Are you looking for ways to balance your cortisol stress levels? Today we are talking about some of the most important way you can balance high cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol is a stress hormone made and released by the adrenal glands.
Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure.
In women, cortisol also supports the developing fetus during pregnancy. While the short-term release of cortisol can help you run quickly from danger, when cortisol levels are too high for too long of a period of time rather then helping you, these high cortisol levels can be very damaging to the body.
Despite how normal and common stress is the 21st century, there are some people who experience the negative effects of high cortisol on a daily basis. For those people, stress and high levels of these hormones might be too difficult to overcome and may interfere with their ability to lead a normal, happy, and healthy life.
While it might seem like stress has a hold on you, but there are ways to find a balance and normalize the stress you experience every single day.
So, What is Cortisol?
Anytime you hear someone talking about stress, you’ll likely hear them mention cortisol. That’s because cortisol is the main stress hormone in the human body. Many people refer to cortisol as the body’s built-in alarm system, helping the brain control mood, motivation, fear, and more.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys. It’s responsible for managing how the body uses carbs, fats, and proteins, it regulates inflammation, regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar, controls the sleep/wake cycle, and boosts energy.
The adrenal glands listen to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which can sense when the body needs more or less cortisol. Once cortisol is produced and released, most of the cells in the human body have cortisol receptors that utilize the hormone in a variety of different ways.
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High Cortisol (Chronic Stress) vs. Low Cortisol (Adrenal Fatigue)
Having high levels of cortisol is normal, especially in moments when the body needs it. When these elevated levels of cortisol become chronic, that’s when problems start to arise. Normally, the body should be able to balance itself out and decrease cortisol levels when not needed.
Chronic stress can lead to blood sugar imbalances, a dysfunctional immune system, increased inflammation, sex hormone balance, weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, and lower vitality. In more severe cases, it can lead to adrenal dysfunction, which welcomes a variety of other symptoms.
On the flip side of that, low cortisol levels can also wreak havoc on the body. Also known as adrenal fatigue or HPA axis dysfunction, chronically low cortisol levels are often the result of being under high levels of stress for an extended amount of time. Eventually, the body taps out.
With adrenal fatigue, people have a hard time dealing with everyday stressors and often feel too tired to combat them. They experience weight gain, hormone imbalance, anxiety, insomnia, energy crashes, depression, brain fog, lightheadedness, irritability, frequent sickness, and much more.
Suspect you might have an adrenal problem? Take our Adrenal Quiz to assess your risk.
5 Ways to Balance High Cortisol Levels In Your Body
Experiencing chronically high levels of cortisol or chronically low levels of cortisol isn’t normal for anyone. It’s something the body should be able to combat on its own. If it can’t regulate cortisol levels by itself, that means there’s something larger in play that needs to be looked at.
The good news is there are a variety of things you can do to help the body learn to balance cortisol levels, which can help you lead a healthier, happier, and more rewarding life. Below, I’m going to detail five of my most prominent strategies when balancing cortisol levels in the body.
1. Lower Cortisol Levels Through Your Diet
Eating a healthy diet is necessary for a variety of reasons, including regulating cortisol levels. This means lowering your sugar intake, avoiding processed foods, and reducing caffeine intake. Replace bad fats with healthy fats and replace your high-sugar diet with a healthy carb diet.
You should also make sure you’re eating enough protein, whether it’s from animals or plants.
2. Lowering Cortisol Levels With a Better Sleep Schedule
Next to your diet, ensuring you maintain a healthy and regular sleep schedule is important for both physical and mental health. A good night’s sleep will help you relax and rejuvenate for the following day. Restful sleep balances your body in a variety of ways, including cortisol levels.
If you have trouble sleeping or suffer from poor sleep quality, make sure you have the right environment for it. Keep the room dark and cool, stay away from your mobile device, avoid caffeine and food before sleeping, exercise regularly, and use a sleep mask when needed.
3. Decrease Cortisol Levels With Deep Breathing Exercises
In the same way, sleep relaxes and rejuvenates the body, deep breathing can help you achieve it during the day. That’s because it helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system — which is responsible for relaxation and digestion response while relaxed.
The most popular form of mindfulness-based stress reduction is the box breathing technique, which is when you breathe in for five seconds, hold for five seconds, breathe out for five seconds, and then hold for another five seconds. Repeat those steps for as long as needed.
4. Reduce Cortisol Levels With Adrenal Adaptogens
Adaptogenic herbs are non-toxic plants that are known to help the body respond to everyday stressors. They’ve been utilized for thousands of years and were staples in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Today, they’re utilized all over the world for their medicinal benefits.
Some of the most important adrenal adaptogens include Asian Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Rhodiola Rosea, Schisandra, and Reishi mushrooms. You can also add green tea to your diet, which contains L-Theanine.
5. Spend Quality Time Outdoors & With Nature
Another way you can help the body restore, regulate, and balance cortisol levels is via exposure to nature. Most of us spend so much of our time indoors, but little do we know that spending time outdoors is necessary for the mind and body. All it takes is a little bit of time outdoors.
The best ways to do this are through grounding and sunlight exposure. Grounding, also known as earthing, is when you’re barefoot in nature. Sunlight exposure to the skin is also necessary for the natural production of Vitamin D.
Are You Experiencing a Cortisol Imbalance?
Stress — both physical and emotional stress — is something we all experience on a daily basis, but it shouldn’t be something that interferes with your ability to live a happy and healthy life. If this is something you’ve become far too familiar with, I can help you balance your cortisol levels and get your life back on track.
To learn more about my functional medicine services and how I work with patients, schedule a free 15 minute consultation, You can also use my adrenal fatigue quiz which can assess the potential severity of your adrenal gland imbalance.
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