In today’s busy world, stress is hard to avoid.
Would you agree?
Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. Sadly in today’s busy world, this doesn’t happen and stress becomes a long term or chronic reaction.
You’ve no doubt heard of the main stress hormone, cortisol. It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. If your stress responses are working well, cortisol levels are naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep well at night.
Quite often our stress responses are on constant alert, so our cortisol levels remain elevated throughout the day, when we get that “tired but wired” feeling. Or we keep pushing and our adrenal glands become depleted so it can feel like our energy levels have flat lined and we’re in a constant state of exhaustion.
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 lowered 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!
Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol
+ Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar.
Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).
+ High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels.
If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.
+ Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.
+ Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.
+ Lower your cortisol levels with green tea and dark chocolate, you’re welcome, just not the sugary milky Cadbury kind of chocolate!
A “nice cup of tea” was my Grandma’s remedy for all of life’s crises and there’s something to it. Just sitting and enjoying this for 10 minutes can make a world of difference.
+ 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 such as sauerkraut or kefir, and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fibre like oats, leeks or sweet potato.
Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol
It’s not just about the food, there are a lot of simple steps you can take to lower cortisol.
+ Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.
+ Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels. Exercise should energise us, not deplete us.
+ Get enough sleep!
Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.
+ Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
+ 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. Go and hang out with that inappropriate friend who makes you snort!
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 have more fun.
In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!
Looking for more ideas? Download my Everyday Stress Busters eBook for all of my tips and techniques on managing your stress in a busy world.
De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding
(High fibre prebiotic)
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 flavour.