The Tightrope Between Stress and Hormonal Balance

The Tightrope Between Stress and Hormonal Balance,

and the the ‘safety net’ called

“What you put in your mouth!”

Hormones ‘ey?  Who needs them? (!) They can wreak havoc with our lives – our mood takes a dive, irritability sets in, to say nothing of sugar and chocolate cravings and bloating! especially when we hear our partners ask Is it ‘that  time of the month’? We typically get more stressed when our menstrual cycle kicks in, and it feels like we are powerless to change the emotional rollercoaster we ride each month 🙁

But what if we could do something to change these difficult effects?  

What if… by better understanding how stress impacts our hormonal behaviour, and how our food and drink choices could improve how they rage through us each month…we could significantly impact how our partners, friends and family, and work colleagues perceive us each month?  

Well – as it turns out, THERE IS A WAY…. simply – read on 🙂

First it is useful to understand that the stress hormones we produce each time we get upset, annoyed, angry, frustrated, anxious, lonely … well – mostly any emotion that doesn’t feel good, are so closely intertwined with our gynaecological hormones that we cannot escape the negative impact on our menstrual and menopausal lives!  That critical essential hormone required to save us from danger – used in the ‘Fight or Flight’ response is called cortisol. But it walks a tightrope too. While it’s job is to save your life in times of ‘perceived danger’, it really should not be doing this all the time! Consistently high cortisol, through consistently feeling stressed in some way, inflames your body and wreaks havoc with your blood sugars (remember that chocolate craving at period time?)

At this point it is very helpful to better understand the following rough overview of how our hormones work in tandem with each other:

Take a look at the pathways below (it looks a bit like a family tree)




Progesterone       <=       Pregnenolone         =>        DHEA

(Restorative, regenerative, calming  hormone)  

      II                                                                         II

      V                                                                          V

          CORTISOL (!!)                                                The Oestrogens

                   ‘Fight or Flight’ hormone (Saves your life)                                                II

                  (inflammatory and blood sugar imbalancing)                                        V


A great analogy for the above is that it is a bit like baking a cake.  Each hormone has its ‘flour required for baking the cake’, which gets ‘used up’ (i.e. depleted) when there is a heavier demand placed on the next level hormone:

e.g. the ‘flour’ needed to bake the ‘cortisol cake’ is the hormone called progesterone

The ‘flour needed to bake the progesterone cake’ is the hormone called pregnenolone

The ‘flour needed to bake the pregnenolone cake’ is the hormone called cholesterol

Now it is important to know that progesterone is a bit like ‘the moderator in the oestrogen chatroom’  – when the moderator leaves the chatroom (i.e. progesterone levels are low) then the oestrogens can behave a bit inappropriately (even if there are ‘enough of them’ (i.e. a blood test that shows up as ‘normal’ levels of the oestrogens.  The key is that progesterone needs to be stable for the oestrogens to be stable.

Now – a similar ‘see-saw’ type behaviour exists between Cortisol and DHEA (imagine a line drawn between the two (to represent a ‘see-saw) on the above flowchart):

Cortisol is the hormone that increases in times of stress (Mary-Lou refers to it as the ‘Tiger Hormone’ as in caveman days it was useful to save our lives when fighting tigers (danger), and DHEA is affectionately called the ‘Cave Hormone’ as it increases when you have escaped the ‘tiger’ (danger) – aka ‘stress’ (by the way, our brain cannot differentiate between stress and danger!) and are safely tucked up in your cave for the night. Cortisol calms down, and DHEA steps up to restore the body tissue that were hammered from fighting or running like H… – well – YOU know! 🙂

Now – go back up and check out the flow chart above. Remember the cake analogy?

Well – see how if you are perpetually stressed, your progesterone is consistently being depleted as it is needed to keep making cortisol (to ‘save your life from perceived danger’)

Remember how that affects the oestrogens.

You know now that when cortisol goes up and stays up, DHEA is compromised (you can’t be stressed and calm at the same time!) – and here’s the dilemma: DHEA is the flour for the ‘Oestrogens cake’!! And the Oestrogens are the flour for the ‘testosterone cake’!!

See the link between stress and your menstrual cycles and menopausal symptoms?

STRESS (though high levels of cortisol) SEVERELY IMPACT THE BEHAVIOUR of your gynaecological hormones!

Ok – so how do we take control of this in a self empowering way?

By managing your choices about what you put in your mouth, and by adopting lifestyle choices that manage your stress levels.

