“When your stress cortisol hormone levels are high enough, they’ve documented that looking at a doughnut actually changes your metabolism.”– Christine Northrup, M.D.
There are numerous ways to keep your stress levels at bay, aside from boosting metabolism and controlling cravings.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex in the adrenal glands and is our bodies primary “stress hormone”.
Cortisol is technically a glucocorticoid, a class of steroid hormones produced naturally. While most of us link cortisol in negative terms, it is actually helping in keeping us active, motivated, productive and in general, alive.
However, abnormally high levels of cortisol are indeed a bad thing, causing high blood pressure, weight gain and acne. It can indeed lead to multiple long-term health problems.
The two main sources of high cortisol levels are long-term use of corticosteroids and chronic stress. Synthetic corticosteroids are usually prescribed to people who don’t have the ability to produce enough of the hormone naturally. They are also prescribed to treat electrolyte imbalances, inflammation and immune system disorders.
Lowering Cortisol Levels Naturally
Now that we understand the pros and cons of cortisol, let’s talk about it in depth.
7 Ways To Naturally Lower Your Stress Hormones
1. Eat A Whole Food, Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Badly managed blood sugar levels, such as low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), can contribute to high cortisol levels and general hormonal imbalances.
An anti-inflammatory diet is high in fiber, essential nutrients and antioxidants, maintaining the hormonal homeostasis, controlling cravings and strengthening adrenal functions.
2. Regular Exercise
According to a study by Harvard Medical School, a huge benefit is to have a 30-60 minutes of regular exercise, 4-5 times a week.
Regular exercise enables our bodies to have a better handle on stress by keeping the nervous system healthy, which is responsible for controlling stress and relaxation responses. Eventually, having a workout routine will allow your body to be more efficient at controlling and managing its cortisol levels, making you feel good and keeping your healthy.
3. Adaptogen Herbs And “Superfoods”
Adaptogen herbs help fight off cortisol levels in numerous important ways.
As a start, adaptogens have a potent antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial properties, which al help balance your hormones and reduce inflammation.
Second, they possess natural antidepressant properties, which helps in maintaining natural energy levels while also regulating blood pressure.
Here’s a short list of favorite adaptogens and superfoods:
- licorice root
- cordyceps mushrooms
- holy basil
- resishi mushrooms
4. Reduce Stress When Possible
As Dr. Josh Axe says: “Chronic stress is now linked with just about every health problem out there (affecting) most people to at least some degree and (impacting health) by sending chemical signals around the body…”
Dr. Axe goes on to explain that the following stress relievers are proven to lower cortisol and decrease stress:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Spending time outdoors
- Meditation or mindfulness practice
5. Prioritize Sleep
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S’s leading public health organization, has put the “Epidemic” label on sleep deprivation.
Controlling cortisol production and rebalancing the hormone levels can be easily done, all you need is to get the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis to reset our circadian rhythm.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), another expert organization, has recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults for several years.
6. Try Essential Oils
Dr. Axe states, “Essential oils, including lavender, myrrh, frankincense, and bergamot, contain potent, active ingredients that have been shown to naturally reduce cortisol, reduce inflammation, improve immunity, and help with sleep and digestive functions.”
Who is Dr. Axe, anyway? He is a licensed physician and, aside from Dr. (Mehmet) Oz and Dr. Mark Hyman, is one of the biggest proponents of natural based on scientific evidence.
7. Get A Massage
Science shows us that massage therapy could lower cortisol levels by as much as 50%. A study on WebMD says that massage therapy could have a useful effect for depression patients as well.
A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, patients suffering from a spinal cord injury and depression, when receiving a massage showed sign of diminishing their depression compared to the group on calisthenics. Patients received 40 minute massages three times per week.