When Cortisol Goes High, Progesterone Goes Low.
ByKatarina Meister, ND •October 10, 2023
Prolonged stress can have a significant impact on female hormones specifically testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Cortisol, our stress hormone, is produced by the adrenal glands in times of stress. Cortisol has several important functions in the body including lowering overall inflammation, boosting energy, regulating our blood pressure and blood sugar, and maintaining our sleep cycle. Normally after periods of high stress, your body can recover and regulate cortisol levels. However, with chronic stress, the body has a difficult time recovering and this results in an extended period of high cortisol.
The most notable hormone imbalance that high cortisol causes is low progesterone. High cortisol can delay ovulation and decrease progesterone levels. Initially, with low progesterone, there can be shorter menstrual cycles or heavier menstrual cycles. Eventually, low progesterone can cause abnormal menstrual bleeding, menstrual spotting, irregular periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, headaches or migraines, mood changes, anxiety, depression, weight gain, low libido, breast tenderness, and fibroids. Women who are in this state of chronic anovulation are usually in an excess of estrogen, or in an estrogen-dominant state that disrupts the normal pattern of the menstrual cycle.
Stress reduction has a significant influence on hormones. If you are struggling with stress-induced hormone imbalances here are some ways you can alleviate stress, lower cortisol, and get back into balance:
- Practice deep breathing techniques
- Exercise regularly
- Practice yoga, tai chi, or meditation
- Spend time with friends
- Reduce caffeine and sugar intake
- Find ways to laugh more
- Learn to say no and avoid overextending yourself
- Get regular massages
- Talk to a therapist or counselor
Read ideas more here:
Outside of lifestyle factors, I often recommend adaptogens to balance cortisol levels. Adaptogens are botanical medicines that help the body respond to stress by supporting the adrenal glands and endocrine system. Adaptogens can help with anxiety, fatigue, and overall well-being. One of my favorite adaptogens is ashwagandha. Read more about Ashwagandha here.
Continue learning about natural hormone balance here.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.