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Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. When levels are high, you may experience fatigue, muscle weakness, an inability to focus, and difficulty sleeping.
The cortisol level is a hormone that helps the body respond to stress. When cortisol levels are high, it can cause problems such as sleep deprivation and anxiety.
Do you find yourself stressed out, exhausted, and gaining weight while not altering your diet or exercising more frequently? Your cortisol levels may be out of balance. They may be excessively high in particular.
Because it’s one of the major hormones released when we’re under stress and our evolutionary-based “fight or flight response” kicks in, cortisol is frequently referred to as the “principal stress hormone.” Although most people associate cortisol with negative things like acne, weight gain, and high blood pressure, there’s much more to cortisol levels than our stress reaction and its unpleasant side effects. It is necessary for our survival.
While cortisol production is necessary for survival and helps us stay motivated, alert, and attentive to our surroundings, excessively high cortisol levels in the blood may be hazardous and lead to long-term issues. Long-term corticosteroid usage and chronic stress are two of the leading causes of elevated cortisol levels. In addition, weight gain, anxiety, sleep difficulties, hormone abnormalities, and reproductive issues are just a few of the signs and illnesses linked to chronically elevated cortisol levels.
The good news is that there are a variety of natural methods to reduce cortisol levels. Adaptogen herbs, for example, have been shown to reduce cortisol levels, and that’s only the beginning. Continue reading for more natural methods to reduce elevated cortisol levels.
6 Steps to Naturally Lower Cortisol Levels!
Changing your food, exercise regimen, sleep, and stress levels may help you control cortisol levels and recover your health. In addition, if your doctor hasn’t diagnosed you with Cushing’In addition disease (see below), you may take the following measures to reduce elevated cortisol levels naturally:
1. Adopt an anti-inflammatory, whole-food diet.
High levels of inflammation and poorly controlled blood sugar levels (particularly hypoglycemia or low blood sugar) may lead to elevated cortisol levels and other hormonal abnormalities. The key to regulating hormones, managing cravings, and getting back on track is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet low in processed foods and rich in antioxidants, fiber, and vital minerals. These same techniques may aid with adrenal support, enabling you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, increase energy throughout the day, and improve sleep quality.
The following are some of the most important dietary factors to inflammation and elevated cortisol levels:
- a diet with a lot of sugar and a lot of glycemic indexes (with many packaged foods, refined grain products, sugary drinks, and snacks)
- excessive consumption of processed and trans fats
- consuming excessive amounts of coffee and alcohol
- Micronutrients and antioxidants are not being consumed in adequate amounts.
- eating insufficient fiber (which makes it hard to balance blood sugar)
- not getting enough protein or healthy fats (which can lead to hunger, weight gain, and high blood sugar)
Switch to a low-glycemic diet, incorporate healthy fats and proteins with every meal, and eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to obtain adequate fiber and phytonutrients. Vegetables, fruits, coconut or olive oil, nuts, seeds, lean proteins like eggs, fish, grass-fed beef, and probiotic foods are some of the best foods for reducing cortisol and regulating blood sugar (like yogurt, kefir, or cultured veggies).
2. Stress Reduction and Management
Chronic stress is now related to almost every health issue imaginable. Most individuals are affected by stress somehow. It affects their health by sending chemical signals throughout the body, including the heart and blood vessels, immune system, lungs, digestive system, sensory organs, and brain. Stress may cause issues with your breathing, heart rate, discomfort, and muscular tension, as well as your appetite (including overeating) and sleep.
Fortunately, stress management is a simple process that you can start right now. The natural stress relievers mentioned below have been shown to reduce cortisol levels and the harmful effects of stress on your health:
- Meditation, often known as “mindfulness,” has been proven to aid brain and body training to switch off the stress response and promote more relaxation. These advantages may be obtained without compromising attention, focus, or memory. Many studies indicate that only 15 to 30 minutes of daily meditation or healing prayer may significantly lower cortisol levels. Regular participation in a “mindfulness-based stress reduction” program reduces cortisol levels and stress-related symptoms and illnesses. Meditation may also boost your immune system while improving your brain and heart health.
- Acupuncture: Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, acupuncture treatments assist to naturally manage stress and relieve symptoms such as muscular or joint pain, migraines, fertility issues, restless sleep, and poor circulation.
- Deep breathing techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to turn down the sympathetic nervous system and trigger the body’s natural relaxing response. Diaphragmatic breathing is a simple method for relieving muscular tension and anxiety that you may learn on your own and use throughout the day. Controlled breathing methods have been used in Eastern medicine for centuries. However, they are gaining popularity in the West, owing to new research and publications detailing its advantages, such as Dr. Herbert Benson’s “The Relaxation Response.”
