Is it Stress or is it Menopause?

stress Jan 28, 2021

Have you ever wondered why some women just breeze through menopause, while the rest of us struggle through?

One of the biggest differences between women who have menopausal symptoms and those that don't can be related to the amount of stress the symptomatic women are under.

This is a major concern as I don’t know anyone who lives a stress-free life. Yes, some stress can be beneficial but long-term multi-factorial stress is a massive issue. Many women are still raising kids, running their households, holding down a job, caring for parents, and then there are current issues such as COVID, the American election, Black lives matter, and earlier this week in Australia we had the Invasion day protests. It’s not one stressful experience it's many and they keep adding up.


When you feel stressed your adrenal glands produce your stress hormones; adrenaline, noradrenaline (for my American friends that epinephrine and norepinephrine), and cortisol. Cortisol works in opposite to another adrenal hormone DHEA.

DHEA is a precursor for the production of testosterone and estrogen. When the ratio of cortisol to DHEA is out, meaning you have higher cortisol levels, women can experience more extreme menopausal symptoms.


Elevated cortisol

  • reduces your ovaries ability to function, this is especially bad news for peri-menopausal women who still rely on the ovarian production of these hormones
  • can increase core body temperate - contributing to the development of hot flushes
  • it lowers immune function, making you more prone to infections
  • may cause blood sugar imbalances and predispose a woman to type 2 Diabetes
  • these blood sugar imbalances also cause cravings and weight gain, as a general rule cortisol weight likes to be deposited in the midriff section, otherwise known as the muffin top
  • may cause thyroid dysfunction, by suppressing the production of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and also suppressing the conversion of T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) into active T3.
  • it reduces your liver's ability to detoxify (especially xenoestrogens and heavy metals).
  • elevated cortisol accelerates the structural breakdown of the collagen matrix and skeletal bones, leaving women more susceptible to developing osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • it can even be the cause of lowered libido levels, as elevated cortisol levels reduce testosterone levels by blocking its precursor DHEA
  • as DHEA is critical for memory and brain function many stressed women experience brain fog and cognitive issues
  • even mood swings, anxiety, and depression are linked with elevated cortisol
  • cortisol along with melatonin creates your circadian rhythm otherwise known as your sleep-wake cycles. There’s is no way you are having a good night's sleep when your cortisol levels are high and your sleep-wake cycles are out of whack.


There is never a single hormone imbalance, if your cortisol/ DHEA ratio is out, this will compromise the ratio of other hormones. Most at risk are progesterone and aldosterone. In case you haven’t heard of Aldosterone, it's another adrenal hormone. It regulates your salt and water balance, its roles include regulation of sweating, urinating, and blood pressure maintenance.

Many women recognise all these symptoms as being a part of their menopausal transition, but is it menopause or is it just stress?

If we all end up with lower reproductive hormones and stopping menstruation, why do we experience this so differently?

I believe stress is just 1 of many factors that either sets us up for an easy menopausal transition or a problematic one.


In my Menopause Makeover program - Starting 1st of May 2023.  We spent an entire month trying different stress management techniques to see which ones work for you.

The other 2 factors covered in the program are:

  • Nutrition and Nutrient levels
  • Environmental health and our ability to detoxify

The Menopause Makeover program is for women looking to take control of their health and banish their menopausal symptoms. 

Now back to stress and what we can do to lower our cortisol levels

Where possible, identify and remove stressors. I know this isn’t always possible, like in the case of a sick family member but in some cases, it is, like leaving a toxic job or relationship.

In the case of unavoidable stress, please consider seeking professional health, like a counselor, or psychologist. One of my favourite stress management techniques is exercise, other useful modalities include life coaching, emotional freedom technique, meditation, acupuncture, massage, or breathwork.

A healthy diet can help you get back on track faster. By removing stimulating foods such as sugar, caffeine or alcohol, and replacing inflammatory food components like gluten and casein, you may feel withdrawal symptoms initially but give it a few more days and you will be feeling significantly better. This can fast tracked by adding nutritious foods with an abundance of healthy fats, adequate-protein, and carbohydrates in the form of fruits and vegetables. In the Menopause Makeover program, we have heaps of delicious recipes to try.

Key nutrients your adrenal glands need to optional function include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • B complex

Adaptogenic herbal medicines may also speed up your recovery. I recommend speaking to a Naturopath or Medical herbalist to choose the right one for you. Some of my favourites include Withania (also known as ashwagandha), Rhodiola, Rehmannia, Echinacea, Zizyphus, Schisandra, Shatavari, Holy basil, Kava, and the Ginseng family. 

Please reach out if you need help getting on top of your stress levels and improving your overall health during your menopausal transition.


Sign Up

Stay in touch and get the latest news sent straight to your inbox.