Stress is running rampant in our society. It affects all of us to a greater or lesser degree, taking a toll on our bodies and our minds.
The hormone that is at the heart of all of this damage is called cortisol.
In this article, we’ll discover the best ways to defeat cortisol, including the top 6 all-natural supplements that can help you to get a handle on your stress.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is released from the adrenal gland into the bloodstream. Its purpose is to prepare the body for a dangerous situation. It heightens our level of anxiety and revs us up so that we can run fast, react more quickly and generally be more alert. It also increases our blood glucose levels to provide more energy.
What Cortisol Does to Your Body
Stress is the constant companion of many people in our anxiety driven world. These people have got cortisol overload. It’s a pretty good bet that they are also carrying a decent amount of unwanted body fat. That’s because a side effect of increased cortisol levels is fat accumulation, especially around the abdominal area. Abdominal fat build-up has been linked to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.
Another unwanted effect of cortisol is that it breaks down muscle tissue. In order to raise blood sugar levels it will break down proteins and converts them into blood sugar in a process known as gluconeogenesis. This can easily put the person into a catabolic state where their body is actually eating away at their muscle tissue. With the loss of muscle tissue your metabolic rate will slow down, which will result in even more fat accumulation.
5 Ways to Beat Cortisol
Balancing your cortisol levels will not just help you to shed unsightly fat – it will prevent you from anxiety overload. Here’s how to do it.
(1) Eat a Balanced Diet
Foods that are proven aids in helping to balance out your cortisol levels are green leafy vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs, poultry and the occasional serving of red meat. To lower your cortisol levels eat less sugar, alcohol, sweets, soft drinks, cookies, cereals, fat free products and foods that contain trans fats. You should especially concentrate on cutting back on caffeine. Caffeine causes a spike in insulin levels, so cut back on your consumption of sodas, energy drinks and caffeine.
If you feel that you can’t do without your daily coffee, you can make some adjustments to the time of day that you drink it. Peak cortisol levels occur between 8 and 9 am, 12 and 1 pm and 5:30 and 6:30 pm. If you have your coffee around these times, you will be able to maintain your energy levels without spiking your cortisol levels.
Processed foods have been shown to cause a spike in cortisol levels. Processed foods also cause a spike in blood sugar levels and insulin which lead to a short tern burst of energy. However, increased blood sugar levels also cause you to feel anxious.
You can also help to control your cortisol levels by drinking plenty of water. One study showed that being dehydrated by just half a liter each day can raise cortisol levels. When we are dehydrated, we get stressed and stress leads to dehydration so it is a vicious cycle. To avoid this be sure to keep a water bottle with you and sip from it constantly throughout the day.
You can tell whether you are getting enough water in your system by checking your urine. If it is clear and light then you are doing well.
When you’re exercising, your body perceives a threat taking place and actually temporarily increases its cortisol production. However, regular exercise will lower your non-exercising cortisol production. As a result, you feel less stressed after working out. Studies indicate that high intensity, short duration aerobic exercise is best for lowering cortisol levels. Stress balls appear to work on a similiar mechanism.
Here are 6 key supplements that can help you get your cortisol under control:
(1) Vitamin C
(2) Omega 3 Fatty Acids
(5) Rhodiola Rosea
Sleep deprivation and the inability to relax the mind and the body tend to keep cortisol production high, which can have negative effects on the body long term. It is, therefore, vital, to maintain a consistent, regular sleep pattern in order to balance out your cortisol levels.
Another reason to get more quality sleep is that the opposing hormone to cortisol is growth hormone (GH). GH acts as a suppressant to cortisol. However, as we age our GH levels decline dramatically. As a result, cortisol levels, which are unopposed, increase. So, we really want to boost our GH levels in order to control cortisol. Sleep just happens to be a great way to do just that.
Get into the habit of rising and going to bed at the same time. This will help to keep your stress at bay and it will keep your cortisol levels down. Keep your room as dark as possible and free from any technology (even your phone!). Do a pre-bedtime activity that relaxes you such as reading a book or listening to soothing music. If you are unable to get to sleep within 30 minutes, get up and do a quiet activity for a half hour and then go back to bed.
(5) Regular Sunlight
Fifteen to twenty minutes of sun every day will make you feel much calmer as well as providing you with plenty of vitamin D, both which will help to lower your cortisol level.
Vitamin D is not the only vitamin that can help to bring down your cortisol levels. Check out this eye opening clip that reveals how Vitamin C can play it’s part to control the stress inducer . . .
Supplements to Reduce Cortisol
Ascorbic acid, more commonly known as vitamin C, is a water-soluble vitamin that humans need to ingest on a regular basis. Unlike most animals, humans cannot make their own vitamin C. To the general public, it is probably one of the more familiar vitamins but many people may be unaware of the ways it is used by the body and its effect on the hormone cortisol.
