We get it, perimenopause can be a stressful period of your life.
However, did you know that cortisol, our stress hormone, plays an integral role in your health?
In this article, we explore what cortisol is, how it affects women in perimenopause, the symptoms of elevated cortisol in perimenopause and 5 tips to balance cortisol levels in perimenopause & beyond.
The Stress Hormone – Cortisol
Cortisol is a powerful hormone to say the least.
It is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress and affects most organs including the muscles, heart, bones, blood vessels, lungs, and brain. That’s why it is so integral to keep it in balance, as when cortisol levels are imbalanced then it can create symptom chaos in the body.
From the simple acts of waking up in the morning and regulating sex drive to impacting emotions, memory formation and energy levels – cortisol affects more bodily functions than you know.
Why stress affects women in perimenopause more than ever…
So why does stress affect perimenopausal women more than ever?
When your body is highly stressed, it maintains a high level of cortisol which can bring about a range of emotional and physical symptoms.
During this time, the body is doing its best to adapt to the wildly fluctuating hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) of perimenopause. Before perimenopause, the body can effortlessly buffer stress because we have progesterone. However, once these levels begin to decrease with perimenopause then the add on of cortisol can send the body into overdrive and heighten the already challenging symptoms.
Symptoms begin to arise or worsen such as sleep disruption, a decreased ability to cope with stress and throw out thyroid hormones (which impacts metabolic rate and thus weight gain).
How do I know if I have elevated cortisol in perimenopause?
As discussed above, high cortisol on top of fluctuating sex hormones can exacerbate previous perimenopausal symptoms such as:
- Low energy, despite sleep quality
- Compromised immunity and frequent colds/flus
- Moodiness, anxiety, and depression
- Strong cravings
- Digestion problems, such as bloating and constipation
- Weight gain, particularly around the mid-line
- Low libido
- More aches and pains
5 tips to balance cortisol levels in perimenopause & beyond
Managing your stress levels in perimenopause is more important than ever. Here are 5 tips that will help you balance your cortisol levels in perimenopause.
First things first – let’s try to manage your current stress and anxiety levels.
Try integrating breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, exercise, or find something that personally helps you to reduce your stress levels.
Through utilising relaxation practices to reduce your stress levels, you will in turn reduce your cortisol levels.
2. Practice healthy sleep habits
By stabilising your circadian rhythms, you can work to normalise the natural rise and fall of cortisol.
Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep per night, set your bed and rising time at the same time each day, and limit electronic use and bright lights before bed. It’s incredible how these 3 small things can significantly contribute to healthy cortisol rhythms.
3. Clean up your diet
Your diet is one of the most important factors impacting your cortisol levels. There are 2 main goals when focusing on reducing cortisol levels:
- Balance your blood sugar levels. Spikes in blood sugar levels can cause spikes in cortisol, which makes you crave even more sugar. Although it may be hard in the beginning, try cut out as much processed sugar as you can. Eating natural sugar sources such as fruits is encouraged because it has fibre which slows down the digestion of sugar.
- Bump up your anti-inflammatory foods. Include more fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and wholegrains into your diet. These foods will help to fight inflammation and help you body maintain stable blood sugar levels.
- Supplementation options. There are a few supplementation options that may help to reduce cortisol levels such as vitamin C, Omega-3, magnesium and some adrenal adaptogenic herbs. However, the supplements needed are highly dependent on the individual’s needs and require prescription from a qualified health professional.
4. Sweat out excess cortisol
According to research, exercise throughout perimenopause and menopause may reduce cortisol and thus the symptoms associated with excess cortisol.
However, there’s a fine balance between getting the right amount of exercise and too much. Too much exercise, particularly with inadequate nutrition, can actually increase cortisol production
5. Cut out the crap
Alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee are 3 guaranteed ways to increase your cortisol levels.
If you are struggling with imbalanced hormone levels, it is a good idea to steer clear of these so that your body has a chance to recalibrate.
Thriving for the Long Term
Managing your stress levels are more important than ever in perimenopause.
This time does not have to be stressful and overwhelming. Instead, take it as a chance to pause, recalibrate and evaluate life so that you can thrive for the long term.
Do you need help changing your perspective? Join the waitlist for our perimenopausal support program, Thrive After 35, so that you can learn how to manage your stress in a healthy way and set your health up to thrive for the rest of your life.