Healthily maintaining your cortisol levels!
We hear a lot lately on social media about cortisol levels, why they may be high or low and how to maintain normal levels of the hormone.
What exactly is cortisol?
Many aspects of your life that cause stress can contribute to why your cortisol is not at an optimal level. A valuable thing might be knowing how to maintain already-healthy cortisol levels. This blog offers tips and tricks that will help you to maintain already-normal cortisol levels, combat stress and maintain an overall sense of well-being.
Indeed, cortisol is the primary stress hormone. It helps to regulate functionality in the body, but it’s also important for the body to respond naturally to stress.
- Cortisol increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, in turn enhancing your brain’s use of glucose.
- This then increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.
- Additionally, it curbs functions that would be nonessential or harmful in a fight-or-flight situation.
The main aim when talking about cortisol is that we want to have healthy levels, and in turn to maintain these already-healthy levels in the body. Cortisol at overly high or low levels in the body is dangerous, as it is linked to our instinctual flight or fight response.
When stress comes along, cortisol is the hormone the body calls on to respond to it healthily. Otherwise, if we cannot rely on an optimal cortisol level to serve our body’s response to stress, we risk constantly being in fight or flight mode.
Cortisol is secreted through the adrenal glands. The amounts fluctuate throughout the day; however, the rate cortisol is secreted speeds up when there is a presence of stress or fear during your body's natural "fight or flight" reaction. Once your body notices a threat in your immediate environment, your internal systems start to prepare for you to either stay and face the problem head-on (fight) or run to safety (flight).
Eliminate the apparent causes for high cortisol
When it comes to maintaining already healthy cortisol levels, we need to face the facts and get to the root of the matter, which is stress. Stress takes different forms in our daily lives, be it conflicts or worries about work, finances, health and relationships, it all can have an impact on us.
Eliminating causes of the stress in your life can be the starting point to contributing to already-healthy levels of cortisol.
Some examples could be:
- To drop the toxic friend whose nasty comments are causing a knot in your stomach.
- It could be the extreme micromanaging boss you are losing sleep over.
- To cancel that overly expensive holiday that's on the cards.
Easier said than done, right? Not every stressor can be eliminated. However, for the cases you cannot control, what you can control is your perspective.
How we deal with life's challenges ultimately impacts overall well-being and a more positive outlook may even increase longevity. Make progress by figuring out what gets you triggered. Try to manage these initial feelings so they don't create secondary feelings of worry or bodily tension.
It may not be easy to self-identify these stressors, however. A mental health professional can help you pinpoint what gets in your hair and offer useful tools to handle stress when life becomes complicated.
Get tested for cortisol levels
A lab test can be a good idea to first find out the cortisol levels in your pituitary and adrenal glands. Booking a cortisol test with your doctor will help you get to the bottom of your stories and figure out the next steps in adjusting or maintaining healthy levels.
A cortisol test is done in different forms: blood, saliva or urine. Although each test is administered differently, they all evaluate the level of cortisol your adrenal gland produces. Please speak to your doctor to help you investigate and understand which method is best for you.
A healthy diet supports normal cortisol levels
When a stress trigger gets a hold of us, we often respond with another action to avoid those feelings. Comfort eating is something that we perhaps have all been guilty of at some point in our lives. This can lead to overeating and having an appetite for unhealthy (and often sugary) substances that can impact your entire body.
Believe it or not, a healthy balanced diet is vital to maintaining already-healthy cortisol levels. A great option is the mediteranian diet route. Therefore, you would consume lean protein and healthy fats, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. This can provide the nutrition and energy your body and brain need to properly function each day.
Some foods that may help maintain your already-healthy cortisol levels include:
Drinking 2 liters of water throughout the day is always good advice, but even better when your goal is to maintain already-healthy cortisol levels.
Say goodbye to pulling all-nighters
Cortisol levels naturally drop during the night and are highest in the morning. This is the body’s natural cortisol cycle. Staying up all night means not letting your body regulate its cortisol levels properly and can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health.
Not getting adequate sleep each night in turn may leave you working harder to maintain already-healthy cortisol levels all day and night. It is important to stick to a sleep schedule and get the recommended eight hours so your body can properly rest and recharge.
Allow yourself to wind down before bed by making a ritual:
- Take a bath.
- Dim the lights.
- Put screens away.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Supplement with sleep-enhancing nutrients.
- Set up a quiet space to get a good night's rest.
Remember, the quantity of sleep you get is just as important as the quality of sleep you get.
A balanced amount of exercise
When it comes to supporting a healthy stress response, exercise is one of the most natural methods. Hit the gym, run, swim, bike or do whatever makes you break a sweat, as it does your body good.
However, remembering when you exercise is important. Ironically, exercise itself is a form of stress on your body. The time and intensity of exercise can affect the levels of cortisol that your adrenal gland produces.
When working up a sweat, listening to what your body needs is important. Pushing yourself past the breaking point, or working out for more than an hour, can trigger excess cortisol. If you find yourself more revved up than relaxed post-workout, consider leaving your more vigorous training for later in the day, when your cortisol levels are naturally lower.
Also be sure to fuel your body with enough protein, carbohydrates and fats so that hunger isn't causing stress to your body.
Stay away from caffeine at night
It’s best to kick the caffeine if you want to maintain already-healthy levels of cortisol, particularly in the evenings.
A caffeinated drink, a cup of tea or coffee in the evening is bound to interfere with your getting adequate rest. Start taking supplements to support stress levels. When it comes to healthy cortisol levels, lifestyle changes are a great way to support your adrenal gland. However, several supplements for stress can take your self-care to another level.
Look out for formulas that can support a healthy mood and ultimately support a healthy stress response.
Ashwagandha is a powerful ancient plant, trusted for centuries and used in Ayurvedic regimens to help manage stress levels, maintain already-healthy cortisol levels and promote better mental health.
If you are feeling blue, go green. The powerful and calming compound in green tea, L-theanine, provides the body with overall relaxation. This amino acid can be found in capsule form or when you brew up a cup of antioxidant-rich green tea.
Supplements for healthy cortisol & stress response
- Optimized Ashwagandha Extract
- Theanine XR™ Stress Relief
- Adrenal Energy Formula, 60 caps
- Adrenal Energy Formula, 120 caps
- Liposomal GABA with L-Theanine
- Ultra Energy
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- Andrew Davis, Health & Wellness Writer. “How to Maintain Normal Cortisol Levels.” How To Maintain Normal Cortisol Levels - Life Extension, Life Extension, 1 June 2021, www.lifeextension.com/wellness/sleep-relaxation/how-to-maintain-normal-cortisol-levels.
- Cassoobhoy, Arefa, MD, MPH. "What Is Cortisol?" WebMD, December 2020, https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol
- Hill, E E et al. "Exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect." J Endocrinol Invest., July 2008, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18787373/
- Leffler, Samantha. "15 Easy Ways to Lower Cortisol Levels so You Don't Feel as Stressed." EatThis, March 2020, https://www.eatthis.com/lower-cortisol/
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Chronic stress puts your health at risk." Mayo Clinic, March 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037
- Stibich, Mark, PhD. "Embrace Aging With Positive Thinking." Very Well Mind, February 2020, https://www.verywellmind.com/positive-thinking-and-aging-2224134