It’s everywhere, can’t avoid it, would you agree? We can only learn to manage it...
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 escaped the threat. But, that doesn’t happen on our day to day lives in our modern society - so, when we live in a perceived state of stress due to our jobs or home life, the flight or fight reaction becomes a long-term thing; 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 keep your gut happy
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, remember all the gut talk?) When stress is high, cortisol increases and that creates a negative effect on our blood sugar starting the craving cycle.
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 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 milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.
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 fiber.
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 if overly stressed). 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.
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.
A bonus tip is to use essential oils.
I'm just now delving into this area, but so far I am loving dōTERRA oils and have been using their AromaTouch diffused kit in various ways; I use the diffuser all day to keep my home smelling like a spa which helps me relax and stay focused. I also use some of the oils either in a bath or in a massage to calm my boys down before bedtime and some when they are a bit under the weather...I will write more about this in a future post!
To sum it all up;
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your gut and overall health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally. In terms of foods and nutrients, cut down on sugar and refined carbs, eat more good fats, drink more water, fresh fruit, tea, eat dark chocolate, take probiotics, and prebiotics.
Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much when stressed out), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.
Here is a gut-healing, cortisol-lowering recipe straight out of my Kick Sugar for Good 5-Day Challenge, which is a good place to start if you want to know about the foods you need to remove from your diet today to start feeling great!
'til next time,