• HEALTH & NUTRITION

5 ways to lower cortisol

Cortisol plays an important role in the body’s stress response. Produced by the adrenal glands, this stress hormone is crucial for maintaining physiological balance and responding to stressors. When the brain senses stress of any kind, a signal is sent to the adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol – which acts like your body’s built in alarm system.

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Cortisol

There are many critical onflow effects that take place when cortisol is released.

  • Our awareness heightens and our “fight or flight” response is activated.
  • Blood sugar rises to provide the body with a quick surge of energy to help us respond to stress.
  • Muscle function is enhanced to prepare the body to physically fight or flee any perceived stress.
  • All non-essential functions that aren’t required for our immediate survival (e.g. digestive and reproductive systems) are suppressed, with energy redirected to prioritize survival resources.
  • Blood flow is directed away from these non-essential organs and areas like the skin and digestive system, and toward the muscles and brain to support the supply of oxygen and nutrients.

These immediate responses are necessary and even beneficial in dealing with acute stress, but when increased cortisol production is ongoing or prolonged, these effects can have detrimental consequences over time.

Cortisol follows a daily routine to keep the body functioning optimally. It rises in the morning to help you feel alert and ready for the day ahead, and naturally drops at night, helping you wind down and get a good night’s sleep. But this typical pattern is not the reality for a lot of people.

Prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels caused by ongoing stress, poor stress management, excessive exercise, poor nutrition and irregular sleep patterns, can eventually disrupt the natural rise and fall of cortisol, sending your hormones out of whack. This can reverse the typical cortisol pattern, lowering cortisol levels in the morning and raising them at night – making it harder for you to get to sleep, and even harder to wake up.

This imbalance can contribute to stress-related issues like fatigue, increased feelings of worry and overwhelm, disrupted sleep, weight gain, digestive issues, poor cognitive function and focus and more.

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Target stress at the cellular level

Support your stress response at the cellular level to help you stay calm, focused and ready for whatever life throws at you.

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5 ways to lower cortisol levels

Don’t skip meals

  • Research suggests that those who skip breakfast experience prolonged elevations of cortisol throughout the day. Skipping meals can be perceived as a significant stress on the body, triggering the production of cortisol and the activation of our stress response.
  • When you skip meals (particularly, when you skip breakfast) your blood sugar levels can drop significantly. Because the body perceives low blood sugar as a stressor, the fight or flight response is triggered to help raise blood sugar levels back to normal.

Instead of skipping meals, focus on eating regular balanced meals throughout the day with a big focus on protein. Protein has long been researched for its blood sugar regulating effects, with studies showing that by stabilizing blood sugar levels, eating enough protein can reduce the need for cortisol production. Research also shows that tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein-rich foods, can influence serotonin in the brain – the neurotransmitter that supports mood. By increasing this calming neurotransmitter, dietary sources of tryptophan may potentially influence the regulation of cortisol.

Moderate your caffeine consumption

As a stimulant, it’s no surprise that caffeine has a jolting effect on the nervous system. But how bad is it really? Caffeine has the ability to activate the stress response, and lead to increased levels of cortisol in some people. Studies show that a moderate amount of caffeine (around 2-3 cups of coffee) can lead to significantly elevated cortisol levels quickly after consumption, and in the later hours of the day for those who continue drinking it throughout the day. While the effects of caffeine differ from person to person, if you’re interested in getting a better night’s sleep and having more sustained energy – it may pay to consider if your caffeine consumption is aligning with your goals. But if you don’t want to avoid it altogether, stick to one cup of coffee per day before 10am.

Exercise

Choose the right type of exercise

Low impact exercises like Pilates, walking, cycling and swimming are known to reduce cortisol levels, lower stress and improve mood. Practicing mindful movement that combines exercise and relaxation like yoga and tai chi, can be particularly effective in balancing cortisol. If you feel chronically overwhelmed or exhausted, signing up to a new HIIT class might not be the best option for you (or your hormones). Listen to your body and choose wisely.

Avoid overtraining

While exercise is beneficial for stress relief and can help to regulate cortisol, excessive or intense workouts without proper recovery can do the opposite. Exercising in a way that helps you feel energized and taking adequate rest days to recover is the way to go.

Time your workouts

The timing of your workouts matter. Exercising in the morning when cortisol levels are naturally at their peak will encourage and establish a healthy cortisol pattern. If mornings aren’t possible, be sure to have enough time to wind down after your evening workout before bed.

Consider taking adaptogens

Adaptogens are a class of herbs that have traditionally been used to support the regulation of the body. As the name suggests, adaptogens are said to help the body ‘adapt’ to stress and support the regulation of the HPA-axis (aka your stress response). By supporting the body’s resistance to physical and emotional stress, adaptogens may reduce the impact of stress on the body – preventing the negative effects of cortisol and acting as a buffer for stress.

Regulate your stress response with adaptogens:

You can find Rhodiola and Ashwagandha in combination with other powerful actives in our latest formulation, MitoQ adrenal +balance.

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Meet MitoQ adrenal +balance

Our newest formulation addresses stress at a cellular level to support everyday stress, sleep, focus, mental clarity, and better energy.

Support cell health

Stress activates an ‘alarm’ in your brain, disrupting the body’s normal balance. This signals the mitochondria – our cells’ powerhouse – to produce more energy to mediate our stress response. The by-product is increased free radicals. Oxidative stress (cell stress) builds up as a result of increased free radicals, compromising mitochondria health.

Mitochondria in the adrenal glands are particularly important as they play a role in our sleep/wake cycle and regulate our stress hormone - cortisol. It’s our cells that send the signal to trigger the stress response in the first place, so maintaining the function of our cells (and mitochondria that live inside them) is key when it comes to supporting the stress response.

  • The cells in the adrenal glands are responsible for generating the energy required for cortisol production.
  • Healthy cells are better able to mitigate oxidative stress and support cortisol regulation.

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