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Understanding the Impact of Stress on Your Menstrual Cycle

Stress is a major disruptor of your female hormone balance. Reducing stress improves your hormones and ovulation.

Unfortunately, for many women, it is almost impossible not to experience stress. We also have a lot of balls to keep high: work, partner, children, friendships, hobbies, etc. But stress is a major disruptor of your female hormone balance (and therefore your health)!

To begin with: what is stress?

Stress means that internal balance in our body is disturbed. Disruptions can be caused by all kinds of factors (stressors). Think work stress, wrong diet, not enough exercise, poor sleep, not enough relaxation, smoking, toxins (air pollution).

Stress response system (HPA axis)

Our body has three hormonal axes:

  • HPA: hypothalamus - pituitary - adrenal = adrenal axis (stress axis) > produces cortisol

  • HPT: hypothalamus - pituitary - thyroid = thyroid axis > produces thyroid hormone

  • HPG: hypothalamus - pituitary - gonadal = gonadal axis > produces sex hormones

Our stress response system (HPA axis) is active during the day and reacts to danger (stress). It used to be, for example, the threat of a tiger when we were hunting, nowadays it can also be the threat of a stressful situation at work. A temporarily intense stress that we need to respond to is fine (acute stress), but our HPA axis cannot constantly handle the threats of modern life (e.g. prolonged stress at work).

What happens in your body when you are stressed?

In a stressful situation, cortisol is produced. Our sympathetic nervous system is activated and the body produces norepinephrine and adrenaline. This enables the body to take action (fight/flight). The production of noradrenaline and adrenaline takes place very quickly and has a short-term effect. A little later, cortisol production via the HPA axis is triggered and has a long-term effect.

An over-activated HPA axis is at the expense of the other two axes. All the building blocks/energy goes to cortisol (HPA axis) and no energy remains for the other two axes. This leads to reduced production of thyroid and sex hormones resulting in a sluggish thyroid and problems with libido, fertility and menstrual cycle.

The negative effects of cortisol

Cortisol, as mentioned, is a stress hormone. It is produced in the adrenal glands and makes you take action. For example, when you get up in the morning (cortisol awakening response) or that you perform better in an exam or competition. These are normal portions of cortisol, but overdosing for a longer period of time causes problems and harms your body.

For instance, chronically elevated cortisol can lead to sleep disturbances, suppressed thyroid function, insulin resistance or progesterone and testosterone deficiency. Of course, you can see this from your measurements taken with your Daysy. Daysy gives you an accurate insight into how much stress is taxing your cycle and thus your hormones. Cortisol shrinks the brain's hippocampus which can cause memory and concentration problems. It causes osteoporosis and immune system dysfunction. And if that is not enough, it shortens the telomeres of our DNA, which accelerates ageing. When stress does not abate, cortisol receptors lose sensitivity, forcing the HPAG axis to deliver even more cortisol. A common complaint is that you are still awake at 1am. Also, many women see weight gain.

stress heeft invloed op je menstruatiecyclus, menstruatie kan uitblijven bij hevige stress

How can you calm the HPA axis?

If, like many women, you have a challenge with stress, there are several things you can do to relax. Consider:

  • Mindfulness (yoga, meditation, breathing exercise)

  • Grounding: walking barefoot outside

  • Stimulate serotonin production (skin contact, herbs: Griffonia Simplicifolia and St John's Wort)

  • Stimulate oxytocin production (hugging, sex, petting dog)

  • GABA supplement

  • Herbs acting on the GABA mechanism (valerian, sage and lemon balm)

  • Adaptogenic herbs (rhodiola, ginseng, maca, ashwaganda and curcumin)

In our shop you will find the 'Cyclus+ Package', a supplement pack including a complete formula for discomfort around menstruation and for mental and physical balance. This formula contains several adaptogenic herbs, which can help calm your HPA axis:

  • Maca (MacaHarmony®) to support the woman

  • Monk's pepper (Vinex Agnus Castus) that can help with discomfort around menstruation

  • Ashwagandha (KSM-66®) which is good for mental and physical balance

  • Saffron (Affron®) which helps maintain a positive state of mind

Stress and the menstrual cycle

Your cycle is a reflection of your hormonal balance and how your body handles stress. Hence, women who take temperatures with Daysy are very happy with what Daysy shows. If your cycle is going well, then you know your body is not bothered by stress. But if you have a lot of red days, skip ovulations, have delayed ovulations, an irregular cycle or no periods at all, then it is wise to take action. Our fertility expert can help you better understand your cycle and indicate whether it is smart to work on improving it because there are many possibilities. Make an appointment to look at your data together.

In a representative study (2020) (pictured below), of 1,200 Daysy users, 75% reported identifying stress symptoms based on their cycle curve. Moreover, 80% of participants reported that Daysy helped them improve their quality of life. This may be a first step in consciously reducing stress.

cyclus tracker daysy geeft vrouwen meer kwaliteit van leven




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