What Happens When Cortisol Is High
Over the last 20 years, studies have increasingly revealed that moderate to high cortisol levels may lead to an array of health issues, such as :
- Chronic disease. Long-term increased cortisol may increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases.
- Weight gain. Cortisol may increase appetite and signal the body to shift metabolism to store fat.
- Lack of energy/difficulty sleeping. It can interfere with sleep hormones which may impact sleep quality and length.
- Difficulty concentrating. Also referred to as brain fog, some people report trouble focusing and lack of mental clarity.
- Impaired immune system. Increased cortisol can hamper the immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections.
- Cushings syndrome. In rare cases, very high cortisol levels can lead to Cushings syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
Elevated cortisol levels can be caused from many underlying issues such as overactivity or cancer of the pituitary or adrenal glands, chronic stress, and medication side effects .
Further, existing chronic disease may lead to higher cortisol levels, causing a chicken or the egg type of scenario .
Therefore, its best to work with a qualified health professional to establish the root cause of your health issues. Along with this, you may want to introduce some effective lifestyle habits that may help you better manage your cortisol levels. Here are some recommendations:
Follow A Healthy Diet
The foods you eat play a role in maintaining hormone levels. When you eat unhealthy, processed foods, it can contribute to high cortisol levels and imbalances. Try sticking to a whole food, an anti-inflammatory diet full of antioxidants, nutrients, and fiber.
By choosing healthy options, you can control cravings and maintain normal hormone balances. While any whole foods are beneficial, the best foods for this issue are adaptogen herbs that help fight high cortisol levels. These foods containing antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties include:
- probiotics and prebiotics
- healthy fats
The worst foods for maintaining cortisol levels include added sugars, refined grains, and saturated fat. Studies show that these components contributed to higher cortisol levels when compared with a diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and polyunsaturated fats.
Try A Hemp Oil Supplement*
Hemp oil is becoming increasingly popular due to its many potential benefits, especially when it comes to stress.*
Hemp oil is extracted from the aerial parts of the hemp plant, which contains less than 0.3% THC, so it’s nonpsychoactive. The extraction process leaves in the native, beneficial plant compounds , like hemp-derived CBD, which gives the oil its stress-relieving properties.*
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Recognizing Stress Related Hormonal Imbalances
You may well have noticed symptoms, and even known they were hormone related but never connected the dots between stress and your hormonal difficulties. Symptoms that could be stress-related include:
- Depression and anxiety
Recognizing how stress may be impacting your life is the first step. But nothing will improve if its your only step! You dont have to shrug and accept these symptoms as an automatic byproduct of stress. Nor do you have to just live with the stress. You have great power when it comes to your own life its time to start owning it!
Maintaining A Good Bedtime Routine
A good bedtime routine usually results in longer and higher-quality sleep. People should get into the habit of turning off all screens and just relaxing before heading to bed.
It will usually also help to keep phones, and any other potential distractions turned off. Limiting fluid intake before bedtime can also minimize the likelihood of disturbed sleep.
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Stress Hormones: How Diet Affects Hormonal Balance
Stress is a major issue literally everyone deals with in way or another, and chronic stress is a problem like never before. Thats why its so vital to keep your stress hormones in check.
In a podcast episode with Dr. Anna Cabeca, DO, FACOG, I talked with the board-certified gynecologist and obstetrician, hormonal health expert, and best-selling author of books like The Hormone Fix and Keto Green 16 about some of the major stress hormones and how to eat to beat stress.
How To Lower High Cortisol
Cortisol is a nature built-in alarm system that fight with crisis. Cortisol plays an important role to fight with many things. It can cause a danger if it grows high. We can make it low by balanced life style. Mainly it is beneficial for the following things:
- Manages the uses of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- Weight gain
Join A Gym Or Just Go For A Run
Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever. It increases the level of endorphins in your body, which makes you feel better.Physical activity helps increase the production of feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain called endorphins.After an hour at the gym or a game of soccer, you’ll often feel better and forget about the day’s problems because you’re focused on your physical activity.So don’t question it anymore, sport is good for your body as well as your mind. The goal is not to come out sweaty and totally drained of energy “even though it feels really good sometimes”.The goal is simply to get some exercise to keep yourself in shape and get rid of negative thoughts.
The Connection Between Stress And Hormones
Your body has three major hormones insulin, cortisol, and adrenaline that impact all of your other hormones and the messages they deliver to your body systems.
The fight or flight reaction that stress prompts originates in your HPA Axis. This response prompts the production of cortisol, which helps your body determine which functions are most important when it comes to survival. While doing so, it pushes non-essential functions into the background. Essentially, cortisol is telling your body theres danger ahead, and your body is responding accordingly. But its meant to be a short term response. In matters of survival, the threat is often short lived, and when its gone, your body can go back to dealing with other, non-essential functions.
