Lowering Cortisol: Expert Tips

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  • Consequences of Elevated Cortisol Levels
  • Methods to Reduce Cortisol Levels

Experiencing stress is a common sensation, but maintaining a perpetual state of stress is detrimental to your overall well-being, as per the Mayo Clinic. However, you can alleviate stress and enhance your physical and mental health by learning how to diminish cortisol levels.

Deena Adimoolam, M.D., an expert in diabetes and endocrinology, and assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai, explains that cortisol, also referred to as "the stress hormone," is a crucial hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Dr. Adimoolam further emphasizes that cortisol levels, like all other hormones, naturally fluctuate owing to various factors, including the time of day, daily activities, stress levels, sleep patterns, and more. These fluctuations play a significant role in the body's functioning.

Consequences of Elevated Cortisol Levels

While cortisol is essential for our bodies, excessively high levels can contribute to numerous undesirable mental and physical repercussions. Dr. Monisha Bhanote, M.D., A.B.O.I.M., an integrative lifestyle physician and author of The Anatomy of Wellbeing, states that persistently elevated cortisol levels can disrupt mood regulation, hinder memory and learning abilities, and impair immune and metabolic function.

Methods to Reduce Cortisol Levels

If you are concerned about the impact of stress or your cortisol levels, it is advisable to consult with your physician. In the meantime, experts recommend experimenting with the following strategies to naturally lower cortisol levels.

1. Prioritize Sufficient Sleep

Both Dr. Bhanote and Dr. Adimoolam concur that establishing a consistent sleep schedule is vital in regulating cortisol levels. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night to maintain cortisol balance. If sleep is elusive, try incorporating a cup of chamomile tea into your routine and explore tips for optimizing your sleep quality.

2. Adopt a Balanced Diet

Consuming a well-rounded diet can also aid in cortisol regulation, according to Dr. Bhanote. Ensure that your diet includes an adequate amount of essential vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.

3. Identify Sources of Stress

High cortisol levels often stem from significant stressors in life. Dr. Adimoolam suggests identifying the aspects of your life that induce stress. By pinpointing stressors, you can effectively manage them and potentially reduce cortisol levels.

4. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Our experts highlight the benefits of mindfulness as an effective technique for relaxation, citing its ability to decrease cortisol levels. Dr. Bhanote suggests experimenting with progressive muscle relaxation, a form of meditation that focuses on different body parts, from head to toe. This practice heightens your awareness of bodily sensations, helping to alleviate tension.

5. Explore the Power of Deep Breathing

Dr. Adimoolam recommends deep breathing exercises as another potent method for reducing cortisol and managing stress. Research indicates that breath work can also lower blood pressure and hypertension. There are numerous mindful breathing exercises available, such as the 4-7-8 breathing technique popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil, an expert in integrative medicine.

6. Embrace the Outdoors

The mental health benefits of nature are plentiful, according to Dr. Bhanote. Incorporate outdoor activities into your routine to lower cortisol and alleviate stress. Consider exploring the finest walks in America, visiting trails or botanical gardens, or simply enjoying your lunch break outside to soak up some sunshine and fresh air.

7. Prioritize Social Interaction

Dr. Bhanote emphasizes the importance of human connections and social support in managing stress and cortisol levels. Engaging in positive social interactions, seeking support when needed, and fostering strong relationships can be highly advantageous.

8. Establish Self-Care Habits

Maintaining a self-care routine is crucial for regulating cortisol levels, according to Dr. Adimoolam. Self-care practices may differ for each individual, but they all share the common goal of improving both mental and physical well-being, as highlighted by Dr. Haley Perlus, a sports and performance psychologist.

9. Moderate Your Caffeine Consumption

Dr. Bhanote warns against consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, as it can lead to elevated cortisol levels. It is advisable to enjoy caffeine in moderation. Research suggests that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, resulting in increased cortisol production. Consider limiting yourself to one cup of coffee or tea per day and observe how it affects your daily experience.

10. Exercise Caution with Herbs and Supplements

While certain adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and Rhodiola rosea have traditionally been used to combat stress, Dr. Bhanote advises consulting with your doctor before incorporating any supplements into your diet. If you are concerned about your cortisol levels, it is recommended to seek guidance from an endocrinologist who specializes in hormonal health. They can conduct specific tests to evaluate your cortisol levels and provide appropriate recommendations for your situation.

Dietary enhancements are products designed to complement one's diet. They are not medications and should not be used as a treatment, diagnosis, alleviation, prevention, or cure for diseases. Exercise caution when considering dietary enhancements during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Additionally, be attentive when it comes to administering enhancements to a child, unless specifically recommended by their healthcare provider.

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Related Stories by Shannen Zitz

Shannen Zitz serves as an Assistant Editor at Prevention, where she covers a myriad of topics including lifestyle, wellness, beauty, and relationships. Formerly the Editorial Assistant at Prevention, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from the State University of New York at Cortland. When she's not engrossed in literature or scripting, you'll likely find her actively participating in skincare and makeup discussions on Reddit or dominating the squat rack at the gym.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brooke Williams, D.O.

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Dr. Brooke Williams is a skilled Board-Certified Internal Medicine specialist who currently practices as a dedicated Hospitalist in North Carolina. Having successfully completed her residency training in the vibrant South-suburbs of Chicago, she is also an initiator of a commendable nonprofit organization called Color of Medicine. This organization is committed to promoting diversity in medicine and STEM fields, with a special emphasis on empowering underrepresented minorities. Dr. Williams fervently advocates for improving cultural proficiency and tackling racial health disparities within minority communities, demonstrating unwavering devotion to creating a more inclusive and equitable healthcare environment.

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