Hormone replacement during menopause can help reduce unwanted symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes, and other symptoms that can disrupt your life. However, studies show that estrogen may also play a key role in reducing cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Keeping your cortisol levels in balance offers many benefits for your overall health. Therefore, estrogen replacement therapy may offer even more advantages for women during menopause.
Today, people are under even more stress than ever before. Many women are at risk for these rising stressors. During menopause, changes like hot flashes, night sweats, and poor sleep can take an even bigger toll on our health by increasing stress. Many women begin a hormone replacement regimen to help reduce symptoms of menopause like hot flashes. However, estrogen may also help keep cortisol levels in control.
Imagine you’re driving when someone suddenly swerves into your lane. If you’ve ever been in a scary situation like this, then you can thank cortisol for the rush of energy you get as you try to avoid the accident.
Cortisol has earned the nickname “the stress hormone,” as it’s responsible for the fight or flight response. It quickly increases your blood sugar so your body has quick access to energy. It also helps increase your blood pressure. This can help you get out of life-threatening situations. However, cortisol also responds to other stressors that aren’t dangerous, like meeting a deadline at work or getting stuck in a traffic jam.
However, cortisol still plays an important role in your everyday life. For example, your body normally has higher cortisol levels when you wake up and when you exercise. This hormone can help give you energy and stabilize blood pressure. The problem is, most of us are walking around with higher than normal levels of cortisol. Even worse, women tend to have higher cortisol levels than men. This can cause many issues in your body. For example, it can cause many of the same symptoms you might experience during menopause, such as:
Hormone replacement with estrogen can often help with these symptoms and may even help with cortisol levels. This can help reduce your symptoms and help you feel better.
So, what does estrogen hormone replacement have to do with the stress hormone? Well, studies suggest that estrogen replacement therapy may help counteract the effects of cortisol. During menopause, your estrogen levels start to decline. This may also allow cortisol levels to rise and trigger stress responses. Add that in with all the other changes happening during menopause and you have a recipe for high levels of stress.
However, recent studies show that women on hormone replacement treatments may have lower levels of cortisol and may react differently to stress. Researchers set out to determine whether estrogen has a protective quality against stress when it comes to working memory. To increase stress, researchers had some women keep their hands in a bowl of cold water for a period of time. Others put their hands in a bowl of warm water. The cold water is meant to trigger a physical stress response. Then, the women were given a test for short-term working memory.
The cold-water placebo group in the study showed elevated cortisol levels and performed worse on the test compared to the placebo warm-water group. However, the women on an estrogen hormone replacement regimen had lower levels of cortisol and also performed at the same level on the test as the warm water placebo group, even when they were exposed to the cold water stress test. Therefore, this study provides evidence that estrogen replacement therapy may play a key role in reducing cortisol and stress responses for women during and after menopause.
High cortisol levels don’t just make you feel stressed out or cause symptoms like fatigue. Stress can have pretty major impacts on your health. Cortisol can affect your cognitive functions. Often described as “brain fog,” this might make it difficult for you to focus or remember things. High cortisol levels can also lead to high blood pressure and even lower your immune system.
In addition, high stress responses and cortisol levels can cause your body to alternate between high blood sugar and high insulin levels. Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for many life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Therefore, high cortisol can create a lot of negative consequences.
Since estrogen hormone replacement may help reduce your free cortisol response, you may benefit from estrogen injections during and after menopause. Estrogen replacement therapy can also help reduce symptoms that may be elevating your stress levels during menopause, such as mood changes, trouble sleeping, or low sex drive. If you’re feeling overly stressed during menopause or are experiencing unwanted symptoms, consider talking to one of our physicians about treatment options to help you feel your best. Your doctor will work with you to determine the right options for your symptoms and your life to help you improve your health.
So, what can you do during menopause to help reduce stress and help decrease high cortisol levels? Our provider will talk with you about your options. For example, your personalized treatment plan for menopause symptoms and the stress that goes along with these changes may include lifestyle changes and hormone replacement injections.
If you’re experiencing higher stress levels, but not necessarily symptoms of menopause, then lifestyle changes may be the first course of action. Small changes like eating a balanced diet and exercising three to five days per week can help reduce cortisol levels. Also, stress reduction techniques may help you feel better and more relaxed, which can also reduce cortisol and stress responses during menopause.
However, in other cases you may need hormone replacement to help reduce symptoms and stress. For example, hot flashes and mood changes are common symptoms of hormone changes during menopause that can also cause extra stress in your life. If these are starting to disrupt your life, our provider may recommend starting on bioidentical hormones to help bring your hormone levels back into balance and help you feel better.
At HerKare, we are dedicated to women’s wellness. Our providers take the time to listen and understand what you’re experiencing. Then, we collaborate with you to design a personalized treatment plan to help you feel better, whether it involves bioidentical hormones for menopause or vitamin optimization for vitamin deficiencies. We take a holistic approach to health to help address underlying causes of your symptoms to help you feel like yourself again. Schedule an appointment online today to talk to our doctors about your symptoms. We are here for you!