In times of stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol around the body as part of the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This is important as it prepares our bodies to react to a perceived danger. The problem, however, is that our modern lifestyles with work pressures, smart phones and long hours make it harder to switch off. This can cause the adrenal glands to be overworked, leading to chronic fatigue.
The good news is there are ways you can decrease your cortisol levels naturally. Here are 5 ways to lower your cortisol:
- Manage stress
Chronic stress is one of the main causes of raised cortisol. Not only that but stress can lead to health problems such as increased heart rate, pain, muscle tension, changes in appetite and sleep-related problems. There are many effective ways of managing stress, such as meditation, spending time in nature and deep breathing exercises. However the key is to take the time to practise these things regularly, and to make stress reduction a priority in our busy lives.
- Exercising regularly
Regular exercise is thought to be one of the most effective ways of managing stress and balancing hormones and blood sugar levels. The important thing to remember is not to over-exercise as this can also lead to chronically high levels of cortisol. This then has similar effects on the body as chronic stress and can not only cause health risks but also hinder the results of exercise by causing the body to hold on to fat around the middle (a side effect of high cortisol levels).
- Cut down on the caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that raises cortisol levels in the blood, often similar to levels experienced during times of acute stress. This might explain why too many cups of coffee can leave us feeling uneasy, jittery and anxious. Cutting down on caffeine and other stimulants is one of the quickest ways to lower cortisol levels.
- Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is important for managing cortisol levels. However when cortisol is raised, falling asleep can be difficult. You can do things to help you slow down in the hours leading up to bedtime, such as stepping away from technology, having a relaxing bath or doing some light meditation or yoga. All these things, as well as the points mentioned above, can help you to wind down in the evening, which will then lead to a better night’s sleep.
- Eat a balanced diet
Keeping your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day is important for normal cortisol levels. Avoiding refined sugars and high glycemic index foods, as well as balancing protein, carbohydrates and fats, will help to keep cortisol production regular. It is also important to keep well hydrated as dehydration can also raise cortisol levels.
As cortisol levels fall and rise naturally throughout the day, a Cortisol Saliva Test is an accurate way to get a complete picture of the body’s cortisol levels and can point to a possible chronic stress problem.