Adrenal glands synthesize a number of important hormones such as glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids and adrenalin. These hormones are secreted into the bloodstream and they regulate different processes in our body.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, one of the types of glucocorticoid which is synthesized by the cells of adrenal cortex. The effect of cortisol on cells include: regulating blood sugar levels, controlling salt and water balance, maintaining blood pressure, acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps in foetus development during pregnancy. Hence, cortisol is a very important hormone since it keeps us awake, responsive to the environment and avoids feeling of tiredness.
Cortisol is also called stress hormone as it is released during stressful conditions. It helps the body to manage with physical and mental stress by fighting off the situation. However, prolonged high levels of cortisol in blood are not good for health since it causes weight gain, type 2 diabetes, thyroid problems, immune system related problems, infertility etc. Fortunately, there are quite a few natural ways to lower your cortisol levels.
5 Ways to Lower Cortisol Naturally
Cortisol levels when increased cause a lot of health problems. Hence, as soon as the symptoms are noted, the cortisol levels should be brought down to normal. The best way to lower cortisol would be lifestyle changes.
Intake of healthy diet helps maintain normal cortisol levels naturally. The following unhealthy diet results in increased cortisol levels:
- Excessive intake of sugars and artificial sweeteners leads to sudden spike in blood sugar levels. Intake of such high glycaemic food is not desired.
- Consumption of caffeine and alcohol
- Processed foods
- Diet less in proteins and anti-oxidants
- Less consumption of fibres
Increased cortisol levels can be lowered naturally by changing the unhealthy diet to a well-balanced diet consisting of low glycaemic food, high on proteins, healthy fats, probiotic food and plenty of fibre. Preparing food in coconut oil or olive oil is encouraged. More consumption of green vegetables and fresh fruits (low in sugar) helps to maintain both blood sugar and cortisol levels. Similarly, drinking sufficient amount of water and remaining hydrated is important to reduce stress. One should also have limited alcohol and caffeine consumption.
Supplements to Lower the Cortisol levels
Consuming supplements such as Vitamin B and Vitamin C and reduces the increased cortisol levels naturally. Vitamin C decreases anxiety and improves mood.
Getting a Sound Sleep is a Way to Lower Cortisol Naturally
Normally, cortisol levels are high during morning and they decrease at night and during sleep. The amount, length and quality of sleep affect levels of cortisol. Sleep less than six hours leads to increased levels of cortisol. It is observed that people who work in night shifts or suffer from insomnia have increased levels of cortisol. This causes extreme tiredness and feeling of laziness during daytime. It is important to sleep for sufficient amount of time so that the brain relaxes. To get sound sleep one can try the following things:
- Not to eat an hour before bedtime
- Taking powernap of 20 minutes during afternoon
- Mild relaxation exercises at bedtime
- Avoid taking caffeine at bedtime since it is a stimulant
- There should be no exposure to light during bedtime
- There should be less or no distractions during bedtime
- Reducing spending time outside till late night
- Reducing working till late in the night.
Seven to eight hours continuous sleep at night is necessary to keep cortisol at normal levels. This ensures safety, performance and productivity at work.
Stress Management Techniques to Lower Cortisol
Stress is experienced in everyday life which leads to various health problems. Chronic stress leads to increased levels of cortisol. Fortunately, there are stress relieving techniques which one should practice since it has relaxing effects and helps in lowering cortisol levels.
Meditation and Deep Breathing
Most of the time, the insidious stress is caused by negative thoughts about the events. Hence, it is advised to do meditation and deep breathing daily for some time. It controls thoughts and allows mind to be relaxed and peaceful. It reduces cortisol levels in a naturally way. Meditation increases memory, concentration and productivity at work. Meditation also helps in reducing brain and heart problems. It allows in dealing with stressful conditions in a better way.
This traditional stress management technique uses needles to apply pressure on stress points of our body. It helps to lower increased cortisol levels naturally, reduce joint pain, sleeping problems and fertility problems. Modified form of acupuncture is Emotional Freedom Tapping (ETP). It does not use needles; pressure is applied with fingertips. It is also called acupressure. ETP is done only for ten minutes and releases stress by decreasing levels of cortisol to normal.
Alternative Therapies to Lower Cortisol
Engaging in activities other than routine work such as in some hobby, playing with pets, music therapy, dancing and gardening or going for an outing an also help in calming one down.. This helps to get de-stressed and offers relief to mind and body.
Social contact and bonding helps to overcome stress and anxiety. Socializing helps one in getting over the stress and thus calms one down.
Regular Physical Exercises Can Help Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally
Regular exercises are a must for healthy living. They must be done for 30 to 60 minutes as it helps in weight loss and weight management. Some of the exercises include aerobics, walking, biking, yoga, tai-chi and qi gong. Benefits of exercises are control of stress, hormone balance is maintained, promotes better sleep. Physical workout helps to bring increased cortisol levels back to its normal levels naturally. Exercise allows one to deal with stressful situations in a much better way. However, one should not engage in strenuous and extended periods of exercise as they can harm the body by increasing cortisol levels.
Stress has become an integral part of our daily life which leads to increase in cortisol levels. This causes disturbance to our mind and body. Thus, adopting the natural ways to lower increased levels of cortisol will be beneficial in future.