What Causes High Cortisol Levels
Many things can cause high cortisol levels, including:
- physical and emotional stress your body can’t gauge the seriousness of a stressful situation, so something simple like a traffic jam can kick-start your stress response system, as can being ill with a cold
- medication certain medications like corticosteroids and oral contraceptives might increase your cortisol levels
- oestrogen high oestrogen levels in women, for example, in pregnancy, is linked to raised cortisol levels
- an adrenal gland tumour your adrenal glands produce cortisol, so any issues with them can affect your cortisol levels
- a pituitary gland issue an overactive pituitary gland stimulates your adrenal glands to make too much cortisol
- malnutrition for example, if you suffer from an eating disorder
Conditions like depression, diabetes, PCOS, and alcoholism are also linked to high cortisol levels.
Low Physical Activity Levels/being More Sedentary
Several studies have shown that lower physical activity levels during the day can cause a lower morning peak in cortisol levels.
Here is one study that looked at people with major depression to examine how their physical activity habits related to their cortisol patterns.
Higher physical activity led to a more pronounced rise and fall of daily cortisol levels . On the other hand, being more sedentary was associated with a flatter diurnal cortisol curve .
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.
You May Like: Hormones And Weight Loss Meridian
What Happens When Cortisol Is High
Over the last 20 years, studies have increasingly revealed that moderate to high cortisol levels may lead to an array of health issues, such as :
- Chronic disease. Long-term increased cortisol may increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases.
- Weight gain. Cortisol may increase appetite and signal the body to shift metabolism to store fat.
- Lack of energy/difficulty sleeping. It can interfere with sleep hormones which may impact sleep quality and length.
- Difficulty concentrating. Also referred to as brain fog, some people report trouble focusing and lack of mental clarity.
- Impaired immune system. Increased cortisol can hamper the immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections.
- Cushings syndrome. In rare cases, very high cortisol levels can lead to Cushings syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
Elevated cortisol levels can be caused from many underlying issues such as overactivity or cancer of the pituitary or adrenal glands, chronic stress, and medication side effects .
Further, existing chronic disease may lead to higher cortisol levels, causing a chicken or the egg type of scenario .
Therefore, its best to work with a qualified health professional to establish the root cause of your health issues. Along with this, you may want to introduce some effective lifestyle habits that may help you better manage your cortisol levels. Here are some recommendations:
How To Lower Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is a stress hormone, and it can become a problem. Chronically high levels of cortisol can damage the body. Pay attention to these tips to lower your cortisol levels.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone that is naturally made in the body. It is released by the adrenal glands to help you deal with stress. However, high levels of cortisol that last for a long time can be dangerous. They can lead to weight gain, sleep problems, high blood pressure, fatigue, osteoporosis and diabetes. In addition, the constant release of cortisol can affect the immune system in a negative way and increase the risk of infections. Cortisol can also affect memory.
Research shows that meditation can lower cortisol levels and reduce stress. Consider joining a class to learn how to meditate or find videos online that teach the process. Try to meditate at least several times a week and increase it during stressful situations.
Getting enough sleep is essential for multiple body functions. It can also affect cortisol. People who work at night are more likely to have higher levels of cortisol. Insomnia and sleep interruptions also contribute to higher levels of this hormone. Try to sleep at night by limiting distractions and going to bed earlier. Focus on a consistent sleep schedule that will regulate hormones.
Listen to Music
Get a Pet
Recommended Reading: Testosterone Cypionate For Sale Online
Cortisol Supplements To Combat Low Cortisol Levels
Traditionally, low cortisol levels are managed by means of supplementation. This is usually with synthetic cortisol called prednisone or natural cortisol called hydrocortisone. These cortisol supplements are usually taken orally.
However, these cortisol supplements have their own dangers.
Those on cortisol supplements must track their cortisol levels. The aim is to emulate the natural cortisol progression throughout the day, and supplements need to be adjusted accordingly. Under normal conditions, cortisol concentrations are higher in the mornings than the evenings, and supplementation is geared towards achieving the same effect.
Cortisol supplements however, should only be considered when there are few alternatives left, for example, in cases of tuberculosis or Addisons disease. Western medicine also uses them for psoriasis, certain cancers, and inflammation. This is because synthetic cortisol supplements, when administered over a long period, have a negative effect on the bodys own cortisol production.