- Spending time in nature/outdoors: Studies indicate that physical environments may help people relax, and being in nature is a well-known method. To relieve tension, go for walks or runs outside (particularly barefoot running or walking, a technique known as “earthing”), spend time at the beach, stroll through woods, the garden at home, or do other activities that require you to be outside and away from electronics.
3. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise (approximately 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week, depending on intensity) is one of the most excellent methods to manage stress, balance hormones, sleep better, and assist normal metabolic processes, according to a Harvard Medical School study (like balancing blood sugar levels). The trick is to prevent overtraining and overexertion, which may produce even more cortisol.
Exercise improves hormone levels because, although it briefly raises adrenaline and cortisol production, it also helps bring cortisol levels back to normal. This cycle improves your body’s stress tolerance and gives your autonomic nervous system (which regulates your stress and relaxation responses) a workout. Because your body gets used to this during physical exercise, you should be able to decrease cortisol levels more readily the next time your stress hormones increase in response to a perceived danger.
4. Add Adaptogen Herbs and Superfoods to Your Diet
Adaptogen herbs aid in the natural reduction of elevated cortisol levels in a variety of ways. They assist in regulating hormones, decrease inflammation owing to their potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antibacterial properties, have natural antidepressant properties, reduce tiredness, and aid in maintaining blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Many adaptogens, such as reishi mushrooms and cocoa, have been used for hundreds of years with little to no adverse effects to promote improved general health.
There are at least 16 different adaptogenic herbs that have been shown to help reduce cortisol levels, including:
- root of licorice
- basil Sanctus
- Reishi and cordyceps are examples of medicinal mushrooms.
5. Use Essential Oils to Help You Relax
Essential oils, like adaptogen plants, help reduce stress and regulate hormones. For example, lavender, myrrh, frankincense, and bergamot essential oils have active compounds that have been proven to naturally decrease cortisol, reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and aid sleep and digestion.
Inhale some of the most refined essential oils for hormones, diffuse them in your house, use them to make bath soaks or body washes, or massage them directly into your skin when properly combined with a carrier oil (like coconut or jojoba oil). In addition, certain essential oils, such as lemon or peppermint, may assist with the side symptoms of elevated cortisol, such as acne, indigestion, or bloated stomach.
6. Get Plenty of Sleep
We can regulate cortisol production by getting adequate sleep, but having high cortisol levels may make it difficult to sleep. In the early morning hours, cortisol levels increase in individuals with typical circadian cycles, then decrease dramatically before and during sleep. People with high cortisol levels may have the reverse effect: they may feel wired and agitated at night yet tired during the day, making it difficult to sleep at the appropriate times.
One of the most common symptoms of Cushing’s illness or adrenal fatigue is the overactivity of the adrenal glands, which is typically linked to stress and hormonal imbalances. You should be able to sleep better if you follow the methods outlined above. To reset your circadian cycles and put hormones back into balance, you should strive for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol, a vital glucocorticoid steroid hormone, is secreted by the adrenal gland in response to signals from the brain and pituitary glands. Cortisol levels are most significant at about 7 a.m. and lowest at night (called a diurnal rhythm). Thus, cortisol is found in both chronically stressed people and those who are otherwise healthy. This vital hormone serves a variety of functions in the body and interacts with various chemicals daily.
What precisely does cortisol do? Cortisol receptors may be present in almost every cell in the body and perform a variety of essential activities, including:
- assisting us in staying awake and aware
- avoiding tiredness or mental fog
- maintaining our metabolisms (it helps us burn fat for energy)
- Keeping blood sugar levels in check (since it allows cells to take up and use glucose for energy)
- decreasing inflammation and assisting in the healing process
- adjusting fluid balance depending on salt and water consumption
- helping to keep blood pressure under control
- assisting with a variety of cognitive functions such as memory formation and learning
- enabling us to react to and avoid apparent threats
- assisting with the development of the fetus during pregnancy
When the pituitary gland produces another hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone, cortisol levels rise (ACTH). The adrenals respond to ACTH by producing more cortisol. What causes this to happen? This release may be triggered by various factors, including physical or mental stress, a bad lifestyle, insufficient sleep, or diseases and infections.
High Cortisol Levels vs. Cushing’s Disease vs. Cushing’s Syndrome
A doctor (possibly an endocrinologist) may diagnose Cushing’s disease when the pituitary or adrenal glands generate unusually high amounts of cortisol for an extended period.
Cushing’s illness is characterized by fast weight gain, a bloated face, tiredness, and water retention/swelling around the belly and upper back and is typically caused by tumors on the adrenal or pituitary glands. It mainly affects women between 25 and 40, but it may affect individuals of any age or gender.
