How Burnout Affects Your Hormones
Dr. Ashley Margeson
This article originally appeared on Cornerstone Naturopathic, and we’re delighted to share it here!
From shortening periods, to worsening PMS, to changing your ovulation patterns; burnout can affect your hormones in so many ways. The easiest way to understand how burnout affects your hormones is to understand that your hormones react to the environment you’re living in. They’re not just these little proteins that act the same way every day, they’re communication mechanisms that react to the environment we’re living in.
Though burnout can affect your hormones in many different ways, there are three main areas that you might notice changes in.
Not only can your periods get lighter (which is not the worst thing in the world for some of you!), your cycle length can also get shorter. If you notice over a string of three months that you periods aren’t quite coming on time, or you’re noticing a change in the heaviness of your flow this could be a sign that burnout is affecting your periods. The reason? The higher amount of cortisol and adrenaline we have to make, the less progesterone we make. Period. This causes spotting before your period, a lighter flow and can even shorten your cycle. No body wants two cycles a month, trust me.
Not only does a decrease in circulating progesterone affect the length and flow of your period, it also affects your mood. Progesterone acts as a buffering mechanism for our brains. It causes a uterine lining to be finalized in the second half of our cycle, but it also impacts the GABA receptors in our brain. Progesterone is needed to calm our brains down – literally. What does burnout do? It decreases our progesterone output to compensate for the increase in cortisol output. This equals stronger PMS and more severe symptoms.
Yes. Your 60 hour work week is making your PMS worse.
For those of us who might not be tracking our cycles this might not seem like a big deal. But having a relatively consistent ovulation is important for keeping our hormones and our inflammatory load in check. When our system shifts from ovulating early to ovulating late, our hormones react negatively to that. A relative excess of estrogen (from a late ovulation) can cause more breast tenderness, bloating and fluid retention. A relative shift of progesterone (from an early ovulation) can cause an increase in cramping and pain during our periods. Burnout causes our ovulation patterns to change, which means it’s harder for our bodies to adapt.
So let’s do ourselves a favour and keep things steady, eh?
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