Swap Intense Workouts For Gentle Exercise
The length and intensity of your workouts can have a big impact on your cortisol levels. High intensity exercise, around 80 percent of your maximal oxygen uptake, even when done for just 30 minutes significantly elevates cortisol levels. Consistent long-duration exercise can also raise your cortisol level.
When scientists studied the cortisol concentrations in the hair of endurance athletes, they found higher concentrations than in non-endurance athletes. Lower intensity workouts on the other hand, like yoga, can reduce cortisol levels by deactivating the stress response, increasing parasympathetic activity, and decreasing norepinephrine.
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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.
Regular Excess Alcohol And High Caffeine Consumption
Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis can cause cortisol levels to rise. One study involving over 3,600 men and women found that alcohol consumption increased cortisol secretion in the body. The increased cortisol levels happen because alcohol affects the HPA axis.
Caffeine also increases cortisol secretion in people at rest or people undergoing mental stress.
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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.
Proven Ways To Lower Cortisol Naturally
- The best ways to lower cortisol include practicing relaxation techniques, improving your diet, getting enough sleep, and caring for a pet.
- You can also relieve stress by dedicating time to activities that promote happiness, such as building a social support network, spending time outside, exercising, or trying to make yourself laugh.
- This article was medically reviewed by Sarah C. McEwen, PhD, Director of Research and Programming for Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint Johnâs Health Center and Associate Professor of Translational Neurosciences and Neurotherapeutics at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA.
- Visit Insiderâs Health Reference library for more advice.
Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone, often called the stress hormone, that plays a key role in your bodyâs stress response. It is also known as the âfight or flightâ hormone, helping you manage stressful or dangerous situations.
When your brain perceives a threat, like a car suddenly stopping in front of you on the freeway or an unexpected noise in your house, it sends a signal to your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline to tell you to escape or prepare for conflict. This release of hormones can cause your heart rate to increase, your breathing to quicken, and your muscles to tense.
Finding healthy ways to deal with stress can help lower cortisol levels and regulate your bodyâs stress response. Hereâs five ways to do it.
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Keep Cortisol Low At The Right Times
As youâve learned, timing is everything when regulating your cortisol rhythm. You want it high to jumpstart your day and low later on to welcome sleep more effortlessly.
If you already experience an out-of-whack cortisol rhythm, we feel you. Anyone caught in the vicious cycles of sleep loss, chronic stress, and circadian misalignment often feels at a loss about the starting point for reducing their cortisol levels. Before you resort to medical interventions, good sleep hygiene and stress management techniques are your best bet when deciding how to lower cortisol volume.
Thatâs where the RISE app can help. It features 16 science-based habits tied to your unique chronobiology to help you make wise sleep-related choices. This, in turn, keeps you circadianally aligned and your sleep debt low to ward off cortisol overload.
Need more proof that this is the only app you need to feel and function at your best? 80% of RISE users feel the benefits within five days in terms of improved productivity, performance, and well-being.
Avoid Artificial Light In The Evenings
Artificial light from TVs, phones, and computers disrupts your circadian rhythm and will reduce melatonin production . Messing up your circadian rhythm makes you feel tired andmesses with your cortisol curve. Avoid all blue light at least 1-2 hours before bed.
Most phones, computers, and tablets can be set to night mode, which removes the blue light. Or even better yet, avoid using screens all together before bed and do other relaxing activities.
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The Natural Timeline Of Cortisol Production
Before we get into the fine print of how to lower cortisol levels, we first have to know where this stress hormone is manufactured in your body. In which case, look toward the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis . The HPA axis is a complex biological system encompassing the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands .
Cortisol follows its own circadian rhythm, scientifically known as the cortisol rhythm. When your cortisol rhythm is properly functioning, your bodyâs cortisol production timeline looks like this:
- In the early morning hours, your body temperature increases ever so slightly . This minute change is enough to ramp up your bodyâs levels of cortisol, activating the cortisol awakening response . For that same reason, cortisol is also colloquially known as the alertness-promoting hormone.
- After jolting you into wakefulness in the early morning, your bodyâs release of cortisol surges for 30-45 minutes before gradually quieting down as the day wears on.
- Cortisol concentration then reaches its low point around midnight. Two to three hours after youâve fallen asleep, your body resumes cortisol production until its peak in the early morning, when the cycle repeats itself.
In essence, a healthy cortisol rhythm surges in the early morning before ebbing once itâs past the late morning hours.
