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How To Naturally Lower Cortisol

STRESS!!!

Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.”  It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!


Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormones, it helps all aspects of your health.

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic-rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fibre.


Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.

Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.

Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.


Conclusion

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

 

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Does Eating Late Make You Put On Weight?

We’ve all heard the claim that being ‘nil-by-mouth’ after 5pm helps you to lose weight, but is this really true?

Well, yes it is and here I’ll explain why and how eating later could be jeopardising your weight loss progress.


Reason #1: Artificial light causes insulin resistance

New research has shown that blue and green light, from devices and bright lighting, lead to chronically elevated stress hormone levels.

We should start the day with high cortisol that gradually decreases over the course of the day. Exposure to light in the evenings scews this pattern.

Chronically elevated cortisol is also associated with storage of fat around the middle and insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is a state where your body is less responsive to the effects of insulin, meaning that you need more insulin to do the job of moving glucose into your cells.

Insulin is your fat storage hormone and therefore elevated insulin levels are not desirable!

Once the sun has gone down, you switch on artificial lighting and I think it’s safe to assume that most people are eating dinner in front of the TV or some sort of blue-light-emitting device.

Essentially, exposure to light when you’re supposed to be in darkness disrupts your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake cycle) by increasing your stress hormone levels in the evening. We’ve known for a while that this affects sleep quality and duration, and that itself downregulates metabolism, but now we’re learning that this exposure to blue light also directly and immediately increases insulin resistance.

In light (pun not intended) of this recent research, eating during the hours of daylight may reduce insulin resistance and therefore aid your weight loss efforts.


Reason #2: The later you eat the shorter your fast

If you’ve read much of my content before, you’ll know that I’m big on fasting. The list of health and weight loss benefits are long.

I like my clients to have a minimum overnight fast (gap between dinner and breakfast) of at least 12 hours. During a fast, your blood sugar and insulin level decreases, allowing your body to move into fat-burning mode.

Ideally, this overnight fast should regularly last longer and sometimes it works well for people to have just two meals per day; so long as those meals are really nutrient-dense and balanced.

The later you eat, the shorter this overnight fast is and the less time you’ll spend in fat-burning mode (unless you delay breakfast).


Reason #3: The later you eat the less time you have to burn off carbs

For the majority, dinner involves starchy carbohydrates; potato, pasta, rice, bread, grains etc. Carbohydrates break down into glucose and are absorbed into the bloodstream and then into the cells for energy production.

Here’s the thing. In the evenings most people are pretty sedentary. There’s not a lot of energy being burned off after dinner. The earlier you eat, the more opportunity your body has to use any carbohydrates, that you ate at dinner, to make energy.

The later you eat, the more chance there is that your cells will be converting that glucose into fat for storage because you just don’t need the energy.


Summary Take home tips

Whilst not everyone that eats late will pile on the pounds, if you’re struggling to lose weight or reverse type-2 diabetes then it’s worth trying the following steps:

  1. When practical, avoid eating after dark
  2. Do not eat in front of a device like the TV or your phone
  3. After the sun has gone down, wear glasses that block blue light.
  4. If you have to eat late have a low-carb meal
  5. Eating two meals per day is perfectly okay and is often a helpful strategy for weight loss.

Sources:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0155601

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3602916/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107005/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3686562/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180604172736.htm

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Have you said “bye bye” to sleeping through the night?

Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?

Do not fear, I have some great tips (and an amazing recipe) for you!

The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing

Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we’re just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.

Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind. People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation. And don’t forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.

Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (Gasp!)

What aspect of health does sleep not affect???

Knowing this, it’s easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:

  • To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
  • To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
  • To conserve some energy so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.

Do you know how much sleep adults need? It’s less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it’s recommended that all adults get 7 – 9 hours a night. 

Try not to skimp!

Tips for better sleep

  • The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you’re more likely to achieve it. This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Seven. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
  • Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fibre). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack). Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat.
  • During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it’s daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
  • Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing. Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte. Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!).
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.

So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?


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 Recipe (Caffeine-free latte for your afternoon “coffee break”): Caffeine-Free Chai Latte

Serves 1-2

  • 1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
  • 2 dates (optional)

Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.

Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.

Blend until creamy.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavour combination you like the best. Cashew butter anyone?


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