The Link between Stress and Hormones

Constant and ongoing stressful situations can cause chronic conditions that advance from an overworked adrenal gland into illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, burnout, anxiety disorder, irritable bowel syndrome and conditions associated with an imbalance of hormones. 

If we want to to achieve homeostasis in our hormonal systems, it is imperative that we take note of the stress in our lives and consider how to relieve it. Reflexologist Mardeen Stoltz, who pioneered the ground breaking Embryonic Reflexology Connection methodology, explains that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis (HPA axis) is activated by stress, which then enhances the secretion of glucocorticoids from the adrenals. 

Prolonged exposure to large amounts of glucocorticoids is believed to cause atrophication of the hippocampus in humans and animals exposed to severe stress. An atrophied hippocampus is associated with reduced memory performance and impaired learning.

Cortisol (a glucocorticoid type hormone) is released in response to stress. Prolonged, elevated levels can lead to the breakdown of proteins and to muscle wasting, and can reduce bone formation (leading to osteoporosis). It also negatively affects the synthesis of collagen (which is the main component of connective tissue and makes up about 30% of the protein content in the human body).

In menopause, we find an increase in the incidence of osteoporosis and deterioration of the skin. With the above explanation, one can see how stress can be the cause of such conditions.

The pituitary gland regulates other endocrine glands, for instance, the pancreas, adrenals, thyroid, para-thyroids, thymus and ovaries/testis. If the HPA axis is activated by stress, these endocrine glands may all be affected. When one hormone is affected, be sure that it does not take long for most hormones to become unbalanced.

The hypothalamus has a direct influence on the PNEI systems (PNEI – PsychoNeuroEndocrineImmune). This means that the imbalanced hypothalamus can immediately affect all endocrine glands. 


Stress affects and halts digestion. Non-digestion affects the level of protein, minerals and Vitamin B complex in our body. These nutrients contribute to being able to tolerate stress and so are essential. A vicious circle is put into motion with the body needing much more than it has at hand. 

Non-digestion also results in dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) and an acid pH which becomes a perfect breeding ground for Candida Albicans infestation. Candida Albicans can cause conditions including overweight, infertility, vaginitis, decreased libido, sexual difficulties, pre-menstrual disorders, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Graves’ Disease and Oophoritis, to name a few.


In order to assist the human body to balance itself once again, a competent reflexologist can apply pressure to reflexology pressure points, opening up the energy flow to:

  • glands involved with the HPA axis
  • other endocrine glands and organs affected by stress
  • organs involved with digestion
  • the nervous system


Stress relief is extremely important, therefore serious consideration should be given to finding the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual causes of stress. One can form a plan to rid oneself of these root causes that create stress.

 Alternatively, we can change the attitude towards ourselves – you might change what you allow into your  life and how you relate to the vulnerable part of yourself.  Understanding and caring for the tender aspects of ourselves should come first, followed by being conscious of our boundaries and self care. When we are unhappy by not caring for ourselves or made vulnerable by our poor boundaries, we are unable to add happiness to another person’s experience.