Stress and the things that cause stress are all around us right?
Our bodies natural stress hormone, cortisol, is released in response to stress. So every time you are in “fight or flight” your cortisol level is increased. This is fine if you were actually escaping from something for fighting off death. However, in our society, we are bombarded with stress which makes the stress response chronic.
Your stressors might be different from mine, but I’m guessing we share many: so much to do, feeling rushed and short on time, various demands, trying to do all the right things for ourselves and family …
Whenever you are under stress, your body releases the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” When your body is functioning optimally, cortisol is 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 I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!
Lifestyle techniques to lower stress hormones naturally
There is one consistent key to everything we discuss here. That is to remember the whole you. Of course, there are foods that can help, but lifestyle is even more important to lower cortisol.
1. Reduce your stress. Stress is the top cause of increased cortisol levels. Therefore, it’s the first thing we should tackle. Of course, it’s not enough just to say “reduce your stress.” If it were that easy, we’d all be in a state of bliss each day! For practical help and guidance, watch for my program A Busy Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Overwhelm opening June 25.
2. Laugh! Enjoy life, have fun, and laugh. The cortisol-lowering benefits of laughter are more potent when you laugh with others. So get a couple friends together and play a laughter-inducing game (Apples-to-Apples, Pictionary, Pie Face) or watch a funny movie.
3. Do a “brain dump” at the close of each day. Getting things off your mind and onto paper helps your physical health.
4. Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
5. Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has 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.
6. Enjoy your pets. Being around them and petting your furry friend reduces your stress levels.
7. Get enough sleep! One of the weeks in A Busy Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Overwhelm will be devoted to helping you find more and better quality sleep because sleep reduces cortisol levels and helps improve your overall health in so many ways.
8. Light or moderate exercise done on a consistent basis can reduce overall cortisol levels. (Intense exercise can actually raise your cortisol levels, so don’t overdo it.)
Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol
9. Let’s start with one of the biggies that increases your cortisol: sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).
10. High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If energy drinks or coffee make you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest. Find healthy ways to boost your energy levels. (Don’t be like the patients I’ve taken care of in the Emergency Department who come in with heart problems after consuming too many energy drinks.) Click here for my 5 tips.
11. Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty. A good amount to aim for is half of your weight (pounds) in ounces of water each day.
12. Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods—the more colorful the better! This doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.
13. Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate. Try a mint or chamomile tea or a square of rich, dark chocolate (without a lot of added sugar!)
14. 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.
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, 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 watch for my program A Busy Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Overwhelm.
In the comments below, let me know your favorite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!
Recipe (High fiber prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding
3 ripe avocados
¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 dash salt
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavor.