Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body in response to stress. When released in response to acute stress, it can be a good thing; preventing inflammation and helping to release energy to the muscles. During chronic stress, however, cortisol is bad news:
- Loss of muscle tissue
- Increased blood pressure
- Insulin Resistance
- Reduction of bone formation (possibily leading to osteoporosis)
- Retrieving long-term memories
- Lowered testosterone levels
Ways that Cortisol Levels are Increased
So we've seen some of the effects of increased cortisol levels, but how do we get there?
- Ingesting too much sugar
- Eating an inflammatory diet
- Not enough omega-3's and too many omega-6's
- Chronic cardio. Think hours on the elliptical, treadmill or street.
- Too much people-pleasing and not enough 'me' time
- Not getting enough sleep
Ways to Lower Cortisol Levels
Do you think your cortisol levels are too low? What can you do about it?
- Reduce the amount of sugar you eat
Eat foods with a low glycemic load, such as fruits, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, fish, and red-meat. You might even want tolook into doing some sort of sugar detox.
- Reduce or eliminate the poisons that you ingest
Caffeine and nicotine, I'm looking at you. Every time you ingest a poison, your body will react by releasing some cortisol.
- Make sure you are getting enough high-quality protein
Fish and grass-fed red meat are really good sources of protein. If you can't find grass-fed, conventional will work, just cut off as much fat as possible as it is high in omega-6's.
- Avoid gluten-containing grains
These grains and foods processed with these grains can lead to inflammation within the digestive tract, which leads to the release of cortisol.
- Increase your intake of omega-3's
Omega-3 fatty acids are generally anti-inflammatory. It is best to get your omega-3's from cold-water fish, grass-fed meat, olive oil, and avocados. The omega-3's in seeds such as flax are not as bio-available as the sources noted above.
- Get more vitamin C
Vitamin C will help to lower your cortisol. You can get it naturally in oranges, bell peppers, kiwi, brussels sprouts and cantaloupe. Please, don't just get it from orange juice. OJ has way too much sugar.
You don't need to run for an hour or more for it to count. Just get out and do some short, fast runs: 60-90 seconds at a time.
- Lift heavy stuff
Lifting weights helps to increase testosterone. Better testosterone levels means better cortisol levels. Just don't over-do it; 3-4 times per week is great.
- Get your exercise throughout the day
Instead of driving to the gym and working out for an extend time period, do some squats, pushups and situps throughout the day. It won't be enough for your body to get too stressed out, but will help.
- Prayer and meditation
Take some time out of the day to talk with God or just clear your head. 20 minutes is all you need.
Take your dog out for a short walk or play with your kids.
- Get a massage
Everybody loves a massage. It helps to lower your stress levels almost immediately.
- Turn off the bright lights
Think about 150 years ago; when the sun went down, people went to sleep. Now people turn on their computers, phones or televisions. Turn off the bright lights, especially the blue-tinted lights. Light some candles instead.
- Get a good night's sleep
Most people need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you're feeling stressed, this might be the only thing you need to change.
Hope this helps you. Let me know in the notes of any other suggestions you may have.