Natural Ways to Lower Cortisol Levels
By Heidi Baldwin, MS, Holistic Health Coach
Adrenal fatigue is real for so many people, and lowering the body’s cortisol levels can help. Cortisol is the body's primary stress hormone. It plays a significant role in many bodily functions, including how it controls our blood sugar levels. It usually starts higher in the morning, and then gradually decreases as the day goes on.
Cortisol can also play a role in regulating the body's sleep and wake cycles. It can also manage how the body utilizes nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins help to reduce inflammation and play a role in controlling blood pressure.
When we are overloaded with stress, our bodies may need additional help to lower cortisol. These are some practical ways to lower cortisol levels and, therefore, lower stress.
Lower tension. While it may be easier said than done, taking intentional steps to cut excessive tension from your life will only benefit you in the long run. Learn what your stress triggers are, and work to make a plan of action to adjust to these situations in your life. We can't alleviate stress completely, but we can learn to better deal with it as it comes.
Eat a balanced diet. We should always be focused on eating a healthy and balanced diet low in sugar, but there are additional foods you can focus on that have been shown to stabilize cortisol levels. These are foods like dark chocolate, bananas, pears, black or green tea, and foods that contain probiotics, like Greek yogurt. Staying well-hydrated also keeps cortisol levels in check, and I find this is where most people are missing the mark. Be diligent about drinking enough water, or freshly squeezed juices, especially in the winter when we aren’t naturally feeling as thirsty with the colder temperatures.
Get some rest. Creating a nighttime routine that focuses on quality sleep is essential for keeping cortisol levels from spiking. Lack of sleep or prolonged periods of disrupted sleep can lead to increased cortisol levels in the bloodstream. Try creating a relaxing atmosphere free of electronics. Drink some soothing tea early in the evening to help you relax so you fall asleep easier at bedtime. Many people find that taking magnesium late in the evening helps them to sleep more soundly. Taking a few drops of CBD oil can also work some magic in the sleep department. (www.cbdbiocare.com/heidibaldwin discount code heidib) I have found that the 1000 mg or 1500 mg works best, and you may need to adjust your serving size until you find how many drops are needed to help you get a deeper sleep.
Try meditating. Any type of mindfulness practice, meditation, or even deep breathing can help reduce stress, which reduces cortisol. I often like to recommend the 4-7-8 breathwork, which can be found in its entirety on Dr. Andrew Weil’s website. The condensed version: take a very deep breath for the count of 4, hold for the count of 7, then exhale SLOWLY for the count of 8. Starting your day and ending your day with a couple of rounds of this breath work, and then using it whenever you feel stressed or anxious can help tremendously.
Exercise more. Learning which exercises to try can be important. Intense workouts can lead to a spike in cortisol. But things like walking, a leisurely swim, or yoga can help to stabilize them. After you find a gentler form of exercise that works for you, the key is to be consistent.
Use supplements. Both fish oil and ashwagandha have been known to lower cortisol levels, but should always be taken in addition to a well-balanced diet. Consult your medical professional before beginning any new supplements as you want to be sure there are no contraindications with any prescriptions or other medications you are taking. We have a variety of quality supplements available at our IM of CNY office, as well as at www.imofcny.com under the SHOP tab at the top of the page.
Great relationships can also be a key to lowering cortisol levels, as they can induce feelings of safety and happiness. Adding a pet to the family is a great option. Finding a hobby that your pet can be a part of can also be a great way to elevate feelings of happiness and reduce stress.
The first step to creating a balanced and healthy body is to be aware of how your body is currently operating. We must be able to observe areas we may struggle with increased stress. If we can do this, we can better pinpoint ways to improve our situation. Adding just one or two of these practices to our day can significantly reduce stress, which leads to lower and healthier cortisol levels.