Yes – there ARE foods that can help you reduce your stress levels, and manage erratic cortisol:

Good old organic free range eggs  that got such a bad rap for apparently raising cholesterol (old OLD myth!) actually has the effect of LOWERING inappropriate cholesterol!

Ever wondered why your cholesterol levels go up when you are stressed? You probably saw it in the flow chart…if not …take another look – IT IS THE BASELINE INGREDIENT FOR THIS METABOLIC PATHWAY (what this ‘flowchart’ is called in academic circles)

See how when you get stressed, you cortisol goes UP, so your progesterone goes DOWN, and therefore your body has to tread water to OVER PRODUCE CHOLESTEROL!


Nowe – how do eggs support this?

Eggs have a marvellous fatty (lipid) nutrient called ‘lecithin’ – which acts like a NATURAL TRANQUILIZER. Lecithin is by now well known, scientifically, for its cortisol lowering properties – which is REALLY useful for both cholesterol management AND hormone balance.

Another fabulous source of lecithin is sunflower seeds.  In fact it is so useful that you can get it in a supplement form (sunflower lecithin)

*Please note that Mary-Lou and the Academy of Wellness do not hold the professional opinion that soy is a beneficial health (or hormone supporting) food, so we are inclined to steer people away from soy lecithin.

What do Pumpkin seeds, Buckwheat, Epsom Salts  and Himalayan Crystal Salt have in common? The answer is: They all contain ‘Nature’s RELAXING MINERAL – MAGNESIUM.  You just can’t beat magnesium in the bath, or dissolved in water and sprayed on the skin as an after shower body spray, for a GREAT night’s sleep, and stress relief (to say nothing of the lovely gentle detox effects) We recommend a twice daily intake of pumpkin seeds and Buckwheat (NOT wheat – it is a misleading name! – this is a seed – so offers great protein and other stunning minerals) and epsom salts and or Himalayan Crystal Bath salts as a three or four times a week treat (or daily).

Note: do not put more than about a handful of epsom salts in your bath as it even relaxes your bowel! Now while this may be VERY supportive if you are constipated, you may not be happy if you VERY SUDDENLY need to jump out the bath with threatening diarrhoea!),

Using Himalayan Crystal salt in your food actually has the effect of lowering blood pressure (as opposed to raising it) as blood pressure is ANOTHER STRESS INDUCED symptom. These very healthy salts positively support your adrenal glands (which control blood pressure and is where cortisol is produced)

Sweet Potato is another Fabulous Food that not only helps keep your blood sugar levels stable, but helps to support progesterone levels.  Raw sweet potato not only helps to raise progesterone, is also particularly supportive of your guy’s prostate gland.

We can go on and on about many other foods such as turkey which has an antidepressant effect when combined with lentils or garden peas, but this would become a really long blog. We have highlighted the top quick changes to make in our opinion and experience with clients.

For additional information and food and lifestyle support, we have decided to try something a little different…and support as many people as possible through a NEVER SEEN BEFORE, ALL TIME LOW PAYMENT PLAN where you can pay just *£1 or £2 PER WEEK for your choice of either or both of our more popular short courses.

We would also love to further support you by giving you three of our many Yummy Therapeutic Recipes that will really support your hormone balance:

Our seriously delicious Academy of Wellness Blood sugar Balancing Therapeutic Fudge (!!!) – OH SO EASY PEASY to make and additionally supports hormones, mood, memory, metabolism and weight management!

Our Incredible ‘Magic elixir’ – The Academy of Wellness Blood sugar Balancing, anti inflammatory Therapeutic  ‘Spice Up Your Life Tea’  – OH SO EASY PEASY to make and additionally supports hormones, pain management, detox and weight management!

Our astonishingly yummy Academy of Wellness Therapeutic Hormone Clout Carrot and Sweet Potato Salad  – OH SO EASY PEASY to make and additionally supports blood sugar balance, eyesight, hormones, and  the prostate gland in male health.


For more outstanding hormone support, the ‘The Fix Your Hormones Summit’ is a wonderfully informative collection of knowledgeable speakers, where you can watch for free for a specified time, or purchase the summit at a big discount during the discount period, if you miss your favourite speaker. Click on the link to see the incredible line-up of speakers, and to diarise the day they are airing, so that you do not miss the talks that resonate with most for you – get it while it is free 🙂

We wish you “Happy Hormones”, and if you ever need ANY further support, please do not hesitate to allow us to help you further, by either booking a free 15 minute online support chat with one of our Clinic Directors, and Attending Integrative Health & Wellness Practitioners, or take a look at our Menu of support services and discounts at The Academy of Wellness Online Health Support Clinic



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