When you feel stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This is a normal response to challenges you face, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional. But if you're constantly stressed, your cortisol levels can stay high, and that can cause some problems.
Some of the symptoms of high cortisol levels are muscle loss, weight gain, brain fog, low sex drive, fatigue, and depression. Many people today have high cortisol levels because of the ongoing stresses in their lives, and because they eat unhealthy foods that make the stress worse.
If you want to reduce your cortisol levels, you need to find ways to reduce stress in your life and improve your body's ability to handle stress. That might mean making changes to your diet or finding ways to relax and take care of yourself.
(This video goes over the No. 1 ingredient in this post: Phosphaditylserine.)
- Do Supplements To Lower Cortisol Really Work?
- What is Cortisol and What Does It Do?
- The Negative Effects of Elevated Cortisol Levels
- Common Causes of High Cortisol Levels
- The Best Supplements to Reduce Cortisol Naturally
- Combining Lifestyle Changes with Cortisol Supplement Use
Do Supplements to Lower Cortisol Really Work?
Some studies suggest that certain supplements may help lower cortisol levels and reduce stress, but the evidence is mixed and more research is needed to know their long-term effects. It's important to remember that cortisol is a natural hormone that helps your body respond to stress, and lowering it too much may not be good for you. Instead of relying only on supplements, it's better to focus on lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, being physically active, and eating a healthy diet to manage stress.
Let's learn more about cortisol, how it affects your body, and some supplements that can help you balance it for better health.
What is Cortisol and What Does It Do?
Cortisol is a hormone made by the adrenal glands when you're stressed out. That's why it's called the "stress hormone". Cortisol helps your body deal with stress by increasing your blood sugar, suppressing your immune system, and making you ready to fight or run away.
In the short term, cortisol can be helpful, but if your cortisol levels stay high for too long, it can be bad for your health. High cortisol levels have been linked to problems like weight gain, depression, weakened immune system, and even chronic diseases.
It's normal for cortisol levels to go up and down throughout the day. But if your cortisol levels stay high all day long, it can mean you're under too much stress.
To stay healthy, it's important to manage stress and live a healthy lifestyle. This can help keep your cortisol levels in check and improve your overall health.
The Negative Effects of Elevated Cortisol Levels
Chronically high cortisol levels can cause various negative effects on our body:
- Weight gain: High cortisol levels increase glucose release into the bloodstream leading to an increased appetite and weight gain, especially around the stomach.
- Mood disorders: High cortisol levels can lead to depression and anxiety by affecting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
- Weakened immune system: Cortisol suppresses the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
- Insomnia: High cortisol levels can interfere with other hormone production, such as melatonin, leading to poor sleep and insomnia.
- Digestive issues: Chronic stress and high cortisol levels can cause digestive problems, such as bloating, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Cardiovascular disease: High cortisol levels are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to inflammation and damage to blood vessels.
It's essential to know that cortisol levels fluctuate naturally throughout the day, highest in the morning, and gradually decreasing throughout the day. However, chronically elevated cortisol levels can cause negative health effects. Therefore, managing stress and following a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep, is necessary to maintain healthy cortisol levels and overall well-being.
Common Causes of High Cortisol Levels
Here are some common reasons why cortisol levels may be high:
- Chronic stress: When you're under prolonged stress, it can cause your cortisol levels to increase. This can come from various sources, such as work, money, and relationships.
- Poor sleep: Not getting enough sleep or having poor quality sleep can also lead to high cortisol levels, as cortisol production is affected by sleep patterns.
- Over-exercise: Doing intense or too much exercise can also cause high cortisol levels. While exercise is good for your health, it's important to take it easy and allow for proper rest and recovery.
- Caffeine and other stimulants: Consuming too much caffeine and other stimulants can also result in high cortisol levels because these substances can stimulate the release of cortisol.
- Chronic illness: Having chronic illness or inflammation can also lead to high cortisol levels, as the body's stress response is activated in response to illness or injury.
- Poor nutrition: Eating a diet high in processed foods and sugar can also cause high cortisol levels.
Remember that cortisol levels vary throughout the day, with levels being highest in the morning and decreasing gradually throughout the day. This natural fluctuation is important for your body's normal functioning, and when cortisol levels stay high for a long time, it can lead to negative health effects.
In conclusion, common causes of high cortisol levels include chronic stress, poor sleep, over-exercise, too much caffeine, chronic illness or inflammation, and poor nutrition. To maintain healthy cortisol levels and overall well-being, it's important to manage stress and prioritize healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, engaging in moderate exercise, reducing caffeine intake, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and seeking treatment for chronic illness or inflammation.
