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9 Natural Ways To Lower Your Cortisol Levels + Diet Tips

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9 Natural Ways To Lower Your Cortisol Levels + Diet Tips October 24, 2018

Is your work giving you sleepless nights? Or is the tiff you had with your partner causing you unwanted stress? Whatever the reason is, your stress needs to be dealt with.

Stress is one of the major triggers of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is the hormone produced in your body in response to high levels of stress. Anxiety, depression, or even a feeling of threat can spike your cortisol levels. High cortisol levels can harm your health and well-being in the long run. Hence, you must lower your stress levels before things go out of hand. Keep reading to find out how you can stabilize your cortisol levels using effective home remedies.

Table Of Contents

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone released by your body in response to stress and low blood glucose levels. It is produced in the adrenal glands and is vital for dealing with stress, regulating blood sugar levels, and fighting infections.

When your body feels threatened or is under stress, your brain releases a chemical called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone triggers your adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline.

The cortisol levels in your blood can be determined by a serum cortisol test.
The normal serum cortisol levels should ideally be 6-23 mcg/dl if the test is taken in the morning.

Cortisol levels higher than normal can have a negative impact on your health. The following section will tell you how.

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Signs And Symptoms Of High Cortisol Levels

Over time, high cortisol levels can do you more harm than good. They may result in the following signs and symptoms:

  • Chronic health conditions like diabetes, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Impaired brain functioning
  • Increased vulnerability to infections
  • Acne
  • Skin thinning
  • Bruising and slow healing
  • Headache
  • Flushed face
  • Irritability and difficulty in concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Muscle weakness

Excess cortisol levels, in certain cases, can also lead to Cushing’s syndrome (also known as hypercortisolism).

The factors contributing to high cortisol levels are discussed below.

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Causes Of And Risk Factors For High Cortisol Levels

  • Stress
  • Issues with the pituitary gland
  • Tumors of the adrenal gland
  • High doses of corticosteroid medications
  • High estrogen levels

These factors can also increase your risk of developing hypercortisolism.

If you suspect you have high cortisol levels, please consult a doctor.

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Testing And Diagnosis

Your doctor may recommend the following tests:

  • Cortisol blood test – To detect cortisol levels in your blood
  • Cortisol urine test – To detect cortisol levels in your urine
  • Cortisol saliva test – Testing your saliva to confirm or rule out Cushing’s syndrome
  • Imaging tests such as CT scan or MRI to check for tumors or other abnormalities

If you test positive for high cortisol, you must take steps to normalize the levels. Listed below are some natural ways that can help.

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Natural Remedies To Lower Your Cortisol Levels

  1. Ashwagandha
  2. Astragalus
  3. Holy Basil (Tulsi)
  4. Rhodiola
  5. Vitamin C
  6. Massage Therapy
  7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  8. Magnesium
  9. Essential Oils

1. Ashwagandha

 Ashwagandha Pinit

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You Will Need

300 mg of ashwagandha supplement

What You Have To Do
  1. Take 300 mg of ashwagandha supplement daily.
  2. Do this after consulting your doctor.
How Often You Should Do This

Take this supplement 1 to 2 times daily, as per instructions from your healthcare provider.

Why This Works

Ashwagandha has adaptogenic properties that help combat stress by reducing your serum cortisol levels (1).

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2. Astragalus

Astragalus Pinit

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You Will Need

450-500 mg of astragalus root supplement

What You Have To Do

Consume 450-500 mg of astragalus root supplement daily.

How Often You Should Do This

You may have to take astragalus supplement twice daily. Take your doctor’s advice on the right dosage.

Why This Works

Astragalus exhibits anti-stress properties, which may also benefit those with high cortisol levels (2).

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3. Holy Basil (Tulsi)

Holy Basil (Tulsi) Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 10-12 tulsi leaves
  • 1 cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add 10-12 tulsi leaves to a cup of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes and strain.
  4. Drink the tea once it cools down.
  5. Alternatively, you can chew on some basil leaves.
How Often You Should Do This

Drink tulsi tea twice daily for optimum benefits.

Why This Works

Among the many medicinal properties of holy basil, one is its ability to lower the cortisol levels and to help manage stress (3).

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4. Rhodiola

Rhodiola Pinit

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You Will Need

250-350 mg rhodiola supplement

What You Have To Do

Take 250-350 mg of rhodiola supplement daily. Consult your healthcare provider before doing so.

How Often You Should Do This

You must take this supplement as per your physician’s instructions.

Why This Works

Supplementation with rhodiola extract decreases the response of cortisol to stress and fatigue, thus helping in lowering high cortisol levels (4).

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5. Vitamin C

Vitamin C Pinit

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You Will Need

500-1000 mg vitamin C supplement

What You Have To Do
  1. Take 500-1000 mg vitamin C supplement once daily for the required period.
  2. You can also consume more of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C.
How Often You Should Do This

Take the supplement once daily.

Why This Works

Time and again, vitamin C has proven to inhibit the secretion of cortisol (5).

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6. Massage Therapy

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Massage therapy is another effective way to lower your cortisol levels and reduce stress. A professional massage session not only lowers cortisol but also increases serotonin and dopamine levels – which further help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression (6).

