The Importance of Balancing Stress Hormones

balancing hormones

I write a lot about the importance of nutrition and exercise for overall health, weight loss, and prevention of disease and certainly, the importance of these things can’t be overstated, but there are couple other important factors that we sometimes miss.

I occasionally have clients who, despite a close-to-perfect diet and a regular exercise regime, still struggle with health problems or are unable to lose weight. Even for myself, when I get sick or have trouble getting baby weight off, there is usually a common cause: stress!

What Stress Does to the Body

This is a topic that I occasionally see addressed my mainstream medicine occasionally, but they often just mention emotional stress and tell people that they need to relax more. This topic is being addressed much more in the alternative healthy communities lately, and I believe that this might be the missing link for many people who can’t seem to break through a plateau or still struggle with health challenges.

While stress is often thought of as a strictly emotional and mental problem, there is a growing amount of evidence that is has a host of physiological effects as well. One study found that a chemical released when the body is in a stressed state, Neuropeptide Y, causes fat cells to open and store fat rather than burn it. Another study found that, especially in women, higher cortisol (stress hormone) leads to weight gain around the waist, even in otherwise slender women.

Another study found that stress shortens telomeres in cells at a faster rate, leading to premature aging and the increased risk of diseases that accompanies it.

Stress can impact hormones and fertility as well. When cortisol is high in the body, progesterone is often low because the body uses progesterone to manufacture cortisol. This is often why stress and elevated cortisol levels correlate with trouble conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy. While natural progesterone cream can be helpful, it is important to address the causes as well.

Other physical reactions associated with high stress levels are:

  • Hair loss (from prolonged stress)
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased incidence of heart disease and stroke
  • Higher incidence of allergy
  • Muscle pain or twitching
  • Hormonal and menstrual troubles
  • Increased incidence of eczema and psoriasis
  • Slower healing from all illness

Types of Stress

Mental and emotional stress are often considered the culprits in stress related problems, but there are also physical stressors that can cause the same problems. Before stress can be reduced, one must figure out what is causing it in the first place.

Certainly, lifestyle factors, hectic schedules or a busy job (like motherhood), can cause stress, but so can other factors like:

  • Eating foods that the body is allergic or intolerant to (even if you don’t know you have the allergy)
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Toxins in your home or environment
  • An underlying hormone imbalance
  • Leptin or insulin resistance

What To Do About It

Effectively dealing with stress requires an integrative approach that not only addresses the causes of stress (mental, emotional, physical) but also works to actively reverse the damage that has already been done. For me personally, this is one of my toughest health challenges to address, since even though I know what I should be doing, I don’t always have time to fit it all in.

To start, we definitely must address the basics:

  • Physical Stress: While some physical stress is good (sprinting, lifting weights, etc.) other types can be harmful (chronic cardio, lack of sleep, etc.) and dietary causes also create a physical stress. A poor diet, especially one that includes any foods you are intolerant or allergic too can create a stress reaction in your body, even if you minimize other types of stresses. To help reduce physical stress, eat a solid real-food diet, get enough sleep and avoid toxins when you can. See the supplement and sleep info below for some practical tips.
  • Emotional Stress: This one can obviously have many causes, but can often be addressed by working through tough relationships, making time for prayer and meditation, keeping a gratitude journal to focus on the positive, and making time to unwind.
  • Mental Stress: Similar to emotional stress, this type of stress is often helped my meditation, time management, and organization to only need to focus on one tast at a time.

Since this is one of my biggest struggles personally, I’ve been experimenting lately with ways to reduce stress and wanted to share some of the ones that seem to be working for me:

Supplements

If some of your stress is physical, or if you have any type of inflammation in your body, there are some supplements that can really help reduce the effects on your body. Especially if you struggled with food allergies for a while before being diagnosed and removing foods from your diet (or if you have celiac disease or autoimmune disorders) removing the offending foods is only have of the solution.

It is also important to address the inflammation in the body and help the body heal. Even with an optimal diet, there are some supplements that can help reduce inflammation and decrease physical stress in the body:

