The “stress hormone” cortisol plays a key role in our stress response, also known as “fight or flight” mechanism. This is an important process within the body—but was more so many years ago when it would get triggered by actual life or death situations.
When our bodies are chronically exposed to high stress, cortisol floods the body constantly. Blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar are all affected also.
Chronically high cortisol puts you at risk for several health problems:
So let’s find out some holistic ways to both manage cortisol levels and keep stress at bay.
The term “adaptogen” describes a category of plants that improve the body’s stress response and have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. (Source)
These adaptogenic herbs work with the HPA axis and might affect hormone production and physiological responses to stress. (Source)
Some adaptogens can be added to a meal and taken directly, but most can be taken as supplements, tinctures or teas. One of my favorite supplements for reducing cortisol, belly fat and helping to balance stress is called Cortisol Manager Allergen Free from Integrative Therapeutics.
The stress and cortisol reducing ingredients include ashwaganda, L-theanine, magnolia bark and phosphatidylserine. Check it out in my Fullscript Dispensary and also enjoy a 15% discount on professional grade supplements too.
Cortisol modulators decrease or regulate cortisol activity when taken. There are two supplements that act as cortisol modulators that I want to highlight because of their safety and lack of side effects.
These two modulators are easily found in supplement form. As always, do your research when shopping for supplements! Not all supplements are made equal.
There’s a huge benefit to just having someone objective to talk things through with. The emotional and mental benefits of therapy are well known. And, now there are scientific studies that show objective measures of stress are affected after therapy.
In one study on older adults with generalized anxiety disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy as an addition to SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) treatment showed a reduced peak cortisol levels. (Source)
Another study examined those going through treatment for advanced stage cervical cancer. It compared one group without CBT and one group with CBT. They found a significantly lower serum cortisol levels and pain scores for those who had chemotherapy with CBT.
Trained counselors will be able to teach you many helpful and practical ways to deal with life’s stressors, while also helping you uncover the source of stress.
Sleep, nutrition and daily practices like moderate exercise and meditation all play a huge role in managing stress and therefore cortisol levels. While it is less exciting than being able to pop a pill and experience immediate effects, lifestyle changes truly are what will make the biggest difference in health overall.
Here are some resources I’ve put together on different lifestyle changes that can help you manage your stress:
Happy reading! I hope these resources are helpful to you.