Tag Archives: stress

Stress can wreck your hormones and cause PMS

pms pregnenolone steal copy

For some women, their monthly period is no big deal. For others, it’s a grueling journey through depression, anxiety, irritability, pain, and more. If you think premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is too awful to be natural, you’re right — PMS is a symptom of a hormone imbalance often caused by too much stress.

Although a variety of factors can cause hormonal imbalances and PMS, one of the more common is low progesterone caused by long term chronic stress.

Low progesterone symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Crying easily
  • Irritability
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent or irregular menstruation
  • Low sex drive
  • Migraines

How stress lowers progesterone

Chronic stress causes pregnenolone steal, a situation that causes progesterone deficiency and hormonal imbalances. Pregnenolone is a precursor hormone used to make progesterone and the stress hormone cortisol.

The body can only make so much pregnenolone. This means that if stress is always high, it “steals” pregnenolone from progesterone to make cortisol in order to meet the demands of stress. This causes an imbalance between progesterone and estrogen.

Factors that cause pregnenolone steal

Progesterone cream use can further skew hormones. It’s better to address the causes of low progesterone, which is typically stress-induced pregnenolone steal. Causes of pregnenolone steal and PMS include:

  • Sugar and sweeteners, excess processed carbs — rice, pasta, bread, pastries, etc.
  • Excess caffeine
  • Food intolerances — gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, grains, etc.
  • Digestive issues — bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, leaky gut, pain, etc.
  • Lack of sleep
  • Inflammation — joint pain, chronic pain, skin rashes, brain fog, fatigue, etc.
  • Autoimmune disease (such as Hashimoto’s)
  • Overdoing it; over exercising
  • Feeling constantly overwhelmed
  • Poor nutrition

Reverse pregnenolone steal to soothe PMS

Ways to reduce pregnenolone steal include an anti-inflammatory diet, restoring gut health, and managing autoimmunity.

A variety of compounds can help soothe PMS, such as omega 3 fatty acids and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). GLA is found in evening primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant oil.

Supporting serotonin, a brain chemical that promotes well-being, may help with PMS mood symptoms — tryptophan, 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, and SAMe.

This is a broad overview. Ask me for more advice on using natural therapies to alleviate PMS and support healthy hormones.

Is stress making you sick? Here are some ways to find out


You’ve probably heard it over and over: Stress raises the risk of disease. But how do you know if your stress is the disease-causing kind? It’s helpful to know some signs and tests to let you know.

Severe stress can either cause you to be fatigued all the time, wired all the time, or a mix of both. Or maybe stress manifests as sleep issues.

It’s not uncommon for people to become so used to being stressed out they fail to realize it’s an issue.

Symptoms of fatigue-based stress

• Fatigue
• Slow to get going in the morning
• Energy crash in the afternoon
• Craving sweets, caffeine, or nicotine
• Unstable behavior; moodiness
• Shaky, light-headed, or irritable if meals are delayed
• Inability to stay asleep
• Dizziness when moving from sitting to standing

Symptoms of wired stress

• Excess belly fat
• Insulin resistance (high blood sugar)
• Insomnia
• Not feeling rested in the morning
• Women grow facial hair; men grow breasts
• PCOS in women (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

How to do a lab test for stress

You can do a lab test to measure how well your body is dealing with stress using your saliva; it’s called an adrenal salivary panel. Your adrenal glands are two small glands that sit atop each kidney that secrete stress hormones.

To get the most from the adrenal salivary panel, do the test a second time after following a health protocol for four to six weeks. This shows you whether you’re on the right track with your healing approach.

This is because stress in the body is always caused by more than just the stress that we perceive, for example low or high blood sugar, an infection, or autoimmune disease.

Adrenal health should improve as you manage these conditions. If things do not improve, it means you must keep searching to find out what is taxing the body.

Measuring your sleep-wake cycle

Another way to gauge stress is to look at your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Are you alert in the morning and sleepy at night? An abnormal circadian rhythm is one symptom of adrenal stress.

Your primary stress hormone, cortisol, should be high in the morning and low at night. Many people have a backwards rhythm causing fatigue in the morning and insomnia at night. Or, instead of a gradual decline of cortisol during the day, it may suddenly drop in the afternoon, causing an energy crash.

Where are you on the stress scale?

By measuring several markers, the adrenal saliva test can tell you whether you are in:

• The “alarm reaction” of high adrenal hormones
• Adrenal exhaustion and chronic tiredness
• Somewhere in between

You do not necessarily have to progress from alarm reaction to adrenal fatigue. It’s possible to jump between phases, or stay in one phase for years.

The adrenal saliva test also measures immune cells called total SIgA. This is a measure of how stress has impacted your immune system over time. If SIgA is low, it can mean you are more susceptible to food intolerances, infections, and weakened immunity.

