How To Lower Cortisol: 8 Ways To Regulate Cortisol
Metabolic syndrome, hair loss, insomnia, frequent colds and flu, missed menstrual periods, ulcers, and orthopedic pain are just some of the health problems blamed on excessive stress.
Yet, stress is an elusive term. Is it a mental sequela related to life events such as high demands at work, busy kids schedules, planning finances, and what to make for dinner? Or rather, is it only related to traumatic life events such as a divorce, loss of a job, loss of a home, or death of a loved one? Is it related to physical events such as prolonged illness or overtraining?
The reality is, stress is the complex interplay of the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems’ reaction to any stimuli that disrupt homeostasis in the human body . It is well known that chronic stress can contribute to many adverse health conditions, but why?
Stress is chapter 12 of the NASM course on wellness coaching and an extremely important subject for incorporating wellness.
High Cortisol Vs Lower Cortisol Levels
The amount of cortisol in the body generally peaks in the early morning and decreases as the day goes on. Abnormally high levels of cortisol in the body can be caused by some steroid medications or underlying health issues.
Chronic or toxic stress can also be a factor that causes unusually high levels of cortisol.
In a state of constant stress, cortisol levels remain elevated and lead to problems with anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances among other symptoms.
These types of problems are a major reason why many people turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their symptoms, which can lead to substance use disorders and the need for treatment.
Learning how to reduce cortisol levels naturally is a much healthier response than turning to substances to deal with stress ad anxiety.
How Do Adaptogens Impact Cortisol
Your body releases a hormone called cortisol when faced with stress. Elevated cortisol levels over long periods of time can negatively impact every physiological system in your body, including your thyroid and adrenal glands.
Excess cortisol is released during the FoF response to raise blood sugar and increase the bodys energy levels in order to manage perceived threats.
Although cortisol can be beneficial in the short term, long-term stress leads to a consistent flow of cortisol in the body which can lead to dysfunction.
Research shows that adaptogens have the capability to regulate cortisol levels within the body. This is achieved through working with the HPA axis, specifically the adrenal gland, where cortisol is released.
Adaptogens are able to regulate key molecules that mediate the stress response, which creates a state of balance in your body.
This supports the bodys resistance and adaptability to higher/consistent levels of stress and prevents the downstream effect of cortisol release.
With a moderated stress response, additional important biological processes normalize.
It should be noted that reducing chronic stress levels is a many-layered process, however, utilizing adaptogenic herbs can be an impactful approach to naturally lowering cortisol levels
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A Numbers Game: Estrogen Vs Progesterone
The normal range for estrogen levels in women is considered to be between 15-350 picograms per milliliter, while normal progesterone levels range from 1.8-20 nanograms per milliliter . If you arent familiar with the metric system, 1 nanogram is equal to 1,000 picograms.
Meaning that if you are on the low-end range of normal progesterone levels and high-end range of estrogen, lets say 1.8 ng/mL of progesterone and 350 pg/mL of estrogen, then your body will still have 5X the amount of progesterone than estrogen. Consider that the normal range for free testosterone in men also happens to be almost perfectly aligned with the normal range of progesterone in women. Both of which are found in about 10X the quantity of estrogen in the body.
Cut Out Things That Add To Your Stress
Sometimes, the best way to reduce your stress is to cut something out of your life. Get rid of the things that are adding to your stress so you can experience more peace.
Watching the news, being constantly connected to your digital devices, drinking alcohol, and consuming too much caffeine are just a few of the things that may add more stress to your life. Making some changes to your daily habits could be instrumental in helping you feel better.
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The Dangers Of Excess Cortisol
Before we look at how to lower cortisol, lets take a look at why too much of it is so hazardous to our health and mental well-being.
When you face a potential threat or danger, the bodys stress response, often called the fight-or-flight response, is triggered.
First, the stress hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine are released in a quick burst.
They quickly dissipate after the stressful situation is over and dont hang around to do any damage.
That is followed by the release of cortisol.
” High levels of cortisol can kill brain cells by literally stimulating them to death.
When your life is one crisis after another, your body continuously pours out cortisol.
This leads to a chronically elevated cortisol level, and this has some serious health implications.
Dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and cacao nibs also act as prebiotics.
Lastly, be sure to drink plenty of water and other liquids.
Being dehydrated is a physical stressor that increases cortisol.
