Contributed by – Rachana Arya
Cortisol is a stress hormone that plays a vital role in dealing with demanding situations. Cortisol isn’t totally bad, though. In fact, a certain amount of cortisol is healthy for the body. Essentially, cortisol activates you in stressful situations. So far, so good.
However, higher-than-average doses of cortisol in the blood can be damaging to health. It can lead to a gain in weight and other health issues. This means that over time, high levels may hurt more than help. This also means that it is very important that you figure out how to lower cortisol levels. Fortunately, apart from lifestyle alterations, there are simple dietary changes that you can make to reduce stress and support your immune system.
Tips to Lower Cortisol Levels
Tip # 1: Limit your caffeine consumption.
The Claim: Caffeine increases blood pressure and stimulates cortisol secretion even in people at rest.
The Science: It’s wise to limit your daily caffeine intake if you are a habitual coffee drinker. The caffeine from coffee, tea and energy drinks stimulates the adrenal glands to release more cortisol. Prolonged caffeine intake can more than double the blood content of the stress hormone. If you do not wish to give up caffeine, you may gradually switch to caffeine-free or lower caffeine alternatives such as green tea. Green tea only contains about a quarter of the caffeine. Moreover, it helps lower anxiety and reduces the risk of developing depression, thanks to a special amino acid contained in it.
Tip # 2: Ditch the sugar
The Claim: Consuming foods that are heavily processed and full of added chemicals and sugars spike cortisol levels.
The Science: The main foods that fall under this high-sugar category include puddings, milkshakes, ice-cream, fruit juices, cakes, pastries, candies, sodas etc. While these sugary foods might be a quick-fix for relaxation, they are not the healthiest solution to relaxation. Research has linked sugar consumption to higher rates of blood sugar level and higher secretion of cortisol for controlling the former. The healthier option: it’s much better to go for whole-grain products.
[Also read – Salt, Sugar And Stress: The 3 Sins]
Tip # 3: Drink lots of water
The Claim: Staying hydrated directly affects your body’s cortisol levels.
The Science: The link between water and stress reduction is well acknowledged. When you don’t give your body the fluids it needs, you make it harder for the body to deal with everyday issues. Your body in turn will respond to dehydration by increasing higher cortisol levels to deal with the stressful condition. That doesn’t mean that by drinking lots of water throughout the day, all your problems will vanish. What this means is that if you are already stressed out, by getting enough fluids you can reduce your physiological responses to stress.
[Also read – How much water does your body need every day?]
Tip # 4: Avoid or limit alcohol intake
The Claim: Consuming alcohol over an extended period of time may aid relaxation; however, alcohol is a depressant
The Science: Because alcohol often helps to unwind from your stress-filled life, you might think that it has the ability to lower cortisol levels. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Recent research has indicated that chronic drinking elevates cortisol levels in the body. High levels of intoxication can lead to persistently elevated cortisol, reducing the body’s capacity to cope appropriately to stress. However, if you have alcohol dependency, trying to transition from heavy alcohol to abstinence can also cause a dramatic spike in cortisol levels. So it is best to seek appropriate care in a medically managed environment.
[Also read – How Can Alcohol Damage Your Liver?]
Taken together, the above tips may help to moderate cortisol levels to help ensure that the body manages stress fittingly. You don’t need to embrace all of these tips at once. Too much change can be overwhelming. The best way to create positive changes is to do so little by little. Incorporate one or two into your daily schedule and gradually include others to build productive habits over time. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
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