How to Naturally Lower Cortisol - the Stress Hormone
Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree? We can’t just get rid of it but it is important we learn to manage it, because of the negative impact on our health and our weight loss efforts. It’s one of the reasons you may struggle with cravings for sugary or fatty foods (or both!).
Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society - it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.
You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” It’s released from 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!
Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol
Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies). Also, ditch the fast food, takeaways and processed foods. Foods like these can cause inflammation, more stress to an already stressed system and make cravings worse.
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.
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole plant foods; this doesn't just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.
Lower your cortisol levels with leafy greens, whole grains, berries, beans, nuts and seeds – especially walnuts, milled linseeds and chia seeds. Plus, a bit of dark chocolate – not the sugary, milky kind, can even help you to unwind too.
To help you get on track eating healthy whole plant foods why not try my FREE Beginner’s Guide. It gives you all you need, to eat plant-based for 5 days. There are recipes, meal plans and even a shopping list to make things super-easy. I’ll be in touch everyday by email, answering frequently asked questions and giving you tips on what to look out for when you go shopping.
Plus, you’ll get all the support you need in my Facebook group!
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 fibre. I talked in more depth about this in last week’s blog.
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. Something like yoga or walking are good ones to start with, especially if you’re not used to exercising. Or there might be a team game you’d enjoy, maybe something you’ve not thought about since your school days. Outdoor exercise can be particularly beneficial for de-stressing.
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. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.
In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar, caffeine and processed foods. And have more water, whole plant foods, herbal tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.
Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.
Here is a super-simple dessert which is not only delicious but full of prebiotic fibre.
De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding
3 ripe avocados
¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 dash salt
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.
In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!
And don’t forget my Beginner’s Guide to Plant-Based. Join here and start your journey to healthy plant-based eating today!