Cortisol is a steroid hormone released by the adrenal glands on your kidneys to combat stress – mental and physical.
However, when its levels are high in your body, you are likely to experience more harm than good. High cortisol levels often result in increased appetite and weight gain, which in turn increase cholesterol and the risk of stroke, cardiovascular conditions, and type 2 diabetes.1 Not just that, excess cortisol also disrupts sleep – causing fatigue – and affects your memory. So, it’s important to ensure that cortisol is at optimum levels at all times.2
Wondering how to maintain ideal cortisol levels? Try these 6 natural methods to lower cortisol in your body.
6 Natural Ways To Lower Your Cortisol Levels
1. Ensure A Nutrient-Rich, Balanced Diet
Lower your cortisol levels with a diet that has a mix of all essential nutrients and fruits and vegetables. Eggs are great for reducing cortisol levels and foods with whole grains can restrict cortisol production. Folic acid plays a role in controlling the functioning of the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol. So, folic acid supplements or foods that contain folic acid like dark green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts), beans, and peas are great for reducing cortisol levels. Processed sugars and flour are a strict no-no for those with high cortisol.
Ashwagandha, which is often used to combat a number of ailments in traditional medicine, is also great for combating stress and hence reducing cortisol levels.3 Fish oil and its supplements are also said to reduce cortisol levels.4 This is because the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil prevent the body from responding to stress.
Dehydration is said to increase cortisol levels. So, ensure to stay well-hydrated at all times, especially when you exercise.
2. Relax And Have Fun
Spend a small part of your day just relaxing by yourself. Include deep breathing in your daily routine to improve your mood and reduce any stress you’re experiencing.5 Reduced stress, in turn, lowers your cortisol levels.
Reading, practicing yoga, and listening to music can also relax you by alleviating your stress. Keeping and taking care of pets may also reduce stress.6 Stress reduction, in turn, lowers cortisol levels. Pets have also been found to show similar effects in the company of a loving owner.
3. Stay Happy
Having a positive outlook, staying happy, and laughing often also decrease cortisol levels because of reduced stress.7 Take up a hobby or two to prevent your mind from dwelling on thoughts that are making you anxious. This, in turn, will also contribute to reducing cortisol levels.
Ensure that your relationships with people – family or friends – are healthy. Constant stress in any relationship is bound to be unhealthy and is likely to increase your cortisol levels. When you’re in a stressful situation, emotional support is sure to ease your mood and lower stress levels and hence cortisol levels.
If spirituality is your thing, you’ll be surprised to know that developing your faith and praying may reduce anxiety and hence cortisol levels. Not spiritual? Simply just take part in acts of kindness and feel your stress becoming a distant reality.
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercise, in general, is a great way to help you stay fit. That said, moderate or mild forms of exercise during the day are said to decrease cortisol levels at night.8 Exercise keeps your mind off of thoughts and events that are making you stressful and anxious. This, in turn, reduces your cortisol levels. It is a good idea to avoid indulging in high-intensity exercise as this is likely to increase your cortisol levels.
5. Recognize What’s Causing Your Stress
Because cortisol is produced as a response to stress, recognizing stress when you are experiencing it can help manage cortisol levels. If you feel stressed at any point in time, try and identify what is actually worrying you. This may help you figure out conscious, sensible solutions to your problems instead of pointlessly worrying and getting anxious –this is especially true in the case of factors that are occurring repeatedly.9
If you’re feeling ashamed or guilty, chances are your cortisol levels have peaked. Again, identify what is causing these feelings. Forgiving yourself is also likely to make you feel better and, in turn, decrease your cortisol levels.
6. Get Sufficient, Good Sleep
It’s important to get enough and good sleep every day to ensure that your cortisol levels are normal.10 Sleep problems like insomnia and sleep deprivation are known to increase cortisol levels in your body. Take simple steps like avoiding coffee in the afternoon and evening, sleeping at the same time every day, and sleeping away from gadgets to regularize your sleep patterns, thus reducing your cortisol levels.
Take these simple steps to reduce your cortisol levels and prevent the possibility of adverse health problems.
|↑1||Fraser, Robert, Mary C. Ingram, Niall H. Anderson, Caroline Morrison, Eleanor Davies, and John MC Connell. “Cortisol effects on body mass, blood pressure, and cholesterol in the general population.” Hypertension 33, no. 6 (1999): 1364-1368.|
|↑2||Loss, Sleep. “Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening.” Sleep 20, no. 10 (1997): 865-870.|
|↑3||Abedon, Bruce, and Shibnath Ghosal. “A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.” (2008).|
|↑4||Delarue, J. O. C. P., O. Matzinger, C. Binnert, P. Schneiter, R. Chiolero, and L. Tappy. “Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress in healthy men.” Diabetes & metabolism 29, no. 3 (2003): 289-295.|
|↑5||Perciavalle, Valentina, Marta Blandini, Paola Fecarotta, Andrea Buscemi, Donatella Di Corrado, Luana Bertolo, Fulvia Fichera, and Marinella Coco. “The role of deep breathing on stress.” Neurological Sciences 38, no. 3 (2017): 451-458.|
|↑6||Krause-Parello, Cheryl A., Joanna Tychowski, Andres Gonzalez, and Zakiya Boyd. “Human–canine interaction: Exploring stress indicator response patterns of salivary cortisol and immunoglobulin A.” Research and theory for nursing practice 26, no. 1 (2012): 25-40.|
|↑7||Buchanan, Tony W., Mustafa al’Absi, and William R. Lovallo. “Cortisol fluctuates with increases and decreases in negative affect.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 24, no. 2 (1999): 227-241.|
|↑8||Hackney, Anthony C., and A. Viru. “Twenty-four-hour cortisol response to multiple daily exercise sessions of moderate and high intensity.” CLINICAL PHYSIOLOGY-OXFORD- 19 (1999): 178-182.|
|↑9||Turan, Bulent, Carol Foltz, James F. Cavanagh, B. Alan Wallace, Margaret Cullen, Erika L. Rosenberg, Patricia A. Jennings, Paul Ekman, and Margaret E. Kemeny. “Anticipatory sensitization to repeated stressors: The role of initial cortisol reactivity and meditation/emotion skills training.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 52 (2015): 229-238.|
|↑10||Hirotsu, Camila, Sergio Tufik, and Monica Levy Andersen. “Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: from physiological to pathological conditions.” Sleep Science 8, no. 3 (2015): 143-152.|