We’ve all been there. Stressful month, late period.
Your menstrual cycle is a barometer for health, the 6th vital sign.
The state of your cycle will tell you
a LOT about how you are health-wise. Lets look at how stress can affect to your cycle:
Stress is the most common factor I see in clinic affecting women’s health. As women, we can now do it all. And we try to do it all, and often ‘push through’– even though our bodies are telling us to rest. I bet you know what I mean!
Stress and the HPAO Axis:
The HPAO is the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-ovarian axis. I think of this ‘axis’ as a triangular web or loop in the body that when one part is affected, they all are.
Stress directly affects your hypothalamus in the brain, your body’s hormone command centre. When you are stressed the signal from your hypothalamus to your pituitary is interrupted. This reduces FSH and LH – your two main hormones that ensure ovulation in the ovaries. Stress = Less ovulation.
Stress, as you probably know also increases Cortisol.
In balance, cortisol is a wonderful hormone produced by your adrenals that helps us with our fight or flight response, helping us through challenges.
Cortisol is amazing and switches our body into survival mode: increasing heart rate, shunting blood to the brain and muscles, increases blood sugar so you
can run and be more alert. Effective in the short term – YES. Longterm, no.
Long term stress (like we have today), and the accompanying long-term
activation of cortisol is definitely NOT amazing. Due to its actions, chronic cortisol activation weakens the immune system, reduces ovulation and sex hormone production affecting fertility (and libido); and it increases the risk of insulin and blood sugar issues.
And then your period is late.
Image from here.
Stress = impaired ovulation. In previous blogs I have discussed how ovulation is essential to produce our favourite female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. They help to stabilise HPAO function. So if you have a problem with ovulation, then you have a vicious cycle: HPAO axis dysfunction causes period problems – and this further increases the HPAO dysfunction.
But mostly, stress affects the part of the brain that calms the HPAO axis –– the hippocampus, and often your body will find it hard to ‘come down’ or switch off once chronically activated.
The best way to start to regulate our stress response is a multifaceted approach. It will take a little work, but some simple changes done every day can make a huge difference in the body’s ability to build stress-resilience. Start now!
Moderate exercise- No. 1 stress reliever.
Nature time, every week – a walk in the park or visit a beach, get out of town.
Do more of the things that you love – here is your permission slip.
Meditate for 10 mins 2 x day – I use the great app 10% Happier.
Mood foods, that sustain energy: More fats and protein like avocado and fish, legumes and bright, fresh veggies. Your daily protein intake can be worked out as: 0.75gm per kg of body weight.
Drink calming teas like lemon balm and chamomile.
Alcohol and caffeine. They have a massive impact on hormones and adrenals.
Say NO more often! Especially around the time of your bleed. It’s a time to take things slower, turn inwards, and shower yourself with nourishing care and gentle thoughts.
Sleep more. You are allowed to take time out and enjoy life.
In good health,
BHSc Naturopath (Distinction) The Feel Good Society Founder & Head Practitioner