Cortisol is a hormone discharged by adrenal glands when you are stressed. I help your body to manage stressful conditions, as your brain induces its release from the sensitive nervous system – the fight or flight system in response to different stress types.
While the short-term relief of cortisol can help to run fast from danger, when cortisol levels are more for a long time, this hormone can harm you more than it benefits (Source).
Over time, it can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, difficulty sleeping, insomnia, low energy, heart disease, lower energy, and irregularities.
Causes of Cortisol Rise
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In the last 20 years, researchers have frequently shown that moderate to raised cortisol levels may cause health difficulties such as:
Long-term elevated cortisol may boost the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and other chronic problems.
Cortisol may increase appetite and signal the brain to change metabolism to store fat.
Lack of energy
It can affect sleep hormones which may affect sleep length and quality.
Also referred to as brain fog, some people report trouble focusing and interfere in mental clarity.
Impaired immune system
High cortisol can affect the immune system and make it extra hard to fight infections.
In some cases, the highest cortisol levels can cause Cushing’s syndrome, a rare but severe disease. Raised cortisol levels can be lead to different underlying problems such as cancer or overactivity of the adrenal glands or pituitary glands, medicine side effects, and chronic stress.
Moreover, existing chronic diseases like obesity may cause higher cortisol levels, leading to an egg or chicken type of scenario.
How Cortisol Affect Your Brain
It is a naturally-forming steroid hormone that is created by adrenal glands and released when you are under mental and physical stress. Importantly, it induces a fight or flight response in stressful situations. But it is also absolutely important for health, as it plays an important role in different processes of the body. Cortisol levels are commonly highest in the morning and low in the night. But the problems may happen when they increase for a long time.
Chronically raised cortisol levels can:
- Change the structure, size, and functions of the brain
- Shrink or kill brain cells
- Create premature aging in the brain
- Cause memory loss or concentration loss
- Slow down the ability to increase brain cells
- Increase brain inflammation
Chronic stress and high cortisol levels can raise the amygdala activity, which is the fear center of the brain.
It can cause different activity cycle, which gets stuck in the brain for constant fight or flight mode.
- Bipolar disorder;
- Major depressive disorder
- Borderline character disorder
- Cognitive impairment
Fortunately, there are different ways to manage chronic stress, reduce cortisol levels, restore the damage done to the brain, and help the sense of wellbeing.
Get Enough Sleep
Good night’s sleep is important for lowering cortisol levels. Chronic sleep problems, such as insomnia, change work, or obstructive sleep apnea, are linked with higher cortisol.
According to a review of 28 studies, workers in shift discovered, who slept during the day rather than at night.
Those over rotating shifts have been linked with poor health problems like heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and mental health issues.
Further, insomnia is a sleep condition that leads to difficulty sleeping. It can be caused by various things, including obstructive sleep apnea and stress. It can lead to more circulation cortisol which impacts daily hormone patterns, energy levels, and other health problems.
If you are on rotating shifts or night shifts, then you do not have to finish control on your sleep schedule, but there are some things you do to improve your sleep.
Have a bedtime routine
Create a regular bedtime routine; such as read a book, shower, which can tell your brain and body to begin winding down at night.
Sleep and wake up at the same time every day. A proper sleep schedule is one of the good ways to improve sleep.
Workout earlier in the day
Regularly working out helps to improve sleep quality. It should be done at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Limit caffeine consumption
Try to stop the intake of caffeine-containing foods and drinks before 6 hours of bedtime.
Skip Alcohol And Nicotine
Both substances can cause problems to sleep duration and quality.
Avoid Bright Light at Night
Around 45-60 minutes before sleep time, lower the exposure to blue or bright light. Instead of reaching for a phone in the bend, try listening to music or reading a book.
Sleep in Quiet
Reduce interruptions by using earplugs, white noise, and silencing phones.
Try to take a nap with short sleep to prevent sleep deficit.
Many different types of tea provide helpful effects on cortisol levels. Green tea has been shown to lower the synthesis of cortisol. A study discovered that individuals who consumed 4 cups of black tea every day for 6-weeks had more under cortisol levels in comparison to others who did not have black tea.
Analysts couldn’t affirm what caused this decrease in cortisol. However, they speculated it had something to do with the high substance of theanine, an amino corrosive found in both dark and green tea.
A follow-up study issued this year confirmed that theanine can lower cortisol.
Theanine induces a calming effect in the brain by crossing the blood-brain and raise dopamine production in the brain.
Eat Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil has different health benefits, specifically due to its powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It also consists of a compound named oleuropein, which can lower cortisol levels. You can also add olive oil to the salad.
Analysis has found that there is more fraud within the olive oil industry and so-called extra virgin olive oil consist of other cheaper, refined vegetable oil like corn, soybean, and canola.
Take Nutrients and Herbs that Lower Cortisol
There are different nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and adaptogenic herbs, which lower stress and cortisol levels. Phosphatidylserine is possibly the best option for lower stress hormone levels. It is a fast soluble amino acid synthesis that helps cognitive function. High amounts of phosphatidylserine can be discovered within the brain and increase memory and attention in aged people.
It is another best cortisol lowering supplement. It is a popular Indian herb regularly utilized to skip anxiety. Its anti-anxiety impact is synergistic with alcohol. Its stress-lowering impact is likely because it reduces cortisol levels. Multiple types of research have shown, ashwagandha is a strong stress reliever and lowers cortisol by 14-32%.
