Eat Whole Foods That Reduce Inflammation
Controlling inflammation is key to lowering cortisol levels and correcting hormonal imbalances. Following an anti-inflammatory diet that consists of wholesome natural foods which include hormone free lean proteins, healthy fats high in Omega 3, quality carbohydrates, cutting out processed meats, and eating more food high in antioxidants will all contribute to a well-rounded anti-inflammatory diet. With less inflammation, your body will maintain steady levels of cortisol, so that you do not create added body fat. Remember, that cortisol is controlled through activity patterns, and if you can control your activity to be steady and incorporate healthier practices, you can successfully lower your cortisol levels.
If you want to lower cortisol levels and create with a healthier diet plan, but don’t know where start, check out The Swole Kitchen.
How To Reduce Cortisol The Stress Hormone
Chronic stress can lead to an elevated cortisol level, resulting in mental, emotional, and physical health issues. Learn how to reduce cortisol naturally.
If its been awhile since youve felt truly relaxed and happy, you may be suffering from a common modern malady an excess of cortisol.
Cortisol is a major stress hormone that contributes to mental health disorders and a wide range of physical illnesses.
In this article, we review the many proven ways to decrease cortisol naturally.
Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Every dietitian we spoke with mentioned the positive impact an adequate night’s sleep can have on one’s cortisol levels. Cortisol rises and falls based on our sleep cycles: it’s highest just after we wake up and lowest right before we hit the hay. So, it’s no surprise that sleep and cortisol levels are so heavily interconnected.
“Due to cortisol levels being linked to circadian rhythm, making sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night will help keep cortisol levels normal,” explains White. “This can also help keep the fat off.” According to Wake Forest researchers, people who sleep five hours or less put on two and a half times more belly fat, while those who sleep more than eight hours pack on slightly less than that.
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Can Stress Be Positive
Research has shown that stress can sometimes be positive. It can make you more alert and help you perform better in certain situations.2 However, stress has only been found to be beneficial if it is short-lived.
Excessive or prolonged stress can contribute to illness such as heart disease3 and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.4
The Benefits Of Cortisol
So, now lets take a look at how eating foods that reduce cortisol can help you support your overall health.
Mainly, too much cortisol in your body can push you into the throes of adrenal fatigue. And depending on your level of adrenal fatigue, you can experience a myriad of symptoms, including:
- Fatigue and energy surges, such as morning fatigue followed by afternoon lows and surges of energy in the evening
- Cravings for foods high in salt, fat, and sugar
- Increased PMS or menopausal symptoms
- Frequent sickness, such as coughs, sore throats, colds, and flu
- Inability to lose weight
Plus, too much cortisol can contribute to high blood pressure, moodiness, and ever certain chronic illnesses such as diabetes and even autoimmune diseases.
Eating foods that reduce cortisol can help you avoid all the above-listed symptoms and outcomes. Plus, because high cortisol levels can suppress your immune system eating cortisol-lowering foods can help to reduce inflammation and support your bodys ability to heal and fight off illnesses.
Now that you know how eating foods that reduce cortisol can help to support your overall health, lets discuss some of the specific cortisol-lowering foods you should be consuming on a regular basis.
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Unwind At The End Of The Day
Engaging in daily relaxation techniques can interrupt the stress response and allow your body to return to homeostasis. Techniques such as progressive relaxation, visualization, guided meditation, breathing exercises, and autogenic training can be used daily to reduce both acute and long-term stress .
When Not To Lower Your Bodys Cortisol Reserves
High cortisol levels arenât necessarily ruinous for you. As you can see from the previous section, a pre-dawn cortisol hike coincides with the usual hours for waking up. Without the alertness-boosting effects of this hormone, it becomes that much more difficult to push through your morning sleep inertia and feel like youâve had a full night of invigorating sleep.
Cortisol is also vital to your overall health throughout the day as it helps:
- Mediate your stress response
- Regulate your metabolism rate for energy production
- Fight inflammation to boost your bodyâs rest-and-repair mechanism
- Develop and maintain a functioning immune system
On a medical note, too-low cortisol levels lead to a health issue known as Addisonâs disease. Itâs a manifestation of adrenal gland disorder commonly accompanied by symptoms like low blood pressure and low blood sugar levels.
