Stress is a regular part of our everyday lives. There’s environmental stress from things like noise, air pollution, and chemicals in our everyday products. Then, there’s the stress of our busy lives, involving work, family, school, and every little problem that seems to occur constantly and consistently. In addition to those, there’s the stress put on our bodies from poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. Many of us have had a time when life was just too much! But there is help for stress that doesn’t mean cutting yourself off from the world and meditating on a mountaintop (as attractive as that might be), and it has to do with the hormone cortisol.
Role of Cortisol
When a person is faced with a stressor, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, which in turn releases glucose from storage into the bloodstream. This gives the body a boost of energy that prepares it for a fight or flight response. The cortisol hormone also inhibits the production of insulin so that the glucose won’t be stored away again and can be immediately used. Once the situation has been resolved, hormone levels return to normal.
If a person is stressed often, the body may be constantly pumping out cortisol, which can create other problems. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to increased blood sugar levels and increased insulin resistance, both of which cause the body’s cells to become starved of glucose. This sends a message to the brain to increase the appetite to get more glucose, leading to overeating and weight gain. Cortisol also helps to reduce inflammation in the body by suppressing the immune system. A body constantly flooded with cortisol will compromise the immune system and increase the risk of sickness. Cortisol can affect moods, can compromise digestion which can lead to ulcers, and can raise blood pressure.
Lower Cortisol Levels
There are many things you can do to help your body naturally lower cortisol levels.
Eat Cortisol Lowering Foods
- Vitamin C rich foods, such as citrus fruits and berries
- Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flax seeds and walnuts
- Dark chocolate
- White beans
- Olive oil
- Green tea
Use Adaptogen Herbs to Control Cortisol Levels
- Licorice root
- Panax Ginseng
- Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Use Essential Oils to Lower Cortisol
- Clary Sage Oil
Laugh More Often
- Studies have shown that laughter can reduce levels of cortisol and the other stress hormones, norepinephrine and epinephrine
- Laughter has been shown to improve the immune defense against foreign invaders
Listen to Music
- Listening to your favorite kinds of music can help to lower cortisol levels
- Good music can also improve immune function by encouraging the immune system to produce more antibodies
Using simple methods like these can easily fit into a busy schedule. Of course, getting a good night’s sleep, exercising regularly, and maintaining a toxic-free diet can all help too by keeping the body balanced, fit, and able to tackle the various stressors in our everyday lives.