STRESS – the feeling that you get when you’re overwhelmed and struggle to cope with the demands of life.
Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?
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
Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).
Findings from the Food and Mood Project, from UK, support the link between a healthy diet and less stress. Eighty-eight per cent of 200 people interviewed, reported that changing their diet improved their mental health. Sugar and sweets, along with alcohol and caffeine were reported to exacerbate stress. In contrast, fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and water helped instil feelings of calm and were associated with less stress.
High doses of caffeine can increase your cortisol levels and if coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.
Also, being dehydrated can inflate cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.
Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary kind!). Have a bit to treat yourself!
And don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is promising 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 fiber, too.There are lots of foods and nutrients that affect your #stress hormone #cortisol. Some increase it, and others decrease it. Check out my de-stressing nutritional recommendations. #dietitian Click To Tweet
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 by practicing 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.
- 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. Find what relaxes you and take the time to do it!
- 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 and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, 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.