How To Lower Cortisol Naturally To Boost Your Well
So, how to lower cortisol levels naturally when you need to?
You may have heard that certain foods like dark chocolate and green tea decrease cortisol supply. The same can be said for an anti-inflammatory, healthy diet comprising unprocessed foods like whole grains and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
That said, what you eat doesnât make up the entirety of your game plan on how to lower cortisol when you want it low . Instead, itâs very much about positive lifestyle changes in the form of healthy sleep hygiene and stress reduction techniques.
How To Restore Your Cortisol Balance
You might now be thinking of cortisol as a frenemy, especially if youve experienced any of the problem patterns described above. Heres the good news: There are concrete ways to befriend the hormone and normalize your levels, says Gottfried none of which requires a trip to the pharmacy. When it comes to controlling cortisol, basic lifestyle and supplement strategies powerfully effective for most people, she says.
Read on for tactics that can help you get your cortisol levels in check.
What Do Cortisol Test Results Mean
The outcome of cortisol testing can indicate several different things. Your healthcare provider will explain your results and what they mean.
High levels of cortisol might indicate:
- Effects of large amounts of certain medications.
- Tumor in your pituitary gland thats producing adrenocorticotropic hormone , which stimulates the production of cortisol.
- Tumor in your adrenal gland thats producing too much cortisol.
- Tumor elsewhere in your body, such as small cell lung cancer.
Low levels of cortisol might indicate:
- Tumor in your pituitary gland tumor that slows ACTH production.
- Underactive or damaged adrenal glands.
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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.
Are There Foods That Reduce Cortisol
Yes, no and maybe. Some research suggests that foods like tea, chocolate and fish oils might lower cortisol. But such studies tend to be small and not very conclusive, Dr. Lin says.
Youre unlikely to balance cortisol levels by adding anchovies to your pizza or scarfing a block of chocolate, she says. But good nutrition can make a difference.
Cortisol interacts with neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that send signals in the brain. Neurotransmitters play an important role in mood. And cortisol isnt the only compound that influences them. To make those neurotransmitters, you need all the raw ingredients: vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, Dr. Lin says.
The best way to get them is with a balanced, plant-heavy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, she adds. A healthy diet is the underpinning of stress management.
A balanced meal plan can ensure youre getting the nutrients your body needs. And talk to your doctor about taking a basic multivitamin. Its a good insurance policy to make sure youre not deficient in any vitamins, Dr. Lin says.
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Tend To Your Spirituality
If you consider yourself spiritual, developing your faith can also help improve cortisol levels.
Studies show that adults who expressed spiritual faith experienced lower cortisol levels in the face of life stressors such as illness (
If you do not consider yourself spiritual, these benefits may also be available through meditation, developing a social support group, and performing acts of kindness .
For those with spiritual inclinations, developing faith and participating in prayer can help manage cortisol. Whether youre spiritual or not, performing acts of kindness can also improve your 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.
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Natural Ways To Lower Cortisol
In many cases, the brain and adrenal glands can regulate cortisol on their own. When stress has gone away, the body will stop making cortisol and the levels will return to normal.
However, people with chronic stress, certain medical conditions, or who take certain medications can have cortisol levels that are higher than usual. They may want to try some techniques for lowering cortisol, such as:
Here Are 10 Ways To Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally:
1. Get regular, quality sleep
Quality sleep is essential for good health and proper cortisol levels. While it may seem odd, its necessary to create a regular sleep schedule and stick to it, even on the weekends. Most people need anywhere from 6 to 9 hours of quality sleep every night.
2. Exercise regularly
It can be hard to prioritize regular exercise, but the benefits far outweigh the amount of time it takes to make it happen. Exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day can help reduce stress and lower cortisol levels. For others, vigorous exercise a few times a week is all thats needed.
Whats most important is starting off whatever exercise regimen you choose slowly to allow the body to adjust. Stamina and lower cortisol and stress levels will definitely improve over time.
3. Maintain a clean and healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy diet of lean proteins, fresh vegetables and fruits is an excellent way to reduce cortisol. These are foods that help the body sustain exercise and recover from workouts.
Avoiding sugar and sweets also keeps the body from going through spikes in blood sugar, which can affect stress and mood.
Many of the same foods that boost serotonin also lower cortisol levels with the same effect of minimizing stress and anxiety.
4. Avoid or limit alcohol
The other problem with alcohol is that it can be habit forming, meaning people may begin to rely on it as a way to relieve stress, when in actuality it will end up having the opposite effect.
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How Does My Body Control Cortisol Levels
Your body has an elaborate system to regulate your cortisol levels.
Your hypothalamus, a small area of your brain involved in hormonal regulation, and your pituitary gland, a tiny gland located below your brain, regulate the production of cortisol in your adrenal glands. When the levels of cortisol in your blood fall, your hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone , which directs your pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone . ACTH then stimulates your adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol.
In order to have optimal levels of cortisol in your body, your hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands must all be functioning properly.
The Best Supplements To Reduce Cortisol
Since cortisol reduction doesnt garner the same attention as something like testosterone production, there arent a lot of supplements on the market to regulate cortisol production.
Fortunately for us, there are a few quality supplements on the market that can help us get our cortisol levels in check. The best of these supplements incorporate all-natural ingredients clinically proven to reduce cortisol levels.
When researching supplements to regulate cortisol levels, look for the following ingredients. These have all been clinically shown to reduce the physiological changes cortisol brings.
