Stress doesn’t just impact your mind. Financial problems, relationship issues, past trauma, a pandemic, and other modern day stressors can all have serious impacts on your body. On top of serious fatigue, headaches, insomnia, breakouts and gut issues, stress can also have a negative impact on your menstrual cycle.
If you’ve been noticing your period is a bit out of whack—you’re not alone. But how bad can stress affect your period? In this article, you’ll find out. We’re diving into the basics of how stress impacts your cycle. You’ll learn about the relationship between stress and adrenal fatigue and how it plays a serious role in a dysregulated cycle. By the end of this article, you’ll have tangible tips for reducing stress and regulating hormone levels for a healthy, regular cycle.
Stress and Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is a common 21st century disease, affecting up to 80% of people (especially women)—and most don’t even know it!
Stress and adrenal fatigue are two peas in a pod—two cruel peas in a compromised pod. Chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, and adrenal fatigue can lead to more stress. They thrive off of each other. It’s a vicious cycle that I wouldn’t wish anyone to get stuck in, because I was once there.
Chronic stress is a hallmark sign of adrenal dysfunction. When you are stuck in a state of stress, whether it be from your relationships, job, or media consumption, your adrenals go into overdrive cranking out cortisol, your stress hormone. When this happens consistently, it’s only a matter of time until some level of adrenal fatigue sets in. And when the stress cycle starts to be consistent, hormone levels suffer.
Effects of Adrenal Fatigue
Stress not only wreaks havoc on adrenal function but it also plays a huge role in joint pain, gut problems, lethargy, poor brain function, dull and problematic skin, collagen production, and of course, an irregular cycle.
When our adrenal glands are out of balance or functioning poorly, so is the rest of our endocrine system. Dysregulation of the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal system) is at the root of all hormonal problems, and as you may suspect, all hormonal systems are interconnected. How does this relate to your cycle?
Your menstrual cycle is an indicator of whole-body health. A healthy functioning cycle involves the brain, ovaries, adrenal glands, thyroid, and pituitary glands. That means that when one system is out of whack, all other systems are feeling the effects.
Cortisol has a direct impact on hormone levels. Dysregulated cortisol levels as a result of adrenal fatigue can lead to the suppression of reproductive hormones, resulting in a delay (or skip!) of both ovulation and your period.
If you feel like you have any of the chronic symptoms of adrenal fatigue mentioned above and are suffering from an irregular cycle, you must address stress. Keep reading to learn how.
What Causes an Irregular Period?
A normal cycle can be anywhere from 25 to 35 days long. An irregular cycle can also look like a period timing that is unpredictable or inconsistent, a bleed that lasts longer than 7 days, a heavy period, dark blood, clots ,or a missed period/ovulatory phase. If you find that your cycle is much shorter or longer than that, you may be experiencing abnormalities with the two hormones that regulate your cycle, progesterone and estrogen.
Cortisol, our stress hormone, is deeply connected to progesterone and estrogen. As we learned, when cortisol levels are up it can throw your cycle off. If cortisol levels are too high it can reduce progesterone production, which your body needs to finish the second part of your cycle. Progesterone is essential to help build up the uterine lining to either prepare for pregnancy or to shed for your bleeding.
Unhealthy eating and drinking can also cause inflammation and stress in the body, potentially resulting in an irregular period. Learn more about how certain foods can hurt or help hormone levels here.
How to Reduce Stress for Healthy Cycle
Oftentimes, women go to the doctor with complaints of an irregular period only to be prescribed birth control pills. Here’s the thing: birth control pills don’t get to the root of irregular periods, which is oftentimes stress! Here are some of my favorite ways to regulate period without birth control.
1. Prioritize Sleep, Movement, and Stress Management
Getting into a regular routine for sleep, exercise, and stress management is the simplest and most effective way to start regulating your menses.
Exercise helps to reduce cortisol levels, balance blood sugar (crucial for those suffering from adrenal fatigue!), and flush toxins. Consider starting a mind-body routine. This can look like journaling, a 10 minute morning/night stress routine, breathwork exercises, or alone time to just rest. Whatever suits your fancy for getting into a better mood/mental state is key to regulating your period.
Some of our team’s favorite ways to destress:
- 5 to 5 ratio breathing
- 10 minute visualization meditation (found on Youtube!)
- Taking a walk outside
- Journaling on “how do I want to feel”
- 15 minute yoga class (can be found for free on youtube!)
- Breathing only out of the left nostril for a minute
- Bath with stress-reducing essential oils like lavender
2. Reduce/Eliminate Media Consumption
The media these days is fear-based. If watching the news raises cortisol levels/puts you into fight or flight mode, it’s time to shut off the news. This includes any stress that you get from scrolling social media. If seeing another person’s life makes you feel jealous, less than, unworthy, it’s time to unfollow them. Consider taking a social media detox for a week and see how you mentally feel.
3. Add stress-reducing and hormone-balancing herbs
Our plant allies come in clutch when it comes to reducing stress. Potent adaptogens help us adapt to physical, emotional, and environmental stressors.
- Ashwagandha- potent adaptogenic plant ally that helps to reduce the impact of stress. Found in our Beauty Collagen Complex honey vanilla powder.
- Schisandra- five-flavor berry that helps balance hormones by improving our ability to deal with stressors, both physical and psychological. Also found in our Beauty Collagen Complex supplement.
- Mushrooms: Adaptogenic mushrooms like shiitake and reishi (both found in our Organic Immunity Greens supplement) are incredible at regulating stress levels and calming the nervous system.
For other tips on how to regulate your period naturally, check out our mini guide here. We also have an incredible guest episode on the podcast all about regulating hormones, that you should tune into here: 95 – Dr. Shannon Curtis on Her Post Pill Journey, Natural Remedies for Acne, and Herbs for Hormones. She dives into the negative effects of birth control, her post-pill healing journey, how to balance hormones for regular cycles and more!
I hope this article has helped you understand the relationship between adrenal fatigue, stress, and irregular cycles. What are your favorite tips for reducing stress to help regulate your cycle? Let me know in the comments below!
If you are looking for extra internal support from powerful plant allies, make sure to check out our Beauty Collagen Complex (the honey vanilla flavor is perfect for your morning elixir) and our Organic Immunity Greens.
Download our FREE Happy Hormones Guide to discover 7 fixable mistakes that are causing your hormones to go haywire. And make sure to follow us on instagram to get daily tidbits of adrenal fatigue and hormone health education.