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 have confronted or escaped the danger. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society - it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.
You have 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 this post contains nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!
Nutrition strategies to lower cortisol
Let’s start with one of the biggest nutritional contributor to increases in cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health, both for our mind and body.
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. Try to avoid caffeinated foods and beverages past noon.
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. That means favouring unpackaged and unprocessed foods.
Lower your cortisol levels with green tea and dark chocolate containing at least 75% dark to avoid too much sugar. This is also an antioxidant-packed snack!
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 are eating probiotic-rich fermented foods, like grass-fed yogurt or sauerkraut, and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber, found, for example, in unripe bananas, onion and garlic.
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.
Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.
Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.
Prioritizing moments of relaxation is of utmost importance. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
Be social and bust loneliness. Scientific studies have 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, green 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, make sure to relax, and have more fun.
In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!