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.
Everything You Need To Reset Your Cortisol Rhythm
Resetting your cortisol rhythm doesn’t require any fancy foods, crazy diet plans, or dance steps. It’s actually shockingly simple. It does, however, require a commitment to reclaiming rhythm in your life. But who doesn’t want that?
Here are six simple steps to resetting your cortisol rhythm and with it your adrenal stress response.
Adrenal Fatigue And The Bodys Automatic Response
As the body goes through the initial stages of adrenal fatigue, the first call of duty is to produce more cortisol to enable it to cope. However, if the problem persists, the symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue increase in both number and severity. These symptoms include brain fog, heart palpitations, anxiety, panic attacks, low libido, food sensitivities, and even a hypersensitivity to cortisol supplements and medications.
The body responds to the adrenal glands being unable to produce sufficient cortisol by finding other avenues for producing the needed hormones. These include body organs and glands.
Once the body gets to the fourth and last stage of adrenal gland fatigue, however, the bodys systems start shutting down. Symptoms associated with this stage include memory loss, weight gain, worsening skin conditions, digestive problems, depression, heart disease, and sleeping problems. Once this stage is reached, the path to recovery is a long and laborious one.
Too much cortisol, just like too little, has a negative impact on the body.
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Where Are The Adrenal Glands And What Do They Do
The adrenal glands rest on the tops of the kidneys. They are part of the endocrine system, which organises the release of hormones within the body . Hormones are chemical messengers that switch on and off processes in the body.
The adrenal glands consist of two parts:
- the medulla which makes the hormone adrenaline which is part of the fight or flight response a person has when stressed.
- the cortex which releases several hormones.
The two most important are:If the body does not make enough cortisol, a tablet version is given. This tablet is called hydrocortisone and is given at regular intervals throughout the day. Without treatment your child will become very ill.
- Aldosterone this helps regulate the blood pressure by controlling how much salt is retained in the body. If a person is unable to make aldosterone themselves, they will need to take a tablet called fludrocortisone.
- Cortisol this is the bodys natural steroid and has three main functions:
- helping to control the blood sugar level
- helping the body deal with stress
- helping to control blood pressure and blood circulation.
Natural And Medical Ways To Boost Cortisol Levels
Your adrenal glands naturally produce a hormone called cortisol. This hormone helps regulate blood pressure, control metabolism and promote proper function of immune system. It is very important to maintain healthy levels of cortisol in your body. If you have a deficiency, you may have a serious condition that is an indication your adrenals arent functioning correctly. This article can help you increase cortisol to a healthy level.
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High Evening Cortisol Levels
If you often find yourself in heated political arguments online at 9 p.m., or if you do heavy training at the gym in the evenings, its likely that your cortisol levels are skyrocketing at night right when you want them to be coming down. Some common indications of high evening cortisol levels are:
- Falling asleep is nearly impossible and can take hours.
- You worry in the evenings or feel especially argumentative.
- You distract yourself by spending a lot of time online, watching TV, or working out at night which can lead to self-defeating cycle of even higher evening cortisol.
Tap Into Your Creative Side
In a study, people who made a piece of art had reduced saliva cortisol levels compared to before the art-making. Drawing, making a collage, using modeling clay, or even coloring might all help reduce cortisol levels.
If you know how to sew, make jewelry, or anything else that involves creating, that can have a similar benefit as doing actual art.Do you remember zoning out while coloring when you were little? Coloring books for adults have become popular in recent years since coloring can make you feel relaxed. If anything, coloring gives your brain a distraction from stressful thoughts.
You can buy coloring books specifically for adults that are more complex and require more time to complete, or you can always pick up a regular childrens coloring book.
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Whats Causing Your High Cortisol Levels
Here are three of the most common reasons why people experience high cortisol levels:
Stress is unavoidable in life. But too much pressure will lead to higher cortisol levels and, eventually, weight gain. What does too much mean? This happens when most people feel chronically overwhelmed or stressed about something. They may be worried about money, work, relationships, health issues, parenting challenges, etc.
Some medications, such as birth control pills, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs, can affect cortisol levels. These include serotonin reuptake inhibitors , selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, tricyclics, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, testosterone, etc.
3. Thyroid problems
Low thyroid gland activity can increase cortisol production. Hashimotos diseasea condition where the body produces antibodies against its thyroid glandcan also contribute to elevated cortisol levels.
Limit Alcohol And Caffeine
Excess consumption of alcohol and caffeine have been shown to increase stress hormones, so their consumption should be limited.
Coffee is definitely good for brain health. There is a lot of research showing it is very healthy and can be protective against dementia.
However, it can also disrupt sleep and make people anxious. I used to not be able to handle any coffee at all. But now that I’m healthy, I can handle it just fine. I drink one cup of Kicking Horse coffee most mornings.
But if youre struggling with high cortisol and chronic stress, I wouldnt recommend high doses of caffeine.
Its been shown to directly stimulate the adrenal cortex, release cortisol into the bloodstream and increase stress hormone levels .
One study found that caffeine increased cortisol by 30% in just one hour, and regular consumption can double your cortisol levels .
So limit it as much as possible.
An alternative solution is to consume the whole coffee fruit, instead of drinking coffee.
The coffee fruit doesnt contain caffeine, but it does contains several healthy compounds not found in coffee beans themselves.
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Optimize Your Expectations Before A Stressful Event
A study found that people who optimized their expectations prior to a stressful event had lower cortisol levels after the stressful event.For example, if youre stressed about a presentation you have to give at work, remind yourself that you only have control over a few things.
You can prepare by practicing your speech and making sure your information is well-researched. You cant control how your audience reacts or what the outcomes of your presentation will be.
