What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands. It is best known as the “stress hormone,” because it regulates the body’s response and danger signals. In addition to these important functions, cortisol has other uses in the body as well:
- Controlling blood sugar levels
- Helps regulate blood pressure
- Regulating metabolism
- Helping to reduce inflammation
- Assisting with memory formulation
- Helps regulate salt and water ratios
Dangers of Elevated Cortisol Levels
While cortisol is essential for good health, too much of the hormone could be hazardous to a person’s health. Symptoms of elevated cortisol levels include the following:
- Thinning skin
- Flushed face
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain (mid-section, upper back, rounding of the face)
- Slow wound healing
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated fatigue levels
Causes of Elevated Cortisol
There are several possible causes of elevated cortisol levels:
Stress. Stress is one of the most common causes of elevated cortisol levels. Stress sends signals from both the nerves and the hormones, causing your adrenal glands to release hormones. Two hormones released are cortisol and adrenaline. When this occurs, there is an increase in heart rate and energy, preparing the body for a fight or flight situation.
If a person is under a constant state of stress, the cortisol levels can stay elevated, possibly leading to a variety of health issues such as high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, and heart disease.
Pituitary gland. Located at the base of the brain, the pituitary gland controls the release of various hormones, including cortisol. Three conditions can cause the pituitary gland to incorrectly elevate cortisol levels:
- Hypopituitarism (overactive pituitary gland). Very rare, with 300-455 people per million being affected.
- Cancerous tumors in the pituitary gland. Malignant tumors in the pituitary gland are rare.
- Benign pituitary tumors (adenomas). Pituitary adenomas make up 10%-15% of all tumors in the skull, and 77 out of 100,000 people are afflicted.
Adrenal gland tumors. The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys. High levels of cortisol and other hormones can be released in both benign and malignant adrenal gland tumors. Adrenal cancers are rare, and the cause is unknown.
Diet. Eating the wrong foods could compromise the health of the adrenal and pituitary glands. Food and drinks high in sugar should be avoided. Specific foods to avoid include the following:
- White sugar
- Fried foods
- Processed foods
- High fat desserts
- Artificial sweeteners
- White flour
It should be noted that many “comfort foods” people tend to eat when under stress or have feelings of anxiety are often the unhealthy foods described above.
Per the American Psychological Association, people feel the effects of stress in many ways:
- 77% of people experience physical symptoms caused by stress
- 76% claim money and work as their leading cause of stress
- 73% experience psychological symptoms caused by stress
- 33% are living with extreme stress
- 26% report being alienated from friends or family due to stress
Reducing Cortisol Naturally
In order to understand how to reduce cortisol, it’s important to know how it’s created and what can impact its production. This knowledge can then be applied to reducing it. Here are the top ways to decrease cortisol naturally:
Reduce stress. Decreasing stress is one of the best ways to lower cortisol levels. Studies indicate the repeated blood pressure elevations that are caused by stress could lead to hypertension.
Spend time with pets/animals. A study on human-animal interactions found many positive benefits, such as reduced aggression, enhanced empathy and improved learning, Other positive benefits were noted for heart rate, cortisol, blood pressure, fear, mental health, anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases. Researchers believe the release of OxyContin during human-animal interactions plays a role in these benefits.
Spend time with friends and family. Studies on loneliness found that momentary feelings of loneliness during the day were associated with momentary increases in cortisol. This particular study focused on youth who suffered from high chronic interpersonal stress.
Exercise. Exercise raises cortisol levels, but studies have shown that cortisol levels decrease after exercise is completed. In a study using 15 minutes of running at medium intensity, researchers noted that cortisol levels post-exercise are often lower than pre-exercise levels.
Decrease caffeine intake. Some studies indicate caffeine can raise cortisol levels, while other studies don’t show a correlation. Each individual person should gauge how coffee affects them and proceed accordingly.
Laugh. Laughter reduces cortisol levels, while simultaneously releasing the feel-good chemicals dopamine and epinephrine.
Tell people “no.” The inability to tell people “no” could increase levels of cortisol in the body. The increased workload or feelings of being taken advantage of could wear a person down mentally, increasing stress and cortisol levels.
Stop worrying. Worrying can increase cortisol levels. This can be especially damaging when focused on things that are out of their control.
Practice deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing exercises have been shown to lower cortisol levels in healthy adults. Deep breathing helps to slow the heart rate and increase the amount of oxygen throughout the entire body as well as the brain. Researchers concluded diaphragmatic breathing “could improve sustained attention, affect, and cortisol levels.”
Scented candles. Aromatherapy has been used as a relaxation technique for centuries. Basil, grapefruit, rosemary, wild orange, lavender and geranium essential oils have been used to decrease cortisol levels and reduce stress.
Take supplements. Adding supplements to a healthy diet may help decrease cortisol levels. A study on curcumin found it to be an effective inhibitor of cortisol secretion.
Top Cortisol Products
In addition to the previous suggestions, taking supplements specifically designed to help decrease cortisol levels is a viable option. Here are the top cortisol reducing supplements.
Vibrant Blue Oils - Parasympathetic
Vibrant Blue Oils Brain Balance Parasympathetic™ contains a proprietary formulation of organic and/or wildcrafted essential oils of:
Clove Bud (Eugenia caryophyllata): Stimulates the vagal nerve to trigger the digestive cascade. It can also stimulate circulation to help increase energy and relieve fatigue. It can also help you boost your mood and relieve memory deficiency. It can be used to support headaches, fevers, digestive problems and increase milk supply for lactating mothers.
Lime (Citrus aurantifolia): Lime oil is stimulating to the brain. It clears thought and aids concentration. It helps relieve apathy, anxiety, and nervousness. Because it refreshes a tired mind, it is a top essential oil to use when treating depression and listlessness. It is uplifting and stimulating.
Adrenarelax™ can be taken with meals. Its unique combination of herbs and nutrients was created to rejuvenate the adrenal glands. In addition to supporting healthy cortisol levels and pituitary functions, it also stimulates the production of dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine.
Cortisol Management contains two patented ingredients designed to help manage stress: Relora® increases relaxation and controls stress-related eating. Sensoril® is a bioactive Ashwagandha ingredient that focuses on alleviating feelings of stress. One capsule should be taken three times daily for best results.
Maintaining healthy cortisol levels is essential to good health. Many health issues can be traced back to elevated cholesterol levels, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stress. By keeping stress levels in check with supplements and a variety of natural cortisol reducing options, a person can be one step closer to good health and overall wellbeing.
What is Stress? The American Institute of Stress. https://www.stress.org/daily-life
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