Vitamin C is needed by the body in order to create collagen, a component of blood vessels, tendon, muscles, bones and skin. Vitamin C is a power antioxidant that fights against free radicals that cause cell degeneration. There is currently research being undertaken to investigate whether Vitamin C supplementation can boost the functioning of the immune system by lowering levels of cortisol. Researchers at the Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, looked into the effect of Vitamin C supplementation on human subjects who were put under exercise-heat stress. The author of the study commented . . .
Prolonged physical exertion and environmental heat stress may elicit post
exercise depression of immune cell function, increasing upper respiratory
tract infection (URTI) susceptibility.
The researchers found that vitamin reduces cortisol levels more effectively than a placebo. Another study, this one out of Germany, also found that vitamin C supplementation lowered measures of stress.
It is recommended that Vitamin C be ingested in two separate 250 mg doses, taken morning and night.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have gained a well-deserved reputation as brain boosting, health promoting mega supplement. There are two key omega-3 fatty acids; docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA. Booth of them are believed to play a part in lowering cortisol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in such foods s salmon, halibut and walnuts. You can also take them in supplement form.
In a study conducted at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran, researchers focused in on the impact of EPA on the cortisol levels of study participants who are diagnosed with a form of depression. The participants were given 1 gram of EPA either alone or in combination with 20 mg of the anti-depressant fluoxetine over an eight-week period. The levels of cortisol were measured both before and after treatment. The results, which were published in the June 2019 issue of ‘Psychiatry Today’ magazine, showed that EPA significantly reduced cortisol levels.
Another study, this one out of Hopital de la Cavale Blanche in France looked at the effect of fish oil, which contain both EPA and DHA, on stress levels in males. The participants in the study were each given 7.2 grams of fish oil daily for three weeks. They were then given a stress test. It was found that fish oil significantly reduced cortisol levels.
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid that is found in every cell membrane in your body. It has been shown to have numerous nootropic benefits as well an immune boosting ability. There is also evidence that it has the ability to reduce cortisol levels.
Even though exercise is a recognized and essential means of combating stress and reducing cortisol levels, it is also known that too much exercise can have the opposite effect. Research conducted by scientists at the University of Mississippi investigated the effects of phosphatidylserine on cortisol levels on people who had undergone moderate intensity exercise. Study participants were given 600 mg of phosphatidylserine or a placebo for a period of 10 days. Immediately following the supplementation they underwent moderate intensity exercise. The study report was published in the July 2008 issue of the ‘Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition’, showed that the people who had taken phosphatidylserine had lower levels of cortisol compared with those who took a placebo.
A study out of Neuropattern in Germany looked at the impact of phosphatidylserine on people undergoing a stress test. There were four groups who were either given a placebo, 400 mg of phosphatidylserine,600 mg of phosphatidylserine or 800 mg of phosphatidylserine. The group that saw the greatest reduction in cortisol levels was the 400 mg group.
The most effective dosage of phosphatidylserine for reducing cortisol seems to be in the 400 to 600 mg range. However, it is not advised to self-administer phosphatidylserine, as it may cause interactions. You should consult your health care provider before taking this supplement.
Ashwagandha is a plant which is indigenous to the Middle East, Africa and India. In these countries it has been used for centuries as a cure-all for all sorts of physical and mental issues. One of its most popular uses is as a stress reliever.
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, which restores balance to the body by negating the effects of stress. It achieves this primarily by the blocking of cortisol. In one double blind, placebo-controlled study a highly concentrated Ashwagandha supplement was given to 64 subjects. The participants were both male and female and were all diagnosed with high levels of stress.
The test subjects were each given 300 mg of Ashwagandha for a period of 60 days. The results showed that serum cortisol levels dropped significantly. Interestingly, there was a corresponding decrease in stress levels of 27.9 percent.
Rhodiola Rosea is an herb made from thee plant of the Golden root plant. It has been used for thousands of years as a medicine in Ayurvedic medicine. As with ashwagandha, it is considered to be an adaptogen that help to fight the effects of stress.
Researchers are unclear about the specific actions of Rhodiola Rosea in terms of reducing cortisol. It does contain a number of phytochemicals that are believed to play a big part in the process. When you purchase Rhodiola Rosea, be sure that it contains no less than 3 percent rosavins and approximately 1 percent or salidroside to get the best cortisol defeating effect.
Glutamine gets used up when you exercise. As this happens, your levels of cortisol go up. This is especially the case if you are regularly working out for longer than 45 minutes. Supplementing with glutamine will balance out these levels.
You should take 10-15 mg of glutamine as part pf your post workout shake.
You now know, not only what the effects of cortisol are on your body, but what you can do it minimize those effects. Apply the five steps outlined for a month and your mood, not to mention your appearance, will have taken a turn for the better.