Introduction to Cortisol
Cortisol is a stress hormone that helps your body cope with stressful events since your brain initiates its release via the sympathetic nervous system. Cortisol is also needed for the fight or flight response, which is a healthy, natural response to perceived threats. The amount of cortisol produced is highly regulated by your body to ensure the balance is correct. If the cortisol level is high, what do we do? This article contains techniques on how to lower cortisol level.
What Cortisol does
Cortisol serves a multitude of functions in the body, including:
- Regulating sleep cycles.
- Reducing inflammation.
- Increasing blood sugar.
- Managing how the body consumes carbs, lipids, and proteins.
- Controlling the blood pressure.
Importantly, cortisol is frequently regarded as the “stress hormone” because your adrenal gland produces it when you’re in a stressful circumstance, or when your body is under physical stress (like inflammation). It’s the key to helping your body control its fight-or-flight impulse – which is a healthy thing.
While the short-term production of cortisol might help you move swiftly from danger, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can damage you more than it helps. Over time, this may lead to an assortment of health difficulties such as weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, insomnia or trouble sleeping, mood abnormalities, and poor energy levels
Symptoms of higher Cortisol Level
Elevated cortisol levels may be produced by various underlying conditions such as overactivity or malignancy of the pituitary or adrenal glands, persistent stress, and drug side effects (e.g., prednisone, hormonal treatment).
Long-term elevated cortisol may raise your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic disorders.
Cortisol may stimulate hunger and tell the body to change its metabolism to store fat. Lack of energy/difficulty sleeping. It may interact with sleep hormones which may impair sleep quality and duration.
Difficulty in Focusing
Also referred to as “brain fog,” some individuals experience problems with concentration and loss of mental clarity.
Impaired Immune System
Increased cortisol may hinder the immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections.
In rare situations, excessively high cortisol levels might develop into Cushing’s syndrome, an uncommon but deadly condition.
Therefore, it’s essential to engage with a knowledgeable health practitioner to discover the core cause of your health difficulties. Along with this, you may wish to implement some helpful lifestyle practices that may help you better regulate your cortisol levels. Here are some recommendations:
11 Techniques on how to Lower Cortisol Level.
Below are the most effective techniques for how to lower cortisol level:
1. Get the Correct Amount of Sleep
Prioritizing your sleep may be an effective method to minimize cortisol levels. Chronic sleep difficulties such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, or shift work have been connected with increased cortisol. Further, insomnia is a sleep ailment that refers to difficulties sleeping. It may be caused by numerous causes, including stress and obstructive sleep apnea. This may result in elevated circulating cortisol which impacts your daily hormone cycles, energy levels, and other dimensions of health
If you are a night shift or rotating shift worker, you do not have perfect control over your sleep pattern, but there are certain things you can do to improve sleep.
- Have a nighttime routine. Establishing a regular evening routine (e.g., shower, read a book, etc.) helps inform your brain and body to start shutting down for the night.
- Exercise earlier in the day. Exercising consistently may enhance sleep quality but should be done at least 2–3 hours before bedtime. Limit caffeine consumption. Try to cease eating caffeine-containing meals and beverages roughly 6 hours before your bedtime.
- Limit exposure to strong light at night. Around 45–60 minutes before bedtime, decrease your exposure to strong and/or blue light. Instead of grabbing your phone in bed, consider reading a book or listening to a podcast.
- Take naps. If shift work cuts your sleep hours short, napping helps alleviate drowsiness and avoid a sleep deficit. That said, napping may affect sleep quality in non-shift employees.
2. How to Lower Cortisol level with Exercise, but not too much
Depending on the degree of activity, it might raise or reduce cortisol. Intense activity boosts cortisol quickly thereafter but will decrease a few hours later. This short-term rise helps coordinate the development of the body to meet the challenge. Additionally, the amount of cortisol response reduces with consistent training.
Regular exercise has been demonstrated in multiple studies to help improve sleep quality, decrease stress, and enhance general health, which may help lower cortisol over time. Interestingly, regular exercise has also been related to increased resistance to acute stress and may lessen negative health consequences associated with stress, such as elevated cortisol.
3. Learn to Spot Stressful Thoughts
Paying attention to anxious thoughts may help you lessen them. A mindfulness-based stress reduction is an approach that entails being more self-aware of stress-provoking ideas, accepting them without judgment or resistance, and giving oneself the power to process them.
Training yourself to be aware of your thoughts, breathing, pulse rate, and other symptoms of tension helps you notice stress when it starts. By concentrating on awareness of your mental and physical condition, you may become an objective witness of your anxious thoughts, instead of a victim of them.
Other studies have similarly revealed reduced cortisol levels after frequently practising mindfulness. Therefore, consider integrating mindfulness-based practice into your daily routine for improved stress management and lower cortisol levels.