The negative side effects of cortisol supplements include:
- Thinning of skin
- Build-up of fat in the chest area, face, and abdomen
- Increase in blood pressure
- Reduction in the bodys ability to produce natural cortisol
Is There A Pill To Reduce Cortisol
Cushings syndrome is a condition in which there are very high cortisol levels in the body. Doctors may perform surgery to remove a tumor of the adrenal glands or radiation therapy to treat a pituitary tumor in the brain causing high cortisol. They may also prescribe a medication that manages excessive cortisol production, such as metyrapone , mitotane , or ketoconazole. Mifepristone is approved for Cushing syndrome patients with type 2 diabetes or glucose intolerance.
The injection Signifor and the oral pill Isturisa are newer medications for Cushings syndrome.
Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Excess Estrogen
Supplements To Reduce Cortisol: Take The Next Step
Excess production of the stress hormone cortisol can be very damaging to your brain health and mental wellness.
While theres an abundance of supplements that claim to decrease cortisol, most rely on animal studies or clinical trials using well-trained athletes to support these claims.
Only a handful of supplements have been shown to reduce cortisol in typical humans under normal circumstances.
Cortisol-lowering supplements are a diverse group that includes traditional herbs, certain fats, compounds found in specific foods, and some core nutrients.
Recommended: Upgrading brain health is key to making your brain work better.
Mind Lab Pro is the brain supplement we recommend because, by boosting your brain health, it can help you:
- Improve your mental clarity and focus.
- Boost your memory and your ability to learn.
- Increase your capacity to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions.
The Good News: It Is Possible To Rebalance Your Cortisol
The light at the end of the tunnel is its very possible to rebalance your cortisol levels. Understanding where your cortisol levels are imbalanced using proper testing along with following a comprehensive plan that takes into account all aspects of health is imperative to rebalance cortisol. Some common cortisol balancing tips are:
1) Focus On a Healthy Lifestyle
- Practicing stress reduction techniques daily can help to reduce stress and balance cortisol
2) Optimize Nutrition
This is where eating a balanced diet that is personalized for you and your lifestyle comes into play
- Focusing on protein and healthy fats helps to keep blood sugar, appetite and cortisol in check throughout the day
- Timing carbohydrates and reducing sugar help as well.
- Coffee can further worsen a cortisol imbalance. For some people, cutting it out can help dramatically.
3) Supplements can help a lot!
- Adaptogens like Rhodiola, Holy Basil and Ashwaghanda
Always check in with your Naturopathic Doctor or other health care provider before starting any treatments or making changes to your healthcare plan.
Recommended Reading: Best Testosterone Replacement Therapy Online
Try Ashwagandha Or Phosphatidylserine
Next, Id suggest starting with either the traditional Ayurvedic remedy ashwagandha or phosphatidylserine, depending on which symptoms of stress youre experiencing.
Ashwagandha excels at stress reduction and decreases cortisol significantly more than many other supplements.
Its a good choice if you have anxiety, insomnia, or depression caused by stress.
Phosphatidylserine is another proven cortisol reducer.
Its also an excellent brain supplement that improves memory and protects against mental decline, while enhancing physical performance.
Which Herbal Supplements Are Best For Lowering Cortisol
Cortisol is a stress hormone made by the adrenal glands, regulating several processes throughout the body such as metabolism and immune response. Cortisol is responsible for several body functions including the ability to lower inflammation and increase glucose. It serves as a balancing mechanism between salt and water, and can regulate blood pressure as well.
Along with your brain, cortisol controls mood, motivation and fear. Cortisol is a stress hormone and can be likened to an alarm system within your body. So when you experience the fight or flight feeling, you can attribute this to your increased cortisol level.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Growth Hormone
Signs Of High Cortisol
Staying in a state of high stress is both physically and mentally unhealthy.
Sometimes its nearly impossible to avoid, like being in a highly stressful work environment, and it may be necessary for some people to seek low stress jobs as the only way out.
Understanding the signs of high cortisol levels can be important for knowing when to slow down and address the problems in our life that lead to chronic stress.
Sleep In A Completely Dark Room
You want lower cortisol levels and higher melatonin levels at night so you can sleep. Even small amounts of light in your bedroom can affect your cortisol and melatonin production.
Get rid of the chargers, alarm clocks, or whatever else is flashing small lights into your room. Black-out curtains can be a good investment if you have a lot of artificial light coming in through your windows. Any light while you sleep will alter your natural cortisol curve. Turn the lights off and enjoy the sweet darkness of night time.
You May Like: How Much For Testosterone Shots
Watch Now: 5 Ways Stress Can Cause Weight Gain
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.
Medications That Affect Cortisol Levels
Several different types of prescription and over-the-counter drugs can affect morning cortisol levels.
One example is some types of antidepressants.