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 â 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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Progesterone: The Unsung Hero
Remember when I said comparing testosterone and estrogen was a misnomer? Well, heres the reason. Progesterone, like testosterone and estrogen, is also a steroid hormone produced in the body, but unlike estrogen, it is not a stress hormone. Progesterone acts as a protective hormone in the body, similar to testosterone, encouraging the body to exist in its growth and repair state instead of the survival state. It shouldnt come as a surprise that progesterone is attributed to be the cause of womens glowing skin during pregnancy due to high levels of progesterone. Excess estrogen on the other hand has been associated with:
- Oxidative stress
I would also like to mention that high levels of estrogen are very often found on the outside of cancerous tumors, creating an almost protective layer surrounding the tumor.
How To Reduce Stress Hormones Mishkanet Com
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How To Test Your Cortisol Levels
A blood, saliva, or urine test can be done to measure your cortisol levels.
Cortisol blood test A cortisol blood test is usually done in the morning when your cortisol levels tend to be at their highest.
Cortisol saliva testA cortisol saliva test can be done at home at multiple points over the course of one day to help build a better picture of your cortisol levels.
Cortisol urine test A cortisol urine test involves collecting all of your urine over the course of a day.
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Hormonal Changes During Stress
In response to stress, the level of various hormones changes. Reactions to stress are associated with enhanced secretion of a number of hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone and prolactin, the effect of which is to increase mobilization of energy sources and adapt the individual to its new circumstance.
What Is The Endocrine System
The endocrine system is in charge of coordinating the relationship between different organs and hormones, which are chemicals that are released into your bloodstream from cells within your endocrine glands.
Hormones are secreted by various glands and organs, including your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, testicles and pancreas. The entire endocrine system works together to control the level of hormones circulating throughout your body, and if one or more is even slightly imbalanced, it can cause widespread health problems affecting growth, sexual development and function, sleep, metabolism and hunger.
Once your hormones are in circulation, they target specific tissues or cells by binding to receptors that are located inside the cell or on its surface. These hormones work as chemical messengers and play a key role in your bodys daily functions.
The endocrine system is made up of many glands, including the pituitary gland or master gland thats responsible for sending information from your brain to other glands in your body. The pituitary gland also produces many hormones that travel throughout the body and have different important functions.
The pituitary gland is made up of two different tissue types: the anterior pituitary that synthesizes and releases classic hormones, and the posterior pituitary gland that secretes neurohormones that are made in the hypothalamus.
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How To Lower Your Stress Hormones Naturally To Beat Anxiety
If you have frequent panic attacks, your lifestyle may be to blame. One word characterizes our lives busy. We fill them with work, family events, and other activities that build anxiety in us. They activate our stress hormones and consequently, create pressure.
We cant avoid these triggers, but we can keep our stress in check. How? Here are some suggestions.
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How Diet Affects Hormones
What are the biggest things in terms of diet that are really throwing our hormones out of whack today?
Definitely its sugar, Dr. Cabeca says. The brain fog, the memory loss, the increased risk of dementia all of that coming into a diet that is too high in sugar and creates insulin resistance so we have a harder time using the glucose that we do have.
The second thing is actually a practice thats so hormonally disruptive to women and men, and that is snacking throughout the day. Three meals, three snacks how did that ever come about?
The snacking habit can wreak havoc on stress because of the way it affects stress hormones. When we snack, it bumps up insulin, which affects the rest of our hormones, and insulin goes up every time we eat. Thus, the more we snack, the more insulin goes up, helping create insulin resistance.
It also creates a roller coaster for hormonal balance, with large fluctuations affecting everything from our moods to gut health and, yes, stress levels.
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Maintain A Moderate Weight
Weight gain is directly associated with hormonal imbalances that may lead to complications in insulin sensitivity and reproductive health.
Obesity is strongly related to the development of insulin resistance, while losing excess weight is linked to improvements in insulin resistance and reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease .
Obesity is also associated with hypogonadism, a reduction or absence of hormone secretion from the testes or ovaries. In fact, this condition is one of the most relevant hormonal complications of obesity in men .
This means obesity is strongly related to lower levels of the reproductive hormone testosterone in men and contributes to a lack of ovulation in women, both of which are common causes of infertility .
