What Is The Deal With Cortisol
Think of cortisol as a natural alarm system. When you encounter a stressful situation such as the dog barking, the system is activated. The hypothalamus in the brain signals the adrenal glands located on the kidneys upper part to release adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline is the fight or flight hormone, while cortisol is the stress hormone. Cortisol increases glucose levels in the bloodstream, heightens the brains ability to use glucose, and avails substances for tissue repair. Cortisol also numbs unimportant functions that would interfere with the fight or flight process.
Your body needs this hormone to run daily functions. When you wake up or exercise, the body releases the average cortisol levels for blood sugar, pressure, and heart muscle strengthening. Research shows small doses of the hormone have several benefits, including boosting memory, heightening the immune system, and reducing pain sensitivity .
Consistently high cortisol levels are associated with high-stress levels. What causes the increase of this hormone in the body? Increased exposure to stressful situations is mainly to blame. Modern life is full of stressors. Many people start their day by waking up early to see kids off to school and then work. You get stuck in a traffic jam for hours and receive a thorough scolding from your boss. Other situations that raise stress levels include sickness of a loved one, accumulation of unpaid bills, an unhealthy relationship, and even lack of enough sleep.
What Happens When Cortisol Is High
Over the last 20 years, studies have increasingly revealed that moderate to high cortisol levels may lead to an array of health issues, such as :
- Chronic disease. Long-term increased cortisol may increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases.
- Weight gain. Cortisol may increase appetite and signal the body to shift metabolism to store fat.
- Lack of energy/difficulty sleeping. It can interfere with sleep hormones which may impact sleep quality and length.
- Difficulty concentrating. Also referred to as brain fog, some people report trouble focusing and lack of mental clarity.
- Impaired immune system. Increased cortisol can hamper the immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections.
- Cushings syndrome. In rare cases, very high cortisol levels can lead to Cushings syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
Elevated cortisol levels can be caused from many underlying issues such as overactivity or cancer of the pituitary or adrenal glands, chronic stress, and medication side effects .
Further, existing chronic disease may lead to higher cortisol levels, causing a chicken or the egg type of scenario .
Therefore, its best to work with a qualified health professional to establish the root cause of your health issues. Along with this, you may want to introduce some effective lifestyle habits that may help you better manage your cortisol levels. Here are some recommendations:
How To Reduce Stress Hormones
Want to learn how to reduce stress hormones? Youre in the right place. Reducing chronically high stress hormones is sort of my lifes mission.
Stress is, well, stressful. Sometimes we even get stressed out about how much stress were under!
But you dont want to get caught up in that vicious cycle. Trust me.
Stress reduction shouldnt be stressful!
Lets talk about stress, what it is, and how to reduce stress hormones so we can enjoy more vibrant health.
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Join A Gym Or Just Go For A Run
Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever. It increases the level of endorphins in your body, which makes you feel better.Physical activity helps increase the production of feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain called endorphins.After an hour at the gym or a game of soccer, you’ll often feel better and forget about the day’s problems because you’re focused on your physical activity.So don’t question it anymore, sport is good for your body as well as your mind. The goal is not to come out sweaty and totally drained of energy “even though it feels really good sometimes”.The goal is simply to get some exercise to keep yourself in shape and get rid of negative thoughts.
How Nervine Herbs Support Your Nervous System
Most nervine herbs are gentle and support relaxation.
Relaxing nervine herbs support the nervous system and reduce overactive stress responses by returning the body to a resting phase.
These herbs may be helpful for a variety of problems, such as relieving normal muscle tension, wakeful nights, and occasional worries.
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Important Considerations About Herbs
Herbs can be surprisingly useful in helping you to reduce your stress at home and at work. But you cant use herbs to singlehandedly make up for a lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, or being stuck in toxic relationships.
So, if youre experiencing negative effects of stress, its important to consider not only how to recover but also what you can do to best minimize the factors that are causing you stress.
In herbal medicine, herbalists often use multiple herbs in combination with each other to achieve greater effects. You can find tea blends to reduce your stress, or you can make your own.
And keep in mind that sometimes, herbs can occasionally trigger side effects and interactions with prescription drugs. This online database can help you to find interactions between drugs and natural medicines.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep
Poor sleep habits are guaranteed to make your stress hormones go berserk. Just a couple nights of poor sleep can raise your cortisol levels , so imagine what youre doing to your body when youre constantly going to bed too late and denying your body time to rest!
Make sure you give yourself 7-9 hours of time to sleep every night .
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Tips For Controlling Cortisol
To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, the bodys relaxation response should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs. You can learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques, and you can make lifestyle changes in order to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place.
The following have been found by many to be very helpful in relaxing the body and mind, aiding the body in maintaining healthy cortisol levels:
Getting more information on stress and resources to help you to manage it can help you to build habits that can help you to cope with stress once your stress response is triggered.