Here is a graph from one study that showed a lower peak in morning cortisol in people on antidepressants.
This graph illustrates the morning cortisol awakening response in a group of people with stress-related exhaustion, that only differed based on whether they were on antidepressants or not.
Again, both groups had stress-related exhaustion, but the group on antidepressants had a significantly lower morning cortisol level.
Other medications that can affect include:
- Some blood pressure lowering drugs
- Some anti-inflammatory and painkilling drugs, like Celebrex
Read Also: How To Control Cortisol Levels
When To Lower Your Cortisol Load
While you donât want to lower your cortisol load altogether, you definitely want to avoid high levels of this stress hormone later in the day, especially as your bedtime draws near.
Unfortunately, everyday factors like sleep loss, chronic stress, and circadian misalignment incite HPA hyperactivity. In this scenario, cortisol continues to circulate in your system even after a stressor has passed. This spells trouble for your nighttime sleep as you:
- Wake up more frequently in the middle of the night,
- Have less restorative deep sleep, and,
- Cut short your total sleep duration
Lo and behold, youâve now accrued sleep debt, the amount of sleep youâve missed out on in the past 14 days relative to your sleep need.
You can blame your shoddy sleep patterns on the corticotropin-releasing hormone . Itâs a precursor to cortisol secretion that represses melatonin production. For the uninitiated, melatonin is a sleepiness-promoting hormone naturally created in your body when you’re in the dark. Think of it as the key that unlocks the gateway to sleep.
Unfortunately, excessive amounts of the stress hormone delay melatonin synthesis, so youâre more likely to stay up past your bedtime. And we all know what that entails: Late-night activities like phone-scrolling and Netflix-binging, all of which expose you to bright artificial light, further suspending the manufacturing of melatonin within your body.
Easy Ways To Lower Cortisol Levels So You Don’t Feel As Stressed
Right now, likely more than ever, people across the world are stressed. With so much uncertainty surrounding the effects the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the global population, it’s hard not to feel anxious and blue.
This means that your cortisol levels are probably higher than usual, which also means it’s of utmost importance that you figure out how to lower cortisol. To help, we reached out to several experts and conducted research to gather 15 science-backed tips on how to lower cortisol levels naturally, so your immune system can remain strong during these unprecedented times.
You May Like: Vitamins To Reduce Cortisol Levels
Moderate Exercise To Lower Cortisol
Enjoying regular exercise can help to reduce your cortisol levels because it helps to cope with stress better.
The Journal of Endocrinological Investigation reported that moderate, low-intensity exercise has a positive effect on cortisol levels. However, intensive exercise increases cortisol secretion in the body.
Interestingly, sweating after exercise can cause high concentrations of cortisol in the body and these concentrations are detected in hair. Doctors can test hair samples for cortisol to help diagnose conditions related to chronic stress.
Best Supplements To Reduce Cortisol
These supplements are proven to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that, in excess, is often the cause of physical and mental health problems.
Cortisol is your primary stress hormone.
Its useful during emergencies, but chronic stress can create an outpouring of cortisol all day long and thats a problem.
Excess cortisol leads to a host of physical health problems and puts you at greater risk for anxiety, depression, memory loss, and cognitive decline.
The majority of research on cortisol and supplements that affect it has been carried out on animals.
And a surprising number of clinical trials measure how various substances affect the cortisol level of athletes in extreme circumstances, such as running an ultramarathon.
If you think that that kind of research isnt applicable to the average person, youd be right.
Lets take a look at the best cortisol supplements those shown to reduce cortisol in average humans under ordinary circumstances.
Read Also: Zarbee’s Cough Syrup With Melatonin
The Role Of Cortisol In The Body
Normally, your cortisol production is higher in the morning. This higher level gives you a feeling of alertness. You are ready to conquer the world and able to face all the challenges the day presents. Your cortisol production then tends to taper off as the day goes by, until, at bedtime, it is superseded by the production of melatonin. Melatonin gives you a feeling of restfulness and ensures a good nights sleep.
When under stress, however, whether physiological or psychological, a different scenario occurs. The HPA axis works to control the situation. It takes charge. The hypothalamus in the brain, when perceiving stress, sends a signal to the master endocrine gland, namely, the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland secretes the hormone ACTH, which in turn signals the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol. At the same time, the adrenals produce other hormones such as adrenaline to prepare the body for fight or flight mode, a natural reaction to any perceived dangerous situation.
Cortisols function now comes into play. Glucose levels go up so that your muscles have the energy they need to either run or fight. Blood pressure increases, increasing oxygen levels to the brain, so that you can think clearly while engaged in the stressful situation.