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How stress disrupts the hormones - and what helps against them

How stress disrupts the hormones - and what helps against them


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Common illness permanent stress

Our society is often defined by performance. Beginning in school, the pressure to perform continues in professional life and often moves into areas of leisure and sport. The result: constant stress. Constant overwork and overexcitation can put our body in chronic stress. Experts warn that this condition can lead to a derailment of the natural hormone balance with negative effects on the entire organism.

Sleep disorders, difficulty concentrating, depression, high blood pressure and even cancer - these are some of the negative effects that chronic stress can have. Experts from the German Society for Endocrinology (DGE) warn that stress can permanently disrupt the hormone control cycle and that it can take months or years to recover from this imbalance.

Dangers of unresolved chronic stress

At the press conference of the DGE on September 11, 2018, experts discussed the causes and various consequences of permanent stress and which measures are suitable to counteract them. "The body is running at full speed," reports Professor Dr. med. Jörg Bojunga, Vice President of the DGE, in a press release. Persistently high levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the blood could lead to sleep disorders and depression at an early stage. At the same time, the high stress hormone levels would disrupt the control loops of other hormone systems in the body, according to the expert.

Stress - actually a positive reaction

As the DGE experts report, stress is actually a natural and initially positive reaction of the body. Among other things, the response to coping with stressful situations is necessary. During a stressful situation, the body releases adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol from the adrenal cortex into the blood. This process is activated via the so-called stress axis, which extends from the hypothalamus (section in the midbrain) via the pituitary gland to the adrenal glands.

Attack or flight

With the help of the released hormones, the body is supposed to be spurred to peak performance in dangerous situations such as "attack" or "flight". One consequence of this “high-performance mode”, according to the DGE experts, is an increased blood sugar level, high blood pressure and the activation of all the senses.

Sexual reluctance thanks to constant stress

Another aspect that the chronic activation of the stress axis brings with it is the inhibitory effect on the production of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. This results in sexual displeasure in men and women. "Stress can affect ovulation in women," explains Bojunga. The female gender can experience cycle disorders, which in the worst case can lead to an unfulfilled desire to have children.

The immune system also suffers

Since the stress axis is linked to the immune system, too much cortisol gets into the control loops of the immune system in the event of chronic stress. "This can promote infections, wound healing disorders and cancer," warns Professor Bojunga. In addition, too much cortisol can have a negative effect on the metabolism and thus promote the storage of unhealthy belly fat.

Stress is not always avoidable

"People who are frequently exposed to increased stress should therefore know how to handle it in order to remain healthy," adds Professor Dr. Sven Diederich, Medical Director Medicover Germany. Accordingly, personal solution strategies for coping with stress would differ from patient to patient.

Form time out

“What they have in common, however, is that everyone has to have time to relax from stress in order to come down,” explains Bojunga. Once the organism is disturbed, it often takes a long time to recover. The professor recommends stress prevention and stress reduction techniques that can be learned. Autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation, for example, have proven their worth many times.

Exercise and hobbies reduce stress

In addition, every opportunity to exercise should be used, such as on the way to work, to school or while shopping. "Physical expenditure in a reasonable framework also reduces stress hormones," Bojunga's recommendation. Working with hobbies would also reduce stress levels. This could help to restore the natural balance. (vb)

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