Deep breathing is a basic method for stress reduction that may be done anywhere. Similar to mindfulness-based practice, regulated breathing helps to activate the parasympathetic nerve system, known as the “rest and digest” system, which helps to reduce cortisol levels.
Studies have revealed reductions in cortisol when individuals integrate deep breathing into their routines. This form of practice is prevalent in mindfulness-based disciplines such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qigong, where there is a heavy focus on breathing and the mind-body connection.
Multiple studies indicate that these activities may assist to decrease cortisol and manage stress. Deep breathing promotes the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation and reduced cortisol levels. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qigong are fantastic techniques to develop deep breathing.
5. Have Fun and Laugh
Another technique to keep cortisol low is to have fun and laugh. Laughing boosts the production of endorphins and reduces stress chemicals such as cortisol. It’s also related to improved mood, less stress and perceived discomfort, lower blood pressure, and a stronger immune system.
Interestingly, both sincere and forced laughing may contribute to decreased levels of stress. Developing hobbies may also increase emotions of well-being, which may translate to decreased cortisol. Research involving 49 middle-aged veterans found that taking up gardening lowered levels more than usual occupational therapy. Another research including 1,399 adults found reduced cortisol levels in those who often participated in activities they loved.
Finally, studies have shown soothing music may lower cortisol. Tending to your happiness might help keep cortisol low. If you’re feeling anxious, try listening to music or making yourself laugh.
6. Maintain Good Connections
Friends and family are a source of enormous delight in life, as well as significant stress. Cortisol is integrated in minute quantities into your hair. The quantities of cortisol along the length of a hair correlate to cortisol levels at the time that segment of the hair was growing. This enables researchers to estimate levels throughout time.
For example, one researcher found that having an affectionate relationship (verbally or physically) with a love partner or platonic friend before a stressful task resulted in decreased stress-induced indicators such as heart rate and blood pressure. Relationships with friends and family may contribute to happiness and stress. Spend time with people you love and learn to forgive and handle conflict for improved emotional and physical health.
However, when a person does not keep a good connection with people, he lives in isolation and that can cause many things like depression, and can lead to a severe mental breakdown. Research has shown that 20% of the class of people who maintain zero connections are exposed to a higher cortisol level.
7. Take Care of a Pet
Relationships with animal companions may help lower cortisol. In one research, engagement with a therapy dog lowered discomfort and cortisol after a minor medical treatment in youngsters. The second group reported a higher reduction in cortisol when they were given canine companions, perhaps because pet owners had already benefited from the companionship of their animals at the outset of the trial. A third research evaluated the cortisol-reducing impact of canine companionship in pet owners compared with individuals who were not pet owners.
Due to the well-known stress-reducing advantages of pets, several long-term care facilities and university/college campuses have implemented pet therapy as a natural cortisol- and stress-reducing exercise.
8. Be your Best Self
Feelings of shame, remorse, or inadequacy may contribute to negative thinking and high cortisol. For some reasons of guilt, resolving the root will involve making a change in your life. For other reasons, learning to forgive and accept yourself and others may help you move on and increase your feeling of well-being.
Developing a practice of forgiving people is also crucial in partnerships. Resolving guilt promotes life satisfaction and cortisol levels. This may include altering behaviours, forgiving others, or learning to forgive oneself.
9. Tend to your Spirituality
If you consider yourself spiritual, growing your spirituality may also assist in increased cortisol levels. Studies demonstrate that persons who professed spiritual faith exhibited reduced cortisol levels in the face of life stresses such as disease. Prayer is also related to decreased stress, anxiety, and sadness.
If you do not consider yourself spiritual, these advantages may also be obtained via meditation, building a social support network, and committing acts of kindness. For people with spiritual tendencies, having religion and engaging in prayer may assist control cortisol. Whether you’re spiritual or not, committing acts of kindness may help boost your cortisol levels.
10. Eat a Healthful Diet
Nutrition may alter cortisol for better or for worse. While all meals may be enjoyed in moderation, being conscious of the foods you consume may ease feelings of stress and help you better regulate your cortisol levels. Regular high added-sugar consumption may result in higher cortisol levels. Interestingly, a high-sugar diet may also inhibit cortisol production during stressful events, making it more difficult for your body to manage stressful conditions.
What’s more, one research revealed a diet heavy in added sugar, refined grains, and saturated fat is linked to considerably higher cortisol levels compared with a diet high in whlole grains, fruits, vegetables, and polyunsaturated fats
Research has found a substantial association between a healthy gut microbiome — all the microorganisms residing in your stomach — and enhanced mental health. Therefore, eating nutrients that maintain a healthy gut may help decrease stress and anxiety, and enhance your general health.
