Women wear many hats…and not just on Kentucky Derby Day. Wife. Mother. Employee. Daughter. Sister. Friend. By juggling so many roles in the three-ring circus known as life, it is inevitable that stress will play a role in your day-to-day routine. Perhaps an even bigger one than you imagined.
The problem with stress is that not only does it suck, but it sucks the life out of you as well. Studies have shown that chronic stress disrupts the production of hormones. Anytime we feel stress, our body naturally produces cortisol. This hormone is responsible for how our minds react to a stressful situation.
More stress means more cortisol. When there is a cortisol imbalance in women, it leads to an overthrow of all the other hormones that your body needs.
Let’s take a look at the symptoms of cortisol imbalance in women and some natural ways to counteract its effect on your body.
What is Cortisol?
The reason our body produces cortisol when we are under stress is because cortisol is its built-in defense mechanism. Within the amygdala area of the brain, we store memories of the emotional reactions we had to certain memories. This is the reason the smell of chocolate cookies may remind you of your mother. As a response to this heartwarming scent, our body releases a neurotransmitter called serotonin, and we feel happy.
Now say you were attacked by a dog as a child and are scared for your life every time you pass one. The amygdala recalls the fear you felt as you were being bitten and the pain it felt afterward as the wounds healed. Due to these memories, every time you cross a dog, you may tense up. That’s because your body releases cortisol to trigger a fight-or-flight response.
So, take that extremely stressful situation and apply it to everyday life. Do you go to a job that you hate everyday? Or perhaps your child has been running with the wrong crowd. Maybe you suspect your husband is having an affair. All of these everyday occurrences make more cortisol production. Stress breeds stress.
Imagine pouring an endless bag of M&M’s into a 6-ounce bowl. Even though the bag is endless, how many ounces of M&M’s are going to fit into that bowl? The answer is six. So, if your body can only hold so many hormones, and everyday life keeps triggering more cortisol production, how much room do you think you have for happy neurotransmitters or hormones such as progesterone, insulin, and adrenaline?
Signs of Unbalanced Levels of Cortisol
While some people cope with stress quite well, others let it control their every thought and move. Some people fit somewhere in between. Through all the hustle and bustle, we might not even be aware that our cortisol levels are through the roof.
Here are some telltale high cortisol symptoms:
• Loss of muscle mass and lower bone density
• Weight gain
• Trouble with concentration and focus
• Low blood pressure
• Digestive problems
• Low motivation
• Decreased sex drive
If you are suffering from one or more of the aforementioned symptoms, you may want to consult your physician.
Cortisol and Adrenal Fatigue
If you didn’t think cortisol was ruining your life enough, just wait. There’s more! Cortisol has to come from somewhere. It derives from the endocrine system in an area called the adrenal glands. Now, picture the episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel work in the chocolate factory. If the conveyor belt can’t keep up with the chocolate production, the chocolates are all going to crash to the floor.
Producing that much cortisol, or chocolate, is too much for the adrenal glands, or conveyor belt, to handle. On top of all that cortisol, the adrenal glands are in charge of producing other hormones.
Remember when we said that the amygdala lets your body know when the crud is hitting the fan? Well, when this happens, the amygdala sends a distressed signal to the hypothalamus, which controls the sympathetic system. Here, they send a current to the adrenal glands and poof! Adrenaline!
This is why when you are feeling stressed, you may experience symptoms like:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Random bursts of strength
- Anxious energy
- Increased blood pressure
- Quicker breaths
Constantly creating these hormones to combat feelings of stress can cause your adrenal glands to go into overdrive.
Cortisol and Hypothyroidism
One hand washes the other. The same can be said for our hormones. As we have noted, when there is a cortisol imbalance in women, the rest of the system pays the consequences. This is also true for the thyroid gland.
Studies have verified that cortisol suppresses the growth of TSH, the enzyme responsible for the production of the thyroid hormone. It also hits the system with a double whammy by prohibiting the conversion of thyroid hormone T3 to active T4. Consequently, it increases the switch of T4 into reverse T3.
Ways to Create Normal Cortisol Levels
There are many medications on the market that could help you regulate the production of cortisol. However, seeing as cortisol is a hormone that your body produces naturally, it’s something that you can try to combat naturally as well.
Natural ways that could help alleviate symptoms of cortisol imbalance in women include:
- A balanced diet with a variety of multi-colored foods
- Deep breathing techniques
- Walks in nature
- Natural supplements
When dealing with natural supplements, you want to be sure to take a product that has been clinically proven to help alleviate stress.
Ashwagandha and Cortisol Imbalance
If you are looking for a supplement that could help fight off high cortisol symptoms, try a staple in Eastern medicine. Studies have found that ayurvedic ashwagandha, “improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.”
Derived from the Indian plant, Withania somnifera, what makes ayurvedic ashwagandha such an effective supplement is that it contains a litany of unique compounds that combat many of our everyday issues.
Benefits of ayurvedic ashwagandha includes:
- Nerve and immune support
- Healthy joints
- Reproductive health
- Anxiety relief
- Energy normalization
- Antioxidant strength to neutralize free radicals
Some of the compounds responsible for giving ashwagandha its unique therapeutic properties are rare natural steroids called withanolides. Our formula of ayurvedic ashwagandha contains KSM-66. It’s taken 14 years to perfect and is the most potent dose of the extract in the world — meaning more withanolides — which makes our ayurvedic ashwagandha better suited than other supplements to correct symptoms of cortisol imbalance in women.
Correct the Cortisol Imbalance
You no longer need to be held back by stress. Now that you know what cortisol is, its function, the symptoms of high cortisol levels, and how to reduce cortisol, it is time to correct the issue. Exercising, dieting, and supplementing with natural products such as ayurvedic ashwagandha can help you become your best self.
How do you cope with stress? Sound off in the comments section below!