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7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Pinit

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You Will Need

250-500 mg omega-3 supplement

What You Have To Do
  1. Consume 250-500 mg omega-3 (fish oil) supplement daily. You can also take flax seeds.
  2. Consult your doctor before taking the supplement.
How Often You Should Do This

You must take this once daily – but only after getting your doctor’s approval.

Why This Works

Omega-3 fatty acids possess a stress-regulatory effect that can reduce serum cortisol levels (7).

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8. Magnesium

Magnesium Pinit

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You Will Need

320-420 mg of magnesium supplement

What You Have To Do

Take 320-420 mg of magnesium supplement or the dosage recommended by your physician.

How Often You Should Do This

Take this supplement once daily or as suggested by your physician.

Why This Works

Magnesium supplementation was observed to significantly lower serum cortisol levels. The mineral also modifies stress response and attenuates symptoms of anxiety (8).

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9. Essential Oils

a. Lavender Oil

Lavender Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 4-6 drops of lavender oil
  • Water (as required)
  • A diffuser
What You Have To Do
  1. Add 4-6 drops of lavender oil to a diffuser filled with water.
  2. Switch on the diffuser and inhale the pleasant aroma.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Inhaling lavender aroma can help relieve anxiety by lowering blood cortisol levels (9).

b. Orange Oil

Orange Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 4-6 drops of orange oil
  • Water (as required)
  • A diffuser
What You Have To Do
  1. Add 4-6 drops of orange oil to a diffuser.
  2. Fill the diffuser with water and switch it on.
  3. Inhale the pleasant fragrance of the aromatic orange oil.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice daily.

Why This Works

Aromatherapy with orange oil can help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety by reducing cortisol levels (10).

In addition to these remedies, your diet also has a significant role to play in lowering high cortisol levels.

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Best Diet For High Cortisol Levels

Some foods are known to keep your cortisol levels stable. They are:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Green tea
  • Probiotic foods like yogurt
  • Fatty fish
  • Foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables

Foods that can elevate your cortisol levels include:

  • Trans fats, which are normally present in junk foods
  • Vegetable oils
  • Seed oils
  • Foods that the affected individual may be intolerant to – like eggs, shellfish, etc.
  • Refined sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

As these foods can spike your cortisol levels, you must avoid them.

You should also consider making some lifestyle changes to stabilize your cortisol levels. The following are some tips that can prevent your cortisol levels from fluctuating.

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Prevention Tips

  • Get enough sleep and rest.
  • Stick to a specific bedtime routine.
  • Spend some time out in nature and relax.
  • Maintain healthy relationships with your loved ones.
  • Practice meditation and deep breathing exercises to manage your stress.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks.

High cortisol levels increase your risk of developing chronic conditions like diabetes, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. Hence, it is important that you try and get your cortisol levels back to normal before it is too late. Also, please get a doctor’s opinion before you use any home remedies – and ensure the remedies aren’t interfering with any medications you might be on.

Do you have any more queries on how to manage high cortisol levels? Ask us in the comments box below.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is cortisol released during sleep?

Yes, cortisol is secreted in low levels during sleep. However, this level gets usually elevated 2-3 hours after the onset of sleep and keeps rising until the early waking hours. This is when your cortisol levels should be tested – any level above 6-23 mcg/dl is considered high.

Can high cortisol cause weight gain?

Yes, one of the many symptoms of high cortisol is weight gain. This is because elevated cortisol levels are also associated with an increased appetite.

What hormone is released when a person is stressed?

When a person is stressed, one of the first and most important hormones released by their body is cortisol. Other hormones released in response to stress are adrenaline, norepinephrine, corticotropin-releasing hormone, and adrenocortical hormones.

Does coffee increase cortisol?

Coffee contains caffeine, and caffeine is associated with an increase in cortisol levels.

References

  1. A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults”, Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
  2. The Effects of Astragalus Membranaceus on Repeated Restraint Stress-induced Biochemical and Behavioral Responses”, The Korean Journal Of Physiology and Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine
  3. Hypoglycaemic effects of some plant extracts are possibly mediated through inhibition in corticosteroid concentration”, Pharmazie, US National Library of Medicine
  4. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue”, Planta Medica, US National Library of Medicine
  5. Inhibitory effect of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) on cortisol secretion following adrenal stimulation in children”, Clinica Chimica Acta, US National Library of Medicine
  6. Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy”, International Journal of Neuroscience, US National Library of Medicine
  7. Fish oil supplementation reduces cortisol basal levels and perceived stress: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in abstinent alcoholics”, Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, US National Library of Medicine
  8. Plasma aldosterone, cortisol and electrolyte concentrations in physical exercise after magnesium supplementation”, Journal of Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Biochemistry, US National Library of Medicine
  9. Effect of lavender essence inhalation on the level of anxiety and blood cortisol in candidates for open-heart surgery”, Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, US National Library of Medicine
  10. Effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oil on salivary cortisol and pulse rate in children during dental treatment: A randomized controlled clinical trial”, Advanced Biomedical Research, US National Library of Medicine
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