PMS and the Stress Connection


Excerpted from What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about PREmenopause by John R. Lee, M.D. and Virginia Hopkins

You know from the chapter on hormone balance that stress increases your
levels of cortisol, a hormone released primarily by the adrenal glands in response
to feelings of fear, danger or even a sense of competition. In excess, cortisol
can stimulate feelings of irritability, anger and rage. Cortisol is also released
when you push yourself to work through tiredness day after day. Think of cortisol
as a backup energy system. Like the batteries that back up your electronics
when the electrical power goes out, you can't just keep using them to give
you full power, or they'll wear out and you'll also lose that source of energy.
In the same way, you can't depend on your cortisol and your adrenal glands
to keep taking you beyond your physical limits or eventually you will create
depleted organs and chronic fatigue.

Since cortisol and progesterone compete for common receptors in the cells,
cortisol impairs progesterone activity, setting the stage for estrogen dominance.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels can be a direct cause of estrogen dominance,
with all the familiar PMS symptoms.

High cortisol levels also affect blood sugar. Cortisol sends glucose (blood
sugar) flooding into the cells. The initial rush of glucose into the cells
may feel great, but twenty or so minutes later your body will be working overtime
to produce more glucose and you'll be searching the cupboards or your desk
drawers for candy bars, cookies and potato chips to get your blood sugar and
your energy back up. The majority of those empty calories will be converted
to fat and if you keep up the pattern long term, you'll be struggling to keep
your weight down and your energy up.

Fluctuating blood sugar creates another type of negative feedback cycle, where
high levels of sugar in the blood stimulate the release of adrenaline, which
in turn stimulates the release of cortisol, which in turn causes a craving
for quick calories, and so forth.

This article was excerpted from Dr. John Lee's book, What Your Doctor May
Not Tell You About Premenopause.

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