Diagnosable Cushing’s illness, which is characterized by an overactive adrenal gland, is considerably uncommon than having high cortisol levels in general. In other words, you’re far more likely to have elevated cortisol at various periods in your life owing to heightened stress than you are to be diagnosed with Cushing’s illness. While most individuals experience elevated cortisol levels at some point after a stressful event (such as a job loss, a family crisis, or a significant transition), Cushing’s disease diagnoses are relatively uncommon compared to other hormonal/endocrine diseases such as thyroid problems or diabetes.
Cushing’s illness affects 10 to 15 individuals per million, although cortisol levels higher than what is considered normal affect millions of people, including most adults. While the symptoms of Cushing’s disease and excessive cortisol are frequently confused, Cushing’s disease symptoms are typically more severe, persist more extended, and result in more problems.
Cushing’s syndrome is not the same as Cushing’s disease, to clear up any misunderstandings. They have some similarities, but they also have some differences: Cushing’s syndrome is a less severe illness defined by “excess cortisol in the blood,” while Cushing’s disease is caused by a pituitary tumor secreting the hormone ACTH, which produces excess cortisol.
Addison’s disease and adrenal fatigue are linked to low cortisol levels.
On the other hand, the polar opposite of Cushing’s syndrome — deficient cortisol levels — may lead to Addison’s disease, often known as adrenal insufficiency or adrenal fatigue. Addison’s disease is also uncommon, and it’s classified as an autoimmune illness since it causes the immune system to target healthy tissue in the body. In this instance, tissues inside the adrenal glands become injured and inflamed, causing the adrenals to manufacture hormones differently.
Because Addison’s disease is characterized by a deficiency in cortisol rather than an excess, some symptoms are almost identical to those of Cushing’s disease. Fatigue, weight loss, muscle atrophy, mood fluctuations, and skin abnormalities are all possible Addison’s symptoms. In addition, adrenal exhaustion may manifest itself in a variety of ways.
Symptoms of Excessive Cortisol
According to studies conducted by the Genetics Learning Science Center, the long-term risk of elevated cortisol is that it triggers the fight-or-flight response, which temporarily shuts down normal reproductive, digestive, and immunological processes. Because these systems aren’t required for immediate life, the body targets them for deactivation.
The sense of danger, or stress, is sent from the environment to the hypothalamus in the brain via sensory nerve cells. The pituitary and main adrenal glands are thus prompted to generate more cortisol. If this cycle continues for an extended period, a person becomes more vulnerable to various diseases, infections, and hormonal issues.
The following are some indicators that you may be dealing with elevated cortisol levels:
- weight increase, particularly in the abdomen and stomach (this can happen despite not changing your diet or exercise routine)
- a heated, swollen face
- Increased anxiety and mood swings
- tiredness (including the sensation of being “Tired yet wired”)
- Having difficulty sleeping regularly
- Period irregularities and reproductive issues (Continual stress causes pregnenolone/progesterone to be converted to cortisol, which competes for precursors needed to synthesize other essential hormones such as DHEA, estrogen, and estradiol.) The “Progesterone/Pregnenolone Steal Effect”) is a term used to describe this phenomenon.
- blood pressure that is too high (cortisol narrows the arteries while the epinephrine increases heart rate)
- Acne or other skin conditions
- Bone fractures and osteoporosis are more common (cortisol can lower hormones like estrogen, which are essential for bone health)
- aches and pains in the muscles
- alterations in libido as a result of estrogen or testosterone deficiency
- a lot of thirsts
- Urination has increased.
- increased infection susceptibility (the stress response can lower immune system functions)
High Cortisol Levels: What Causes Them?
Do you have any idea what might be causing your elevated cortisol levels? Cortisol levels rise in tandem with perceived stress, so everything that causes a negative mental state — such as anxiety, worry, wrath, or frustration — adds to elevated cortisol levels. In addition, medication usage, inflammation, lack of sleep, and a poor diet may all contribute to high cortisol levels by disrupting hormonal balances and lowering immunity.
High cortisol levels are often caused by corticosteroid medicines such as hydrocortisone, prednisone tablets, or other medications used to treat inflammatory illnesses or symptoms. Aside from corticosteroids, several additional significant variables contribute to higher-than-normal cortisol production:
Testing and Diagnosis of High Cortisol
Your doctor may order a variety of tests to see whether you have unusually high cortisol levels. Both blood and urine tests may show a problem, although a 24-hour pee test is more often used to identify Cushing’s illness or syndrome than a cortisol blood test.
