Stressed out? Your cortisol levels could be too high.
Chronic stress leads to chronically elevated cortisol levels. High cortisol is related to weight gain, high blood pressure, fatigue and mood issues. The list goes on and on.
Cortisol is a healthy hormone until it goes haywire. Cortisol is meant to rise and fall in sync with your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
The key to wellness is to keep your cortisol in check.
Best test for cortisol levels is the Genova Diagnostics Salivary profile. A random cortisol blood level may also assist you.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released by the adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are two, small triangle shaped glands that sit right above your kidneys.
Cortisol is the hormone responsible for triggering the fight or flight response. It is released during times of both emotional and physical stress. Blood cortisol levels also increase with age.
Whenever the body senses stress (real or perceived) it releases cortisol and adrenaline, both of which raise heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and prepare your body for fight or flight mode. Ideally, once the stress or threat has ended, cortisol levels will drop back to normal.
Yet, if the body is in a chronically stressed state, then the body prioritizes the stress response.
The result is that other processes such as digestion, sleep and inflammation suffer as a result of the heightened stress response.
Cortisol production is naturally at its peak in the morning hours and then declines over the course of the day. There are many symptoms that arise when individuals are stuck in a fight or flight state for extended periods of time.
If you are stuck in a chronically high cortisol state, it keeps your sympathetic nervous system activated. The goal is to promote relaxation and activate your parasympathetic nervous system. The activation of the parasympathetic mode shuts down cortisol production.
If you have any of these symptoms you may want to ask your doctor if you have a cortisol imbalance that could be behind the symptoms.
High-intensity exercise significantly increases cortisol. While that’s not always a bad thing, if you’re in a stressed state it is best to do calming exercises like yoga that reduce cortisol.
Meditation, or deep breathing exercises, activate the body’s relaxation response. The result is a decrease in cortisol, slowed breathing, a reduction of blood pressure and decreased heart rate. Along those lines, it is also imperative to focus on better stress management techniques.
Sleeping in sync with your body’s circadian rhythms is essential to cortisol regulation. Getting the right quality and quantity of sleep is also key to lowering cortisol levels naturally. Go to bed with sundown to avoid a late-night cortisol spike. Check out our top sleep tips here.
Morning sunlight is essential to setting the body’s circadian rhythm and stimulating cortisol production at the right time (in the morning). In the evening, the warm orange glow of sunset can help to lower cortisol, increase melatonin and prepare the body for rest. Sunshine also boosts vitamin D status. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to an overproduction of cortisol and other stress hormones.
Research has shown that interactions between humans and their dogs significantly lower cortisol levels (and blood pressure) (Source). Having an animal companion lowers stress and reduces cortisol levels, which is protective of health in the long run.
Research has shown that sugar intake spikes cortisol production (Source). A high sugar intake is linked to higher cortisol levels. Focus on eating an organic, anti-inflammatory (sugar-free) Paleo diet. Also, drink quality mineral-rich water. Dehydration has been linked to high cortisol levels. Lastly, watch caffeine intake. Don’t overdo it on the coffee as this can have counterproductive effects on cortisol.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have been shown to reduce cortisol levels in times of stress (Source).
Take 1 cap daily of Omega DHA with food to manage adrenal function and balance cortisol levels naturally.
B vitamins support the adrenal glands. Chronic stress also depletes certain B vitamins such as B6.
Take 1 capsule daily of Super B with food to support the body’s natural stress response.
Magnesium is a mineral that is depleted during chronic stress. It is needed for sleep, which is imperative to balance cortisol levels. Low magnesium levels have been linked to adrenal imbalances.
Take 2 caps of Magne 5 at bedtime. This product has five different forms of magnesium to support hormonal health and promote relaxation.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure and mood imbalances to name a few. Manage your cortisol levels naturally with these tips to improve health and boost energy!
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