Can stress cause hormonal imbalance

Let’s face it. We all had some stressful days in our lives. Whether it be the night before exams or financially broke days, stress has taken a common place in our life.

What is stress?

Stress is a response of our body to any threat whether it is real or imaginative. Whenever there is any threat then our body itself loads into the flight or fight mode. Let me give you an example; remember the last minutes before exams when your heart starts to beat very fast, body is full of sweat, hands start trembling. Well, my friend that is stress.

It looks like with all the modernization and on the way of making world a better place, the life has become full of dissatisfaction, irritation, grievance and frustrations. But wait, stress is not all bad. Under stress, people are able to perform better and motivate themselves.

But when there is stress for a long period of time, our mind and the body has to pay the price.

So, as I mentioned whenever there is stress for a long period of time, it affects our own health. Let me go into detail and explain how stress can cause hormonal imbalance in a person.

How does stress cause hormonal imbalance?

Stress for a long time is a devastating thing. It affects lot of hormones. Here are some of the hormones that are affected by stress causing hormonal imbalance in our body.

Cortisol

It is a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal glands (small glands situated above the kidneys). This is the major hormone released during stress as well as whenever there is low glucose level in the blood. Whenever there is stress for a long period of time, these hormones are secreted continuously. Cortisol for long time can affect our body as follows:

  • It increases the blood glucose level. If it is constant increase for a long period of time, we all know the affects. It can cause diabetes
  • It can cause obesity as it favors central fat deposition as well as increases appetite and frequency of food intake.
  • It suppresses the immune system, making us vulnerable to various diseases.
  • They activate the receptors in the brain to cause further more consequences.
  • They also decrease bone formation.

Catecholamines

These hormones are also secreted by the adrenal glands. These hormone causes

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased blood supply to the muscles
  • Decreased intestinal motility leading to mal-absorption and slow digestion.
  • Decreased blood supply to the skin.
  • Behavioral changes in a person.

Sex hormones

Gonadotropins or sex hormones are a group of hormones that help in our sexual development and maturity. During stress there is suppression of sex hormones. It mainly affects the females. In females during stress we can see absence of menstrual cycle or irregular menses.

I remember once my professor said that during the Second World War, a lot of females were missing their menstruation for more than 6 months and after the end of the war, they started menstruating again. Later when this case was studied it was found out that stress leads to decrease production of sex hormones as a result of which they were not having their menses. Not only in females but in males too, stress for a long time can lead to infertility.

Thyroid hormones

These hormones act on the metabolism of the body. But during stress, there is decreased production of these hormones. As a result of which there is decreased metabolism in the body. So no wonder you might gain some weight if you are having stress for a long period of time.

Growth hormones

As the name states itself these hormones are for growth. During a research, it was found that in acute physical stress the growth hormone level can increase up to tenfold.

But in psychological stress, growth hormone response is rarely seen.

Insulin

This hormone is secreted by pancreas and it acts by decreasing the glucose level of blood. During stress, the secretion of insulin is decreased. So, as I already mentioned increased level of glucose due to cortisol and decreased level of insulin (one which decreases blood glucose level) can lead to stress induced hyperglycemia.

Vasopressin

The main function of these hormones is to constrict the blood vessels and direct the blood to central circulation (I mean to the major blood vessels). During acute stress, there is rapid release of these hormones.

As the vasoconstriction leads to decreased blood supply to skin, people during acute stress turn pale.

So as I listed how stress can cause hormonal imbalance in our body. Please feel free to comment your views. Stay stress free and be happy and healthy.