But what if your body never understands that the threat has passed? Your HPA axis wont deactivate, and those other functions never get a turn. Thats when stress begins to have an effect on other hormones, sending them spiraling out of balance. Your body constantly fights to stabilize hormone levels, but if its receiving a steady supply of extra cortisol, its fighting a losing battle.
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Learn To Avoid Procrastination
Another way to take control of your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and stop procrastinating.
Procrastination can lead you to act reactively, leaving you scrambling to catch up. This can cause stress, which negatively affects your health and sleep quality .
Get in the habit of making a to-do list organized by priority. Give yourself realistic deadlines and work your way down the list.
Work on the things that need to get done today and give yourself chunks of uninterrupted time, as switching between tasks or multitasking can be stressful itself.
Prioritize what needs to get done and make time for it. Staying on top of your to-do list can help ward off procrastination-related stress.
Yoga has become a popular method of stress relief and exercise among all age groups.
While yoga styles differ, most share a common goal to join your body and mind.
Yoga primarily does this by increasing body and breath awareness.
Some studies have examined yogas effect on mental health. Overall, research has found that yoga can enhance mood and may even be as effective as antidepressant drugs at treating depression and anxiety .
However, many of these studies are limited, and there are still questions about how yoga works to achieve stress reduction.
In general, the benefit of yoga for stress and anxiety seems to be related to its effect on your nervous system and stress response.
The Negative Effects Of Too Much Cortisol
Too much cortisol for too long can have serious, negative effects. The tissue breakdown, reduced protein synthesis and conversion of protein to glucose can decrease musculature and increase abdominal fat, not an ideal result! It also suppresses levels of growth hormone and sex hormones, which can reduce libido and fertility. It lessens glucose usage and increases blood levels potentially predisposing to diabetes and its effects on calcium can increase osteoporosis.
So it is clear that moderating cortisol levels is important for the maintenance of our health and wellbeing.
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Ways To Beat Your Stress Hormone
Poor cortisol: It means well but just doesn’t know when to quit. Produced by your adrenal glands, this “stress hormone” helps regulate blood pressure and the immune system during a sudden crisis, whether a physical attack or an emotional setback. This helps you to tap into your energy reserves and increases your ability to fight off infection.
Trouble is, relentless stress can keep this survival mechanism churning in high gear, subverting the hormone’s good intentions. Chronically high cortisol levels can cause sleep problems, a depressed immune response, blood sugar abnormalities, and even abdominal weight gain. “When cortisol spikes, it tells the body to eat something with a lot of caloriesa great survival tactic if you need energy to flee a predator but not if you’re fretting over how to pay bills,” says nutritional biochemist Shawn Talbott, PhD, author of The Cortisol Connection.
Fortunately, an antidote to the body’s fight-or-flight mode has evolved: the relaxation response. Here are eight surprising ways to invoke stress managementand in some cases, cut your cortisol levels almost in half.
To Cut Cortisol 20%…Say “Om”People who practiced Buddhist meditation significantly decreased both cortisol and blood pressure in a 6-week Thai study. Similarly, participants who meditated daily for four months decreased the hormone by an average of 20% in a study at Maharishi University, while levels in the nonmeditating control group actually went up slightly.
How To Use Curcumin In Your Life
Curcumin is generally considered safe to take indefinitely. But unfortunately, the body isnt able to absorb it and make use of its benefits very efficiently.
Some people eat turmeric with black pepper and a fat source, such as ghee or coconut oil, as has been done traditionally in India for many centuries to boost bioavailability. But many people find it easiest to achieve optimal levels with curcumin supplementation.
At FRN, we recommend making use of a micelle liposomal delivery mechanism because its been found to increase bioavailability by up to 185 times.
PuraTHRIVE offers a premium organic liposomal curcumin, combined with a number of other potent anti-inflammatories to create a product they call Curcumin Gold.
Important Note About Lead in Turmeric:
Investigators believe that in some countries, turmeric may be intentionally contaminated with lead to enhance its weight, color, or both. Lead-contaminated turmeric has repeatedly been found in India and Bangladesh, and it may be a concern in the United States, as well.
The FDA has not set maximum permissible levels of lead in spices. As a result, the agency does not regulate lead levels in turmeric. If you want to protect yourself and your family from possible lead contamination, the best option is to buy fresh turmeric root or to buy organic turmeric and curcumin products. You can also contact manufacturers to ask if they test for lead and other metals.
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How To Test Your Cortisol Levels
A blood, saliva, or urine test can be done to measure your cortisol levels.
Cortisol blood test A cortisol blood test is usually done in the morning when your cortisol levels tend to be at their highest.
Cortisol saliva testA cortisol saliva test can be done at home at multiple points over the course of one day to help build a better picture of your cortisol levels.
Cortisol urine test A cortisol urine test involves collecting all of your urine over the course of a day.