  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil/High Vitamin Butter Oil Blend  (also great for remineralizing teeth)- This combination, or even just regular Fermented Cod Liver Oil contains high levels of antioxidants and is great for reducing oxidative stress in the body. It contains high levels of Omega-3s and Vitamins A, D and K, which help to reduce inflammation (including arterial inflammation). In some studies, it was shown to improve glucose response in patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It has also been shown to be helpful in patients with Colitis, IBS, Crohn’s and other digestive issues, which is important since these conditions create tremendous physical stress in the body. I personally take Fermented Cod Liver Oil daily, as do my husband and kids.
  • Probiotics: If there is any kind of intestinal damage from food allergies or leaky gut, or if a person has yeast overgrowth or intestinal disturbances, probiotics can be a tremendous help in normalizing gut bacteria. These can also be especially beneficial for children, whose gut bacteria is still forming. Stress hormones also deplete the natural gut bacteria and can lead to further problems.
  • Gelatin– I’ve written about it in depth before, but Gelatin helps sooth the digestive system and reduce inflammation. It’s anti-inflammatory properties also make it great for joints and joint pain. Personally, I take it for the skin and hair benefits and many people take it to help reduce inflammation. There is some evidence that it can help reduce stress hormones since stress hormones tend to be stored in the muscle tissue of animals. Most people don’t get enough gelatinous and bone tissue from animals and eat an disproportionate amount of muscle meat, so regularly taking Gelatin can help balance this out.
  • Magnesium– Another one that I’ve written about in depth before, but Magnesium has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Practically everyone is deficient in it, due to declining soil magnesium levels, and it is an easy thing to supplement. Kevin Cottrell, who is well known in the Paleosphere was able to reduce his C-Reactive Protein from 5.4 (semi-dangerous level) to 0.44 (excellent level) in a month using Magnesium and Cold Thermogenesis (more on that soon). Some people have trouble digesting Magnesium effectively, especially if they are highly deficient, so Topical Magnesium Oil is helpful for those people. It is also available in capsule or drink mix (fizzy like soda) form.
  • Let Food Be Your Medicine: Consuming lots of healthy fats, antioxidant rich foods and healthy protein sources will also help your body counteract the negative effects of stress.

Sleep

Even if diet and exercise are great, not getting enough sleep will have a tremendous impact on stress levels and on overall health. One study showed that one night of missed or very interrupted sleep was enough to give a healthy person the blood sugar levels of a diabetic or pre-diabetic. Other studies have shown that getting less than 5 hours of sleep a night can impact driving ability and cognitive function the next day.

There is also information linking lack of sleep to higher risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer or chronic disease. Lack of sleep is also linked to weight gain, which for some is reason enough to start sleeping more!

Cold Therapy

Balancing Leptin Levels and using Cold Thermogenesis, as suggested by Dr. Jack Kurse, has been greatly effective in balancing stress hormones, leptin levels and even speeding weight loss for some people. I’m in the middle of a self-experiment with his protocol now and will be writing more about it soon, but anyone with high levels of inflammation, diabetes, or joint problems might benefit from reading his information now.

Are you stressed? How do you deal with it? Let me know!

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Reader Comments

  1. Great post! I’ve battled depression and anxiety all of my life. I find that working out, drinking tons of water and getting lots of sleep make a huge impact on my mood. Fermented cod liver oil has been on my to-do list, I need to get some.

    • I have been the same way .I have been dealing with anxiety and depression I get it worse before my menstrual.
      I went to a hormone doctor to check my hormones I get the results tomorrow.

  2. thank you for this. i have one of the more stressful jobs around in addition to being a mom and everything else. anyone know if cod liver oil will be beneficial? and then also how long will the FCLO last? i have to try and find something very economical. i’m always looking for tips on how to reduce stress and improve mood!

    • If you order the gel FCLO and take about a teaspoon a day, it should last at least a month. I notice a difference in energy and sun tolerance when I take it, and I’ve had several people also say it helped with weight loss…

  3. Interesting post.  I was just reading on Dr. Kruse’s site last week and started this week to work out after dinner (working toward that leptin reset).  I’ll be interested in your experience with this.

  4. Great post Katie! Doesn’t everyone suffer from stress in these modern times?! I’m like you, I know what to do but can’t seem to fit it all in, that sometimes being the point of stress. Long morning outdoor walks help me alot, definitely sleep, and knowing that everything in life is a process helps me to relax and enjoy being in the now 🙂

  5. I curious if the section on gelatin was not completed?  Can you expand on the evidence part that seems to be missing?

    • I take collagen in pills it has gelatin ingredient you find in CVS CVS brand it is good when you dieting or getting older it supports the skin derm. When under stress you age and sometimes don’t eat correctly. A lot of people use to prevent wrinkles

  6. Hello Katie- I have been taking the FCLO/HIGH Butter Oil blend from Green Pastures for about 6 months.  I take 2 capsules every morning- I was wondering if I should be taking more to get the benefits from this supplement?

    • I’ve read some sources (WAPFand other) that advise taking at least double that for a couple months to build up your body and then maintaining at that dose or higher. I take about a teaspoon, or up to a tablespoon of the gel each day and I’ve noticed a difference since upping my dose.

