People who are under a lot of stress may have chronically high cortisol levels. But there are measures you can take to help to regulate the hormone and related symptoms.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. There are two factors that control its release. The first: it is secreted as a response to stress. The second: it is released when there is a lower than normal level of glucocorticoids in the blood.
Cortisol is in charge of different functions in the body:
- Increases blood sugar levels
- Metabolizes fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
- Suppresses the immune system
High cortisol, stress and weight gain
The brain has different mechanisms in place for responding to high levels of stress and anxiety. One of these is the release of cortisol. When this hormone is released, blood sugar levels go up, and the glucose gives your muscles energy.
Symptoms of high cortisol
If a person presents with some of these symptoms, they may have high cortisol:
- Weight gain and fat accumulation in the abdominal area
- High blood pressure
- Weakened muscles
- Drastic variations in appetite: loss of appetite or insatiable hunger
- Desire to consume foods high in salt and sugar
- Emotional changes like anger, irritability, or uncontrollable crying
- Decreased sexual desire
- Difficulty getting over a virus or cold
- Feeling dizzy upon standing up
There are natural methods that can decrease high cortisol and improve these symptoms. They’re important too, because they’re not just annoying; they can end up being very dangerous.
Weight gain is one of the most visible effects of high cortisol. To treat it, watching your diet is important. Eating certain foods can be a big help:
- Foods containing phenylalanine: Phenylalanine is an amino acid that stimulates dopamine production. Then dopamine reduces the anxiety that makes you want to eat foods with high in fat and sugar. Dopamine is also related to pleasure.
- Foods rich in phenylalanine, as found in animal proteins: red meat, eggs, fish and dairy. It can also be found in lentils, garbanzo beans and some nuts like peanuts and soy.
- A Mediterranean diet is an excellent option, both for your diet in general as well as for decreasing high cortisol levels. It is based on fresh, in-season foods. It includes good fats like olive oil as well as fruits and vegetables. The main sources of protein in the Mediterranean diet are meats, seeds and grains.
- Omega 3: It has the ability to decrease cortisol levels when they are stress-related. Cold water fish are an excellent source of omega 3, like sardines and salmon. There are also dietary supplements.
- Hydration. One effect of stress is dehydration. The best thing to drink is plain water. You can also include green tea because of its antioxidants, and eliminate sugary beverages completely from your diet.
Insomnia is a significant risk factor for cortisol production. Also, it makes other symptoms worse, such as tiredness, fatigue and irritability. People with high cortisol should get on a healthy sleep schedule.
We recommend sleeping a room with a moderate temperature, not too hot and not too cold. Aim for silence, darkness, and no distracting electronic devices with blue lights.
Since stress is the main cause of high cortisol, any activity that helps you relax and improves your mood is recommended. Some examples are listening to music, watching something funny, and taking your dog for a walk.
It’s also a good idea to take time during the day to relax and not think about any of your problems. Close your eyes in your and listen to soft music for 15 minutes, or however long you need to relax.
Doing some sort of regular exercise is very important for decreasing stress. It is also great for muscular problems that are caused by high cortisol. You don’t need to do intense exercise. Just a 30-minute daily walk is enough to relax you and keep you in good shape.