Cultivate Conflict Management Skills
The ability to successfully solve conflicts and navigate disagreements whether that be with a coworker, a partner, or a friend can help build healthy relationships.
“Stress management techniques and harmonious, low conflict relationships are important in preventing chronically elevated cortisol levels,” Lorenzo says.
You can practice conflict management skills by taking deep breaths when you’re feeling frustrated and listening before speaking.
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Reduce Your Sugar Intake
You should avoid foods that have been heavily processed and pumped full of added chemicals and sugars if you’re looking for how to lower your cortisol levels. “One way to combat high cortisol levels, stress, and weight gain is to reduce simple sugars,” says Balk. The main foods that fall under this high-sugar category include:
- white bread
While these sugary goodies might give you a temporary jolt of energy Balk suggests focusing on other sources of energy. “As your body still needs to receive sugar to fuel itself, focus on having complex carbohydrates rather than simple sugars.” Jim White RD, ACSM, and the owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios adds that fiber-rich foods, protein, and healthy fats will also help keep your cortisol levels within the normal range.
Foods to combat stress and lower cortisol include:
- whole grains
- starchy vegetables
- protein foods
How To Prevent Future Health Issues
Although decreasing your stress levels may feel impossible some days, you can still manage the effects of elevated cortisol. To begin with, practicing relaxation through mindfulness, meditation, yoga or deep breathing can help bring the production of this hormone back down to normal levels.
Youll also prevent the excess storage of empty calories by ensuring that you consume a diet high in quality foods. Even though your body may be craving a quick fix, aim to eat mostly whole, plant-based foods. Of course, making the decision to eat right isnt always easy, but its worth it. By monitoring your diet, the calories you consume will be turned into energy, not converted into fat and stored by the body.
Finally, exercise is an excellent way to manage your stress hormones too. Whether you go out for a run, take a daily walk with your family or hit the gym, exercising will help maintain your lean body mass. This is especially important during prolonged periods of high cortisol levels.
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How To Reduce Cortisol: Take The Next Step
Chronic stress leads to the continual release of the stress hormone cortisol.
And a chronically elevated cortisol level is very harmful to both your physical and mental health.
Fortunately, you can moderate cortisol production with healthy lifestyle adjustments.
Eating the right foods, getting a moderate amount of exercise, breathing properly, and employing stress reduction techniques like meditation and tapping can offset the damaging effects of cortisol and decrease its production.
Additionally, you can take cortisol-lowering supplements.
Its easy to get caught up in aspects of life that stress you out work, money, relationships, and health issues, to name a few.
Give yourself permission to have fun!
Engage in activities like hanging out with friends, playing with your pet, and enjoying art, music, and creative hobbies that feed your spirit and make you happy.
Smell Of Citrus Fruits
The smell of citrus fruits can help us relax, it’s not a joke!Brazilian scientists asked participants to spend five minutes inhaling one of three substances:
- sweet orange essential oil
- and plain water.
Participants then underwent a stress test while having their vital signs measured. Those who smelled orange oil were less anxious throughout the test, and the beneficial effects even persisted after the test was over.
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Spend Time With Friends And Family
Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful times.
Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help you in tough times.
One study found that for women in particular, spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. This effect is called tend and befriend, and is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response .
Keep in mind that both men and women benefit from friendship.
Another study found that men and women with the fewest social connections were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety .
Having strong social ties may help you get through stressful times and lower your risk of anxiety.
Its hard to feel anxious when youre laughing. Its good for your health, and there are a few ways it may help relieve stress:
- Relieving your stress response.
- Relieving tension by relaxing your muscles.
In the long term, laughter can also help improve your immune system and mood.
A study among people with cancer found that people in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted (
Try watching a funny TV show or hanging out with friends who make you laugh.
Find the humor in everyday life, spend time with funny friends or watch a comedy show to help relieve stress.
Not all stressors are within your control, but some are.
One way to do this may be to say no more often.
How To Reduce Your Cortisol Levels
If your cortisol levels are high, lowering them will depend on the underlying cause. If its because of issues with your pituitary gland, adrenal glands, or medication youre taking youll need to work with your GP or health professional to lower them. If its because of chronic stress, there are lots of lifestyle changes you can make to lower your stress levels:
- enjoy yourself do something you love every day, like dancing or listening to music to improve your mood
- practice mindfulness for example, daily meditation or yoga
- connect with your friends, family, and even your pet a strong social support system is important for your mental health
- make sleep a priority do your best to get 7 hours of sleep every night
- break a sweat aim for at least 75 vigorous minutes of activity or 150 minutes moderate aerobic activity each week.
- eat a healthy diet aim for a lot of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and oily fish
- try a supplement omega-3, vitamin B-complex, magnesium, L-theanine, lemon balm, valerian root, and ashwagandha are linked to lower cortisol levels
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