Types Of Foods To Lower Cortisol
Before looking at specific foods, it will help to know how a few food groups affect cortisol in general.
Many people tell you to stay away from carbohydrates, and often with good cause. But refined carbohydrates are the ones you should be wary of. On the other hand, unrefined carbohydrates like whole grains and those found in fruit and vegetables are fiber-rich, complex carbohydrates that are good for you. Furthermore, they contain an amino acid called tryptophan that plays a role in melatonin production in your brain. You need this hormone to get a good nights rest. Your body needs enough of the right type of sleep to restore itself. So don’t be afraid of having some whole grains.
Almost half the American population does not get enough magnesium from their diet. And when stressed, your magnesium levels tend to become depleted more quickly via sweat and urine. Lowered magnesium levels increase your stress levels. Which can form a negative cycle.
You can mitigate this situation by incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet. Avocado, leafy green vegetables, and certain whole grains are great sources.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Cut Out Caffeine Or Consume Less
A 2005 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that caffeine increases cortisol secretion even in people at rest. Because caffeine can stimulate cortisol production and increase blood pressure, Krista King, MS, RDN, of Composed Nutrition, offers a solution to lower cortisol: “Try doing a caffeine reset. Gradually you have each day by swapping it out for a caffeine-free or lower caffeine alternative.”
The 5 Primary Mechanisms Of Low Morning Cortisol Levels
At this point, we now know the following 3 key points that completely disprove the adrenal fatigue theory:
- Chronic stress does NOT generally lead to low cortisol levels.
- Low cortisol levels are generally NOT associated with Burnout Syndrome or Stress-Related Exhaustion Disorder.
- The vast majority of people with low morning cortisol levels typically do NOT actually have any problem with their adrenals being able to produce enough cortisol.
Now, even though we know that low cortisol levels is NOT actually the real cause of the symptoms associated with Burnout Syndrome and Stress-Related Exhaustion, some people are still skeptical and still want to believe in the adrenal fatigue theory, and say well then why did my test show that I do have low morning cortisol levels?
Indeed, the question now becomes
If its not chronic stress wearing out your adrenals, then what are the real factors responsible for low morning cortisol levels?
Were going to answer that definitively in this section and the following section, but first, there is something very important I need to remind you of
Since cortisol levels/adrenal function are NOT the cause of burnout/exhaustion/chronic fatigue symptoms, trying to fix the symptoms fixing your adrenals/cortisol is utterly misguided.
Trying to fix your symptoms by fixing something that wasnt actually causing your symptoms in the first place is not likely to result in much benefit.
Also Check: Mommy’s Bliss Melatonin Gummies
How To Lower Cortisol For Less Stress And A Healthier Lifestyle
We often think of stress as a key contributor to developing disease, but that isnt the most accurate term to describe the mechanism behind whats actually happening in the body.
Instead, we should turn our attention to our cortisol, the stress-adapting hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is released in response to threatening situations when the bodys survival mechanisms kick in. In acute stress situations, cortisol can help you run faster or fight off an attacker, heightening your senses and putting you on alert. When the danger has passed, cortisol levels drop, allowing you to rest.
But modern life, where stressors are constant and surround us in many different forms, has made many of us overproduce cortisol. This overproduction results in fatigue, brain fog, mood issues, hormonal dysregulation, and eventually adrenal burn out.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your bodys cortisol production and restore balance to the stress response.
- High cortisol levels result from physical and emotional stress on the body and can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, irritability, weight gain, inflammation, and more.
- Practices for lowering cortisol include stress identification and reduction, eating a whole foods diet, prioritizing minerals, supplementing when needed, etc.
- With dedication to diet and stress management, regulating cortisol is absolutely possible.
Listen To Music And Dance
Music is actually healing and can have a calming effect on the brain.
Numerous studies show that music can relax you, especially before a stressful event, by significantly lowering stress hormones. It can also reduce the spike in cortisol during the stressful situation .
Music can be even more relaxing when combined with non-strenuous dancing.
Regular dancing has also been shown to greatly decrease cortisol levels .
The book The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living goes in more depth about the practice.
Lastly, deep breathing exercises can help you manage your stress hormone levels.
Diaphragmatic breathing consciously breathing from your diaphragm has been shown to encourage the bodys natural relaxation response and reduce cortisol .
Don’t Miss: Safe Melatonin Dosage For Adults
Heres How To Lower Cortisol Levels
At Parsley Health, we work with our members everyday on lowering cortisol levels and reducing chronic stress. Since everyones lifestyle is different, and the stressors in your life arent the same as the stressors in, say, your best friends life, its important to come up with an action plan that is personalized to you and your lifestyle. Typically, this starts with addressing the root cause of your stress and making changes to your diet, exercise, supplement routine with the support of your Parsley Health clinician and health coach. Once your cortisol levels are restored, the goal is to help you understand the stress response, learn how to manage stress, and develop a consistent mindfulness practice so you have the tools to prevent future spikes.
