Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?
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 symptoms? Well, then keep reading because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone and reduce these symptoms! Best of all, these solutions are natural!
Foods and nutrients 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. You can also read more about whether coffee is something you should consider avoiding in my blog post over here. You can lower your cortisol levels with decaffienated tea and a little bit of dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!).
Being dehydrated also increases cortisol. Be sure that you’re drinking enough water every day, even moreso if you feel thirsty as that can typically be a sign of dehydration.
Eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods won’t just help reduce stress hormone, it will help ALL aspects of your health!
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. For more info on improving your gut health, check out this blog post.
Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol
It’s not just food that you can utilize to reduce your cortisol – there are things you can do with your time that can help too!
Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol. Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol. You may also find guided meditations helpful if being quiet and mindful is a challenge for you. I really enjoy the app “Insight Timer” for some great, free meditations of all sorts!
Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While exercise can temporarily increase cortisol levels, it can reduce overall cortisol levels over the long term.
Get enough sleep! Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many other ways. For more on sleep and how it can impact your overall health, check out this blog post or you can check out this blog post for some ideas on how to improve the quality of your sleep.
Be social and get away from loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has actually shown that there are legit health risks associated with 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. Luckily 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!
In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!