Nonetheless, studies indicate that weight loss may reverse this condition. Eating within your own personal calorie range can help you maintain hormonal balance and a moderate weight .
Maintaining a moderate weight is crucial for hormone health, as obesity is strongly related to hormonal imbalances that may impair insulin sensitivity and fertility.
For example, when your gut microbiome ferments fiber, it produces short-chain fatty acids such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate. Both acetate and butyrate aid weight management by increasing calorie burning and thus help prevent insulin resistance (
Here are some tips to improve your gut bacteria to positively affect your hormones.
How To Eat To Beat Stress
Whats the No. 1 thing you can do to get your hormones in balance and keep stress hormones in check?
I consider breaking up with sugar one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself, Dr. Cabeca says.
Here are some other tips she shares:
Practice Intermittent Fasting
There are many benefits of intermittent fasting, and that includes helping manage stress. Going without food for an extended period of time puts the body in ketosis, switching from using glucose to fuel the brain to ketones as brain fuel.
Always try to keep at least four hours between meals because you need to get your body sensitized to glucose again and to insulin again and shift to using ketones for fuel, says Dr. Cabeca.
Follow a Green Keto Diet
There are many ways to do keto. Whats going to create the best metabolic stability, the best hormone balance? Through my own experience with keto thats where I discovered how important the green aspect is, Dr. Cabeca says.
Monitor Urine pH Levels
According to Dr. Cabeca, urine pH levels can show how well were managing stress.
Its as important as our blood pressure, as important as our heart rate, as important as our weight, she says. The more cortisol we secrete, the more acidic our urine pH is. Even vegan, plant-based eaters can be acidic if theyre stressed, if theyre worried, if they are inflamed, if they have too much carbs in their system.
Pinpoint Outside Stressors
Dont Eat Too Late
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Fish Can Boost Your Heart Health While Fending Off Stress
Fight stress and help prevent heart disease by adding seafood to your plate. Fatty fish in particular are a great option because theyre heart-healthy, and their omega-3s may help ease depression because the nutrients easily interact with mood-related brain molecules, according to the Harvard Health Blog. Fatty fish include tuna, halibut, salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and lake trout, according to the American Heart Association.
Not a fish fan? There are other whole-food options, like seaweed, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and fortified food, such as certain brands of eggs, milk, soy milk, and nut milk. You can also try omega-3 supplements in the form of fish oil, which can be found at your local drugstore or grocery store. The Harvard Health Blog noted theyre tied to a lower risk for heart disease and stroke.
Figueroa says fish oil is fine if youre not eating a balanced diet that is rich in omega-3s and includes eating fish at least twice a week. But she cautions that its important to check with your doctor or registered dietitian before beginning a supplement routine, so you can figure out the best brand and dosage for your health goals.
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Limit Consumption Of Certain Food Groups
Just as some foods can help reduce stress, others can increase it. Sugar is one of the most popular nutrients that contribute to inflammation. Consuming too much sugar leads to increased insulin levels. When insulin levels are drastically increased, those levels eventually drop. This is where energy crashes come from.
That constant fluctuation affects mood and emotions. High levels of inflammation and stress cause damage to healthy tissues and hormones. Avoid physical and emotional complications by limiting the following types of foods or nutrients:
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What Causes Hormone Imbalances
The world we live in today is filled with so many things that will affect our hormones and how well they remain balanced throughout the dayâ hint: stress is one of the biggest influencers on our hormones. Other factors that may contribute to a hormone imbalance are medications, diet, environmental toxins, exercise and many more!
Focusing on implementing a new practice daily for 7 days is the best way to start supporting your hormones in the journey of achieving natural hormone balance.
Hormones are there to help us, and they give our bodies cues on what to do and when. They will control how we feel , what we eat , how much energy we have in a day for work, play and everything else in between. When our hormones start to get out of balance it can have serious impact on the way we live our lives. It can make us feel out of control, anxious and/or just plain depressed.
Our constant exposure to toxins and chemicals can get our hormones seriously out of whack. The good news is that there are many ways we can help our bodies naturally reset our hormones back to a balanced state. To reset your hormones, you will need to address the root cause of your issues and get back in balance. It all starts with a hormone reset diet, lifestyle and exercise regime.
Are you ready to take the challenge and naturally balance your hormones over the next 7 days?
Now, lets break down some of the daily habits well be covering in the challenge: