Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and is often referred to as the “stress hormone”. In addition, to its role with stress cortisol helps to regulate blood pressure during a physical attack to the body or emotional stress, and it helps you tap into your energy reserves and increases your ability to fight infections. Cortisol is essential to our everyday life.
Cortisol is produced from cholesterol in the two adrenal glands at the top of each of our kidneys. In day-to-day life, cortisol is usually released in response to minor events like exercising, waking up and minor levels of stress. Cortisol means well, it plays an important role in our overall nutrition. It regulates our energy sources by choosing the right substrate (protein, fat or carbohydrate) the body needs to meet the demands placed on it.
So, where does the problem with cortisol lie? With our overstressed, fast-paced lives, our bodies often pump cortisol out constantly, which can cause major health problems. The “stress hormone” is constantly activated so much that the body does not have time to return to normal. This can lead to severe health problems resulting from far too much cortisol being released into the body and/or from too little cortisol if the adrenal glands become fatigued (adrenal fatigue).
Chronically high cortisol levels have been shown to have negative effects, such as:
- Abdominal weight gain
- Sleep problems
- Irregular blood sugar levels
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Lowered immune function
- Hormonal imbalances
“When cortisol spikes, it tells the body to eat something with a lot of calories—a great survival tactic if you need energy to flee a predator but not if you’re fretting over how to pay bills,” says nutritional biochemist Shawn Talbott, PhD, author of The Cortisol Connection.
Have you ever heard of CortiSlim? This over the counter pill is used to block cortisol hormones for the very reason nutritional biochemist Shawn Talbott referred to, high levels of cortisol are known cause abdominal weight gain. Lowering the amount of cortisol is essential if you want to lose weight and have had stress.
Chronically low levels of cortisol circulation (adrenal fatigue) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:
- Fatigue – especially mid afternoon and mid-morning fatigue
- Mild depression, foggy brain and overall cloudy headedness
- Sleep disruption
- Low blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal problems
Fortunately, there are a few antidotes to the body’s stress response, which induces cortisol (the stress hormone). Here are four surprising ways to manage stress levels and to cut your cortisol levels down.
Cordyceps, reishi, shiitake and maitake mubf,shrooms are fungus’s with antioxidant properties. What this means is that nutrition-rich mushrooms have all the benefits of antioxidant foods and other natural compounds. All of these types of mushrooms help manage stress, anxiety, have anti-tumor and immune-enhancing properties.
Eating well, getting proper rest, staying active, writing down what you’re grateful for and maintaining social connection all help protect you from chronic stress, which can kill your quality of life. Adding adaptogens to your routine can make you even more resilient to the damaging effects of high cortisol levels
Benefit-rich ginseng is the most well-known anxiety reducing supplements. Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is considered the most potent. According to Wallace, research has validated Asian ginseng’s use for improving mental performance and your ability to withstand stress. This red ginseng also has antioxidant effects, antidepressant effects, and can help naturally lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Allied Health Sciences and Practice recently reported that aerobic exercise may have the greatest effect on reducing cortisol levels. During exercise your body temporarily increases its production of cortisol and quickly returns to normal shortly after.
Regular workouts decrease the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream, leading to a reduction in symptoms of stress.
Meditation has stood the test of time as a stress-relieving practice, embraced by millions of people across the globe. It’s no surprise that by meditating each day, you can decrease the stress hormone by 20% as reported in a study by Maharishi University.
The good news? Through effective supplements, exercise and meditation you can cut your cortisol levels in half and return your body back to manageable levels of stress. If you have implemented any of these into your daily life and noticed great results, I would love to hear from you!