Can You Manage Cortisol Levels On Your Own
The good news is that if your doctor informs you that your cortisol levels arent at an ideal level, you can take steps to get your numbers where they could be. According to Dr. Singh, some simple ways to promote optimal cortisol levels include:
- Follow a regular sleep routine every night to increase your chances of getting enough deep sleep.
- Do cardiovascular and strength training exercise on a regular basis.
- Bring stress down with a practice such as daily mindfulness meditation and/or deep breathing exercises.
- Reduce caffeine intake as much as possible.
- Maintain an active social life filled with healthy hobbies and relationships.
The bottom line: Talk to your doctor if you think your cortisol levels are off so that you can get an accurate diagnosis and management plan.
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What Happens When The Body Secretes Too Little Cortisol
Please dialHOTLINE for more information or register for an appointment HERE. Download MyVinmec app to make appointments faster and receive 15% off for consultation fee at the first appointment . MyVinmec app is also available and convenient for your bookings management andTelehealth service with Vinmec doctors all in one.
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
You should avoid foods that have been heavily processed and pumped full of added chemicals and sugars if you’re looking for how to lower your cortisol levels. “One way to combat high cortisol levels, stress, and weight gain is to reduce simple sugars,” says Balk. The main foods that fall under this high-sugar category include:
While these sugary goodies might give you a temporary jolt of energy Balk suggests focusing on other sources of energy. “As your body still needs to receive sugar to fuel itself, focus on having complex carbohydrates rather than simple sugars.” Jim White RD, ACSM, and the owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios adds that fiber-rich foods, protein, and healthy fats will also help keep your cortisol levels within the normal range.
Foods to combat stress and lower cortisol include:
- starchy vegetables
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It Can Have Negative Consequences
In the short-term, cortisol stimulates the fight-or-flight response, which is critical for survival. However, it also suppresses the immune system, which can lead to greater susceptibility to infection and illness. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can have negative health effects including a higher risk of heart disease, depression, and cognitive impairment.
Ashwagandha Supplement To Reduce Cortisol
Ashwagandha is a good supplement to provide support during times of emotional or mental stress. Because of this, ashwagandha supplementation can help reduce cortisol levels.
One study found that taking 300 mg of ashwagandha 2 times a day can help to reduce cortisol levels. In the study, the ashwagandha supplement was able to significantly lower cortisol levels without causing any adverse side effects.
Learn more about the proven benefits and uses of ashwagandha.
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Is Cortisol A Stress Hormone
Cortisol is widely known as the stress hormone. However, it has many important effects and functions throughout your body aside from regulating your bodys stress response.
Its also important to remember that, biologically speaking, there are multiple different kinds of stress, including:
- Acute stress: Acute stress happens when youre in sudden danger within a short period of time. For example, barely avoiding a car accident or being chased by an animal are situations that cause acute stress.
- Chronic stress: Chronic stress happens when you experience ongoing situations that cause frustration or anxiety. For example, having a difficult or frustrating job or having a chronic illness can cause chronic stress.
- Traumatic stress: Traumatic stress happens when you experience a life-threatening event that induces fear and a feeling of helplessness. For example, experiencing an extreme weather event, such as a tornado, or experiencing war or sexual assault can cause traumatic stress. In some cases, these events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder .
Your body releases cortisol when you experience any of these types of stress.
Avoid Or Limit Alcohol Intake When You’re Stressed
Because alcohol often puts people at ease and makes them feel relaxed, you might think that it has the ability to lower cortisol levels. In fact, the exact opposite is true. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that men who had just one drink a week saw a three percent rise in their cortisol levels, and those levels can be even higher if you’re under a tremendous amount of pressure.
“We see people using alcohol to help relax however, alcohol is a depressant. While yes, in the moment you may feel ‘better,’ alcohol causes several issues that appear later on,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living.
“Also, alcohol can also depress your mood. Couple a depressed mood with stress and you may find yourself in a terrible rut,” she adds. “Alcohol can also disrupt deep sleep, so not only will you be hungover after a night of drinking, but you may also feel sick and lack a good night’s sleep!”
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Exercise But Avoid Overdoing It
There is a delicate balance between exercise and cortisol levels. Moderate or vigorous exercise regularly and increasing daily movement can help to improve emotional resilience which can, in turn, reduce cortisol levels .However, engaging in repeated bouts of high-intensity activity with little to no recovery time in between can have the opposite effect and raise cortisol levels. While exercise is a powerful tool in stress management, it is important to prioritize recovery as well .
