Find yourself each and every month wading through a battle of fluid retention, tender breasts, a mood that matches your 94 year old grandpa (on a good day) and a feeling of of hefty overwhelm? I’ve got some clues! It’s time to unlock some truths as to what might really be going on and why your hormones are begging for little housekeeping.
Making sex hormones is a tough gig. Here’s why;
Your ovaries are master players in sex hormone secretion, specifically the big guys – oestrogen and progesterone. Whilst the majority of your progesterone is produced in the ovaries, a small amount is also produced in the adrenals. It then gets converted to other hormones, including cortisol.
I’ve spoken about your adrenals many times here before but I have to say this specific topic of hormone battle is one of my faves, that is how cortisol can have it’s way with your sex hormones. This is probably because so many women fall victim to this torturous coping mechanism and it is one of the most common issues I see in clinic to date.
You’re adrenals are super important. They are constantly sensitive to the stress you expose your body to and truth be told, this happens whether you think you ‘cope’ well with stress or not, they are always to your rescue and at the read to protect. Their response is to produce cortisol as well neurotransmitters to help push the body into overdrive under stress and switch off any unnecessary energy usage like say, digestion (because who needs to chow down on a bowl of pokè when you’re trying to save yourself from danger?). Nobody – not even Wonder Woman.
Pregnenolone is the pre-hormone necessary to make progesterone (as well your other favourite sex hormones). In the same vein, progesterone is the pre-hormone of cortisol. (I know it’s beginning to sound like some warped swingers party.. stick with me) I tell you this so you may begin to understand that there is an intricate symphony orchestra behind that complex endocrine system of yours. It isn’t any wonder you can feel so out of sorts even when there is the smallest of imbalance. Each hormone is reliant on the next. Take one daisy from the chain and it certainly isn’t as pretty as it could be.
With cortisol being your main stress hormone and progesterone being that hormone that not only makes you ovulate, but helps you sleep, looks after your bones, keeps your skin glowing and your eyes bright, it probably goes without saying – you need a little cortisol and you definitely need a happy amount of progesterone. As unfortunate as it may seem to feel the affects of low progesterone, it’s all about your body prioritises to keep itself working, and no matter what, cortisol will always be made.
When you’re under great stress your body needs to make more cortisol to keep up with the demands. This is no problem, in fact, it does a very good job at it and when it gets to a point where the adrenals can no longer keep up, it will begin to take from pregnenolone and progesterone, thus contributing to the declining progesterone levels.
The Pregnenolone Steal refers to the state your body is in, under high stress, where it will rob from progesterone’s pre-hormone known as pregnenolone to make more cortisol.
If you’re constantly under the pump, forever rushing through life and living on the hamster wheel, chances are you’re keeping your cortisol in high demand AND your body may be stealing what it can from your pregnenolone to keep up, leaving your progesterone down and out. As if this wasn’t enough, as your cortisol levels continue to rise the receptor sites of your progesterone get blocked as yet another coping mechanism to allow cortisol to pull rank (remember it’s there to save you). Both cortisol and progesterone compete for receptor sites in your body and good ol’ cortisol will always win because it is designed to do so. This is no accident or glitch in the system. Remember your body will always respond to the environment you place it into.
Worst of all, this won’t show up in any blood test because the amount of progesterone looks good on paper – it’s that it can’t get into your cells to do its job and so if you don’t have the right person on hand to decode your tests, you might be told everything is ok when you feel pretty darn awful.
Perhaps you’re wondering if you’ve fallen victim to the ‘great steal?’ Symptoms might look like;
+ Tender breasts
+ Low moods (including heightened anxiety or depression pre-menstrually)
+ Inability to feel calm
+ Fluid retention
There are some very simple solutions to getting a good grip on your cortisol, many of which I outline in Debunking Stress, my e-course that helps you not only attack stress, but work out where your stress may be actually coming from and give you some new tools to cope better. Consider it my bag of tricks I’m sharing with you – I’ve done the work, all you need to do is watch this dedicated e-class to help you on your way.
Investing in a good supplement regime is a must when we find ourselves in this state, if you’re not sure where to start, even a quality multivitamin and mineral is a great idea. When we are stressed our vitamin and mineral supplies can become low (because the gut is shut down too). We tend to also use far more magnesium, B’s, Zinc, selenium… the list goes on. Do yourself a favour and get to your health food store.
But finally we must learn to choose. Stress has become a glorified habit and we choose stress because we are in a vicious cycle. Ask yourself today, if what you’re stressed about actually warrants stress and I’m certain many of you will be surprised to realise that potentially you’ve been stressing about the little things that really don’t matter at all.
Stress does not equal success, in fact, in the long run it can actually be our undoing.
Have you found yourself prey to the great pregnenolone steal? Do you feel like this could be you? I’d love to hear from you! Please use the comment section below to share. I love your comments and take time to read every single one of them!