What is the most important hormone for women and girls to keep balanced all their lives?
It is CORTISOL.
In all the times I have asked that question – all women bar none have answered oestrogen. I would have too until I started my quest. I hadn’t even heard of it.
Stress is the number one modern day issue, like infection was 100 years ago.
Stress is controlled by your hormone cortisol – and it shuts down the production of all the other good hormones which you need to function. It causes you to function on half of your systems so that all your energy and focus goes on either fighting or fleeing.
What does that mean?
Well it means that this hormone – Cortisol – lowers progesterone which is nature’s valium, testosterone and DHEA which makes oestrogen. It stops rest and digest and repair processes while you sleep, all of which are essential to health.
In the days of hunter gatherers, if they were chased by a predator like a lion, they would either die or escape. After that, if they didn’t die they would have a nice, lovely rest and a chat and then carry on walking another 12-18 miles/day – 19-25 kms/day. They then would stop at night to sing, play music and look at the moon and stars. Cortisol would be turned off until the next emergency.
Emails aren’t meant to be like Lions
But our bodies haven’t evolved, so they think they are. Today, many of us never get rid of negative stresses in our lives. For women the juggling of work, home, children, self care, older relatives, family and friends can get exhausting in our modern age. Despite all the gadgets designed to help us.
Sleep is hard, digestion is hard, repair and rest are hard and you gain weight and find it harder to lose once you gain it.
Cortisol stops the hungry/feeling full hormone.
It doesn’t matter how well you eat, if you are stressed, you don’t lose weight. You get sugar cravings when you are stressed and you store fat.
Cortisol also stops your higher order thinking function
We humans have two parts of the brain.
The reptilian one which controls breathing, blinking, our heartbeat and fight or flight. The other part only operates when the reptilian part is turned off. This is the one which reminds you why you are on the planet, that you have an important job to do and that you can make a difference to our world.
It also helps you make good decisions, behave reasonably and make sensible choices such as to stop watching TV or turn off your phone or not eat another 7 biscuits. Otherwise we all run around yelling and being unreasonable and over-reacting to situations.
Oh – that sounds like most of the people in the news doesn’t it? It also sounds like how I used to be as well.
This is when you need to get out of bed in the morning, climb a mountain, and in the olden days it would lead you to climb a tree to collect those berries. Or you solve a particularly complicated problem at work.
Vitality or energy is what humans have in abundance – look at our spectacular innovations and discoveries. Or rather we should have in abundance. Many of us seem not to be firing on all the right number of energy cylinders at the moment individually or collectively.
What’s NOT normal, and what tears down your body systems, is that constant negative stress that you feel all the time that for your ancestors used to be reserved for the odd battle with a big hairy predator that popped up every once in a while.
When I learned that, I realised that sleep and exercise were great and really important BUT if you are still stressed, then they don’t heal you as they should.
It took me a long time but I have come to learn that there are a hierarchy of issues which need to be addressed. There is so much information available but it is really fragmented and it doesn’t say how to manage all the different parts you need to adjust.
For me, working out how much or how little you are stressed is the secret and has to come first so you can then deal with everything else in sequence.