There are a number of common hormone imbalances that affect women, but one combination that I see often is the correlation between high cortisol and low progesterone. Why are these two hormones so important? And how do you know if you’re struggling with an imbalance? We will determine some of the common signs of this hormone imbalance below & what you can do to start re-aligning the body again!
Could You Be Struggling with High Cortisol and Low Progesterone? Let’s Take a Look
High CortisolI’m sure many of you have heard of the hormone cortisol. Commonly known as our “stress hormone,” cortisol (and adrenaline) come to the rescue at any sign of a threat. Heightening our senses, increasing blood flow in the body, and amping up our endurance. Cortisol also helps increase inflammation in the body to protect us from infection – and in acute instances – this is a GOOD thing. Cortisol is actually pretty great, but unfortunately, many of us are triggering this acute response on an ongoing (and chronic) bases. This is due to the fact that our body doesn’t really know the difference between an actual threat (running from danger) or a perceived threat (reading a stressful work email). Our body reacts the exact same way to both situations. Sending a message to the brain that danger is near, activating the cascade of stress hormones that bring the body into high alert. Have you have ever felt that rush of anxiety, sweat, or the need need to escape when you’re simply just stuck at work?
Yep – that’s your body screaming “RUN AWAY, DANGER!”The problem is, you don’t have anywhere to go. Now, all that extra cortisol and adrenaline flooding through your body has nowhere to get burned off. And unfortunately, many of us are sending our body into this high intensity state multiple times a day.
Chronic mental, emotional, and physical stress keeps our cortisol response on HIGH all the time.Imagine how hard your body has to work when you’re constantly in this heightened state of stress. And in addition to thee mental and emotional triggers mentioned above, the way we nourish and move our bodies can either support or further aggravate symptoms.
So how do you know if you might be struggling high cortisol?Check out these common symptoms:
- Always feeling tired, but not being able to sleep.
- Infrequent periods or missing periods
- Struggling with fertility
- Painful periods
- PMS and/or PMDD symptoms
- High blood sugar and/or blood pressure
- Trouble concentrating & heightened anxiety
In relationship to high cortisol, we often see another very common imbalance .. low progesterone.
Low ProgesteroneThe reason we see these two imbalances are commonly linked together is because high cortisol (or stress in general) can prevent the body from ovulating regularly. When we aren’t ovulating regularly, our body is unable to produce adequate amounts of progesterone. As our body gears up to ovulate, the follicles that house our eggs begin to mature and develop. When that follicle finally releases an egg (ovulation time!) it then turns into what is called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is what produces progesterone. Meaning, if you’re not ovulating or getting your period regularly, you most likely have a lack of progesterone. But what if you are ovulating regularly? Can progesterone levels can STILL be low? The answer is YES. The majority of women I work with are also struggling with what is called estrogen dominance. This is when the level of estrogen is too high in comparison to your progesterone levels. Due to poor gut health, xenoestrogens in our environment, an overburdened liver, mineral imbalances, stress, and SO much more — our estrogen levels keep rising. While or progesterone levels keep dropping.
A little more about progesterone…Progesterone is important for so many functions in the body:
- It’s one of our “feel good” hormones, helping us feel balanced, relaxed, and grounded.
- It supports a healthy luteal phase (10-14 days). The phase after ovulation and before your period starts.
- It is CRUCIAL for pregnancy. Supporting implantation and preventing early miscarriage.
- It balances the effects of estrogen – aka – less cramping, PMS, sore boobs, headaches, bloating, and more.
So how do you know if you might have low progesterone?Check out these common symptoms:
- Breakthrough bleeding or spotting during the second half of your period.
- Dark or black blood or clotting right before your period.
- Difficulty getting pregnant.
- PMS and mood fluctuations.
- Menstrual migraines.
- A heavy flow… especially the first coupe of days.
- A diagnosis of endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cysts, and/or PCOS.