What happens to our hormones as we age? Your hormones can be chaotic and confusing to say the least. Too many changes can seem to happen overnight, which can leave you feeling fatigued, frustrated, fed up and anxious.

Cortisol, typically increases after age 40. It can also become ‘dysfunctional’ where it is lower during the day and higher at night time. This commonly is when poor sleep patterns develop or even hot flushes at night.

Cortisol is a hormone we produce in our adrenal glands. Its main function is to raise blood sugar levels, increase blood pressure and reduce inflammation.

Cortisol should be high during the day and lower at night,  when we need to produce the hormone melatonin to sleep. Long term stress can cause an increase in cortisol and so can ageing!

If your adrenals are pumping out cortisol for long period of time it will inevitably affect your other hormones. Your skin can sag, muscles droop, become ‘stress intolerant’ and you end up with a lack of confidence.

Progesterone steal pathway and estrogen dominance

High cortisol over time reduces progesterone levels. This is because we produce cortisol and progesterone from the same hormonal precursor- pregnenolone.  Progesterone is our anti-anxiety hormone and gives a feeling of contentment. And if you feel like you have constant PMT/PMS then you probably are low in progesterone! If this keeps dropping over time because of stress, lowered thyroid function or a sluggish liver, then you end up with estrogen dominance

Excess estrogens can slow down the thyroid function and contribute to an underactive thyroid. And when the thyroid function slows down, this slows the liver function down and it becomes a cycle.

Prolonged cortisol levels also can decrease the livers ability to clear excess estrogen from the blood.

A sluggish liver can mean you end up with insulin resistance and weight gain.  Insulin is the hormone which ‘unlocks’ glucose from your food. If you are not unlocking the glucose for energy, it is stored as fat in your body, usually abdominal fat after age 40, which I known as the middle-aged spread…. Eeek! I know no-one really want this to happen!

Also, as we age we become more resistant to insulin, this can cause weight gain. Our body doesn’t utilise glucose from food as efficiently as it did when we were younger. The way around this is to exercise more and eat less sugar and carb’s.

 The top health risks of having high cortisol

  • Insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Increased body fat/ weight gain
  • Mood and brain problems including Alzheimer’s disease and depression
  • Insomnia and sleep problems
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Bone loss in menopausal women
  • Infertility and polycystic ovarian syndrome


We can normalise or control cortisol by

  • Controlling stress
  • Exercising
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Meditating
  • Doing yoga
  • Practising ‘mindfulness’
  • Having a positive attitude
  • Taking magnesium and herbs to lower cortisol
  • Supporting your adrenal health
  • Take or balance melatonin at night (By the way, melatonin is very anti -ageing!)
  • Increasing progesterone levels


And most importantly reducing the foods which increase cortisol-  coffee, sugar, alcohol and too many processed foods and carbs. This will help to reduce the chance of insulin resistance and weight gain.  The lower glycaemic diet is the way to go.  Watch carbs and sugars in your food and opt for veggies, salad and proteins at meal times, reducing the carbs to 2 small serves a day.

Protein also reduces cortisol and can help keep up feeling calm. If you have sugar or carbs it can leave us feeling more anxious and even trigger hot flushes. So…. don’t go for the sugar or carbs when you feel anxious or tired, have some good quality protein!




Health Masters live- functional diagnostics lectures

The hormone cure _ Dr. Sarah Gottfried

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