Start with blood sugar stability to manage stress

Although diet and lifestyle factors are important in managing stress, the most common cause of chronic stress is a blood sugar imbalance. Addressing high or low blood sugar are vital to addressing chronic stress.

Additionally, various herbal and nutritional compounds can profoundly influence adrenal function. For instance, herbs called adrenal adaptogens are very beneficial regardless of which stage you are in.

Ask me how you can support your adrenal health.

Functional nutrition tips for election stress recovery

Election in mindWeathering one of the most acrimonious elections in U.S. history can be hard on health. Fortunately, functional nutrition offers some strategies to help take the edge off.

Prolonged heightened stress, fear, anger, and negativity have been shown to harmfully impact the body in the following ways:

Raises inflammation. Heightened stress and negativity can inflame joints, cause skin breakouts, disrupt brain function, upset the stomach, provoke respiratory problems, and trigger headaches.

Triggers anxiety, depression, and/or insomnia. People have lost sleep and become anxious and depressed this election year. Chronic stress keeps the central nervous system in a heightened state, chipping away at your health.

Causes stomach aches and abdominal symptoms. Chronic stress ravages the gut, predisposing one to pain, inflammation, and digestive upsets.

Tightens muscles. Chronic stress keeps the body in fight-or-flight, with the muscles constantly tense.

Imbalances hormones. Stress hormones can devastate the delicate balance of hormones in both women and men. This can impact menstrual cycles, libido, and the brain.

Causes brain fog and memory loss. Because chronic stress and negativity are so inflammatory, the brain may become inflamed as well. Common symptoms of brain inflammation are brain fog, depression, and memory loss.

Weakens or over stimulates immunity. Chronic stress weakens the immune system so that you’re more susceptible to illness. It can also over stimulate it so that autoimmune conditions flare up.

Promotes high blood pressure and respiratory stress. Chronic stress constricts the blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and inflames respiratory conditions.

Encourages addiction and bad habits. Chronic stress makes people more prone to addictive behaviors.


Healthy ways to buffer the effects of election stress

Stress is a normal function that serves a survival purpose. The trick is to rebound from it appropriately.
Although it’s tempting to mix a drink or pop a Xanax, aim for functional medicine tips that ease election anxiety and support your health:

Take an adrenal adaptogen supplement. These herbs help buffer the body and brain during stress. Examples include ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil, rhodiola, eleuthero, and pantethine.

Connect with others. Seek out like-minded friends and do something fun. Positive socialization is a well-documented health booster.

Release feel-good hormones through exercise. Exercise can’t be beat in the face of chronic stress and negativity. It floods your body with feel-good hormones that improve health and brain function. Just be careful not to overdo it, over exercising stresses and inflames the body.

Find unidentified causes of stress. Much of our stress today comes from factors we’re not even aware of. Unstable blood sugar is the most common. Unidentified food sensitivities, such as to gluten or dairy, is also common. Chemical sensitivities, anemia, unmanaged autoimmunity, leaky gut, and infections are examples of health issues that keep one in a state of chronic stress.

Practice positivity. Although it’s important to allow and process any negative emotions, at some point it’s vital to practice positivity, something science shows is vital to good health.

By taking better care of your health and managing how outside events affect you, you have a better chance of having a more positive impact on your own life and the people around you.

How stress is hard on the body and what to do about it

why stress is so bad for you copy

Most cases of chronic disease can be linked to stress, even if that stress is more physical than psychological. About two-thirds of doctor’s visits are for stress-related complaints.

How does stress causes disease? The body responds to stress by making adrenal hormones (such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol  that cause the “fight or flight” response. This response raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, and sends blood to the limbs in preparation for action. The sweaty palms, quickened breathing, and jitters before a job interview, first date, or big test? That’s from stress hormones.

A healthy body quickly returns to normal after a stressful situation. The problem with life today is stress is ongoing and many people never return to “normal.” Chronic financial worries, a stressful job, or a bad relationship keep us locked in fight-or-flight.

Stress doesn’t have to be only related to lifestyle. In fact, stressors to the body are more insidious and can be more damaging. These include a diet high in sugar and starchy foods, not eating enough or eating too much, gut problems, food intolerances, high or low blood sugar, diabetes, anemia, autoimmune disease, chronic pain, and environmental toxins.

How stress damages your body

Unrelenting stress causes continual production of cortisol  Cortisol is known as the aging hormone because it breaks us down more quickly. Chronic high cortisol is linked to:

  • depression
  • insomnia
  • increased belly fat
  • diabetes
  • insulin resistance
  • high blood pressure
  • low energy
  • suppressed immunity
  • reduced libido
  • bone loss
  • heart problems

Symptoms of chronic stress

You might think this is a no-brainer — a symptom of chronic stress is feeling stressed out.