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Figure Out Your Stress Triggers
Stress and cortisol are closely interlinked. A stressor is any stimuli that causes anxiety or stress. It can be something physical or psychological, like a threat to your safety or an unexpected change to your environment. It could also be pain, financial worries, relationship issues, or work-related problems.
When your body is exposed to stress, cortisol is released to keep the body on high alert and can even provide much needed energy, an important factor in the fight or flight response. Therefore, stressful situations increase cortisol production.
Understanding your own triggers is vital if you want lower cortisol levels. Keep a journal to record stressful situations. You dont have to go into detail, but make a note of what happened and consider why it made you feel bad.
You can use this information to find practical ways of managing these situations. For example, stepping away from arguments, learning to say no to extra work, and avoiding unnecessary triggers are good places to start.
Is Cortisol Something You Can Target With Wellness Coaching
Wellness coaching can be a highly effective tool in combating stress. Clark et al. determined that six months of wellness coaching in 100 adults produced improvement in quality of life, perceived stress, and mood. Recall that the stress response is what sets the cascade of cortisol dysregulation. It is easy to suggest stress reduction strategies, but it is more difficult to implement them in daily life.A skilled wellness coach can help a client push past perceive life barriers to stress reduction and help their client discover and implement effective stress reduction strategies. Likewise, a skilled wellness coach can help a client improve sleep hygiene and optimize dietary intakes. These measures can help to reduce cortisol levels both acutely and long-term thereby reducing the potential for negative health consequences.
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Pinpoint Your Comfort Food Triggers
Try writing down what you eat in an effort to get a better idea of when you stress eat. “Keeping a food journal for a week can help you pinpoint the times where you indulge in comfort foods or when you make sensible, healthier choices,” says Balk. “If dinner before a big test or meeting tends to be fried ‘comfort food,’ it’s worthwhile to stop the cycle and replace that emotion with a healthier choice or receive consolation another way.”
How To Control And Lower Cortisol Levels
Adequately controlling and lowering cortisol levels is not only important to help with combating added weight gain, but its also important so you dont drive yourself crazy since elevated levels will increase your stress. Cortisol is called the stress hormone for a reason, and if you can manage to lower it more effectively, then you can better control weight gain and stress levels.
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Natural Ways To Lower Cortisol
If the communication between the brain and the adrenal gland is functioning correctly, the body should be able to increase and reduce cortisol production as necessary.
However, levels of cortisol can sometimes remain high even after the resolution of a stressful situation. This can have a negative impact on health.
The following simple tips may help to moderate cortisol levels:
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.
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Cortisol And Stress: The Basics
Cortisol is one of several hormones the body produces naturally. Cortisol levels do go up when youre stressed. But it doesnt deserve its bad rap.
Cortisol supports overall health, Dr. Lin says. It helps us wake up, gives us energy during the day and lowers at night to help us sleep and rest.
The problem arises when chronic stress keeps cortisol levels high for the long haul. High cortisol levels over weeks or months can lead to inflammation and a host of mental and physical health problems, from anxiety to weight gain to heart disease.
Eat A Healthy Carb At Dinner
It might sound counterintuitive, but a small serving of a healthy carb at dinner like quinoa, brown rice, squash, or sweet potato can actually regulate blood sugar levels and help you have a better sleep. Cortisol and insulin have an inverse relationship, meaning when cortisol is high, insulin is low, so that healthy carb in the evening spikes your insulin and lowers your cortisol. This helps you to relax and prepare for bed and a restful sleep.
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Foods That Lower Cortisol
Foods that are naturally high in polyphenols lower the cortisol stress hormone. The long-term health benefits of drinking green tea, for example, are well established, and drinking just a half a cup per day keeps the risk of developing depression and dementia low.
Eating plenty of foods that reduce cortisol and restricting your sugar intake will keep your stress response under control.
TIPDark chocolate is rich in polyphenols and reduces salivary cortisol levels.
How Chronic Stress Affects Eating Patterns
Chronic stress can affect the bodys use of calories and nutrients in various ways. It raises the bodys metabolic needs and increases the use and excretion of many nutrients. If one does not eat a nutritious diet, a deficiency may occur. Stress also creates a chain reaction of behaviors that can negatively affect eating habits, leading to other health problems down the road.
