High cortisol levels can cause you to feel overly stressed, tired, and cause weight gain.
Cortisol is commonly known as the “stress hormone”. It is produced when your body is under any sort of pressure as your evolutionary-given “fight or flight response” kicks in.
High cortisol levels can contribute to acne, weight gain and high blood pressure — but there’s actually a lot more to cortisol than just our stress response and its unwanted symptoms. We need it to live.
Cortisol production is a necessity for life and helps to keep us motivated, awake and responsive to our environment. Constantly having abnormally high circulating cortisol levels can be dangerous and contribute to long-term problems. The main cause of high cortisol levels is chronic stress and is negatively tied to many health conditions. These can include weight gain, anxiety, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances and fertility problem and many others.
The good news is there are many natural ways to lower your cortisol levels.
Switch To An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
An Anti-Inflammatory diet is usually low in processed foods and high in antioxidants, fibre and other essential nutrients. Inflammation due to diet can affect your cortisol levels and other hormones. A healthy diet is key to balancing your hormones and controlling your cravings. An anti-inflammatory diet is also great for supporting a healthy body weight, boosting your energy during the day and helping you sleep better at night.
To lower your cortisol levels and reduce inflammation you should avoid these type of foods :
- High-sugar, high-glycemic diet (Often based around packaged foods, refined grain products, soda drinks and snacks)
- Consuming high amounts of refined and trans fats
- Consuming too much caffeine and alcohol
- Low intake of foods high in micronutrients and antioxidants
- Not enough fiber (which makes it hard to balance blood sugar)
- Not enough healthy fats or protein (which can lead to hunger, weight gain and high blood sugar)
If your blood sugar is too high or too low this can also trigger a spike in your cortisol levels. Keep in mind to go for low-glycemic (GI) carbs and include healthy fats and proteins with every meal. Make sure you get plenty fibre and phytonutrients from fresh, fruit and vegetables.
Some of the best foods you can have to lower your cortisol levels are:
- Vegetables – Tomato, Avocado, Leafy Greens, Cucumber, Sweet Potato, Zucchini
- Fruit – Oranges, Bananas, Berries,
- Olive oil
- Nuts & Seeds
- Lean Protein – Eggs, Oily Fish (Salmon, Seabass, Mackrel) and Turkey.
- Probiotic Foods – Yogurt & Kefir or Cultured Veg.
Learn To Manage Your Stress
Modern-day lifestyle and chronic stress are now synonymous. You can link the two with just about every health problem out there. Stress affects everyone to at least to some degree and impacts health by sending chemical signals around the body. These signals then invoke a response in the heart and blood vessels, immune system, lungs, digestive system, sensory organs, and brain. This is why stressful situation increase your breathing and heart rate. Physical stress from working out also spikes your cortisol levels. This can lead to pain and muscle tension to last longer in your recovery.
Luckily, there are a few ways to lower your cortisol levels naturally, which have been shown to work:
- Or “mindfulness” has been shown to help train the brain and body to turn off the stress response and promote more relaxation. And these benefits are possible without negatively affecting alertness, concentration or memory. Participating in a regular “mindfulness-based stress reduction” program also offers significant reductions in cortisol and stress-related symptoms or diseases. Using meditative methods can also improve brain and heart health while bolstering your immune system.
- Trusted since the ancient times it has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture treatments help to naturally lower cortisol levels and reduce symptoms like muscle or joint pain, headaches, fertility problems, troubling sleeping, and poor circulation.
Deep Breathing Exercises:
- Controlled, deep breaths can help to turn down the sympathetic nervous system and kick in the body’s natural relaxation response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Diaphragmatic breathing is an easy technique to learn on your own and practice throughout the day to relieve muscle tension and anxiety. Controlled breathing techniques have been a staple in Eastern health practices for centuries and are becoming more popular in the West too.
Spending Time in Nature/Outdoors:
- Studies show that the environment settings play a role in stress reduction, and being in nature is a well-documented way to promote relaxation. Try going for walks or runs outside (especially barefoot running or walking, a practice called “earthing“), spending time at the ocean, walking through forests, gardening at home, or doing other things outdoors and away from technology to reduce anxiety.
According to research published by Harvard Medical School, regular exercise (about 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week of moderate to vigorous activity) is one of the best ways to lower cortisol levels, balance hormones, sleep better and balance blood sugar. The key is to avoid overtraining and overexerting yourself, which can actually cause your body to increase cortisol levels.
Exercise is good for your cortisol levels because, even though it temporarily increases adrenaline and cortisol production, post-exercise your cortisol levels will return back to normal. This cycle teaches your body to better handle stress by giving your autonomic nervous system (controls your stress and relaxation response) a workout of its own. This means the next time your cortisol levels rise from physical exhaustion your body will return them back to normal much sooner.
Use Some Essential Relaxation Oils
There are some essentials oils that you can use to lower cortisol levels. Essential oils like siberian fir oil, lavender and clary sage contain certain ingredients that have been shown to naturally lower cortisol levels, reduce anxiety and inflammation.
You can defuse these oils in your home or use bath soaks and body washes. You can just rub some of the oils directly into your skin if you mix them with a carrier oil (like coconut or jojoba oil).
Getting Enough Rest
Getting enough sleep helps you to reduce cortisol levels, but having high cortisol levels can make it hard to sleep. In people with normal sleeping cycles cortisol levels rise during the early morning hours and then drop very low at night prior to sleep and during sleep. People with high cortisol levels feel the opposite. You may feel wired and anxious at night, but then fatigued during the day — creating a cycle where you can’t sleep properly at the night. You should always aim to have seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you can’t sleep check out the following post on 10 Tips For When You Can”t Sleep: