Many people who follow our site know by now that cortisol is a health destroyer on so many levels. Not only is it a testosterone killer, but it also causes inflammation, which in turn leads to all sorts of other health hiccups. Knowing how to lower cortisol is the first step to better vitality and well-being. We’ll show you the keys to reducing cortisol without resorting to quick-fixes in the form of medications and OTC drugs.
What Is Cortisol and Why Is It Bad?
Most people have a general understanding of cortisol. They know it’s a stress hormone released in response to various stress factors, both physical and psychological. In minimal amounts, cortisol is actually good for you. For one, it stimulates adrenaline release when there is actual physical danger. It also temporarily increases metabolism and controls blood pressure.
LEARN MORE: Top 5 Supplements That Lower Cortisol Naturally
The problem is that poor lifestyle factors cause our bodies to produce more cortisol than we need. The end result may manifest in symptoms not conducive to our health. Aside from diminished testosterone, it may also include:
- Weight gain
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic fatigue
- Mental fog
- Bone density loss
Too little cortisol can also be a bad thing. However, most people have more cortisol than too little. This is all thanks to the western lifestyle where the body perceives stress due to factors like a crappy diet, being overworked, not being physically active enough, etc.
How to Reduce Cortisol Levels Safely
Now that you have a layman’s understanding, you know why it’s so important to keep this stress hormone within normal levels. You will need to make a few lifestyle tweaks, but these are changes you should be implementing anyway for general health. Once you know how to decrease cortisol and put knowledge into action, you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel.
1. Modify Your Diet
We can just tell you to eat healthier. However, UMZU’s way of healthy eating differs drastically from mainstream health literatures. The western diet begs for a cortisol spike. Foods like factory-farmed meats, refined sugars, alcohol, polyunsaturated fats and low-fiber carbs overtax the body. The body responds in kind with a temporary cortisol surge.
We’re not suggesting you can never enjoy a Twinkie or Big Mac, but you need to limit them as an occasional treat. Make a daily habit of consuming foods that are scientifically proven to lower stress hormones.
Some foods that lower cortisol include:
- Cold-water fish (wild-caught and not farmed)
- Dark chocolate (containing at least 70% cocoa solids)
- Citrus fruits
- Sugar-free non-pasteurized yogurt
Knowing how to lower cortisol starts with changing the food items in your pantry.
2. Sleep More
Do you consistently get the full eight hours of shuteye every night? If so, then more power to you because most people fall way short. According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, Americans are only sleeping an average 6.8 hours per night. This falls slightly short of the minimum recommended seven hours. It’s also down more than a full hour from 1942.
When it comes to health, so many people talk about the importance of a good diet and exercise, yet completely overlook the importance of sleep. Studies show that sleep loss causes a cortisol spike the following morning. Subjects that slept four hours a night or fewer saw a significant rise over the control group, all of whom slept the full eight hours.
READ MORE: What Are the Effects of High Cortisol Levels
We get that eight hours is a lot. It is, after all, one-third of a 24-hour period. However, your health is banking on it. Surely, you can trade in an extra hour of Netflix or gaming time for additional Zs. If you’re having trouble adjusting to a new sleep time or falling asleep at all, then we suggest seeing our post on insomnia treatment.
3. Exercise the Right Way
Some exercise is better than none. However, just as intense anaerobic training can reduce cortisol, low-resistance endurance training can have the opposite effect. We wrote an entire article on the effects of long-distance running on testosterone and cortisol, which we highly recommend reading.
If you absolutely love the runner’s high, then we suggest multiple sets of short sprints. Other forms of high-intensity training that reduce cortisol include low-volume resistance training, box jumping, burpees or sprinting with a weighted or parachute vest. Studies show that while maximum-intensity exercises briefly elevate cortisol, the levels later drop and remain low for the rest of the evening.
4. Think Positive
We know this is easier said than done. It’s all too easy to get stressed out when we have a bad day at work or when the bills are piling up. However, how you interpret the stress in your mind actually has a physical effect on cortisol levels. If you want to know how to reduce cortisol, you have to monitor your thoughts.
Studies show that your thoughts cause physical changes at the cellular level. This explains the placebo effect. It also affects your cortisol levels, and the science proves it.
In one eye-opening study, subjects that recounted traumatic life experiences in writing had higher levels of cortisol versus a group that wrote about happy life moments.
We get that life isn’t all sunshine and lollipops, but your perception does influence your reaction to external events. Make a habit of seeing life as half-full rather than half-empty. Instead of focusing on what can go wrong, cultivate thoughts of appreciation for what’s already in your life. You can also try mindfulness meditation, deep breathing or reading inspirational quotes to help you.
5. Use Supplements to Reduce Cortisol
You can use natural cortisol supplements to keep the stress hormone within normal range. Cortigon is one of our flagship products with research-proven ingredients like inositol, choline and ginkgo biloba. These natural compounds fight free radicals that contribute to cortisol spikes. Users frequently notice the positive effects of a cortisol drop, including more sustained energy and greater mental clarity without crashing.
Know How to Lower Cortisol Naturally
It all comes down to knowledge and putting that knowledge into practice. Cortisol has its place in a healthy functioning body. However, excess levels are a recipe for illness and low quality of life. Once you know how to reduce cortisol, you hold the key to reversing sickness, disease and stress.