Here are some of our top tips for lowering cortisol levels naturally:
Reset Your Circadian Rhythms
We all know good sleep is paramount to good health. One reason sleep matters so much is that it involves the fluctuation of and connection between melatonin and cortisol, two hormones directly related to stress and overall bodily health. Practice healthy sleep habits by sleeping and waking at the same time each day, striving for at least 7 hours of uninterrupted rest, and limiting electronics use in the hour before bedtime. Also try to get plenty of sunshine in the morning and at midday to further stabilize your bodys circadian rhythms.
Also Check: Zarbee’s Sleep Chewable Tablet With Melatonin
Rewire Your Sleep Schedule
Sleeping in time with your bodys biorhythms and getting enough quality sleep can help you lower your cortisol levels naturally. Time, length, and quality of sleep have all been found to influence cortisol levels, so optimizing your sleep cycle from start to finish plays an important role in lowering cortisol levels. Ideally, getting to bed by 10 p.m. will help you avoid a late evening cortisol spike which could make it hard to get to sleep and sleep soundly. This also takes advantage of natural melatonin production, which starts around sunset to help you wind down.
Research in the Journal of Nursing Research found that shift workers who sleep during the day have higher daytime cortisol and get less sleep per day than people who sleep at night, so if your job allows, its best to adjust your sleep schedule accordingly. And if you have little control over when you get to sleep, do your best to create a good sleep routinelike avoiding caffeine and alcohol and limiting screen time before bedto optimize the sleep you do get.
Hormone Therapy Can Help Treat Cortisol Imbalance
Cortisol imbalance is becoming a more prevalent diagnosis as more and more people struggle to balance busy professional, family, and social lives. Our lives show no signs of slowing downand until were able to manage stress in a healthy way, we will continue to struggle with this significant hormone imbalance on a grand scale. If youve tried the steps explored above without seeing a significant change in your symptoms, it may be time to seek help from a qualified expert in hormone health.
The practitioners at BodyLogicMD are certified experts in integrative medicine and are focused on helping patients like you achieve optimal wellness through a combination of nutrition, lifestyle changes, and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. When you partner with a BodyLogicMD practitioner, they perform a complete assessment to understand your symptoms, analyze your cortisol levels, and craft a treatment plan thats fully customized to your unique situation. Whether your cortisol levels are high or low, they can give you the treatment support you need to take back control of your wellbeing.
If youre struggling to figure out how to balance cortisol levels on your own, its time to consider a professional option. Theres no need to suffer with hormone imbalance. With modern holistic treatment, you can regain the health and vitality you once enjoyed, free from the symptoms of chronic stress.
Also Check: How Do You Treat Low Testosterone
Fight Or Flight Response And Cortisol
Once the body senses stress, the sympathetic nervous system is activated and stimulates the release of catecholamines leading to an increased heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, muscle strength , and increase in alertness.
Cortisol is continuously released to keep the body in this alert state to respond to stressful stimuli. However, this heightened response comes with a higher energy cost, so the metabolic systems will be affected to keep a steady supply of energy coming to the brain .
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is something of an odd term, but it means going to bed and waking up at a regular and consistent time each day, even on the weekends. The magic number for most people is to get 7 to 9 hours of restful slumber on a nightly basis.
This will help the bodys natural sleep and wake cycles, in which cortisol plays a big role. Good sleep habits will actually improve the amount of restful, regenerative sleep a person needs by naturally balancing cortisol levels.
Also Check: High Dose Melatonin Side Effects
Take Steps To Lower Unnecessary Stress
Maybe this seems too obvious, but its important to say. Its also sometimes easier said than done.
Chronic and acute stress are different conditions. Acute stress is experiencing temporary tension, anxiety or worry due to things like a work project, an upcoming performance, or even something as normal as a first date. After the event takes place, however, the stress is relieved.
Chronic stress is more long-term and leads to unhealthy cortisol levels. This can be the result of toxic relationships, untreated mental health issues, disease, physical or sexual abuse, as well as many other factors.
While some people might be able to easily cut chronic stress out of their lives, others find that seeking help through therapy, counseling, or getting needed medical attention for an illness is the first step in learning how to remove chronic stress from their lives.
Other Ways To Relieve Stress
Your diet plays an important role in managing stress symptoms, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. “The main thing in lowering stress is working on daily habits to change our body’s response to stressors around us,” says Moday. “This way you can blunt the release of cortisol over time regardless of the situation.” Here are some techniques that can help:
Don’t Miss: What Is Melatonin Side Effects
The Real Causes Of Low Cortisol Levels And How To Fix It
As we covered in Part 1 on debunking adrenal fatigue, it is clear that:
- Chronic stress does not fatigue our adrenals and cause low cortisol levels.
- Chronic disease also does not fatigue our adrenals and cause low cortisol levels.
- Adrenal fatigue/low cortisol levels are NOT the cause of the symptoms of stress-related fatigue/burnout/exhaustion.
