Stressed? Learn Ways to Naturally Lower Your Stress Hormone Cortisol
In today's world its causes are everywhere. It may sometimes feel inescapable. You are not alone.
Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society - it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.
You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.
Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?
Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!
Foods and nutrients (to add or remove) to lower cortisol:
Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).
High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.
Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn't just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health. Avocados, olives, coconut oil, chia seeds, ground flax, nuts & seeds are all great sources of good fats that keep you full, don't spike blood sugar levels and help with brain function and health. Other go to's are vegetables, berries, green apples (these fruits are lower in sugar), fermented foods like kimchi and kombucha, and herbal teas instead of coffee.
Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.
Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber. Kombucha and Kimchi were mentioned above as food sources of fermented foods, for more info on pre and probiotics check out this post from Dietitians of Canada.
Lifestyle Factors to Reduce Cortisol
It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.
Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol. Try incorporating Meditation, Yoga, and being aware of your thoughts and how you react to situations. You have a choice in how you react. Choose to see the bright side and know it will be okay.
Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.
Get enough sleep!
Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated! Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways. You need at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night! You process the things and information you take in during the day while you sleep and you create memories and piece together solutions to problems while you sleep. This is crucial to being a functional healthy person while awake. For example, does a problem ever seem SO big before going to bed and when you wake up it's not so bad? This is your brain working things out for you at night! This is a big one guys. For more info check out "Why We Sleep" by Matthew Walker, this book will change your perspective on sleep and your health! You can look him up on YouTube too!
Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.
In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.
Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.
Recipe (High fiber prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding
3 ripe avocados
¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 dash salt
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.