Stress causes are just about everywhere…
and our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. This response is designed to help us avoid injury or death in emergency situations and then return to normal after we have fought or flown. However with high and constant stress causes in our society, the going back to normal doesn’t happen as often, meaning this response is ongoing and then it becomes chronic.
You may have heard of the main stress hormone, named “cortisol.” Your adrenal glands release cortisol as a response to stress. This hormone is also naturally higher in the mornings to perk you up and get you going, and then slowly fades away through the day so you can sleep. These are good and healthy processes.
However did you know that levels of cortisol, when higher than normal are associated with belly fat, brain fog, high blood pressure, poor sleep, high blood sugar, and even low immunity?
Can you relate with any of these? If so, keep reading as I’m sure you’ll find my list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle suggestions helpful in getting you to a place where you’re enjoying lower stress hormone responses naturally!
Food and Nutrition changes to lower cortisol
I’ll start with what you should really get into to help reduce cortisol and wrap up with the biggest no-nos for reducing cortisol.
Dehydration increases cortisol, therefore be sure you are drinking more than enough water as it appears many fall short of this, because they don’t “feel” thirsty (that’s another discussion for another day).
Tea and Dark Chocolate
Real dark chocolate (really real – not the sugar and milk kind) and tea help lower cortisol and are great in little portions as you unwind.
Remember probiotics and prebiotics!
As I mentioned in a previous post on the brain and gut connection, there is so much new research about the digestive system and it’s connection to the brain. Creating a good digestion environment with your friendly gut microbes is key! Be sure to eat probiotic rich fermented foods and get healthy doses of prebiotic fiber.
Enjoy a variety of foods that are nutrient dense as this will always improve all aspects of your health, as well as lower cortisol levels.
Now reduce these to reduce cortisol-
This is one of the biggest causes of cortisol increase. Reducing sugar intake whether by eating or drinking is a huge step toward better health and reduced cortisol levels.
Caffeine in high doses is also a cause of high cortisol levels, so if coffee has a jittery or “anxious feeling” effect on you, then cut back on your coffee. I’m actually one of those that can relate to the coffee jitters, so it’s a no for me.
Lifestyle strategies to lower cortisol
In addition to food, here are some lifestyle techniques that will directly help you lower cortisol levels
Mindfully reduce stress
Studies show that renewing your mind (purposefully reducing stressful thoughts, worry, control, anxiety, offense etc) reduces cortisol, so it’s time to capture you thoughts and choose life giving thoughts.
Get good exercise (but don’t overdo it).
Mindful movement and exercise is a must for your health as your body was designed to move a lot and then rest intermitently. Although the intensity of some exercises can increase cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels; while certain types of exercise, like constant running can also increase cortisol. A variety of exercises, therefore will be of greater benefit to your health. Our clients, after working out well at the variety of classes in our studio love the pampering and restorative release of our Santu Stretch class.
Get adequate sleep!
Getting enough sleep is seriously underrated in our modern societies, especially. Therefore, in addition to improving your health in many ways, sleep reduces cortisol levels – it’s as simple as that.
Have more fun and relax
Getting out with nature; deep breathing; massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol, so how about a walk outdoors; earthing or grounding (barefoot walking on natural surfaces) etc
Curb loneliness and be social
It wouldn’t just be my personality type talking when I tell you there are actually health risks involved with isolation and loneliness. Seriously, there are studies shown to support it! Spending more time with friends and family you like and who support you (and vice versa); and maintaining healthy relationships is key in reducing stress and living a longer quality of life.
An overactive response of the stress hormone cortisol can have many negative impacts on your health. There are several helpful ways to reduce cortisol levels naturally.
Good diet changes for reducing cortisol levels include cutting sugar and caffeine, while taking in more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.
Lifestyle changes are effective when it comes to lowering cortisol, therefore, get proper exercise, more sleep, relax, have more fun and engage with friends and family.
So finally, will you try these suggestions? In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!
RECIPE: De-stressing Chocolate pudding
(Prebiotic and High in Fiber)
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 and enjoy!
Add a little bit of cinnamon to get a deeper flavor.
Image by Photoduet/Freepik
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