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Does Smoking Cause A Hormonal Imbalance? What You Should Know

November 16, 2022
By Pivot
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Did you know tobacco can affect your hormone balance, reproductive health, and even the onset of menopause?

The chemical components of tobacco can impact the production, secretion, and levels of hormones throughout the female body affecting the function of the hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenal gland, and even ovarian function. This can lead to lasting effects on hormonally regulation causing infertility, thyroid disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, and unwanted symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause. 

Endocrine system & tobacco

The endocrine system is a collection of glands and organs that produce hormones and send messages throughout the body to vital processes like metabolism, growth, sleep, and reproduction. Think of the endocrine system like the postal service, where the glands are the post office and the hormones are the mail. The mail gets delayed, lost, or even damaged when we use tobacco. 

How does smoking impact your hormones?

Smoking takes a toll on the body’s hormones, wreaking havoc on: 

Cortisol

The hormone is released by our bodies in response to stress. Smoking has been linked to increased cortisol levels in the blood. Chronic high levels of cortisol can cause Oligomenorrhea (infrequent periods), Amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation), decreased fertility, inability to concentrate, anxiety, high blood pressure, and blood sugar. 

Estrogen

The sex hormone is responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system. Smoking reduces circulating estrogen levels and leads to women's early onset of menopause. Low levels of estrogen can cause Oligomenorrhea, Amenorrhea, low sex drive, vaginal dryness, painful sex, hot flashes or night sweats, dry skin and eyes, and depression.  

Progesterone

The sex hormone is involved in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Smoking reduces progesterone levels in both the blood and follicular fluid (the fluid which surrounds the developing egg, essential for egg growth!) Low progesterone levels can result in difficulty getting or staying pregnant, breakthrough bleeding during the second half of the menstrual cycle, Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstrual migraines and heavier flow during menstruation, and irregular cycles. 

Prolactin

The hormone released by the pituitary gland is commonly associated with milk production and breast development. Chronic long-term smoking alters prolactin levels which may cause insufficient milk reserves, irregular periods, and infertility.

Thyroid Glands

Responsible for producing two hormones known as T3 and T4, which regulate the metabolism of our body's cells. Both active and secondhand smoke has been linked to decreased levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and is a known risk factor for many thyroid-related disorders. 

Gonadotropins

Produced in the pituitary gland in the brain to make and secrete the hormones luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Gonadotropins are involved in regulating the menstrual cycle and induction of ovulation. Smoking impacts and impairs this process, creating menstrual irregularities and infertility. 

Anti-Müllerian Hormone

Otherwise known as AMH, it is an indicator of your ovarian reserve. Research has shown that those who smoke have a lower AMH. One study found that people who currently smoke had a 44% lower AMH than those who do not smoke. This indicates that smoking is actually directly toxic to the eggs within the ovaries(1)

What can you do to balance your hormones?

Research shows that the best way to find balance, manage unpleasant symptoms and feel better is: 

  • Quit smoking and/or using tobacco and nicotine products
  • Eat a diet low in processed sugar and high in soluble and insoluble fiber (fruits and veggies in their natural state)
  • Incorporate daily movement that you find enjoyable and sustainable 
  • Establish a consistent time for bed, ideally by 10 pm
  • Hug more, as physical touch reduces the secretion of cortisol, leading to an all-around calmer state 

Quitting smoking or vaping will positively impact your hormones no matter what stage of life you’re in. 

Authored By: 

Talia Rappatone, BS, NBC-HWC, TTS

Sources: 

  1. Plante, BJ, Cooper, GS, Baird, DD and Steiner, AZ. The impact of smoking on antimüllerian hormone levels in women aged 38 to 50 years. Menopause (New York, NY). 2010;17(3):571-6.
  2. Tweed, JO, Hsia, SH, Lutfy, K and Friedman, TC. The endocrine effects of nicotine and cigarette smoke. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2012;23(7):334-42.
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