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Stress, hormones and your health

Stress often throws our hormones out of balance or is caused by hormonal imbalance. We explain how this exactly happens and how you can take precautions about the same.

Written by Hema Subramanian |Updated : March 1, 2015 5:52 PM IST

Stress-hormones-office-healthYou come home after a tiring day at work, to find the maid has played truant, your son hasn't done his homework, mother in-law is one of her usual shrewish moods and your husband decided to go drinking with his office colleagues.

All that stress!! Within minutes, you turn from being normal and happy to grumpy and irritated. Even as you talk yourself to becoming calmer, your body is helping you cope with what's happening outside. The exhaustion that you experience after a long board meeting gives you enough time to bounce back to work. Each stressful event triggers a reaction in our physical body.

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The human body is a wonderful although complicated system, built to maintain health and wellbeing and naturally protect and repair itself.Each involuntary action of ours is governed by hundreds of natural chemicals inside our body called hormones. The movers and shakers of our physical and emotional states, hormones regulate and affect our feeling sleepy, hungry and tired and also being happy, sad or angry.

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Even as the hormones work their magic inside our body, prolonged stressful situations also have a profound effect on the production of hormones. Like rides on roller coasters can cause an adrenalin rush and last minute work can create panic, constant worries and tensions can cause severe malfunction of our body due to forced adjustments. Our hormones get confused as they are thrown off guard from their regular routines and go haywire, producing irregular amounts and causing our body to fall sick.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of stress.

Every time, the body senses some overload on its system, it lets out these chemical messengers into the bloodstream to set the body back into its natural balance. For example, insulin maintains the amount of the necessary sugar levels in our body. There are several hundreds of hormones affecting various organs and their functioning. Let us look at the most common ones that affect our emotions.

  • Cortisol: Prolonged stress and extreme negative emotions, especially anger, increase the production of this stress hormone. It helps by channelizing glucose to the brain to fight the stressful situation. Imbalance in this hormone may cause high blood pressure, migraine headaches, chronic colds, weakness and arthritis.
  • Oestrogen and Progesterone: The more the stress in your life clubbed with uncontrolled imbalanced eating habits, lack of physical work and absence of a 'time out' causes the PMS twins to act up more often when you don't want them to. Active in women during menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause, they counteract each other and any extreme variations in them may cause symptoms like severe mood swings, anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness and weight issues.
  • Testosterone: Excessive and prolonged stressful situations and random eating, excessive alcohol or nicotine intake can cause this male counterpart of the female hormones to cause Fatigue, abdominal fat (Pot Belly), mood swings (although men will not agree to this), depression, anxiety, lack of vitality and sleep problems.
  • Thyroxine: Imbalanced diet, lack of physical activity and prolonged stress can cause the growth hormone to go rampant. Variations can result in decreased energy, slow heart rate and weight gain or loss.

So much for all that information up there, if you have noticed any of those symptoms in you for some time now, it's time to act

Combat techniques:

  • Get some air Taking a walk every day even for 5 minutes gives your body that necessary unwinding (don't forget to leave your phones behind!)
  • Sit in silence every day, even if it is only for 5 minutes.
  • Stock some dry fruit on your work desk to munch on a couple of them every day.
  • Don't forget to drink water ask your buddies to remind you.
  • Eat on time respect your body now so it'll cooperate with you when you turn older.
  • Don't contaminate your system with excess of anything food, thoughts or emotions.
  • Get a list of tests for your hormones from your doctor. Get them done at regular intervals as prescribed by him/her.
  • Lastly, the magic mantra - Don't forget to laugh and enjoy the small things in life!

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