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November 14, 2016

How to Lower Cortisol Levels: 6 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

So many glands, so many hormones, who’s keeping track of them anymore? It feels like it’d be nearly impossible to keep them all under control, regulate them, and ensure their proper functioning. But cortisol is one thing we should look out for. It’s not because it’s incredibly damaging or dangerous, but because it can very easily go off the rails. The good news is that it can just as easily be pulled back into safe territory. All that matters is that you know one thing: how to lower cortisol levels.

How to Lower Cortisol Levels

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Cortisol is widely known as “the stress hormone.” However, this adrenal gland-released substance’s alias might give you fallacious impressions. Before your jaw drops and you prepare to call cortisol out on all the hairs you’ve pulled off your head as you were filling job reports, it’s not its fault that we’re stressed. In fact, the hormone helps us properly face stressful situations. It regulates blood sugar levels, permits proper functioning of your immune system, helps you have a proper’s night’s sleep, and so on. Of course, this only happens as long as it’s functioning normally.

Too much stress has an effect similar to overheating your laptop, except the aftermaths of cortisol excess continue to linger and affect your everyday life. High cortisol levels can lead to a variety of health problems, including a very specific type of weight gain around the area of the thighs and the tummy. This is why we need to know how to lower cortisol levels.

High Cortisol Levels Problems

With the purpose of demonstrating the importance of knowing how to lower cortisol levels, here are just a few of the major health issues that can arise from excessive quantities of the hormone. Before knowing how to lower cortisol levels, you need to know why.

Weight Gain

The issue with the weight gain isn’t just the fact that you might get chubbier, but all the biologically wrong things about it. Prolonged exposure of the body to stress hormones can result in disrupted metabolism, high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol, etc. But the important thing in talk here is metabolism. A lot of stress can make your body burn fewer calories, essentially rendering it unable to properly converse fat into energy. Instead, it simply becomes a fat storage room and a sugar burner.

Impaired Immune System

High cortisol levels may make your immune system overly-protective and extremely paranoid. Functioning over the normal limits, defensive cells will start attacking the body’s own tissues. This can trigger a series of auto-immune diseases, most common being asthma and various allergies.

Depression

Cortisol affects serotonin and dopamine secretion, which can lead to mood swings, depression, and general gloominess. One thing worth noticing is that it takes its toll on memory too. Studies have shown that students that study late into the night, fueled by cups of coffee, raise their cortisol levels. The high levels affect short memory, which generally fails them the next day of the exam.

Sleeping Problems

Fatigue and insomnia are some of the symptoms that are a bit more difficult to detect, but not impossible. Cortisol levels tend to be spiked (while still in normal levels) around 8 AM in the morning. This is to help us wake up naturally and peacefully. However, over-stressing ourselves releases more cortisol levels than necessary while simultaneously making the hormone less effective when waking up. Moreover, high cortisol levels can also keep us from entering Stage 3 and Stage 4 of the sleep cycle, which are crucial for our bodies.

How To Lower Cortisol Levels

How to Lower Cortisol Levels

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Luckily, you are the first one able to take steps forward to knowing how to lower your cortisol levels. The solutions might actually be surprisingly simple.

#1 Cut Down On Coffee

Those who love coffee might have a tough time handling this one. But if you’re not particularly close with caffeine, it shouldn’t be a problem. Caffeine consumption can spike cortisol levels up to 30% in only one hour. The high levels can stagnate for up to 18 hours! If your problem isn’t that advanced and doesn’t necessarily run deep, staying away from coffee is going to solve over half of your problems.

#2 Change Your Diet

The things we eat leave an impact on our bodies. What a shocker! Trying to keep away from a set of basic enemies of our organisms is something that we can all do. That being said, processed foods should be scarce in your diet, if not disappear completely (where applicable). Processed foods, specifically those rich in carbohydrates and sugar, can increase blood sugar levels, leading to anxiety. In other words, try to keep these foods to a minimum:

  • White bread;
  • “Regular” pasta (not whole wheat);
  • White rice;
  • Candies, cakes, chocolates, etc.

#3 Meditate

It seems that whatever we do, some sort of reaction is always triggered by our bodies. Meditation is no exception. Things as simple as taking breathing exercises or letting your mind wander to a peaceful place can do wonders. Meditation taps into the Vagus nerve and this has a variety of results. One of its biggest assets, though, is – you guessed it – how to lower cortisol levels.

#4 Laugh

We know the saying of how people that laugh a certain number of times every day live longer. Well, people who laugh also have lower cortisol levels, it seems. Joyous laughter and a general feeling of amusement can actually drop the stress hormone’s levels in your body. So, for a long-term effect, try entertaining yourself with a comedy or the company of friends as often as you can.

#5 Have A Cup Of Tea

But not just any kind of tea, though – have  a cup of black tea. Its beneficial effects have been turned sideways by now, but it’s been recently discovered that it also knows how to lover cortisol levels. The proof steered from an experiment conducted at University College London. The results showed that those that were frequent black tea drinkers showed a decrease of 47% in cortisol levels before a stressful task.

#6 Sleep Well

Of course, assuming your cortisol levels are spiked in the first place, this might not be exactly an easy task. If you wake up in the middle of the night or wake up too early in the morning, you might need to artificially increase your amount of sleep. Thankfully, you can do this by taking melatonin, which can help keep you fast asleep for a whole night. Ultimately, a good night’s sleep is the oldest solution in the book for a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Conclusion

Do you know now how to lower cortisol levels and why? It’s a step forward towards your overall comfort and health.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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