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.”
Do Things That Make You Happy
Whether its connecting with friends and family or trying out a new hobby, spending time doing things that make you genuinely happy may help reduce stress and lower cortisol levels. Improving your disposition to become more positive can be a big part of improving your overall health. Studies show that positive affect can not only decrease cortisol, but also improve heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammatory markers. One study even found that laughter can decrease stress.
S To Get Your Cortisol Levels Under Control & Turn Down The Stress
Do you find yourself overly stressed, tired and even notice weight gain despite not changing your diet or workout frequency? Your cortisol levels may be out of whack. More specifically, they may be too high.
Cortisol is often called the primary stress hormone because its one of the main hormones we release when were under any sort of pressure and our evolutionary-based fight or flight response kicks into gear. Although most think of cortisol as a bad thing such as contributing to acne, weight gain or high blood pressure theres actually a lot more to cortisol levels than just our stress response and its unwanted symptoms. We need it to live.
While producing cortisol is a necessity for life and helps keep us motivated, awake and responsive to our environment, maintaining abnormally high circulating cortisol levels can become dangerous and contribute to long-term problems. Long-term use of corticosteroids and chronic stress are two of the biggest contributors to high cortisol. Chronic, high cortisol production is tied to symptoms and ailments including weight gain, anxiety, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances and fertility problems, in addition to many other problems.
The good news is there are many natural ways to get your cortisol levels in check. For instance, adaptogen herbs are known to lower cortisol, and thats just the tip of the iceberg. Read on for more ways to lower high cortisol levels naturally.
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Which Herbal Supplements Should You Choose
Adaptogen herbs are plants that help the body resist physical, chemical and biological stressors. Below are a few supplements we recommend.
Ashwagandha is an Indian herb used as a nervine tonic, which calms the nerves. Its an important herb of Ayurveda and is well-known for its wide range of health benefits. Often referred to as Indian ginseng or Winter cherry, Ashwagandha is used for immune system regulation and easing anxiety.Ashwagandha is also used to treat asthma and cancer. Further studies are being conducted exploring its effectiveness for enhancing memory, promoting reproductive balance and aiding the bodys resistance to stress.
Ashwagandha is available in capsule, pill, powder or elixir forms and its safe for all ages the suggested dose is 300 mg twice daily.
Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is an aromatic shrub and comes from the basil family. For centuries, Holy basil has been effective in addressing physical, chemical and psychological stressors. It can protect tissues and organs from pollutants and heavy metals, and help reduce physical stress, particularly stress connected to prolonged exertion. Holy basil can also help manage blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels. It has anti-depressant properties and may help improve brain and memory function.Holy basil can be taken in capsule, essential oil or tea forms the suggested dosage is 600 mg multiple times/day.
Natural Ways To Lower Your Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is a stress hormone the adrenal glands release. It helps your body deal with stressful situations, as your brain triggers its release through the sympathetic nervous system the fight or flight system in response to many different kinds of stress .
While the short-term release of cortisol can help you run quickly from danger, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt you more than it helps .
Over time, this can lead to an array of health issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, insomnia or difficulty sleeping, mood irregularities, and low energy levels (
This article discusses 11 ways to help naturally lower your cortisol levels.
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How To Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally 6 Steps
You can greatly help manage cortisol levels and regain your health by changing your diet, exercise routine, sleep and stress levels. Assuming you havent been diagnosed with Cushings disease by your doctor, here are steps you can take to help lower high cortisol levels naturally:
1. Switch to a Whole Foods, Anti-inflammatory Diet
Poorly managed blood sugar levels and high levels of inflammation can contribute to high cortisol levels and other hormonal imbalances. Following an anti-inflammatory diet low in processed foods and high in antioxidants, fiber and essential nutrients is key to balancing hormones, controlling your cravings and getting you on the right track. These same strategies can also help with adrenal support, allowing you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, boosting energy during the day and helping you sleep better at night.
Some of the most significant dietary contributors to inflammation and high cortisol levels include:
- high-sugar, high-glycemic diet
- consuming high amounts of refined and trans fats
- drinking too much caffeine and alcohol
- experiencing insufficient intake of micronutrients and antioxidants
- not consuming enough fiber
- not consuming enough healthy fats or protein
2. Reduce and Manage Stress
Fortunately, stress management is something you can begin without too much trouble. The natural stress relievers listed below are proven to help lower cortisol and decrease the negative impact stress has on your health:
3. Exercise Regularly