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The Role of Cortisol in Menstrual Health

Cortisol is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands. It is often referred to as the "stress hormone" because it is released in response to stress.

However, cortisol has many important functions in the body, including regulating blood sugar, metabolism, and inflammation.

However, too much (or too little) cortisol can be harmful. When cortisol levels are high, it can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • weight gain

  • fatigue

  • difficulty sleeping

  • low libido

  • weakened immunity

  • mood swings

  • weak bones

what can an excess of cortisol look like?

Cortisol can also have a negative impact on menstrual health.


How Cortisol Becomes Unbalanced

There are a number of factors that can cause cortisol levels to become unbalanced. These include:

  • Stress: Stress is one of the biggest contributors to high cortisol levels. When we are stressed, our bodies release cortisol in order to help us cope with the stressor. However, if we are under chronic stress, our bodies can become overstimulated and produce too much cortisol.

  • Poor Sleep: When we don't get enough sleep, our bodies produce more cortisol. This is because sleep is essential for the body to regulate cortisol levels.

  • Poor Diet: A diet that is high in processed foods, sugar, and caffeine can contribute to high cortisol levels. These foods can disrupt the body's natural cortisol production.

  • Lack of Exercise: Exercise is a great way to reduce cortisol levels. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which have mood-boosting and stress-reducing effects.


The Role of Cortisol in Menstrual Health

Cortisol can have a number of negative effects on menstrual health. These include:

What does high cortisol mean for your menstrual cycle?
  • Irregular periods: High cortisol levels can disrupt the menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods or even amenorrhea (the absence of periods).

  • Heavy bleeding: Cortisol can also increase the amount of blood that is lost during menstruation.

  • PMS symptoms: Cortisol can worsen PMS symptoms, such as mood swings, fatigue, and cramps


The Evidence of Cortisol and Menstrual Diseases

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that cortisol can play a role in a number of menstrual diseases including PCOS and endometriosis.

In a study in 2021, they found that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that can cause irregular periods and infertility, also had higher levels of cortisol.

A 2022 study on cortisol and endometriosis found that

Cortisol levels were normal in all women, but significantly lower in patients with endometriosis than controls

How Acupuncture Can Balance Cortisol

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatment that has been shown to be effective in reducing cortisol levels. Acupuncture works by stimulating specific points in the body that help to regulate the body's stress response.

A number of studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in reducing cortisol levels in people with a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and depression.

You can read my blog post here about acupuncture for stress.

How to manage high cortisol


Cortisol is an important hormone that plays a number of roles in the body. However, too much cortisol can have a negative impact on menstrual health.

If you are concerned about your menstrual health and think that high cortisol levels may be a factor, you should talk to your doctor. They can help you to determine if you have high cortisol levels and discuss treatment options, such as acupuncture.

Depending on your signs and symptoms you should also need to consider hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, low testosterone, low oestrogen, or, low progesterone.

I hope this blog post has been informative. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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