While joyful, the holiday season can bring overwhelming pressure, especially for women who shoulder substantial burdens that include hosting family gatherings, shopping for gifts, and remembering their family’s event calendar. Unfortunately, this time of year’s busyness often equates to increased stress and the adoption of unhealthier habits. And, as women rush to get more tasks completed, their hormones pay the price through imbalances and the onset of uncomfortable symptoms. Understanding how the holidays impact your hormones empowers you to give them the support they need so you don’t have to muddle through what should be a happy time.
Hormones for the Holidays
As you go what feels like non-stop to get ready for the season, the adverse effects of stress-related hormonal imbalance soon manifest to alert you to hit the reset button. These signs are like the “check engine” light displaying in your car and warn you that your body’s systems are not running as they should.
- Rapid heartbeat or breathing
- Bowel changes such as diarrhea or constipation
- Irritability or mood swings
- Cold extremities
There is one hormone most to blame for disrupting our hormonal balance during the holidays. When operating as it should, it’s the hormone that allows you to wake up each morning, but when it is not, it sets off a chain reaction of negative symptoms that can make you miserable.
It is no surprise that the hormone most affected by the holidays is cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands and commonly known as the stress hormone. Most cells in the body contain receptors that interact with cortisol, and in addition to its many contributions to hormonal balance, it also helps regulate immunity and metabolism. Slight increases in cortisol initially have a positive stress response impact, temporarily sharpening memory and energy while diminishing pain sensitivity.
But during times of sustained stress, increased cortisol that is not physically spent causes other bodily functions to slow down or stop entirely, including digestive, reproductive, and immune system processes. Specifically, excess cortisol negatively impacts the sleep-wake balance and the body’s ability to fight off illness. It also triggers sugar production in the liver, contributing to insulin spikes and the urge to eat high calorie, nutrient-deficient foods. In turn, indulging in unhealthy foods and beverages causes liver congestion and hinders its ability to filter and eliminate toxins effectively.
Because most of your cortisol originates in your gut, eating unhealthily this way will throw off your gut health while causing you to crave unhealthy foods continually. Worse still, if the sugar production triggered by cortisol is not used immediately, more insulin is released to transport it, and it is stored as fat - around your hips and waistline. If the additional strain on the adrenal glands extends for too long a time, they eventually have a hard time producing even normal amounts.
Progesterone and Estrogen
In addition to disrupting sleep and gut health, excess cortisol also affects our sex hormones, particularly progesterone and estrogen. Our bodies prioritize stress defense above all other functions, so as progesterone is re-allocated to cortisol production to engage in our body’s natural “fight or flight” response, the progesterone levels needed for hormonal balance drop. This decrease in progesterone results in excess estrogen, known as estrogen dominance. Some of the symptoms associated with estrogen dominance are:
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Breast lumps
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low libido
- Weight gain
- Depression or anxiety
- Brain fog
How to Help Your Holiday Hormones
Fortunately, there are actionable steps you can take to prepare yourself for the stress - both good and bad - of the year’s busiest months. Making small adjustments to your routine and adding beneficial supplements can help rebalance your body.
Alcohol consumption slows liver function and decreases the production of the antidiuretic hormone vasopressin needed to reabsorb the water it needs, so it helps your body to limit your holiday alcohol intake and be sure to consume enough water.
Similarly, going to holiday events on an empty stomach is unwise, as you are more likely to overeat or indulge in unhealthy foods, particularly sugar. Instead, eat nutritious, satisfying foods beforehand to minimize the chances of impulse eating or use an appetite suppressant, Chito-Slim, that makes you feel full to help you avoid overeating.
Rest is another way to allow your body to fight hormonal imbalances and relieve stress during the holidays, but it can be difficult to quiet a racing mind trying to remember so much. Setting a regular sleep schedule and routine is a helpful way to get your sleep back on track, and adding melatonin helps maintain your body’s healthy sleep patterns while also supporting your immune system. In the waking hours, incorporating stress reduction techniques, including yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation to your day, can further help rest your overworked brain.
In addition to the lifestyle changes listed above, one of the fastest and most productive ways to bring your hormones into balance over the holidays is to use effective bioidentical progesterone cream. Replenishing the progesterone lost to cortisol production will help level out your estrogen and alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
Surviving (and Thriving) During the Holidays
At Dr. Randolph’s Wellness Store, we have the bioidentical hormone therapies you need to arm your body for its defense against the effects of holiday stress. Contact Dr. Randolph’s Ageless and Wellness Center today to learn how we can help you get your hormones back into balance through our evidence-based medical insights and targeted vitamins and supplements - so you can get back to truly enjoying the holiday season.