Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released by the adrenal glands.
It is important as it helps the body handle stressful situations because the brain triggers its release to respond to different types of stress.
However, it hurts the hormones rather, than helping when the cortisol levels are too high for a long time.
It eventually causes high blood pressure and weight gain. It disrupts sleep, it impacts the mood negatively, reduces your energy levels and it causes diabetes.
What Happens When Cortisol Is High?
Studies over the last 15 years have shown that moderately high cortisol levels can cause serious problems to health.
These problems include:
Chronic complications, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, Weight gain: high Cortisol levels cause increases in appetite and it signals the body to shift metabolism and stores fat,
Tiredness: when cortisol is high it interferes with the daily cycles of other hormones, it disrupts sleep patterns and causes fatigue, Impaired brain function: Cortisol interferes with memory, contributing to mental cloudiness,
Infections: It hinders the immune system, making the body more prone to infections.
In very rare cases, extremely high cortisol levels lead to Cushing’s syndrome, this is a rare but serious disease.
However, there are many ways you can reduce your cortisol levels naturally. Here are 6 lifestyles, diet and relaxation tips that will lower cortisol levels naturally.
1. Take Certain Supplements
Research have shown that there two nutritional supplements that cause reduction in the cortisol levels
- Fish Oil
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids and it is known to be one of the best sources.
A research was carried out, using 7 men to look at how they responded to mental stress test over 3 weeks.
After this, one group took fish oil supplements and the other didn’t. The fish oil was found to reduce the cortisol levels in response to stress.
Another review for 3 weeks showed that fish oil supplements reduced the cortisol response when they were given stressful tasks, in comparison to a placebo
Ashwagandha is an Asian herbal supplement. It is used in traditional medicine to help treat anxiety and help people become adapted to stress.
A research that involved 98 adults, some were taking an Ashwagandha supplement while some took placebo for 60 days.
It showed that when 125 mg of Ashwagandha is taken once or twice daily it reduces cortisol levels
Another research was done, with 64 adults that have been diagnosed with chronic stress showed that those who took about 300-mg of Ashwagandha supplements had a reduction in their cortisol levels over 60 days, compared to those who took a placebo.
2. Get the Right Amount of Sleep
The time, quality and length of sleep influence cortisol levels.
A research was carried out among 28 people, and it showed that people who sleep during the day have high cortisol levels than those who sleep at night. Sleep deprivation over time also increases cortisol levels.
When you rotate shifts it also disrupts the normal daily patterns of the hormones, this contributes to fatigue and some other problems that are associated with high cortisol.
Insomnia for up to 24hours can cause an increase in cortisol levels, sleep interruption no matter how brief, also increases the levels of cortisol because there was a disruption to daily hormone patterns.
If you work at night or work shifts, you don’t have total control of your sleep schedule.
However there are things you should do to enhance sleep, like
Exercise: stay physically active during the hours you are awake and try to keep to a regular bedtime as much as you can.
No caffeine at night: once it is evening try as avoid caffeine
Limit exposure to bright light at night: Turn off the screens of your TV or phones and gadgets better still you can reduce the brightness long before you go to bed.
Limit distractions before bed: achieve this by using earplugs or white noise and silencing your phone and avoid taking fluids before you go to bed.
Take naps and sleep for 7-8 hours daily.
3. Take Up a Hobby
Finding a hobby is also important in helping to reduce cortisol levels.
Hobbies are far more rewarding and satisfying than we think and it leads to a healthier and fuller life and they also allow one to have an increased sense of well-being.
A research was carried out on substance abuse treatment, and people were told to start gardening, it was found that there was a reduction in their cortisol levels.
It seemed to help increase the quality of life more than the conventional occupational therapy.
4. Learn to Unwind
As humans, we do certain things in different ways and relaxing isn’t any different.
Try to understand what works for you on a personal level and this is very beneficial.
Studies have shown that listening to music or doing relaxation exercises will reduce cortisol levels, but each individual can pick either those two or some that help them manage their stress.
5. Eat Dark Chocolate
Lots of studies have shown that dark chocolate contains rich multiple antioxidants, like flavonols and polyphenols. This reduces oxidative stress and it also reduces cortisol.
This explains why a lot of people love to eat chocolate and they become very relaxed. Always shop for raw dark chocolate that contains the least amount of sugar.
6. Drink Tea
Different types of tea have effects that are beneficial to the cortisol levels.
However, green tea inhibits the synthesis of cortisol so you should stay away from green tea but black tea will do the trick.
A study showed that people who drank 4 cups of black tea for about six weeks had lower cortisol levels than those who didn’t drink the black tea at all.
One of the above-listed lifestyle and diet is bound to help you reduce your cortisol levels naturally, you don’t have to fear side effects, then avoid alcohol, too much exercise, try to stay calm and sleep for at least 7 hours and you can try to practice yoga.
You can also read: 11 Warning Signs of Mental Illness You Should Know