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.
While Were On The Subject How Does Screen
After your bath, make sure you’re avoiding screens for at least an hour. The reason? Blue and green light from the screens send the signal to our brains that it’s morning and then our bodies produce cortisol instead of melatonin.
I know that theres technology today that has the blue and green light blocker, but that still doesn’t give you an excuse to use technology because technology engages our brain and makes us wire. I would avoid it altogether at least for an hour.
Instead, what you can do is: read, do some meditation, do some stretching, have a little hanky-panky ). Whatever its going to take in order for you to relax. It’s worth it and you deserve that hour to unwind.
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These negative effects also often come with their own consequences. For example, increased abdominal fat is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat include an increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, metabolic syndrome, higher levels of bad cholesterol , and lower levels of good cholesterol .
Cortisol is important for your body to function normally, but too much cortisol can be bad for your health.
Chronic high cortisol levels can also lead to a condition known as Cushing syndrome. Causes can include adrenal tumors or the prolonged use of glucocorticoids. Symptoms of Cushing syndrome can also include high blood sugars with increased thirst and urination, osteoporosis, depression, and more frequent infections.
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Consume Enough Food Protein And Water
Eating enough protein and calories, and drinking enough clean, filtered water is also critical to keeping stress hormone levels low.
Studies show that severely restricting calories elevates cortisol levels .
Restricting protein and depriving yourself of the amino acid leucine can also stimulate the stress response and increase stress hormones .
Lastly, make sure you stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.
Properly-hydrated runners have noticeably lower cortisol levels than dehydrated runners .
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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How Does It Work
Your hypothalamus and pituitary gland — both located in your brain — can sense if your blood contains the right level of cortisol. If the level is too low, your brain adjusts the amount of hormones it makes. Your adrenal glands pick up on these signals. Then, they fine-tune the amount of cortisol they release.
Cortisol receptors — which are in most cells in your body — receive and use the hormone in different ways. Your needs will differ from day to day. For instance, when your body is on high alert, cortisol can alter or shut down functions that get in the way. These might include your digestive or reproductive systems, your immune system, or even your growth processes.
Sometimes, your cortisol levels can get out of whack.
Learn To Recognize Stressful Thinking
Paying attention to stressful thoughts may help you reduce them.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a strategy that involves becoming more self-aware of stress-provoking thoughts, accepting them without judgment or resistance, and allowing yourself the ability to process them .
Training yourself to be aware of your thoughts, breathing, heart rate, and other signs of tension helps you recognize stress when it begins .
Recognizing stressful thoughts allows you to formulate a conscious and deliberate reaction to them. For example, a study involving 43 women in a mindfulness-based program showed the ability to describe and articulate stress was linked to a lower cortisol response (
Tending to your own happiness can help keep cortisol down. If youre feeling stressed, try listening to music or making yourself laugh.
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Lets Talk About Circadian Rhythm And How That Affects Our Sleep
Before I go any further, Im going to take you back to high school biology class to explain how our circadian rhythm works.
There are two main hormones that regulate our circadian rhythm: 1) our friend cortisol, and 2) melatonin, the sleepy hormone.
In the morning, our cortisol levels are at their highest. As the day goes on, our cortisol levels begin to dip and we become more tired and then our melatonin levels begin to increase to induce sleep. Around midnight, melatonin begins to drop and cortisol begins to rise so we can wake up and be alert.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue Or Adrenal Insufficiency
Adrenal fatigue symptoms are described as experiencing fatigue even after regular, healthy amounts of sleep, feeling blue and having physical cravings for salty foods or unhealthy snacks.
The theory behind this syndrome is that the adrenal glands fail to produce enough cortisol because of stress or chronic illnesses like the flu, pneumonia and bronchitis. There is some controversy around the phrase adrenal fatigue, which was created in 1998 by a doctor that practices alternative medicine, referred to as a naturopath.
Despite the debate around adrenal fatigue, adrenal insufficiency is a medically recognized diagnosis. Here, the adrenal glands do not function normally or the pituitary glands fail to signal the adrenal glands that cortisol production is needed.
It is a relatively rare condition diagnosed by endocrinologists doctors specializing in the production of hormones.
Regardless of the terminology, the fact remains that too little cortisol can be problematic, as is having too much cortisol in the body.
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First Off What Even Is Cortisol
Cortisol is your main stress hormone, which helps the body regulate its response to any kind of stress, whether its physiological, emotional, or traumatic, says Suneet Singh, M.D., an emergency medicine physician and medical director at CareHive Health in Austin, Texas. Its also a steroid hormone that is produced and released by the adrenal glands.
When the body is under stress, cortisol levels are increased to help deal with the underlying problem, he explains.
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According to Dr. Singh, cortisol helps the body regulate several important factors and potential issues, including:
- Inflammation levels
Get Regular Exercise But Dont Overdo It
Regular exercise is a good stress-fighter and can help promote healthy sleep. Exercise causes the production of endorphins, which are hormones that help improve mood, which is why many people turn to exercise to help with stress management.Too much exercise, or really intense exercise, can increase cortisol levels. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise.
Listen to your body and rest when you need to in order to promote healthy cortisol levels.
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Laughter Might Really Be The Best Medicine
Laughing helps reduce stress hormones, including cortisol. Laughter also stimulates the release of endorphins, which increase pleasure and help reduce the perception of pain.Laughing with a friend, watching a funny movie, or reading books written by comedians are all great ways to benefit from laughter to reduce cortisol and stress levels.
Symptoms Of High Cortisol
Chronically high cortisol puts tremendous pressure on your brain and heart. It can shrink and kill brain cells. It raises your blood pressure and blood glucose levels, increasing the risk of developing diabetes, having a heart attack or stroke.
Some high cortisol symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- changes in mood, such as feeling irritable or low
- rapid weight gain in the face and abdomen
- type 2 diabetes
- impaired memory and brain function
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Should You Get Your Cortisol Levels Tested
If youve been experiencing any symptoms of high cortisol, you may want to ask your doctor about a 4-point cortisol test to see if a cortisol imbalance could be at play. For the at-home test, you collect saliva first thing in the morning, before lunch, before dinner, and before bed.
The results show your cortisol levels throughout the day. A normal cortisol pattern starts high in the morning and slowly decreases throughout the day, reaching its lowest point at night, priming you for sleep. If your pattern looks different, it may signify a cortisol imbalance.
How To Reduce Cortisol
This article was medically reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support , Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support , Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Tennessee in 2006.There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 603,188 times.
Cortisol is a stress-induced chemical that is released by the adrenal gland. While some cortisol is beneficial for survival, some people overproduce cortisol. When this happens, you may notice you feel anxious, stressed out and have a tendency to gain weight. It is imperative to take action, once you notice any or all of these symptoms. Reducing the amount of cortisol produced within your body can have a positive effect on your overall health and leave you feeling more relaxed and balanced.
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How To Lower Cortisol Levels Its More Than Reducing Stress
Contrary to popular misconception, learning how to lower cortisol levels isnât solely about naturopathic remedies. For example, supplements like ashwagandha, prebiotics, probiotics, and magnesium are revered for their cortisol-regulating properties. While these substances may or may not work, your goal shouldnât be to keep your cortisol load low all the time.
The thing is, your body requires high cortisol concentrations at the right times and low cortisol levels at other times . This keeps yourself in circadian alignment such that you feel and function at your best.
Ahead, we explain how a healthy cortisol rhythm works so you have a better idea of when and how to lower your cortisol levels when you need to. Itâs all about making this hormone work for you instead of against you.
Lower Cortisol Levels With Physical Exercise
Regular physical exercise is a well-known brain enhancer that improves mental health and cognitive functions while protecting the brain from the effects of aging.
Getting regular exercise will also enable you to relax more easily.
One of the ways it does this is by reducing cortisol.
You dont need to exercise strenuously to get the benefits of stress reduction.
In fact, exercising too much or too hard actually increases cortisol.
Running a marathon, for example, can initiate the stress response since your brain gets the message that you are fleeing from danger.
Twenty to thirty minutes of light aerobic activity like walking or biking is ideal for most people.
Mind-body exercises like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are also excellent for stress relief.
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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 resilience to mental, physical, and environmental stress.
They work by reducing the level of cortisol while strengthening function of the adrenal glands.
Adaptogens neither stimulate nor sedate, but instead act like a thermostat, bringing the 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 that 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.
But Don’t Hit The Gym Too Often
By contrast, that same study from The Journal of Endocrinological Investigation showed that moderate- to high-intensity exercise provokes increases in circulating cortisol levels. In other words, when it comes to exercise, more may not be better. A separate 2012 study confirmed that long-term cortisol exposure was significantly higher in endurance athletes.
As clinical psychologist Candice Seti, PsyDa.k.a. The Weight Loss Therapistput it, “Skipping the second trip to the gym and taking it easy can also be good for reducing cortisol levels. that over-exercising can actually lead to an increase in the hormone. This, in turn, can lead to slower weight loss.”
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What Is Cortisol How Is It Related To Chronic Stress
Cortisol is the bodys primary stress hormone. It is produced by the adrenal glands, then released when the body is dealing with stressful situations or imminent danger .
It is important to keep stress levels under control because the prolonged presence of psychological stressors can lead to an overproduction of cortisol. While the body needs cortisol to manage stress, too much cortisol can lead to a chronic stress response. This can impact various organ systems in the body and have negative effects on the immune system, digestive system, mental status, metabolism, and overall health.
Studies have shown that moderate to high levels of cortisol can increase the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease and diabetes. It can also lead to weight gain and obesity, interfere with sleep, cause brain fog, and impaired immune responses against infection.
Besides external stressors, a rare but serious disease called Cushings syndrome can result in very high cortisol levels in the body.
Consider Picking Up Yoga
Yoga is a great low-impact exercise that is safe for most people. It involves stretching, strengthening muscles through increased balance, as well as offers an aerobic workout. Yoga also emphasizes relaxation, deep breathing, and awareness.A study concluded that people who participate in yoga benefit from lower cortisol levels. Practicing yoga is a form of exercise, helping to release endorphins that can reduce cortisol levels.
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Holistic Approach To Lower Cortisol
Our team of functional medicine specialists have the knowledge and experience to help you lower your cortisol naturally while rebalancing your adrenal hormones. Our comprehensive treatment plan includes guidance for eating a healthy diet and some lifestyle modifications to lower your stress levels. These will help to help restore your health and for sustainable weight loss.
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.
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