In this article and video/podcast, were going to cover the exact specific factors known to cause low morning cortisol levels.
Listen outside iTunes
Stay Positive And Have Fun
Keeping it light and fun can lead to a happier life. Being positive and happy is in fact linked with lower cortisol, lower blood pressure, having a healthy heart rate, and a strong immune system. Plan trips, go fishing, take hikes, invite friends over for a game nightfind time to enjoy and do the things you love.
Recommended Reading: How To Boost Testosterone Naturally Fast
Reduce Alcohol And Caffeine Use
While many adults use alcohol to wind down at the end of a long day or in social situations, alcohol has been found to significantly increase cortisol levels in both men and women, particularly those who drink heavily. Caffeine does the same, creating a temporary but dramatic increase in blood pressure and related symptoms of anxiety. If youre struggling with cortisol imbalance, steer clear of these substances and give your body the chance to recalibrate on its own.
What Are The Signs Of High Cortisol
28th Nov 2022 4 min read
Cortisol is a stress hormone thats produced by your body. Its essential for your health, but too much cortisol can cause problems, ranging from anxiety to diabetes. When high cortisol causes symptoms and conditions, its known as Cushings syndrome. Here’s how to spot the signs of high cortisol, how to test your levels, and what you can do to lower them.
Read Also: What Is The Normal Testosterone Level
How To Fix Your Low Cortisol Levels
Now that weve covered the main causes of low morning cortisol levels, lets talk about how to fix it. In essence, this comes down to simply correcting the factors causing the low cortisol levels in the first place. In some of these cases this is very simple and quick, and in others, much more complex.
How To Make Sleep More Comfortable
Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic rise in the amount of people who are experiencing insomnia. According to statistics, approximately 20% of people aged 18 to 64 are affected by insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder where there is difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Insomnia can be triggered by a variety of factors, including stress, anxiety, or depression. People who suffer from insomnia may experience difficulty falling asleep and may wake up in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning.
Recommended Reading: How Do You Test For Testosterone
If Not Adrenal Fatigue Then Whats Really Going On In People Who Have Low Morning Cortisol Levels
First, lets get clear on what type of cortisol findings were actually talking about that get people diagnosed with adrenal fatigue.
Were NOT talking about severely low 24-hour output of cortisol levels, which is likely indicative of Addisons Disease. That is extremely rare and has basically nothing to do with adrenal fatigue or stress-related exhaustion/burnout.
The vast majority of people who are told they have low cortisol or adrenal fatigue have not actually been determined to have low total 24-hour output of cortisol.
What the vast majority of these people more than 90% have is SLIGHTLY lower morning cortisol levels and sometimes also SLIGHTLY higher evening cortisol levels. This is also called a flattened diurnal cortisol curve.
This means that a person will typically have slightly lower morning cortisol levels and sometimes also slightly higher cortisol levels in the evening as compared with people with an ideal cortisol rhythm.
As I showed you in Part 1 , while this pattern often gets people diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, the reality is that the science does not support the notion that this cortisol pattern is caused by adrenal burnout or any sort of actual inability of the adrenal glands to produce enough cortisol .
Put another way:
In other words, there is a difference between a timing shift of cortisol output vs. the actual amount of cortisol being produced over 24 hours.
Psychological Trauma Ptsd Or Childhood Adversity
One of the factors that has been consistently linked with lower morning cortisol levels is post-traumatic stress disorder .
Both childhood trauma and PTSD are associated with lower morning cortisol levels and a flatter diurnal cortisol curve . Having a childhood with lots of adversity, and even having a childhood caregiver with low self-esteem are all also associated with low morning cortisol levels in adulthood.
More than reflecting the current stress load on the body or the adrenals ability to produce enough cortisol, this likely has to do with how early life stress or past-trauma can re-wire the stress response systems of the body. Psychological trauma can have a lasting impact on HPA axis function and leave its imprint by essentially re-wiring the way the brain regulates the stress response, and this is reflected in cortisol levels.
Recommended Reading: Hormone Type 2 Weight Loss
Maintaining A Good Bedtime Routine
A good bedtime routine can be a useful tool for getting longer and higher-quality sleep. This may involve a combination of relaxing activities that help a person unwind, such as:
- bathing or showering
- reading a book or audiobook
People should get into the habit of turning off all screens and relaxing before heading to bed. For example, it may help to turn off phones and any other potential distractions.
How To Test Your Cortisol Levels
A blood, saliva, or urine test can be done to measure your cortisol levels. Depending on the cause, your GP might sometimes arrange a cortisol test, most commonly using a blood test.
Cortisol blood test
A cortisol blood test is usually done in the morning when your cortisol levels tend to be at their highest. Cortisol levels tend to fall as the day goes on, reaching their lowest point at night before bed.
Cortisol urine test
A cortisol urine test involves collecting all of your urine over the course of a day. This can help to show how your cortisol levels change throughout the day.
Don’t Miss: How To Heal Hormonal Acne Naturally