Pinpoint Your Comfort Food Triggers
Try writing down what you eat in an effort to get a better idea of when you stress eat. “Keeping a food journal for a week can help you pinpoint the times where you indulge in comfort foods or when you make sensible, healthier choices,” says Balk. “If dinner before a big test or meeting tends to be fried ‘comfort food,’ it’s worthwhile to stop the cycle and replace that emotion with a healthier choice or receive consolation another way.”
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What’s The #1 Cause Of Elevated Cortisol
There are things in our environment we might not realize are stressors. Burning the midnight oil, dieting, over-exercising, and loading up on caffeine and sugary snacks to power through the day all add to our bodys daily stress load.
The result of all that stress and elevated cortisol? It can impact everything from energy reserves to physical appearance, and ups the risk for some serious health problems.
So, obviously we need to find ways to reduce our cortisol levels, getting our hormone system to operate the way it was designed to. With so many hats to wear, our cortisol has a lot on its plate. When cortisol levels are out of whack, a domino effect ensues and it impacts other hormones and bodily systems.
Natural Ways To Lower Cortisol Levels
There are several things that you can do to lower your stress levels, reduce the effects of stress on the body, and improve your overall health and well-being. Here are some common ways to help rebalance your cortisol and promote good health.
- Sleep When you sleep, how much sleep you get, and the quality of your sleep all impact your cortisol levels. We recommend keeping a consistent sleep schedule, creating an environment for uninterrupted sleep , turning off electronics an hour before bedtime, and avoiding caffeine in the evening can help you get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, which will help decrease your cortisol.
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Set Good Sleep Habits
Seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night is the gold standard for optimal health and it makes for a powerful cortisol reducer. If youre not clocking enough sleep, try bumping bedtime up. If you feel wired late into the evening, try dimming the lights and powering down phones, computers, and TVs at least one hour before bedtime.
The blue light from electronic devices throws off our sleep-wake cycle known as our circadian rhythm, and makes it harder to fall asleep. Replace Netflix with a book, warm bath, or relaxing music to help you unwind and prepare for sleep. Candles, aromatherapy, and sound machines can also help you relax before bedtime.
Balance Your Blood Sugar
Even if you are trying to lose a few pounds you must eat about every two hours to keep your Cortisol levels healthy. You dont have to eat pizza every two hours. You can eat something very healthy and low in fat. Actually it also a great way to keep your metabolism going if you are trying to loose a few pounds.
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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:
When Not To Lower Your Bodys Cortisol Reserves
High cortisol levels arenât necessarily ruinous for you. As you can see from the previous section, a pre-dawn cortisol hike coincides with the usual hours for waking up. Without the alertness-boosting effects of this hormone, it becomes that much more difficult to push through your morning sleep inertia and feel like youâve had a full night of invigorating sleep.
Cortisol is also vital to your overall health throughout the day as it helps:
- Mediate your stress response
- Regulate your metabolism rate for energy production
- Fight inflammation to boost your bodyâs rest-and-repair mechanism
- Develop and maintain a functioning immune system
On a medical note, too-low cortisol levels lead to a health issue known as Addisonâs disease. Itâs a manifestation of adrenal gland disorder commonly accompanied by symptoms like low blood pressure and low blood sugar levels.
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Symptoms Of High Cortisol Levels
According to research done by the Genetics Learning Science Center, the long-term danger of having high cortisol is that it activates the fight-or-flight response, which temporarily shuts down normal reproductive, digestive and immune functions. The body targets these systems for shutdown because it doesnt need them for immediate survival.
Sensory nerve cells pass the perception of a threat, or stress, from the environment to the hypothalamus in the brain. This signals the pituitary and primary adrenal glands to produce more cortisol. If this cycle goes on for too long, someone becomes more susceptible to all sorts of illnesses, infections and hormonal problems.
Some clues that may signal youre living with high cortisol levels include:
- weight gain, especially around the abdomen/stomach
- a puffy, flushed face
- higher susceptibility to infections
What Is Cortisol You Ask
Scientifically speaking, cortisol is a glucocorticoid produced in the adrenal glands located at the top of your kidneys. The hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis regulates your body’s cortisol secretion .
The primary roles of cortisol include:
- Promoting alertness when your body’s fight-or-flight response is activated by a stressor
- Influencing your sleep-wake cycle to help you meet your sleep need
We will go into the specifics in the following sections. All you need to know now is that cortisol has its own circadian rhythm. When your cortisol rhythm is properly functioning, your body produces this stress hormone in the right amounts at the right times. This is beneficial and necessary for your overall health. But too much cortisol over prolonged periods triggers a never-ending cycle of elevated cortisol levels and sleep loss that sets you up for various health problems, as you will see.
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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.
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.
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When To Increase A Childs Hydrocortisone Dose
If a person with cortisol deficiency becomes very unwell, they are unable to increase the production of cortisol in their system, which is needed to help the body cope and which could be life threatening.
In these circumstances, the amount of hydrocortisone given needs to be increased quickly. This is done by, either:
- increasing the dose of oral hydrocortisone taken as tablets or
- giving an injection into the childs thigh .
It can be difficult to know when the child needs to increase their dose of hydrocortisone, but it may be necessary if they are ill, have an accident or injury or are going to have some medical treatments. Parents should follow the flow chart they have been provided to help them decide if this is required.
An extra dose will not do any harm, so if in doubt it is better to give it than not, and then contact the specialist treatment centre for advice about what to do next. If the child is unwell enough to require double dosing, an additional double normal morning dose of hydrocortisone should be given at 4am set an alarm to remind you.
If the child is given a hydrocortisone injection, they must be admitted to hospital afterwards to be monitored. You should insist that this is for a minimum of 12 hours. This is because the effects of injection only lasts about six to eight hours and it is important to check that the child is stable on their normal oral dose before going home.