This is true in many, but not all cases. Other lesser-known symptoms that indicate stress is robbing you of health include: constant fatigue, energy crashes, difficulty recovering from stressful events, headaches, trouble falling and staying asleep, trouble waking up, emotional mood swings, sugar and caffeine cravings, irritability, lightheadedness between meals, eating to relieve fatigue, dizziness upon standing, and gastric ulcers.

How to buffer damages of stress

The most important first step in addressing stress to better manage chronic disease is obvious: remove the stressors. This can mean a diet and lifestyle overhaul.

It also means adding in activities that lower stress and release chemicals and hormones that lower inflammation and improve overall health of the body and brain.

These include plenty of sleep, meditation, daily physical activity, hobbies, socializing, laughter, a healthy whole foods diet, avoiding junk foods, and more.

Herbal adaptogens help the body cope with stress

Daily stress is a way of life for the average American. Just the toxic chemicals we encounter in our environment are considerably stressful. Urban life, traffic, raising children, and existing illnesses are examples of potent stressors you can’t simply jettison.

Adaptogens are herbs that help tame inflammation, sustain energy, boost brain function, and regulate sleep patterns. They include panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng (eleuthero), astragalus, rhodiola, ashwagandha, licorice root, holy basil (tulsi) and schizandra.

Phosphatidylserine is a nutritional compound that helps normalize cortisol levels and protect the brain from the damages of stress.

For more information on how to identify and manage adrenal stress, contact me.

Generosity and volunteering proven good for health

generosity good for health

While volunteering is good for those in need, the giver cashes in big on generosity, too. Studies show the benefits of generosity and volunteering include a heightened sense of well-being, increased self-worth, and improved emotional and physical health. 

How generosity makes you happier

Generosity and volunteering produce hormones that relieve stress, promote happiness, cause a natural high (endorphins), and promote bonding and tranquility.

Being generous makes us feel better about ourselves.  It builds confidence, and encourages us to focus toward the world rather than ourselves.

When we improve someone else’s life, empowerment grows and we are better able to deal with life’s hardships.

Volunteering can help you feel better 

Generosity and volunteering also lower mortality rates, reduce cardiovascular risk, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve sleep. 

In fact, one study showed adults who volunteered at least four hours a week for one year were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to non-volunteers.

Another study of teens found those who spent an hour a week helping children in after-school programs had lower levels of cholesterol and inflammation than their non-volunteering peers.

Generosity must be genuine to benefit health

Don’t volunteer or be generous simply in order to improve your health or solely out of obligation.

If you want to enjoy the health benefits of generosity and volunteering, it must be genuine. Make sure you’re focused on helping others and not just looking good.

2012 study found that older volunteers had a lower risk of dying in a four-year period than non-volunteers, as long as their volunteerism was for altruistic and not self-oriented reasons.

Tips for volunteering to improve your health

  • Offer to do something your enjoy.
  • Help with a cause you’re passionate about.
  • Be realistic about your schedule so you don’t stress out.
  • Volunteer with others so it’s socially beneficial.
  • Don’t give up if your first attempt is a bad match.

Receive generosity with grace so others can benefit as well

Remember, generosity and volunteering are good for everyone. Others may have chronic health conditions they are working to manage, and allowing them to help you will help them as well.

If someone is generous to you, don’t brush it off or feel undeserving — receive their kindness with sincerity and grace. This will bring you closer to the person and allow them reap the benefits of giving as well.

Did childhood trauma play a role in your autoimmunity?

childhood experiences and autoimmunity

Autoimmune patients expend considerable effort finding the right diet, supplements, lifestyle, and practitioner to manage their autoimmunity.

But did you know your experiences from childhood could be provoking your autoimmunity as an adult?

Abuse, belittlement, insults, neglect, loss of loved ones, parental acrimony… the traumas children weather unfortunately become a lifelong “operating system” that has profound influences on immunological and neurological health. Traumas in childhood affect not only physical and cellular health, but also our DNA.

Early traumas make it hard to turn off stress

In a healthy situation, a child can respond to stress and recover from it, developing normal resiliency.

However, chronic and unpredictable stress in childhood constantly floods the body with stress hormones and keeps it in a hyper vigilant inflammatory state. In time, this interferes with the body’s ability to turn off or dampen the stress response.

In fact, research that compared the saliva of healthy, happy children with children who grew up with abuse and neglect found almost 3,000 genetic changes on their DNA. All of these changes regulated the response to stress and the ability to rebound from it. Continue reading

Five little-known things that make autoimmunity worse

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If you are managing your autoimmune disease through diet and lifestyle, then you probably know about the autoimmune diet  supplements, non-toxic home and body products, and getting enough rest.

