How to Naturally Lower the Stress Hormone: Cortisol
The 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 thenreturn to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, since that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. Our bodies get stuck in this chronic crisis of fight or flight…and, often, with negative effects.
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 lowered immunity?
Do you experience any of these? If so, read on because we 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). If you’re having trouble getting off the sugar wagon, we wrote a few tips here.
High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, cutting back on the amount of caffeine you ingest can help. Locally-roasted Simpatico Coffee has a wonderful decaf that’s low acid (more gentle on the stomach) and is made into decaf the most healthy way using Mountain Water Processing, not chemicals. It tastes amazing and is a great way to get your coffee fix with less jitters – remember there is still caffeine in it…just less.
Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if it’s hot out, you’ve been sweating, or 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, as we mentioned in our this Tuesday / Tip, 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 like kefir or saurkraut (or at least taking a probiotic capsule) and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber – think lots of fruits and veggies. If you’re not getting 7-13 servings of a variety of fruits and veggies every single day (anyone?!), consider taking raw fruits and veggies ground up and put into capsules called Juice Plus+ instead of a synthetic multi-vitamin.
Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol
It’s not just food – 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. You might know by now that we’re kinda big on this one. Admittedly for most, however; this is the hardest! Prayer, affirmations and just being still can go a long way to helping you move to Level 2 Thinking.
Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels – a great thing! Supplementing your intense gym days with long, slow walks also helps to create a better balance. This is why our members who are participating in our 12-week consistency challenge called SummerStrong earn points for going on slow, gentle walks, ideally in nature. Research shows wonderful effects hormonally when you do this.
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. Here’s more info we recently wrote on how to get good, restorative sleep.
Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
Be social and bust loneliness. Science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness, so 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. Have more water, fruit, veggies, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.
Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise by combining muscle-building strength movements + happy-hormone-producing slow walks, get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.
Recipe (High fiber prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding
2 ripe avocados
¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 dash salt
Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavor and even more nutrition.