The cortisol levels mentioned below, which may be acquired via a blood test, serve as a guide to what is considered normal. Cortisol levels that are higher than this are considered abnormal and may be dangerous or harmful.
However, remember that results vary based on the time of day, age, and kind of cortisol test used. Saliva tests are increasingly suggested as well, and they seem to be as accurate as blood testing. In addition, an overnight dexamethasone suppression test, which includes taking a dosage of dexamethasone, a corticosteroid medication, to see how blood cortisol is changed, may also be suggested.
Consequently, your doctor will need to consider your findings in the context of your symptoms and medical history.
- Adults and children’s morning cortisol levels should be between 5 and 23 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or 138 to 635 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L)
- In the afternoon, normal cortisol levels for adults and children vary from three to sixteen micrograms per deciliter (83 to 441 nanomoles per liter).
- Cortisol levels in newborn babies range from two to eleven micrograms per deciliter (55 to 304 nanomoles per liter).
If your tests show you’re at risk for Cushing’s illness or Cushing’s syndrome, your treatment will be based on what’s causing your cortisol levels to increase in the first place. Because benign tumor growth on the pituitary gland (called a pituitary adenoma), cortisol-like synthetic medication use, and the cortisol-increasing lifestyle factors mentioned above are the most common causes of Cushing’s syndrome and Cushing’s disease, your doctor will address all of these if they’re contributing to your symptoms.
To cure cortisol-related symptoms, a significant proportion of individuals with Cushing’s illness or syndrome have at least modest tumor growths on their pituitary glands, which must be removed with surgery or decreased with medicines and lifestyle modifications.
Whether you think you have Cushing’s illness or syndrome, see your doctor see if you need to stop or reduce the usage of cortisol-stimulating medicines (such as steroids), have life-saving surgery to remove the tumor, or utilize radiation and pharmaceuticals to decrease cancer. However, keep in mind that these are very uncommon procedures, and most individuals with high cortisol levels can manage their symptoms without surgery or medicine.
Conclusions on Cortisol Levels
We require cortisol to survive, even though it is generally regarded as a bad actor. The issue is that medicines, a lack of exercise, processed meals, and high-stress levels may cause our bodies to produce too much cortisol. In addition, a (usually benign) tumor may be the source of elevated cortisol levels in rare instances. Therefore, your doctor may order routine testing to assess your cortisol levels and recommend methods to reduce them.
Regardless, natural cortisol-lowering methods such as mindfulness, exercise, and a diet rich in fresh vegetables, clean protein, and fruit are likely to help us all. So, to keep your cortisol levels in control, keep the following in mind:
- Here are some suggestions for lowering cortisol levels: Reduce and manage stress; exercise frequently; utilize adaptogen herbs and superfoods; use essential oils to induce calm; and get enough sleep are all things to consider while switching to whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet.
- Though Cushing’s disease is usually caused by tumors on the adrenal or pituitary glands and often causes symptoms like rapid weight gain, a swollen face, fatigue, and water retention/swelling around the abdomen and upper back, you have a much greater chance of experiencing high cortisol at certain times due to increased stress in your life than you do of ever being diagnosed with it. It mainly affects women between 25 and 40, but it may affect individuals of any age or gender. In addition, while the symptoms of Cushing’s disease and excessive cortisol are frequently confused, Cushing’s disease symptoms are typically more severe, persist more extended, and result in more problems.
- Weight gain, a puffy, flushed face, mood swings and increased anxiety; fatigue; trouble sleeping; irregular periods and fertility problems; high blood pressure; acne or other changes in the skin; higher rates of bone fractures and osteoporosis; muscle aches and pains; changes in libido due to changes in estrogen or decreased testosterone; excessive thirst, etc. are all symptoms of high cortisol levels.
- Corticosteroids can cause high cortisol, depression, over-exercising or overtraining, nutrient deficiencies, alcohol or drug abuse, higher than normal estrogen levels, malnutrition and eating disorders, severe kidney or liver disease, hyperthyroidism, obesity, pregnancy or birth control pills, and recent surgery, illness, injury, or whole-body infections.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I naturally reduce cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases when you’re stressed out. The best way to naturally reduce cortisol is to exercise and eat healthy foods.
How do I reduce cortisol levels?
Cortisol levels are determined by the amount of stress in your life. So if you’re not experiencing a lot of pressure, your cortisol levels will be lower than if you are.
How does Dr. Berg lower cortisol?
Dr. Berg has developed a supplement called Cortisol-X that helps to reduce the effects of high cortisol levels by replenishing your body with essential nutrients.
- supplements to reduce cortisol
- what foods raise cortisol levels
- how to lower cortisol
- how to lower cortisol levels and lose weight
- how to lower cortisol naturally
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