1. High cortisol
Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that responds to your stresses. When stresses are constant, it first raises to respond – meaning you’re primed and ready for stress. Here are some symptoms of high cortisol levels.
easily reactive to daily stresses
waking up to early (often 4am)
gaining weight in the central abdomen
acne, especially around the chin
(Note: this article does not describe the very high cortisol associated with Cushing’s disease. Here we are talking about a physiological stress response, not a disease or disorder).
2. Low progesterone
Progesterone is the hormone that you make after ovulation, and this hormone is essential for fertility, and also for how you feel through the second half of your cycle. Here are some signs of low progesterone:
PMS! – more mood swings the week before your period
bloating, food cravings, breast tenderness
changes in your cycle – often getting heavier and closer together
anger, anxiety, mood fluctuations
3. Low free T3
T3 or Triiodothyronine is one of your thyroid hormones, and specifically one that is an indicator of how active your thyroid is at the cellular level. This hormone is particularly sensitive to stress, and it drops in a clever way that your body slows you down. Free T3 also drops with major illness, over-exercising, under-eating and certain medication. Symptoms of low free T3 include:
hair loss, dry skin
weight gain or difficulty losing weight
Solutions for hormone balance
If you’re reading this article and wondering, “how do I maintain my high-paced life and keep my hormones in balance?” I have some suggestions for you.
Build in breaks and acknowledge you need for downtime
Remember your own needs, especially if PMS is intense —-> PMS, especially the emotional side, intensifies when we ignore our own needs
Recognize that downtime and rest are also productive times. Your body only heals and repairs in a state of rest, and it must be prioritized.
Pay attention to what activates your ‘relaxation response’ – nature, yoga, walking, social time, cooking,… and include these regularly in your life.
Be careful with they types of exercise you do, especially when the pace of life is high. Do not overdo the intensity or duration of your workouts, to avoid adding extra stress to your already stressed-out body.
If you suspect that your hormones are out of balance from your busy life, we can very simply test your hormones to understand how to best support them. Along with the simple (yet difficult) recommendations above we can use herbs and nutrients, and in some cases bioidentical hormones to get your health back on track. Remember that peak performance in all areas of your life requires balanced hormones.
If you would like to learn about how to support your stress hormones and cortisol levels better, or are interested in testing please book in for an appointment. This can make a profound impact on your feelings of health and wellbeing.