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Addisons Disease And Adrenal Insufficiency
Addisons disease, also called primary adrenal insufficiency, is a rare disorder. It occurs when your adrenal glands produce too little cortisol. This disease can be caused by:
Secondary adrenal insufficiency is more common than Addisons disease. If your pituitary gland is functioning as it should, it releases ACTH, which in turn signals your adrenal glands to make cortisol when your body needs it.
But with secondary adrenal insufficiency, theres a problem with your pituitary gland. As a result, your adrenal glands dont receive the signal to make cortisol when you need it. If your adrenal glands dont get that message, they may eventually shrink.
Disrupted cortisol levels dont only impact your ability to sleep. They can also affect other aspects of your health. For instance, disrupted cortisol levels can cause:
- changes in your metabolism
Balancing your cortisol levels can take time. While youre working on it, here are some ways you can aim for a better nights rest:
What Are Normal Cortisol Levels
The level of cortisol in your blood, urine and saliva normally peaks in the early morning and declines throughout the day, reaching its lowest level around midnight. This pattern can change if you work a night shift and sleep at different times of the day.
For most tests that measure cortisol levels in your blood, the normal ranges are:
- 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.: 10 to 20 micrograms per deciliter .
- Around 4 p.m.: 3 to 10 mcg/dL.
Normal ranges can vary from lab to lab, time to time and person to person. If you need to get a cortisol level test, your healthcare provider will interpret your results and let you know if you need to get further testing.
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How Is Cushings Syndrome Treated
The Cleveland Clinic says if you have very high levels of cortisol and your doctor diagnoses Cushings syndrome, medical treatment is necessary. But the type of treatment you need will depend on the root cause. For example, the Mayo Clinic says if the disease was caused by medication, then your doctor may lower the dosage to see if your symptoms improve.
If the disease is caused by a tumor, then surgery will likely be necessary to remove it. The recovery process requires cortisol replacement medication until your adrenal hormone production returns to normal. However, the source notes that this can take up to a year , and in some cases, the patient may need lifelong replacement therapy. Radiation therapy may also be necessary with surgery if the surgeon isnt able to remove the tumor completely.
Finally, the source also notes that medication may be a suitable treatment option for Cushings syndrome. To determine which treatment option is best for you, its important to follow the advice of your medical team.
High Cortisol Levels Throughout The Day
Cortisol spikes in response to stressors like work deadlines, environmental pollution, and inadequate sleep. Ongoing high levels of cortisol can be caused by too much coffee, a lack of carbs throughout the day, or an intensive focus on schedules. If cortisol levels stay elevated, youre wired but your adrenals are getting tired. It feels like:
- Youre constantly behind schedule and racing to catch up.
- Youre exhausted and hyper at the same time.
- People comment on how fast you talk.
- Youre easily irritated and feel little enthusiasm for anything.
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Signs Your Cortisol Levels Are Too High
There are numerous general symptoms that may be linked to too much cortisol. Dr. Dlott provides a list:
Weight gainprimarily in the midsection
While rare, high levels of cortisol can also lead to a hormonal disorder known as Cushings syndrome, which is most commonly caused by steroid medications but can also be caused by a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal glands. Some common symptoms include a rounded and rosy face, increased fat in the upper back, extreme fatigue, high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels, kidney stones, weak bones, thinning of the skin, bruising, and slow healing, says Dr. Dlott.
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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How Does A Cortisol Test Work
Cortisol can be measured in the blood, urine, saliva or a combination. Your healthcare provider will tell you which test they recommend for you.
- Blood test: In an office, clinic or lab, a healthcare provider inserts a thin needle into a vein in your arm. The needle collects a small sample of blood into a tube. You might feel a slight sting when the needle goes in.
- Saliva test: You or a healthcare provider puts a swab in your mouth and waits a few minutes until the swab is saturated with spit. If you do the test yourself at home, your healthcare provider will give you a special kit. Theyll tell you what time to perform the test and how to return the sample.
- Urine test: Your healthcare provider gives you a container to collect your pee. Most urinary cortisol tests collect all the pee you produce in 24 hours. Your healthcare provider may ask you to store the urine in a cold place, then return it to their office or a lab.
You may need to repeat cortisol testing twice in one day or multiple times over several days because cortisol levels vary.
Cortisol And Stress: The Basics
Cortisol is one of several hormones the body produces naturally. Cortisol levels do go up when youre stressed. But it doesnt deserve its bad rap.
Cortisol supports overall health, Dr. Lin says. It helps us wake up, gives us energy during the day and lowers at night to help us sleep and rest.
The problem arises when chronic stress keeps cortisol levels high for the long haul. High cortisol levels over weeks or months can lead to inflammation and a host of mental and physical health problems, from anxiety to weight gain to heart disease.
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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.
Other Effects Of Cortisol
Some physical effects of cortisol unrelated to fight or flight include:
Controlling salt and water balance.
Acting as an anti-inflammatory.
Helping you wake up in the morning.
Regulating immune system function.
Cortisol release is controlled by a feedback system between your brains hypothalamus gland, the , and the adrenal gland, which together constitute the HPA axis . The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are responsible for ensuring that your blood contains the correct level of cortisol. If its too low or too high, the brain sends signals to the adrenal glands to make more or less.
Once a perceived threat has passed, your cortisol levels should return to normal, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to regulate and your digestion and other body systems to restart. However, in our stress-laden, fast-paced culture, cortisol can remain chronically high. This can cause a variety of health problems, as we discuss below.
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