This post was written by Alex Eriksson, the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health.
Stress is a beast that is hard to tame.
Even more so is workplace stress, which even though being subtle, can negatively affect many aspects of your health and wellbeing.
Though many people dismiss the effects of working long hours, and wear it as a proud badge of honor, it should be no way of living long-term, as you may soon experience the downsides of being overworked.
Throughout it all, it is important to remember that cortisol, our body’s stress hormone, is essential for our survival as a species, and for coping with the hustle and bustle of our lives.
What is not normal, however, is having chronically elevated levels, which is when the real problems arise.
But cortisol is not alone. It usually works in tandem with another popular hormone; estrogen.
The Connection Between Cortisol and Estrogen
Though it may not seem obvious at first, estrogen and cortisol do have a lot of dealings under the surface of it all, with cortisol even indirectly leading to an increase in estrogen levels.
Now ladies, before you say estrogen is not bad for you, it actually is; or at least too much of it. Yes, it’s true men experience the worst symptoms from high estrogen levels, but either gender can experience a state of estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance occurs when the checks and balances that normally keep hormones at a optimal ratio go out of whack, causing a much higher than normal, or far from normal amounts of estrogen circulating in the body.
In relation to the connection to cortisol, it is due to the stress hormone’s role in depleting progesterone, one of the hormones that keeps estrogen in check.
Did you know that cortisol is synthesized from progesterone? Which explains why estrogen dominance is more likely to occur when under high-stress situations, leading to depletion of progesterone.
Progesterone is a primary hormone in women that keeps estrogen levels optimal.
Progesterone also keeps estrogen and weight gain in check in men, with a study demonstrating that obese men almost always have low progesterone levels.
How Do I Know If Estrogen Dominance Is Affecting Me?
There are a few telltale signs, including frequently:
- Reduced sex drive (both genders)
- Weight gain and water retention, as estrogen is a fat sparing / promoting hormone.
- Altered, unpredictable emotional states, such as increased likelihood of experiencing depression and anxiety.
- Hot flashes.
How Can Excessive Estrogen Be Managed?
Excessive estrogen can, and should be managed.
Given, it may be considered easier to get a grip on excess estrogen levels if you are a man, as you can make use of effective estrogen blocking supplements. However, that is not all you should do, as a multi-faceted approach works best.
Other tips you can make use of include:
- Eating a diet rich in estrogen-blocking foods: this is advised, as there are many plant based foods which block the effect of excessive estrogen in the body, break them down into less potent forms, or prevent testosterone from being converted into estrogen (primarily in men). Include foods such as cruciferous vegetables, pomegranates and grapes which are rich in resveratrol.
- Lift Weights: lifting weights has so many benefits that is would take forever to list them all. But of particular note to us, is the fact that weight lifting can help combat excessive estrogen levels, as it raises testosterone levels. Testosterone and estrogen share a balance, with one regulating the other. In like manner, is the relationship between testosterone and cortisol, since as one increases the other decreases in similar fashion.
- Eliminate external estrogenic sources: these include things such as using plastics that contain BPA, reducing your intake of troublesome foods (such as soy, sugars) and focusing on living a more holistic life.
The Other Side Of The Coin: Cortisol
Overworking can be one of the worse things you do.
Whether it’s in the gym, or in the office, constantly working and not allowing enough room for downtime is a recipe for disaster. You need to make time for rest and recuperation, with one ideal technique being meditation.
Too many people do not take meditation seriously.
A simple 10 minute meditative session performed daily can immensely reduce the impact cortisol has on your life, as was proven in a study. But while meditation is a wonderful tool in your quest for health and wellbeing, you also need to make other lifestyle changes.
For example, sleeping 6 hours per night is not sufficient, regardless of how you feel the next day. The way you feel is just your individual response to stress, with some people having higher tolerances than others.
Likewise, you need to be smart with the time you spend working every week. Sure, we know that overtime pay really helps a bit, but at what cost? Your health is definitely not worth the trade.
Try to work enough so that you are able to comfortably sleep at night (for about 8 hours hopefully) and wake up feeling refreshed. If you constantly feel resentful in the mornings, chances are your cortisol levels are high, and your dopamine levels are low.
Make time for holidays, whether or not you leave the country. A period of two weeks not focusing on work is excellent for health, and leaves you recharged to handle another year of it.
Multiple things can fly out of whack after just one seemingly innocuous thing gets out of place.
If you can honestly say you are spending too many hours working, back off and let your body heal itself. Meditation is a godsend, and when performed while living a sensible lifestyle, your body will love you for it.