  7. Wow! It is a very good post. Thank you for information.

  8. well i bought and started my FCLO (ginger flavored). is there a certain time of day you should take the FCLO and other supplements and should you take them together or with water/kombucha or anything else for most effectiveness?

    • I take it in the morning at the same time I put coconut oil in my coffee or tea to get all the beneficial fats together…

  9. Hi Katie. LOVE your site! Following you on pinterest. Just signed up for your newsletter. Thank you for such excellent content. Can’t wait to try these magnesium and other recipes! Note: on this post, toward the bottom, the link for magnesium oil needs to be tweaked, it is missing the h in http. I just happened to notice and thought I would let you know.
    All the Best,
    Debbie

  10. My daughter is 11 and overweight. She has been through many stressful events. She closed down which was terrible to watch. She is doing better and is very active. No matter what I do I can not get her to lose weight. The doctors will not listen to me. Her diet is not perfect. Probably better then most kids. What can I do to help her lose weight? More importantly control the stress level.

      • Just wondering how to tell if and what hormones are unbalanced. I’m breast feeding and havent had a period in 3 years and were trying to conceive but it’s not happening. Not sure where to start

  11. Great information. When I am stressed what works to reduce the stress is to escape to a quiet place and read something insightful and uplifting. I also find that vigorous exercise helps alot.
    I’m interested in learning more about “cold therapy”.

    • Dear everbody, I always feeling stressful and can’t sleep. I usually feeling afraid, so I need help to release my thinking. I’m waiting for your reply…..

  12. Hi Katie,

    I just stumbled upon your site yesterday, and I’m pretty sure I’ve already spent a good 5 hours here already! I was wondering if you knew of any other kind of supplement that provides the same benefits as gelatin? I have been pescetarian for 8 years, so I try to avoid most animal-based products.

    I appreciate you sharing all of your experiences and recipes – you are permanently bookmarked 😉

    Thanks!
    Krystal

    (PS – I sure hope that you use affiliate links for your Amazon recommendations – I have purchased at least $100 worth of products just because of you!! 🙂 )

  13. 0i suffered from sudden hearing loss right ear.now I hv burning feeling on my body can anymore help

  14. I’m currently pregnant and have been dealing with chronic eczema for 6 months. Because of being pregnant, there’s not much I can take to aid my hormones or liver (which I’ve been told is causing my eczema) I currently take a prenatal, vit d, probiotic and stress b complex vitami but wondering if some of supplements above would be OK to take while pregnant. Like gelatin, cod liver oil and magnesium.

    • Always check with your OB or midwife, but I take all of those while pregnant…

  15. I suffer from depression and since menopause have had a knee and hip replacement. Inflammation is high in my body. Can you give me healthy food or suppliment advise ? The depression is troubling.

  16. Amazing article but my issue is I try to sleep but because of my cortisol and stress levels I am having a very difficult time sleeping. I take calm powder every night which helps me fall asleep but I do not stay asleep and wake up an hour or two before my alarm is set and then cannot go back to sleep.

  17. Just finished a 3 day saliva test to figure out if cortisol is a root cause of my current plethora of symptoms. Fingers crossed that the endo doc can help me navigate towards better health.

  18. Great article – definitely gained some useful insight and reaffirmed some thing I know I need to take. I will say that mindful breathing is a huge de stressor, not just mentally but physically. Your body clinches subtly and over time it becomes tight. Regular breath work helps release this tension and lifts the subtle yet heavy feeling that everything isn’t ok.

  19. I find the Cod Liver oil with butter is expensive. Can I buy a natural Cod Liver Oil and take it with natural butter?

    Dee

    • It won’t be as effective, but the butter may still help you absorb more vitamins.

  20. Thank you for all the info! I can not get the link to work on for the progesterone cream. Could you please tell me which brand it is?

  21. Hi Katie,

    I have been doing a lot of research about skincare/ph balance, hair loss/products and hormone balance to try to understand what steps I need to take to control my acne, hair loss and aging. The more I keep reading about these things, the more I am getting confused and reading on some articles that something works great for these problems, then reading in other articles that these same things are horrible for these things and that they might even cause more issues. I do not know wich ones are true anymore.

    I have tried quite a few products, steps and routines, but I am not succeeding or seeing any noticeable positive changes. I keep breaking out with sore acne, flaking skin and I am still losing a lot of hair. This is so frustrating and I do not know what I need to do to balance my ph levels or my hormone levels to fix these issues. I know that the seizures can have a lot of effects on these things, but I have still not found the cure for the seizures either, especially since one of the main triggers for the seizures is hormones.

    Please help me with your scientific skills so I can get through this. Any suggestions or advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you Katie

    • The problem is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for someone else because of multiple factors.