How to Naturally Lower Stress Hormone (Cortisol)
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?
And as for losing weight or body fat, if your stress level is chronically high then you’ll have more cortisol in your system. This higher cortisol will cause a higher appetite for junk food which will result in more belly fat. And worst of all, this junk food becomes comfort food for stress reduction and can become a nasty little habit.
Nutrition habits can be changed, and negative effects usually reversed, but it takes time.
I have a nutrition coaching program that is guaranteed to help you lose weight and learn to eat healthily.
Do you experience any of these chronic stress or high cortisol symptoms? 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 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).
Pro Tip: Take control of a sugar habit with the help of this free 5-day Sugar-free Challenge that includes recipes and meal plans.
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 hormones, it helps all aspects of your health.
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.
Lifestyle techniques to lower 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.
Taking time to unplug also reduces stress. Try taking a 5-minute meditation break each day, any time that works for you is good. Some people do it at bedtime to help them with that final relaxation before going to sleep.
Pro-tip: I really like two apps for meditation. I like Calm and Headspace. I can set the time from 3 to 10 minutes and pick a theme that applies at the moment. Give them a try. Both are free to get started with so you can see if it’s something that would work for you.
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.
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 there are 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. 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 (don’t overdo this one), 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.
Reach out for help to change your nutrition and exercise habits. If you don’t know what else to try and nothing so far has worked for you, click here to set up a time for us to talk so we can come up with a solution together.
In the comments below, let me know your favorite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!