With today’s fast-paced life, chronic stress is something that a large majority of the population experience. It is easy to fall into the trap of overtaxing our bodies when we work full-time jobs, have families to take care of, all while trying to take the steps necessary to take care of ourselves as well. However, chronic burnout doesn’t come without consequence.
With today’s fast-paced life, chronic stress is something that a large majority of the population experience. It is easy to fall into the trap of overtaxing our bodies when we work full-time jobs, have families to take care of, all while trying to take the steps necessary to take care of ourselves as well. However, chronic burnout doesn’t come without consequence. Unfortunately, chronic levels of stress can stress the adrenal glands, and cause chaos when it comes to hormone balance. This can lead to high cortisol which is what we are going to talk about in this article.
High cortisol can lead to a number of unwanted symptoms, and long-term can cause adrenal fatigue. With that being said, let’s take a look at what cortisol is and the role that it plays in the body.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is known as being the bodies biggest stress hormone. It also happens to be the most talked about stress hormone because so many of us deal with having either too much or too little. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is made by the adrenal glands and is released in the bloodstream. (1) Since nearly every cell in the body has cortisol receptors, this stress hormone has many different actions. Some of these include metabolism regulation, blood sugar balance, anti-inflammatory properties, blood pressure support, as well as water balance. It plays a very important role in overall health, but the issue comes in when there is too much or not enough.
In those with normal cortisol levels, cortisol levels will naturally be much higher in the morning and then start to taper off throughout the day, being at their lowest before bed. However, when there is too much cortisol present, you may have high cortisol at all times during the day making you feel wired which is why so many people with high cortisol have issues with sleep.
Here are just a handful of consequences of having too much cortisol for too long. Lower Cortisol Naturally
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain-especially in the abdomen
- Muscle weakness
- Mood swings, anxiety, irritability, depression
- Increased thirst
Since high cortisol can lead to a number of health issues, it is important to take the steps necessary to try to lower cortisol levels naturally. Here are a handful of ways you can get this stress hormone under control, naturally.
Yoga & Meditation
Yoga has long been used as a way to promote relaxation and relaxation is an integral step in reducing cortisol levels. A study done by Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia found that cortisol levels significantly reduced after participants took a yoga class. (2) Meditation is another great way to reduce stress as it helps to center your mind and promote a state of relaxation. You can also practice some deep breathing to reduce tension and thus reduce cortisol levels.
Just like yoga, regular exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress levels. Exercise can also help balance hormones, improve sleep, and even support normal metabolic functions which are all huge steps in helping to regulate cortisol levels. (3) You don’t want to completely overwork your body, instead, do some moderate form of activity daily such as brisk walking or cycling. Intense exercise can do the opposite of what we want, and spike cortisol, so stay away from anything too intense.
Adaptogenic herbs are excellent for stress and hormone balance. They respond to the situation in the body, so they can help lower cortisol if cortisol is too high, or raise it if it is too low. They help the body restore balance. Some great adaptogenic herbs for cortisol support include ashwagandha, rhodiola, and holy basil.
There are also some additional supplements that are known to help balance cortisol levels, these include B-vitamins. B-vitamins play an important role in the health of our adrenal glands which are in charge of producing cortisol. B-vitamins are also important for mood and energy levels, so they can be beneficial to those who are suffering from low energy levels due to difficulty sleeping caused by a cortisol imbalance, or are suffering from anxiety due to high cortisol levels. A B-complex vitamin is more beneficial than supplementing with a single B-vitamin as each of the eight B-vitamins is needed to some extent when it comes to hormone production. (4)
Changing your diet is another important step in helping to restore normal cortisol levels. Starting a low-glycemic, anti-inflammatory diet is an important step as it can help balance blood sugar levels which is an important part of balancing hormones including cortisol levels. It can also help with maintaining a healthy weight, and optimal sleep habits. Try eliminating packaged and processed foods, cutting back on sugar, eliminating caffeine and alcohol, and getting enough healthy fats, and fiber in your diet.
While having high cortisol levels can cause a ton of unwanted symptoms and can eventually lead to adrenal burnout, there are a ton of steps you can take to naturally lower cortisol levels. There are also a ton of tests available that you can order to determine what may be going on with your cortisol levels. Whether you know your cortisol levels are high, or you just suspect they may be, try implementing these steps as they will benefit your overall health, and help you feel better, less stressed out, and better able to manage the stressors in your life.
Cortisol. You and Your Hormones.
Knittel (2007) Destress with Yoga.
Dr. Axe. How to Get Your Cortisol Levels Under Control & Turn Down the Stress.
The Adrenal Fatigue Team. (2010) Dietary Supplements: B Vitamins and the Adrenal Glands.