The Best Supplements to Reduce Cortisol Naturally
1. Phosphatidylserine (PS)
Phosphatidylserine is a natural substance found in the body, including in the brain. It can help reduce cortisol levels, especially during times of stress. One study found that taking phosphatidylserine reduced cortisol levels by up to 30% after exercise-induced stress. Another study found that taking phosphatidylserine improved mood and cognitive function in people experiencing stress. Phosphatidylserine works by regulating the body's stress response and supporting healthy adrenal function.
2. Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract
Ginkgo biloba is an ancient tree species that has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Its extract contains compounds that have many health benefits, including reducing cortisol levels. One study found that taking ginkgo biloba leaf extract reduced cortisol levels in people experiencing stress. Another study found that taking ginkgo biloba leaf extract improved cognitive function and reduced cortisol levels in elderly people with cognitive impairment. Ginkgo biloba leaf extract works by regulating the body's stress response and may also have antioxidant properties that help protect against the negative effects of chronic stress.
3. Choline Bitartrate
Choline is an important nutrient that helps the body make a chemical called acetylcholine. This chemical helps with thinking, memory, and muscle control. Choline bitartrate is a special kind of choline that can help reduce cortisol levels.
Studies show that taking choline bitartrate can help reduce cortisol levels, especially when you're under stress. For example, one study found that choline bitartrate helped reduce cortisol levels in people who were exercising. Another study found that taking choline bitartrate improved thinking and lowered cortisol levels in people with mild memory problems.
So how does choline bitartrate work to lower cortisol levels? Scientists think it works by helping the adrenal glands stay healthy. Choline helps make a type of fat called phosphatidylcholine, which is found in cell membranes, including those in the adrenal glands. By supporting the adrenal glands, choline bitartrate can help lower cortisol levels.
Ashwagandha is an herb that's been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years to help people deal with stress. Studies show that ashwagandha can help lower cortisol levels and improve symptoms related to stress.
For example, one study found that taking ashwagandha supplements helped reduce cortisol levels in people with chronic stress. Another study found that ashwagandha improved symptoms like anxiety and trouble sleeping in people who had been under a lot of stress in the past.
Scientists think that ashwagandha works by affecting the HPA axis, which is a system in your body that helps you deal with stress. By lowering activity in the HPA axis, ashwagandha can help lower cortisol levels.
Ashwagandha may also have other benefits. It's believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help protect your body from the negative effects of stress. By reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, ashwagandha can help keep your adrenal glands healthy and lower cortisol levels naturally.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that can be found in green tea. Research shows that it can help to reduce stress-related symptoms and cortisol levels.
Studies have found that L-Theanine can improve sleep quality and reduce cortisol levels in people with anxiety disorders. It's believed that L-Theanine works by calming the body and regulating cortisol levels through the HPA axis, which is responsible for the body's stress response.
Bacopa is an herb that has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to improve memory and reduce stress. Research shows that Bacopa can help to reduce stress-related symptoms and cortisol levels.
Studies have found that Bacopa can improve cognitive function and reduce cortisol levels in elderly individuals. It's believed that Bacopa works by regulating cortisol levels through the HPA axis and protecting the body from the harmful effects of chronic stress through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
7. Magnolia Bark Extract
Magnolia bark extract comes from the bark of the Magnolia tree and has been used in Chinese medicine for many years to treat health conditions. Studies show that Magnolia bark extract can lower cortisol levels and improve stress symptoms.
One study found that Magnolia bark extract lowered cortisol levels in people with high stress. Another study showed that it reduced cortisol levels in people with insomnia.
So, how does Magnolia bark extract work? It helps regulate cortisol levels by affecting the HPA axis, which controls the body's stress response. Magnolia bark extract reduces HPA axis activity, which lowers cortisol levels.
Magnolia bark extract also has anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties that reduce stress and support healthy adrenal function. By reducing stress and inflammation, it can naturally lower cortisol levels.
8. Prebiotics and Probiotics
Prebiotics are fibers that feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for gut health. Together, they can improve the gut microbiome and reduce stress symptoms.
Studies show that the gut microbiome plays a role in regulating the body's stress response and cortisol levels. People with a diverse gut microbiome have lower cortisol levels and a stronger stress response.
Prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to a healthy gut microbiome. This can reduce inflammation and support healthy adrenal function.
Probiotics populate the gut with beneficial bacteria, which can reduce harmful bacteria and support a healthy gut microbiome. Some probiotics, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have stress-reducing properties that lower cortisol levels and improve mood.
Prebiotics and probiotics can also improve gut health, which lowers inflammation and cortisol levels. This supports healthy adrenal function and reduces stress.