If youre more sensitive to stress, its especially important for you to learn stress management techniques and maintain a low-stress lifestyle. This is a great way to get cortisol secretion under control and maintain a healthy lifestyle at the same time.
Listed From Least To Most Stress
Vitamin C content: 1 cup, 15 mg, 25% DV
Tart and sweet, cherries are like candy from the earth. They’re about 81 percent water per volume so they’ll fill you up for very few calories and a one cup serving boasts a quarter of the day’s vitamin C. Cherries have also been marked as a natural sleep aid thanks to their melatonin content. And speaking of catching some Zzz’s, be sure to read up on these ways to lose weight in your sleep!
Vitamin C content: 1 cup, 13.3 mg, 22% DV
They’re not just known for their UTI-fighting powers; cranberries are also one of the lowest-sugar fruits, which makes them a tasty pop of color for your salads or on top of a smoothie bowl.
Vitamin C content: 1 cup boiled, 13.8 mg, 23% DV
This diuretic vegetable is one of the top plant-based sources of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid which serves as the foundation for serotonin stimulation. When your body produces more serotonin it can boost your mood. Asparagus also boasts high levels of folate, a nutrient that may fight depression. Between all that and the vitamin C, these green stalks are like little sticks of instant joy!
Vitamin C content: 1 cup, 14.4 mg, 24% DV
Vitamin C content: 1 cup, 10.2 mg, 34% DV
Vitamin C content: 1 cup, 27 mg, 45% DV
Vitamin C content: 1 large potato , 28.7 mg, 48% DV
Vitamin C content: 1 cup, 32.3 mg, 53.8% DV
Vitamin C content: 1 large sweet potato , 35.3 mg, 59% DV
Vitamin C content: 1 cup shredded, 39.9 mg, 66% DV
Vitamin C content: 1 cup, 44.2 mg, 74% DV
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Proven Ways To Lower Cortisol Naturally
- The best ways to lower cortisol include practicing relaxation techniques, improving your diet, getting enough sleep, and caring for a pet.;
- You can also relieve stress by dedicating time to activities that promote happiness, such as building a social support network, spending time outside, exercising, or trying to make yourself laugh.;
- This article was medically reviewed by Sarah C. McEwen, PhD, Director of Research and Programming for Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and Associate Professor of Translational Neurosciences and Neurotherapeutics at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA.
Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone, often called the stress hormone,;that plays a key role in your body’s stress response. It is also known as the “fight or flight” hormone, helping you manage stressful or dangerous situations.;
When your brain perceives a threat, like a car suddenly stopping in front of you on the freeway or an unexpected noise in your house, it sends a signal to your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline to tell you to escape or prepare for conflict. This release of hormones can cause your heart rate to increase, your breathing to quicken, and your muscles to tense.
Finding healthy ways to deal with stress can help lower cortisol levels and regulate your body’s stress response. Here’s five ways to do it.;
How To Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally
Cortisol plays a role in many bodily functions, and abnormal levels can cause health issues. Learning how to lower cortisol levels is essential to maintaining your physical and emotional health. When your levels are high, your body thinks that it is in a constant fight-or-flight situation, triggering severe issues.
As the primary stress hormone, cortisol affects almost every area of your health. It aids in regulating sleep cycles, managing the utilization of nutrients, reducing inflammation, and controlling blood pressure.
While cortisol levels should rise during stressful situations, they should quickly return to normal. When they dont return to normal, it can negatively impact your health. Thankfully, you can figure out how to lower cortisol with some lifestyle changes.
By learning how to reduce cortisol and implementing the tips, you can balance the hormone level. Since the long-term stress and anxiety can be detrimental, finding a balance is life-changing. When you lower cortisol levels, you can maintain a calm mind and a healthy body.
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Exercise The Right Way
You already know that exercise is great at decreasing cortisol youre all too familiar with that feeling after a really good yoga class or an outdoor jog. However, exercise that is too intense can actually temporarily increase cortisol. While this isnt a big deal because it decreases in the long-term, if youre having symptoms related to high levels of cortisol, you might want to decrease the high intensity workouts. A good rule of thumb should be that you should leave your workout feeling refreshed, energized, and happy if youre feeling depleted or exhausted, youre doing your body more harm than good.
Use Stress Management Techniques
There are several techniques you can use to relax your mind.
- Try meditation. This will soothe your mind, calm you down, and increase the flow of blood.
- ;Try deep breaths. This will help to increase the amount of oxygen in your brain and, in turn, calm you down. Breathe in deeply using your nose and out with the mouth.
- You can also try yoga, listening to soothing music, or massage therapy.
Most of these techniques take a few minutes, but their benefits last longer. Also, note that relaxation can be difficult at first, but with time, you will learn the practice.
