“When your stress cortisol hormone levels are high enough, they’ve documented that looking at a doughnut actually changes your metabolism.” [Emphasis mine] ~ Christine Northrup, M.D.
Please read the above quote by Dr. Christine Northrup once more. You should now be ecstatic to learn how to lower your stress levels!
Aside from controlling cravings and boosting metabolism, there are plenty of other reasons to keep stress levels at bay.
Read on, friend!
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is our body’s primary “stress hormone,” produced by the adrenal cortex of the adrenal glands.
Cortisol is technically a glucocorticoid (“glue-core-deh-coy-de”), a naturally-produced class of steroid hormones. While many of us think of cortisol in strictly negative terms, it actually helps keep us alive, active, motivated, and productive.
However abnormally high cortisol levels can be a bad thing; even causing acne, high blood pressure, and weight gain. Indeed, high cortisol can lead to a number of long-term health problems.
The two most significant contributors to high cortisol levels are chronic stress and long-term use of corticosteroids. Synthetic corticosteroids are usually prescribed to people who are unable to produce enough of the hormones naturally.
Corticosteroids are prescribed to treat inflammation, immune system disorders, or electrolyte imbalances.
Lowering cortisol levels naturally
(Please note: Individuals diagnosed with Cushing’s disease – a severe condition wherein excess cortisol levels are caused by a particular type of pituitary tumor – should consult with their physician before attempting this or any other treatment, alternative or otherwise.)
Okay, so now that we understand the pros and cons of cortisol, we’re going to talk about how to lower this pesky chemical.
Let’s get to it!
7 Ways To Naturally Lower Your Stress Hormones
1. Eat a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet
Poorly managed blood sugar levels, including hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), can contribute to high cortisol levels and hormonal imbalances.
An anti-inflammatory diet that is high in antioxidants, essential nutrients, and fiber, can help control cravings, maintain hormonal homeostasis, and strengthen adrenal functions!
2. Regular exercise
It benefits us to prioritize 30-60 minutes of regular exercise 4-5 times per week, according to a study by Harvard Medical School.
Regular exercise enables our body to better handle stress by keeping the autonomic nervous system (responsible for controlling stress and relaxation responses) healthy.
Eventually, working out on a routine basis should allow your body to more efficiently manage cortisol levels, which will not only make you look healthier, but feel great too!
3. Adaptogen herbs and “superfoods”
Adaptogen herbs help fight off high cortisol levels in a couple of important ways.
First, adaptogens possess potent antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties; this helps to balance hormones and reduce inflammation.
Second, adaptogens possess natural antidepressant properties; helps maintain natural energy levels; and also regulates blood pressure.
Here’s a short list of favorite adaptogens and superfoods:
– cordyceps mushrooms
– licorice root
– holy basil
– resishi mushrooms
4. Reduce stress when possible
Per Dr. Josh Axe: “Chronic stress is now linked with just about every health problem out there…(affecting) most people to at least some degree and (impacting health) by sending chemical signals around the body…”
Dr. Axe goes on to explain that the following stress relievers are proven to lower cortisol and decrease stress:
– Meditation or mindfulness practice
– Deep breathing exercises
– Spending time outdoors
5. Prioritize sleep
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S’s leading public health organization, has slapped the “Epidemic” label on sleep deprivation.
Getting the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis helps reset any kinks in our circadian rhythm; thereby controlling cortisol production and rebalancing hormone levels.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), another prestigious expert organization, has recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults for several years.
6. Try essential oils
Dr. Axe states, “Essential oils, including lavender, myrrh, frankincense, and bergamot, contain potent, active ingredients that have been shown to naturally reduce cortisol, reduce inflammation, improve immunity, and help with sleep and digestive functions.”
Why this quote from Dr. Axe? Well, he’s a licensed physician and, aside from Dr. (Mehmet) Oz and Dr. Mark Hyman, is one of the biggest proponents of natural treatments (read: no prescription drugs) based on scientific evidence.
7. Get a massage
Science shows that massage therapy may lower cortisol levels by as much as 50%. Per a meta-analysis study conducted by WebMD, researchers note that massage therapy may be a useful alternative treatment for depression patients.
Per a study published in The International Journal of Neuroscience, spinal cord injury patients suffering from depression who received a massage showed diminishing depressive symptoms compared to the group assigned to calisthenics. Patients received a 40-minute massage three times per week.