9. Arctic Root
Arctic Root is an herb that has been used for many years in traditional medicine to help the body cope with stress. It works by supporting the body's stress response system and reducing the negative effects of stress on the body, including elevated cortisol levels.
Arctic Root helps to reduce cortisol levels by supporting healthy adrenal function. Adrenal glands play a vital role in regulating the body's stress response, and when they become overworked due to chronic stress, cortisol levels can become elevated. Arctic Root can help to support healthy adrenal function and reduce the overproduction of cortisol.
Arctic Root also has a positive impact on mood and cognitive function. Chronic stress can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment, but Arctic Root has been shown to help improve mood and cognitive function in individuals experiencing stress-related symptoms.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in many bodily processes, including muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, and bone strength. It is also a powerful natural stress reliever that can help to reduce cortisol levels in the body.
Magnesium can help to lower cortisol levels by regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is a complex network of hormonal interactions that regulate the body's stress response, and when it becomes overactive due to chronic stress, cortisol levels can become elevated. Magnesium can help to regulate the HPA axis and reduce the overproduction of cortisol.
Magnesium has a calming effect on the body and can help to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. Chronic stress can lead to feelings of anxiety and disrupted sleep patterns, which can further exacerbate cortisol levels. Magnesium can help to improve these symptoms, leading to lower cortisol levels and improved overall health and well-being.
Combining Lifestyle Changes with Cortisol Supplement Use:
Everyone experiences stress, but if it goes on for a long time and we don't deal with it, it can be bad for our health. It can make our body release a hormone called cortisol, which can have negative effects. Here are some ways to manage stress and lower cortisol:
- Deep breathing: Doing deep breathing exercises, like belly breathing, can help us feel relaxed. It does this by activating a part of our nervous system that makes us calm down. This can help lower cortisol and make us feel better.
- Mindfulness meditation: This kind of meditation is about focusing on the present moment and not judging our thoughts or feelings. It can help lower stress and cortisol.
- Yoga: Yoga combines moving our body with deep breathing and meditation. This can help us feel less stressed and lower cortisol levels.
- Social support: Spending time with people we care about, joining groups, or doing volunteer work can make us feel better and lower cortisol.
- Taking care of ourselves: Getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, and doing things we enjoy can help us manage stress and lower cortisol.
Sleep is important for our health, but if we don't get enough or good quality sleep, it can make our body release too much cortisol. Here are some ways to improve our sleep habits:
- Stick to a schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help us sleep better.
- Make a relaxing sleep environment: Our bedroom should be quiet, cool, and dark to help us relax and reduce stress.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol: These can interfere with our sleep and raise cortisol levels.
- Avoid screens before bed: The blue light from screens can make it hard to sleep.
- Relax before bed: Deep breathing or meditation can help us relax and lower cortisol.
- Get regular exercise: Exercise can help us sleep better and lower cortisol levels.
- Practice good sleep habits: Avoiding naps and limiting screen time during the day can also help us sleep better at night.
What we eat can affect our cortisol levels. Here are some tips for a healthy diet that can help lower cortisol:
Eat balanced meals: We should eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to help us manage stress and lower cortisol.
- Avoid processed food: These can cause inflammation and raise cortisol levels.
- Limit caffeine: A little bit of caffeine is ok, but too much can raise cortisol.
- Try adaptogenic herbs: Some herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola, and ginseng can help us manage stress and lower cortisol.
- Drink water: Drinking enough water can help our body regulate hormones like cortisol.
- Don't skip meals: Skipping meals can cause cortisol to be released.
- Avoid crash diets: Losing weight too fast can raise cortisol levels.
Exercise is a great way to lower cortisol levels. Here are some reasons why:
- Endorphins: Exercise can make our body release endorphins, which make us feel good and lower cortisol.
- Sleep: Regular exercise can help us sleep better and lower cortisol.
- Inflammation: Exercise can lower inflammation, which can lower cortisol.
- Insulin: Exercise can help our body use insulin better, which can lower cortisol.
- Overall health: Regular exercise can help us be healthier and lower cortisol levels.
In conclusion, chronic stress can have a negative impact on health, but there are many natural ways to reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being. By incorporating mind-body practices, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, supplementing wisely, seeking social support, and managing time effectively, you can help to lower stress levels naturally and protect your body from the negative impacts of chronic stress. Thank you for reading!
Cortigon is our all-natural stress-fighting formula developed by co-founder and Duke neuroscience grad Christopher Walker. It came as a result of his decade of research experience in the fields of neuroscience, men’s health and human endocrinology. Cortigon will help your body maintain a healthy cortisol balance. As well, it lowers stress and gives you mental clarity. Check out Cortigon here.