Cortisol is our stress hormone, and when our body is under prolonged, low grade stress our cortisol levels can rise and rise and rise. When our cortisol levels are high it causes al sorts of imbalances to occur within the body.
Elevated cortisol levels can result in increased inflammation, hormonal disruption, thyroid dysfunction, dampened immune system, blood sugar imbalances, muscle wastage....the list really can keep going on and on.
The biggest way the high cortisol levels are exhibited in the body is by causing the bodies stress response to be lessened. Meaning that the feelings of stress and anxiety of day to day activities can become heightened. From here sleep can be implicated and therefore energy levels will also take a hit. As you can see, when your cortisol levels are elevated, it leads to a whole cascade reaction throughout the body.
So how do we help to lower cortisol levels? Well it all starts with the nervous system. If we can manage stress levels and anxiety then the cortisol production by our adrenal glands will be more likely to normalise.
Cut the coffee
Coffee is a stimulant, meaning that it stimulates the nervous system. It also gives your adrenal glands a bit of a kick, pushing them to produce more cortisol. Reducing coffee or cutting it out of your diet completely is a fantastic way to help to relax the body and lower cortisol levels. While coffee will not be the only contributor to stress levels, it is adding fuel to the fire. So lets not fan the flames of stress and anxiety, and reduce the coffee where possible. And yes, you will feel ordinary the first few days but trust me, it gets better.
Exercise in the morning, not the evening
Exercise naturally boosts cortisol levels, so making sure that we are using it's powers for good instead of evil is important. There is a whole cortisol cycle that takes place in your body daily, it should naturally peak in the morning, giving you that energy to get going and start your day, and then it will slowly reduce throughout the day, dipping in the evening and allowing the body to rest and sleep. To support this natural cycle we want to encourage the peak at the start of the day, not at the end. If you must exercise later in the day, try to counteract it with some relaxing movement afterwards such as yoga, or spend some time in meditation to help and bring that cortisol level down before bed.
Breathing is an easy and effective way to instantly lower cortisol levels . Deep breathes, exhaling for longer than the time you take to inhale. Sitting with your breathe and feeling it within your body is enough to lower cortisol levels. This helps to take the body out of the 'fight or flight mode'. If meditation isnt your thing, then practicing something simple like deep breathing throughout your day will help you along the way in reducing cortisol levels. Sitting at traffic lights, while your cooking dinner, there are so many different times you can incorporate it into your day.
Karah is the founder of The Sana Co and head Naturopath. She has a passion for treating digestive conditions such as bloating, irritable bowel syndrome and GORD. She see's patients from in the Ocean Grove, Geelong & Bannockburn Clinics.