For optimal gut and mental health, choose a nutrient-dense diet consisting of whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and foods high in prebiotics and probiotics.
11. How to Lower Cortisol Level by Taking some Vitamins
In addition to a nutrient-dense diet, several supplements may help assist reduced cortisol levels. Fish oil is one of the greatest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower cortisol.
One 3-week randomized controlled research revealed that combined supplementation of fish oil at 60 mg per day and docosahexaenoic acid (252 mg/day) substantially decreased cortisol levels in response to a stressful task, compared with a placebo.
How to Lower Cortisol Level with Food
Foods can minimize inflammation in your body, therefore lowering cortisol levels. Here are some meals that can battle stress by reducing your cortisol:
Foods rich in vitamin B:
Fortified whole grains and certain animal sources contain plenty of B vitamins in them; notably, vitamin B12 which may aid with the metabolism of cortisol:
- Fortified cereal.
- Nutritional yeast.
- Organ meats.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acid
These foods minimize inflammation. “The greatest active form is via fatty fish, but you can also get it from various plant sources,” Barth explains. Such dishes include:
- Chia seeds.
- Flax seeds.
- Olive oil.
Magnesium is vital in regulating cortisol, the body, and the mind as well:
- Dark chocolate.
- Pumpkin seeds.
such as meat, fish, poultry, and beans, maintain blood sugar levels:
- Chicken breast.
- Lean beef.
- Turkey breast.
- Gut-healthy foods
70% to 80% of our immune system is dependent on our gut, so if we fix our gut, we correct a lot of our immunity. These probiotic-rich and fermented foods may help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol:
- Greek yoghurt.
Stress management with food is a protracted game, not a get-relaxed-quick method. That said, magnesium-rich meals are a fantastic option if you’re attempting to relax and want a little natural support. “High-magnesium meals are my first line of treatment,“
Magnesium helps to calm the body, which helps alleviate tension. It’s also a mineral for key bodily function, including heart rhythm, strong bones, keeping blood pressure regular, and helping to minimize chances of developing chronic diseases.”
Minor Foods that may help Reduce Cortisol Levels are
Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate includes a significant number of flavonoids, which have been found to buffer stress reactivity in the adrenal glands, resulting in decreased cortisol release.
Whole grains: Unlike processed grains, whole grains are rich in plant-based polyphenols and fibre, which may boost stress levels and gastrointestinal health.
Legumes and lentils: They’re rich in fibre, which promotes a healthy gut while also controlling blood sugar levels.
Whole fruits and veggies: Whole fruits and vegetables include an abundance of antioxidants and polyphenolic chemicals that combat cell-damaging free radicals.
Green tea: Green tea includes a soothing component known as L-theanine, which has been associated with decreased stress and greater mental alertness.
Probiotics and prebiotics: Probiotics are friendly, symbiotic microorganisms in foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Prebiotics, such as soluble fibre, offer food for these bacteria. Both probiotics and prebiotics are related to greater gut and brain health.
Healthy fats: A diet rich in unsaturated fat and low in saturated fat is related to higher overall health and mental well-being. In particular, omega-3 fatty acids are best related to brain function and lower stress. Dehydration has been related to a brief spike in cortisol levels, making it even more vital to drink water throughout the day.
Foods to Avoid
In contrast, certain meals boost cortisol levels. Foods that create stress on your body include:
- High-sugar foods.
- Simple carbohydrates, such as cakes and pastries.
Eat healthily and eat consistently
If you’re seeking to lessen stress, bear in mind this one crucial piece of advice: Don’t miss meals.
Eating on a regular schedule every three to five hours helps control your blood sugar levels. Being in a persistent condition of low blood sugar is stressful on your body and may elevate cortisol, so keeping a balanced blood sugar can go a long way.
And tempting though it may be, don’t resort to supplements to gain the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
We know what influence diet has on your body, but supplements are not controlled by the Food and Drug Administration.
If you have a nutritious diet but you’re still highly stressed and not sleeping enough, you won’t achieve the effects you’re hoping for with food alone.
And while we can’t control our genes or, to some degree, our surroundings, we can aid our bodies when we make good selections of the food we consume.
Cortisol is a crucial element of many biological activities, but having too much in your blood may lead to negative health repercussions. There are ways you can attempt to lessen your cortisol levels. Eating a nutritious, gut-friendly diet is important for your overall health and may help regulate your cortisol levels.
Being physically active, concentrating on getting adequate sleep, and taking care of your emotional health might also assist. There are other lifestyle adjustments you might attempt, including obtaining a pet, discovering a new interest, and making time to create good connections. If you are worried about your cortisol level, it’s better to talk to a healthcare expert for more advice on how to lower cortisol levels.