Lowering Cortisol Levels Naturally

Cortisol is a hormone released during the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress. Cortisol prepares the body for physical danger by releasing glucose into the bloodstream, improving the brain’s use of glucose, and increasing the availability of tissue repairing substances. Cortisol also curbs bodily functions that are not essential in emergency situations, such as the immune, digestive, and reproductive systems. Prolonged high cortisol can be detrimental to almost all of the body’s processes and can have serious consequences such as heart disease, obesity, depression, and interference with cognitive abilities such as memory and learning.

Severe cases of prolonged high cortisol, such as in major depression, can cause neurotoxicity and brain damage. The condition known as hyper-cortisolemia can destroy cells in the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebellum. Prolonged untreated cases of stress and depression can lead to the onset of more serious conditions such as incurable depression and bipolar disorder. While anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications are treatments commonly recommended by medical doctors, here are some ways to attempt to lower cortisol levels naturally.

Identify Cortisol Triggers

The first step in reducing cortisol is identifying the particular stressors in your life that are triggering the release of cortisol so that you can eliminate them. Among some common triggers are lack of adequate sleep, over exercising, and dieting.

Consume Protein at Each Meal

The longer you go without food the more your glycogen reserves get depleted, and protein helps to build these reserves. Incorporate protein into each meal. Eat breakfast that contains protein, as your brain is particularly depleted of its glycogen reserves after sleeping.  Also, inadequate protein intake can disturb sleep which can lead to a spike in cortisol.

Eat Healthy

Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates, which can cause spikes in insulin production and evoke a stress response. Eat balanced meals consisting of protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats like olive oil and flax seed oil. Diets rich in complex carbohydrates keep cortisol levels lower than low carb diets. Don’t buy into fad diets and don’t let food and eating become a source of stress.

Eat Often

Cortisol levels begin to rise after 5 hours without food. Aim to eat 5 or 6 times daily. Do not diet or overly restrict calories or certain foods. Researchers at Yale University and the University of British Columbia found that women with high levels of “cognitive dietary restraint” (putting a lot of mental energy into restricting certain foods) had significantly higher cortisol levels, bigger appetites, increased consumption of sweets, more negative moods, and higher body-fat levels – even despite getting more exercise.

Drink Water

Dehydration can induce a stress response and spike cortisol levels. Drink water first thing in the morning, as you become dehydrated during sleep. Try not to drink water an hour before bedtime in order to prevent waking up to go to the bathroom which interrupts sleep.

Exercise Moderately

Exercise helps build muscle mass and increase the brain’s output of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression. But minimize Prolonged Physical Activity. After an hour of exercise your body’s testosterone levels decline and cortisol begins to rise. Keep workouts to under an hour and do not train more than 2 days in a row.

Avoid Stimulants

Do not consume caffeine-containing coffee, tea, green tea, energy drinks, appetite suppressants, or medications such as Excedrin and Midol. Caffeine directly stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and interferes with sleep. Avoid herbal stimulants such as  ma muang, guarana, synaphrine (zhi shi), yohimbe, quebracho, coleus, and of course ephedrine and amphetamines.

Improve Your Sleep

Ensure a regular sleep pattern: be in bed before 10:30pm and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid exposure to light for a two hour period before bedtime, particularly blue light emitted by electronics such as TVs, laptops, ipads, and blackberries. If evening electronics are necessary, use a blue light filter on the screen. If sleep aids are necessary, take natural forms such as chamomile tea and melatonin. Melatonin can help you sleep deeper and lengthen the sleep cycle. For assistance waking, try a light box that simulates the sun rise instead of a jarring alarm clock.

Stress Reducing Supplements Shown to Lower Cortisol

Glutamine

Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in muscle cells and it preserves muscle by reducing cortisol levels. In addition, it offers other properties such as an increase in muscle cell volume, increased protein synthesis, enhanced immune function, and increased glycogen replenishment after a workout. Take 5 grams 3 times daily, including before and after working out.

Vitamin C

It has been reported that vitamin C exerts a subtle cortisol-reducing effect on the human body. Vitamin C is water soluble so there is little risk in taking large doses. Take 1 gram (1000 mg), 3 times a day, preferably with breakfast, lunch and dinner (should be meals 1, 3, and 5).

Magnesium

The body’s hormonal stress response causes an outpouring of magnesium from cells into the blood. The higher the stress level, the greater the magnesium loss. The lower your magnesium level is initially, the more reactive you will be to stress (the higher your level of hormones adrenalin and cortisol in stressful situations), which causes greater loss of magnesium from cells. Soaking in a bath of Epsom salts may help. The best dietary supplements are the acid salts of magnesium like magnesium chloride, citrate, gluconate or glycinate. We like Natural Factors Calcium & Magnesium Citrate Plus D.

L-Theanine

An amino acid derivative commonly found almost exclusively in green tea, theanine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and induce relaxation without causing drowsiness. Theanine has psychoactive properties and has been shown to reduce mental and physical stress. We like Jarrow Formulas Theanine 200. It is made enzymatically from amino acids and is identical to the theanine found in green tea.