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Does Cortisol Cause Weight Gain Depression And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
As you probably know by now, cortisol is a fight or flight hormone that is released every time you’re stressed by anything. Part of its purpose is to replenish your energy after exerting yourself through fighting or fleeing your perceived threat. Primitive humans certainly needed this energy boost after physically battling a wild animal, for example.
But generally, we modern humans respond mentally to stress, like worrying, not physically fighting or fleeing. And herein lies much of our health problems.Unlike our ancestors whose stressors had a more definitive beginning and ending today we have more continuous stress .
We release cortisol into our systems far too often throughout the typical day with little break from our stress. Whether or not your stressor requires you to physically respond, cortisol is released, saturating your blood and tissues.
For many people cortisol courses through their bodies near constantly, never shutting down and dangerously affecting their bodies. Chronically elevated cortisol makes you vulnerable to developing higher blood pressure, diabetes, lowered immunity, and weight gain to name just a few disorders.â
Breathing Exercise Reduces Stress
Even without formal meditation and controlled breathing, the gentle muscle stretching of yoga can reduce stress. “Full service” yoga is even better. But if that’s not your thing, simple breathing exercises can help by themselves. Rapid, shallow, erratic breathing is a common response to stress. Slow, deep, regular breathing is a sign of relaxation. You can learn to control your respirations so they mimic relaxation; the effect, in fact, will be relaxing.
Here’s how deep breathing exercises work:
1.;;;; Breathe in slowly and deeply, pushing your stomach out so that your diaphragm is put to maximal use.
2.;;;; Hold your breath briefly.
3.;;;; Exhale slowly, thinking “relax.”
4.;;;; Repeat the entire sequence five to 10 times, concentrating on breathing deeply and slowly.
Deep breathing is easy to learn. You can do it at any time, in any place. You can use deep breathing to help dissipate stress as it occurs. Practice the routine in advance; then use it when you need it most. If you find it helpful, consider repeating the exercise four to six times a day even on good days.
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Exercise But Not Too Much
Depending on the intensity of exercise, it can increase or decrease cortisol.
Intense exercise increases cortisol shortly afterward but will decrease a few hours later. This short-term increase helps coordinate growth of the body to meet the challenge. Additionally, the size of the cortisol response lessens with routine training .
Regular exercise has been shown in numerous studies to help improve sleep quality, reduce stress, and improve overall health, which can help lower cortisol over time .
Interestingly, regular exercise has also been associated with greater resilience to acute stress and may lower negative health effects associated with stress, such as high cortisol .
That said, overdoing it can have the opposite effect. Therefore, aim for around 150200 minutes of mostly low- to moderate-intensity exercise each week and allow yourself time to rest between workouts.
Exercising regularly can help you better manage stress and promote good health, which may help lower cortisol levels. That said, avoid overdoing it and aim for around 150200 minutes of low- to moderate- intensity exercise each week.
What You Will Learn From This Article:
- The difference between healing and chronic inflammation
- Symptoms of acute and chronic inflammation:; includes belly fat, chronic pain, autoimmunity, allergies and more
- What causes inflammation: includes stress, dairy, coffee, alcohol and more
- Ways to reduce inflammation:; includes resistant starch, green leafy veggies, certain herbs and spices, and;reducing your stress;and more
- Our top supplement recommendation for reducing inflammation
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Does Your Stress Come From Within
External stress is easy to identify. You can point to the pressures of a job, the difficult task of motherhood, physical pain, or relationship troubles and know that each one has an impact on how you are feeling. But what about internal stress?
Emotional stress is often harder to identify. Things you thought youd put behind you can be lurking inside, ready to resurface at any moment. Trauma suffered in childhood like watching a parent be physically abused, being told or feeling like you are not enough,for instance lives in your body long after the trauma has passed. The stress of being constantly on guard, never knowing what might happen from one moment to the next, can actually change your biochemistry.
Another kind of internal stress is the pressure so many women put on themselves to be perfect. These women never have time for their own passions, they neglect their own needs trying to be the best person they can be for everyone else. In American culture, theres this idea that the more you do, the more you are. Americans seem to be admired more for what they do than who they are in the world. Its not like this everywhere. In Europe, people are offended if the first thing you ask them is what they do. But here, thats standard cocktail party small talk. And feeling like you dont measure up can cause a lot of internal stress that needs to be dealt with.
Supplements To Reduce Cortisol: Take The Next Step
Excess production of the stress hormone cortisol can be very damaging to your brain health and mental wellness.
While theres an abundance of supplements that claim to decrease cortisol, most rely on animal studies or clinical trials using well-trained athletes to support these claims.
Only a handful of supplements have been shown to reduce cortisol in typical humans under normal circumstances.
Cortisol-lowering supplements are a diverse group that includes traditional herbs, certain fats, compounds found in specific foods, and some core nutrients.
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