But are you aware of hidden sources of stress that may be triggering autoimmune flares?

Common autoimmune diseases today include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and pernicious anemia. However, there are many more.

Research increasingly shows the connection between autoimmune disease and food sensitivities (such as to gluten) and environmental toxins. Indeed, many people have successfully sent their autoimmunity into remission by following an autoimmune diet and “going green” with the products they use.

We also know stress is inflammatory and can trigger autoimmunity. But what many people may miss is the hidden sources of this inflammation-triggering stress.

Little known triggers of autoimmune disease

Following are little known sources of stress that could be triggering autoimmune disease flare-ups:

Stressful TV shows: Turning on the flat screen to relax could backfire if you’re watching people always on the run from zombies. Research shows watching others stress out can raise our own stress hormones.  On top of that, many people feel like failures after they watch TV, which is stressful. Try a productively calming hobby, like practicing an instrument or working with your hands while listening to music to calm your nerves … and your immune system.

Social media: Research shows social media users are more stressed out than non-users. Facebook and Twitter can make us feel like we always have to put on a happy face and that we’re not as successful as our friends. The addictive nature of social media is also stressful. As with all good things, practice moderation. And go see your friends in real life — socialization is a well-known stress buster and health booster that can help you better manage your autoimmune disease.

A bad relationship: We get so used to some relationships we don’t even realize they’re unhealthy. For instance, researchers have shown bad marriages are linked with more stress and inflammation. Bad bosses have also been shown to be hard on your health. Although it’s not so easy to just pop out of a bad relationship, being aware that it can trigger your autoimmune symptoms can help you start moving in a healthier direction.

A difficult childhood: Research shows links between a history of childhood adversities (neglect, disruption, trauma, abuse) and autoimmune disease. Chronic stress while the brain and central nervous system are still developing can create ongoing inflammation and set the stage for autoimmune disease to more easily trigger later in life.

Lack of self-love: How well you love and respect yourself influences your choice in relationships, your career, and how you handle problems. Do you talk to and treat yourself with the same kindness you would an adored child? Do you care for your needs the same way you do a pampered pet? If you bully yourself, you’re unwittingly triggering your autoimmunity. After all, autoimmune disease is the body attacking itself. Don’t foster that with self-attacking thoughts and behaviors. Commit to practicing small acts of self-love throughout your days.

When you look at issues like a bad childhood, a toxic relationship, or lack of self-love, it makes changing your diet and switching to natural body products look easy.

But that’s not the whole picture. Autoimmune disease is a flag from the body that certain aspects of your life may need evaluating and evolving.

How stress harms the body and what to do about it

how stress harms body

Did you know that approximately two-thirds of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related complaintsStress is the body’s reaction to any situation that is demanding or dangerous. When we experience stress, the body responds by making adrenal hormones (such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol) that help your body cope. Commonly called the “fight or flight” response, this is where your blood pressure increases, your hands sweat, and your heart rate and breathing quicken. You’ve probably felt it during that big job interview, before a first date, during an argument, or being stuck in traffic when you’re running late.

Our bodies normalize quickly after responding to short-term stressors. But problems arise with chronic stress, such as financial worries, major life changes, job stress, or an ongoing illness. Other chronic stressors are not lifestyle related but instead metabolic: gut infections, leaky gut, food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances (low blood sugar, insulin resistance, or diabetes), anemia, autoimmune disease, inflammation, and environmental toxins are examples.

Continue reading

Got PMS? Stress could be robbing your body of progesterone

image19It’s the time of the month that so many women dread, the PMS days. For some, premenstrual syndrome is simply an irritating inconvenience, but for others it is a cause of extreme suffering. Yet because it is so common, many women don’t take PMS seriously, even though the effect on their lives is serious indeed.

Common or not, PMS, especially the extreme variety, is not normal or healthy. It is a sign that the delicate balance of female hormones is all out of whack. PMS symptoms may be a signal that the body is experiencing a progesterone deficiency due to chronic stress.

Symptoms of low progesterone include:
Continue reading

Can stress cause your baby’s allergies?

A calm, healthy pregnancy and postpartum period could reduce the risk of allergies in your baby, according to a new Swedish study.

Researchers found infants with lower levels of cortisol, an adrenal hormone released in response to stress, developed fewer allergies than other infants.

Stress hormone cortisol triggers allergies

The researchers believe environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy and early infancy raise adrenal cortisol levels, which increases the risk of allergies.

Studies show high cortisol in a pregnant mother raises levels of the hormone in the fetus.

In functional medicine, we see many women enter into pregnancy with high cortisol. Common symptoms include excess belly fat, insomnia, insulin resistance (high blood sugar), hair loss, and an irregular menstrual cycle.

Stress isn’t just about too much to do on too little sleep (although that is certainly a factor).

Continue reading