STRESS!!! It is so commonplace that many of us have normalized it and given up trying to address it. But stress is extremely damaging to the body and is a factor in most of our negative health symptoms.
To explain the process… we have a natural “fight or flight” stress response. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency, and then return to normal after we’ve fought or escaped. But in our current society, it has become a chronic reaction.
You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” It’s released by your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.
Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?
Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!
Nutritional Factors to lower cortisol
- Let’s start with one of the biggest culprits that increase cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar you eat and drink is a great step toward better health for our minds and bodies.
- High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.
- Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.
- Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (preferably over 70%… 85% is even better). Have a bit to unwind.
- Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic-rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.
Need some help in giving up the sugar? Do you just love it that much? I’ve got you covered with this sugar-free meal plan and guide.
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Supplements to Consider
Sometimes we need more of certain nutrients than the typical diet provides in order to have the therapeutic effect on stress levels that we need. The following supplements have been studied to help with stress.
- Omega 3 fatty acids have been studied in assisting the body with managing stress levels. Studies have shown it to reduce cortisol and perceived stress as well as help to lower anxiety levels.
- Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that when used once or twice a day, it is useful in reducing cortisol levels.
Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol
It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.
- Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.
- Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.
- Get enough sleep! Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.
- Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
- Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. And there are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.
- Reduce sugar and caffeine
- Drink more water
- Eat dark chocolate (yeah!)
- Consider probiotics, fish oils, and ashwagandha
- Exercise (but not too much)
- Get adequate sleep
- Relax and have more fun
Don’t forget to pick up that sugar-free meal plan here.