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How Stress Impacts Our Hormones

We all have it, we all know we need to reduce it, but how can stress actually impact our hormones?

Introducing Cortisol and Progesterone....

 hormonal imbalance in women symptoms stress cortisol

Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released from our adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys. We need it in small amounts, like to help us wake up in the morning, help us sprint for the bus or keep us alert when walking through a dark alley, which means it is undesirable for us to have a lot of in the body all the time.

The building blocks that make up cortisol, one of our stress hormones, are also used to make the sex hormone progesterone.

So if one of these hormones is in greater demand than the other, it means the other has less capacity to be produced, creating an imbalance.

If we are under any form of stress that produces cortisol, so for example work stress, or excessive exercise, or again eating foods high in sugar that cause blood sugar imbalance, we are essentially stealing the building blocks that make progesterone to make cortisol instead. And when we have a decrease of progesterone, it means we will have a higher oestrogen levels.

And an increase in oestrogen is when we develop a lot of the symptoms associated with female hormonal imbalance:

  • PMS

  • Irritability

  • Low energy

  • Irregular periods

  • PCOS

  • Anxiety

  • Depression to name a few.

However, another negative impact is that if we continue to have Increased insulin levels from having unbalanced blood sugar, this will eventually lead to insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance leads to increased testosterone production in women - which is characteristic of some of the symptoms of PCOS such as facial hair, but more importantly it impacts our fertility and the ability to conceive.

So that is all rather confusing, so what do we need to do?

Well firstly we want to ensure that we are eating foods that don't spike our blood sugar too much,

This will be slow release carbohydrates, good sources of protein and healthy fats.

Secondly we want to ensure we are eating enough food so that our body has enough energy to power us through the day with whatever movement or brain power we are using because If we using a lot of energy and don't eat enough, the blood sugar drops and cortisol is released.

On the flip side, if we eat too much, whether that is of high sugar foods or we are continuously grazing throughout the day, we will have a steady stream of insulin circulating throughout the bloody stream which will ultimately lead to insulin resistance

And like i mentioned before, if we have insulin resistance it leads to an increase in testosterone, causing infertility, it will also cause weight gain, and severe insulin resistance can develop into diabetes

Managing stress:

Stress reduction is very important in order to reduce our cortisol levels. When our bodies and minds are under stress, it can lead to hormonal imbalance, weight gain, poor sleep and a weakened immune system. All of these factors contribute to the bodies ability to function properly and in particular, metabolise and excrete toxic wastes and hormones in the body.

The best ways to help reduce stress levels include:

  • Deep breathing and meditation are fantastic ways to reduce stress in the body. They slows down our heart rate, reduces blood pressure and brings down stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in the body

  • Practise a hobby which will help you unwind

  • Yoga, pilates, more gentle forms of exercise

  • Setting boundaries with work, friends and family

  • Removing yourself from toxic situations, relationships and jobs

  • Creating a bedtime routine and setting the scene for sleep will help us bring our stress levels down and ensure we have good restful recovery

If you think Stress is impacting your hormones and you would like to discuss this further, then please get in contact to speak with one of my team.


Kelly Mulhall

Registered Nutritional Therapist


Kelly is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on positive physical and mental wellbeing, achieved through diet, lifestyle, sleep and exercise. Having struggled for years with IBS and hormonal imbalance, and increasingly frustrated with the lack of support and helpful advice from her GP, Kelly began her ow journey of healing the body from the inside out. After seeing huge improvements she quit her job to study nutrition and focus on harnessing the healing powers of food to help other people in similar situations.

I am not attempting to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional issues. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you have read on this website. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your primary health care provider.


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