Rhodiola is a medicinal plant, the root growth in Northern European and Arctic regions.
It is used as an adaptogen to benefit the body to adapt and resist physical, environmental, and chemical stress. It is also utilized for different reasons.
How does it work?
Rhodiola extracts might help shield cells from damage, regulate heartbeat. It also improves learning and memory.
Other foods include:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Consume Enough Food, Protein
Water from a water bottle is being poured into a glass. Drinking enough water can reduce stress and lower cortisol levels.
Eating enough protein and calories, and drinking enough clean and filtered water is also critical to keeping stress hormone levels low.
Consume More Omega-3s and Low Omega-6s
Omega-3s are powerful dietary fasts that are important for proper brain and nervous system function. They improve memory and learning and save against psychiatric disorders including depression, dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have also discovered that when individuals supplement with omega-3 fatty acids, there is a notable reduction in cortisol release.
Get Enough Antioxidants
The antioxidants are necessary to prevent oxidative stress within the body. The antioxidants also help to lower cortisol. Most of the research has been done on athletes, but supplementation with antioxidants like greens powders, berry powders, vitamin C, and glutathione leads to reductions in cortisol and different stress measures.
Dark berries in specific contain anthocyanins, which are indicated to lower cortisol. Acai berries are beneficial as they contain vitamin C and anthocyanins.
Regarding vitamin C, the research is combined about it can consistently reduce cortisol levels. However, high doses of vitamin C lower stress.
Curcumin is a compound present in turmeric. This spice is mostly used in many dishes. It is a heavily researched compound within turmeric, the spice that provides a yellow color. It is beneficial for mental and physical health.
Thousands of high-quality scientific researches have been issued, showing that curcumin provides antioxidant and inflammation effects and helps in brain hormone growth.
Deep breathing is another simple method to relieve stress. Controlled breath is like mindfulness practice, which helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, called the rest and digest system, which helps to reduce cortisol levels.
Studies have shown a reduction in cortisol after participants combined a deep breath into their routines.
This type of practice is famous in mindful practices like yoga, meditation, tai chi, and qigong, where there is strong importance on breathing and mind-body link.
Have Fun and Laugh
Laughing and having fun help to lower cortisol. Laughing boosts the release the endorphins and suppresses stress hormones like cortisol. It is also linked with lower stress, better mood, and perceived pain, a stronger immune system, and reduce blood pressure. Interestingly, both real and burst laughter can cause decrease stress levels.
For example, laughing yoga, which is a type of yoga that boosts deliberate laughter, has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, lower stress, increase energy levels, and improve mood.
Developing hobbies can also boost well-being feeling, which may help to lower cortisol.
Maintain Healthy Relationships
Family and friends are the best way to feel happiness in life, also a stress relief. According to research cortisol in hair help children with warm family life have decreased levels than children from homes with high conflict levels.
The short rise in cortisol will return to normal levels. A loved one’s support can also help to lower cortisol in a stressful time.
Take Care of A Pet
Caring for a pet is also a good way to relieve stress caused by cortisol. According to research, interaction with therapy does lower cortisol and stress during a minor medical method in children. (Source).
Eating A Good Diet
Dark chocolate may help to regulate cortisol levels. An individual trying to reduce cortisol levels should consume a healthful and well-balanced diet and limit sugar consumption. Some foods that may help to keep cortisol levels normal include.
Pears and bananas
Green tea or black
Try Relaxation Techniques
People getting stress can try relaxing techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, and breathing workout.
Try A Hobby
Hobbies can be a more rewarding and satisfying way to live a healthier life, and they can lead to more sense of well-being.
Avoiding Caffeine at Bedtime
People trying to reduce their cortisol levels should skip consuming beverages and food containing caffeine before sleep. Caffeine can affect night sleep. It’s important to take complete sleep to regulate cortisol levels.
The cortisol levels test is utilized to check if your cortisol production is high or low. There are some diseases like Cushing’s disease or Addison’s disease, which impact the cortisol in adrenal glands. The test helps to the diagnosis of these diseases as it assesses the functioning of the pituitary glands and adrenal glands.
Cortisol is necessary for several systems in the body. These systems include:
- immune system
- stress responses
- circulatory system
- nervous system
- skeletal system
- the breakdown of proteins,
- fats, and carbohydrates
How Is the Cortisol Level Test Performed?
A blood sample is needed to find out the cortisol levels. Most blood units are obtained using this process:
- The blood flow in the arm is stopped by securing an elastic band about the upper arm. It also leads to veins in the arm getting more visible, which makes it easier to add the needle.
- Alcohol is utilized to clean the site over the skin where the needle will be added.
- The needle is added to the vein. It may lead to a brief pinching or stinging feeling.
- Your blood is taken out in a tube that is combined with the needle. More than 1-tube may be needed.
- The elastic band is taken off from sufficient blood has been taken.
- As the needle is taken out of the skin, gauze and cotton are kept on the site of the needle insertion.
- Pressure is added to the part using gauze or cotton. A bandage is utilized to help the gauze or cotton.
Risks Linked with the cortisol level test?
There are some risks linked with the cortisol level test. The test is performed by taking a blood sample from the vein, which may lead to bruising at the site where the needle was added. In rare cases, the following risks may be linked with getting blood drawn from the skin:
- excessive bleeding
- an increase of blood beneath your skin, which is named a hematoma