B Complex

B vitamins have been shown to directly affect neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Evidence suggests that B-vitamins are important in the balance and metabolism of neuro-toxic chemicals that have been linked to anxiety and depression related conditions. B vitamins maintains the adrenal glands and get used up during the “fight or flight” response and when converting food into energy for the body. We like Natural Factors Hi Potency B Complex Capsules.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3′s have a calming effect on the central nervous system and have been proven effective at reducing cortisol levels. Researchers in France investigated the effects of fish oil, which contains the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, on mental stress in men and found that fish oil significantly reduce cortisol levels after undergoing a mental stress test that measured blood levels of epinephrine and cortisol (among others). We like Nordic Naturals DHA in the Strawberry flavor.

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

PS is a cortisol blocker that drives nutrients into and remove toxins from your cells. It may be useful in preventing short-term memory loss, age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Stress Reducing Lifestyle Choices

Change Your Stress Response 

The mind can exert a direct influence on the immune system. “The brain has the capacity to modulate peripheral physiology,” says Dr. Richard J. Davidson, director of the University of Wisconsin’s Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, “and it modulates it in ways that may be consequential for health.” Research has shown that humans can “think” themselves in or out of stress and therefore, their state of health.

Examine circumstances in your daily life that elevate heart rate, blood pressure and tension and try to be conscious that these physical responses are unnecessary to alleviate the circumstance at hand. Practice patience, deep breathing, and an outlook of acceptance and surrender. Relinquish the need to control other people and circumstances. View adversity as an opportunity for learning and growth. Books such as Stillness Speaks and the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle discuss new methods of thinking that can de-clutter the mind and encourage stillness, peace and what he calls “the joy of Being.”

Change Your Outlook

Try allocating 10 minutes each day to either think, discuss, or write down the things and people in your life you are grateful for. Give compliments. Radiate positivity in order to attract positive and supportive people in your life.

Seek Emotional Support

Emotional pain can induce chronic daily stress – the most damaging form. Do not repress or bury emotions, unresolved emotions can resurface as nightmare or manifest into physical illness. Talk therapy with a counselor or psychotherapist, as well as maintaining close personal relationships is important. End stressful relationships and don’t engage in gossip or other negative conversations.

Get Outside

Recently, the antidepressant effect of high-density negative air ions has been observed in patients with chronic depression. Patients can promote their exposure by spending more time where negative air ions are found naturally – in humid, vegetated environments and at the seashore. Negative air ions are lower in urban environments and heated or air conditioned interiors. Studies have reported that access to green space within a kilometre of one’s residence is associated with improved mental health. Large population studies show that those with the least green space within one kilometre of home have a 25% greater risk of depression and a 30% higher risk of an anxiety disorder.

Get Organized

Manage time by carefully scheduling each task, chore, meeting, and appointment. De-clutter your office and home environment. Do not procrastinate!

Schedule Time For Relaxation

Incorporate activities such as meditation, massage, and yoga into your daily routine to encourage a regular pattern of de-cluttering the mind. If you have problems keeping commitments to leisure activities, it may take formally scheduling them into your workday, signing up with a friend, or paying for classes in advance.

Reduce your morning commute

Studies show higher cortisol levels in people with longer morning commutes. Using public transportation instead of driving can reduce stress induced by traffic jams. Other habits that may help make your commute more fun include carpooling, music, and choosing a slightly longer but less congested route.

Practice Hypnosis

Stress hypnosis can be very effective at inducing a state of relaxation and can also be used as a natural way to induce sleep. Once you have practiced hypnosis you can learn the various calming phrases and repeat them to yourself to clear your mind and induce yourself into relaxation and possibly sleep. In a study of medical students under exam-time stress, investigators found that those who received “hypnotic-relaxation training” did not show the same reduction in key immune system components that their untrained counterparts did.

Local Practitioners:

Advanced Hypnosis Center of New York City
212.585.4430
http://www.ahcenter.com

Rob Hadley, Vancouver, Canada
604.484.0346
http://www.robhadleyhypnosis.com

See our article on stress reduction for more ways to learn how to react to stress in a more healthy manner.

Image Source
Sources
Disclaimer: 
The information in this article and on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. None of the products mentioned in this article or on this website are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to provide personal medical advice, which should be obtained from a medical professional. This information is made available with the understanding that the author and publisher are not providing medical, psychological, or nutritional counseling services on this site. The information on this Web site does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, and interactions. Liability for individual actions, opinions, or omissions based upon the contents of this site is expressly disclaimed. This information has not been evaluated or approved by the U.S. FDA.

8 responses to “Lowering Cortisol Levels Naturally

  1. Pingback: Ramon·

  2. I drop a leave a response each time I appreciate a article on a blog or I have something to add to the
    conversation. Usually it’s triggered by the passion communicated in the article I browsed. And on this post Lowering Cortisol Levels Naturally | THE URBAN CLINIC. I was moved enough to drop a thought :-) I actually do have 2 questions for you if you usually do not mind. Could it be only me or does it seem like some of these responses look like they are left by brain dead individuals? :-P And, if you are writing on other online sites, I’d like to follow you.
    Could you list all of all your public pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  3. Actually green tea reduces cortisol. Study after study have shown this. L theanine in green tea counteracts the negative stress inducing effects of caffeine

  4. Pingback: Cortisol and The Ugly Truth of it… | Music of the Heart Mind Body&Soul...·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s