Table of contents
- What is cortisol and what are its functions?
- Why you should reduce your cortisol levels
- What are the symptoms of high cortisol levels?
- How to reduce cortisol naturally
What is cortisol and what are its functions?
Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal gland. It’s a helpful hormone in the right situation – such as when you’re being physically attacked. But when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this particular hormone can hurt you more than it helps you.
Cortisol is quite a destructive hormone when present in high levels. An excess of cortisol promotes the storage of belly fat – the most dangerous kind you can carry, so it’s important to keep your levels as low as possible.
An increase in cortisol commonly happens as we age, because our levels of human growth hormone naturally begin to fall. Human growth hormone (HGH) opposes cortisol, so any reduction in HGH levels will cause an increase in cortisol.
Why you should reduce your cortisol levels
It’s important you counteract the effects of falling growth hormone levels as you age in a bid to keep cortisol levels low. The reason? Too much cortisol flowing through your bloodstream can damage your health – and shorten your life!
As we already mentioned, high cortisol levels will lead to an increase in the amount of belly fat you carry – and that’s seriously bad news if you value your health.
An excess of belly fat means you have fat stored around your vital organs – and this can lead to both hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance. In fact, excess belly fat is the leading cause of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So if you value your health, keep a lid on those cortisol levels!
What are the symptoms of high cortisol levels?
Over time, high cortisol levels significantly increase your risk of contracting several health issues, such as:
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Sleep disruption
- An inability to control your moods
- Reduced energy levels
- Type 2 diabetes
If you’re unsure whether you’re suffering from the effects of high cortisol levels, chat to your doctor. They may offer you a blood test to diagnose any potential problems for certain.
How to reduce cortisol naturally
If you need to know how to reduce cortisol levels, you’ve come to the right place. Try these tips for size:
1 – Sleep
When we sleep, HGH is produced by the pituitary gland – so the better quality sleep we get, the higher our levels will remain, and the lower our cortisol levels will be as a result.
2 – Exercise
Exercise lowers cortisol, but the best type? Simply walking.
Walking is especially great for lowering your cortisol levels, simply because it involves getting out into the sunshine, getting your heart beating a little faster, and helping you to relax at the same time. It’s the perfect stress-free exercise!
3 – Diet
Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is another type of human growth hormone – but this one is produced by the liver, and only activated when you take a break from eating for a while. For this reason, people who love to snack all day long will often have low IGF-1 levels, and as a result, higher cortisol levels.
Stop snacking and stick to 3 meals over the day to keep your IGF-1 levels soaring high.
4 – Lower stress
Being stressed is one of the most obvious ways to raise your stress hormone levels – so try to avoid stress if at all possible. This may mean you have to change jobs, avoid certain people or make some other major changes to your life. Change isn’t always easy – but it’s certainly sometimes for the best.
5 – Relaxation
For instant cortisol-lowering relief, cut your stress levels down by finding a new way to relax on a regular basis. Whether you take up yoga, start fishing or just find more time to read your favorite books, any way you can relax will contribute towards helping to reduce your cortisol levels for sure.
6 – Fun
It’s impossible to feel stressed when you’re having fun – and enjoying life is certainly one of the best medicines in the fight against high cortisol levels. Watch a comedy, spend time with friends who make you laugh, or just take up a sport which makes you smile – it’s not hard to reduce cortisol levels when the remedy is having fun!
7 – Sun
Lower stress levels reduce cortisol levels, but so does exposure to sunlight. So the best thing you can do? Get a beach holiday! The increased Vitamin D levels will reduce your cortisol levels alone, but pair that with the fact that beach holidays also often tie in with lots of napping, and you have an instant recipe for lower cortisol levels!
8 – Relationships
If your relationship causes you more stress than pleasure, it may be time to consider changing it. Whether that’s through couples counseling, or by walking away from a bad marriage, sometimes, a change really is needed to bring out the best in both people and lower stress levels all round.
9 – Pets
If you love animals, getting a small furry to spend time with can be a great way to lower your stress levels. But be warned – this only applies if you have the time and money to dedicate to a pet. Worrying about vets bills or pet care can actually cause more stress in your life – so assess whether a pet really is right for you before taking the plunge.
10 – Hobbies
Always wanted to take up sewing, abseiling or sailing? There’s no better time to do it than when you want to reduce cortisol levels. Keeping your mindset in ‘happy mode’ truly is the best way to keep your life stress free – so go ahead, have fun!
11 – Meditation
Meditation is a great way to relax and wind down. You can practice through yoga, or you can simply get some great tips online on how to sit and be mindful. It can be a very peaceful, rejuvenating experience.
12 – Supplements
There are some supplements to reduce cortisol available. Calcium, vitamin D3, potassium and vitamin K are all essential in helping to lower your cortisol levels. These can be taken in supplement form, but if at all possible try to obtain what you need from food – or in the case of vitamin D3, sunlight – around 20 minutes of exposure per day should do the trick.
Foods that reduce cortisol
Any foods which contain the vitamins D3 or K, are excellent in helping to reduce cortisol levels. Leafy greens, legumes and vegetables, and some fatty animal products, such as egg yolk, liver and cheese contain both of these essential vitamins. In addition, they usually contain some calcium too.
Potassium can be found in abundance in bananas, potatoes, citrus fruits, and all dried fruits. Stock up and try to include these on a daily basis whenever possible!
This video should help to explain all of the above a little further:
As you age and your growth hormone levels begin to decrease, your cortisol levels will naturally rise, as they have nothing to oppose them. Left to their own devices, this will lead to inevitable belly fat weight gain. But if you follow the steps above, you should be able to counteract the effect quite well and avoid such issues altogether.