Stress is an unavoidable part of our daily lives. A certain amount of stress is actually necessary for our survival as well as for stimulation and personal achievement; however, the amount of stress most people are under these days is causing more harm than good.
Types of Stress
There are two different categories of stress:
|Occurs when, for example, an infant cries, or you have to slam on the breaks in the car, or someone scares you or you are running late.
|Linked to serious side effects. Examples of chronic stress are taking care of a sick parent, feeling unhappy in your home or work life, enduring a long illness or a drawn-out divorce.
Your autonomic nervous system cannot tell the difference between physical and emotional stress, therefore, it reacts the same. Stress, no matter where it is coming from, disrupts your body’s internal balance.
The stress hormone, cortisol
You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.
Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?
Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!
Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol
Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies). Interestingly enough, sugar can actually reduce cortisol when consumed in response to a specific event, but too much sugar consumed in excess over time will raise cortisol.
High doses of caffeine may also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest or switch to green or black tea. A study of 75 men found 6 weeks of drinking black tea decreased cortisol.
Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.
Lower your cortisol levels with a little chocolate every day. Both the milk and dark chocolate have been shown to lower cortisol. That’s because the cocoa polyphenols in real chocolate have been shown to reduce stress in healthy and stressed individuals. How much chocolate? In this study, a daily consumption of 40 grams for two weeks reduced the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol.
Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol
It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.
Reduce your stress with meditation. A daily meditation practice can be very peaceful and restorative, which helps to reduce stress.
Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.
Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.
Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.
In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and limit your caffeine consumption. And have more water, fruit, vegetables, tea, and real chocolate.
Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.
Recipe: Avocado Chocolate Pudding
3 ripe avocados
¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 dash salt
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavor.
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Let me know your favorite ways to manage stress and lower cortisol in the comments below!