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Take A Moment And Just Breathe
It may seem like pseudoscience and something that new age practitioners try to pass on as facts but studies have shown that taking a moment to breathe will not only help lower your stress levels but it also works as a tip on how to lower cortisol.
Cut Out Caffeine Or Consume Less
A 2005 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that caffeine increases cortisol secretion even in people at rest. Because caffeine can stimulate cortisol production and increase blood pressure, Krista King, MS, RDN, of Composed Nutrition, offers a solution to lower cortisol: “Try doing a caffeine reset. Gradually you have each day by swapping it out for a caffeine-free or lower caffeine alternative.”
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Bottom Line: Start Balancing Cortisol Today
All in all, relaxation is easier said than done. Heck, I just gave you my own to-do list I had to use to learn to relax! But focusing on cortisol levels is a great way to reduce the physical impact of stress hormones on the body and improve sleep.
Heres a quick recap of the steps you can take starting today, without spending a dime:
Start your day with:
Finish your day with:
How To Decrease Cortisol With Supplements
Changing your diet is a long-term strategy for reducing cortisol, but you might want to jump-start your efforts with supplements to get results faster.
Fortunately, theres an entire group of supplements that specifically work to minimize the negative effects of stress.
These unique substances, known as adaptogens, are herbal remedies that increase your resilience to mental, physical, and environmental stress.
They work by reducing the stress hormone cortisol while strengthening function of the adrenal glands.
Adaptogens neither stimulate nor sedate, but instead act like a thermostat, bringing your body into a balanced state known as homeostasis.
Here are the main adaptogens that have been found to effectively reduce cortisol:
Not sure which supplements to start with?
Its always wise to make sure youve got your essential nutrient needs met first.
Confirm that you have adequate intake of vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Next, Id suggest starting with ashwagandha.
This traditional Ayurvedic remedy excels in stress reduction and decreases cortisol significantly more than many other supplements.
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Scale Down The Stress Levels
Stress management is the other half of the equation when solving the question of how to lower cortisol naturally for optimal wellness. It can be as simple as spending time in nature or reading a book to lower stress.
For the most part, science recommends mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques like progressive muscle relaxation â tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups â and diaphragmatic breathing, which features deep breathing exercises.
You may also wish to try mind-body interventions like tai chi and qigong to promote relaxation and lessen tension. A 2018 systematic review also advocates for regular physical activity against stress. According to the review, staying fit means youâre more likely to reduce your cortisol and heart rate reactivity. You will also experience less anxiety, more calmness, and a better mood. Not to mention, exercising has the added bonus of encouraging weight loss, which, for the overweight, can aid with getting sufficient sleep. Just make sure you donât work out right before you sleep.
Other stress-reduction techniques you may wish to try:
No matter which stress reduction tactics you choose, itâs imperative that you prioritize them in the latter half of the day. Perhaps you can fit in a workout session before dinner and segue into your evening wind-down afterward. Because everyoneâs wind-down routine looks different, the “Evening routineâ habit in the RISE app lets you build it the way you want.
How Modern Life Alters Cortisol Levels
Before our modern way of life, we had lots of cues that kept our cortisol rhythms in sync. The most powerful were the bright bluish light of dawn and the orange light of sunset. Feeling cold at night was another cue as was having a larger meal in the evening. Today we have many fewer cues to correct our cortisol rhythm and many new factors that throw it off. These include:
- sugars, especially fructose
- noise pollution
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Rewire Your Sleep Schedule
Sleeping in time with your bodys biorhythms and getting enough quality sleep can help you lower your cortisol levels naturally. Time, length, and quality of sleep have all been found to influence cortisol levels, so optimizing your sleep cycle from start to finish plays an important role in lowering cortisol levels. Ideally, getting to bed by 10 p.m. will help you avoid a late evening cortisol spike which could make it hard to get to sleep and sleep soundly. This also takes advantage of natural melatonin production, which starts around sunset to help you wind down.
Research in the Journal of Nursing Research found that shift workers who sleep during the day have higher daytime cortisol and get less sleep per day than people who sleep at night, so if your job allows, its best to adjust your sleep schedule accordingly. And if you have little control over when you get to sleep, do your best to create a good sleep routinelike avoiding caffeine and alcohol and limiting screen time before bedto optimize the sleep you do get.