Learning how to decrease cortisol levels is essential for proper immune function, balancing blood pressure, and metabolizing fat.
Cortisol regulates a wide range of bodily processes.
It’s not just the “stress” hormone, cortisol participates in many other vital systems and we couldn’t live without it. However, like every other hormone, there are negative consequences to both high and low cortisol levels.
Balanced cortisol levels keep you lean, well rested, and infection-resistant.
Imbalanced cortisol levels, on the other hand, may contribute to excess body fat, bad moods, insomnia, higher stress levels, and even heart disease. Low cortisol levels are less common than raised ones, so in this post, we’ll talk about how to decrease cortisol in natural and effective ways. If you suspect low cortisol levels, talk to a physician.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, one of the various glucocorticoids secreted by the body. It is the body’s main stress hormone - its alarm system- and it works with the brain to keep you motivated and energetic while the “fight-or-flight” response is triggered.
Almost every cell in the body has cortisol receptors, meaning it does a lot more than just deal with stress. Cortisol:
- Helps control blood sugar levels
- Regulates the Metabolism
- Has anti-inflammatory properties
- Influences memory formation
- Controls the salt-water balance
- Adjusts blood pressure
- Helps metabolize fat, carbohydrates, and proteins
As you can see, to decrease cortisol is to keep many of your vital functions in check.
Symptoms of Low Cortisol
Too little cortisol, although rarer than high cortisol levels, may lead to Addison’s disease, an adrenal insufficiency disorder. People may experience a gradual onset of:
- Dizziness, especially upon standing up
- Weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Poor response to stress (crashing)
- Allergies and environmental sensitivity
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Low blood pressure
Symptoms of High Cortisol
If you’re interested in how to decrease cortisol, these are the symptoms to watch out for. Bear in mind that prolonged periods of elevated cortisol levels may lead to Cushing’s syndrome.
- High blood pressure
- Increased thirst and urination
- Rapid weight gain (facial and visceral fat)
- Mood swings and irritability
- Propensity to infections
- Flushed and round face
Furthermore, when you don’t decrease cortisol to normal levels, you may experience anxiety, depression, lack of a sex drive and women may see fewer to no periods.
How to Decrease Cortisol Levels
The levels of cortisol in the blood fluctuate throughout the day; they are generally higher in the morning and lower at night (cortisol and sleep work together to manage energy,) however, people who work night shifts have this process reversed. Cortisol secretion is coordinated between the adrenal glands, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in the brain.
When the body is affected by stress, the cortisol levels rise accordingly in order to manage the situation. This is supposed to be a temporary addition to the standard cortisol levels in the bloodstream.
If this spike doesn’t go down all the systems that interact with cortisol fall out of balance, and that’s when you want to know how to decrease cortisol naturally.
#1 Lower Your Stress
Want to know how to decrease cortisol levels fast? The number one way to decrease cortisol levels is undeniable: lower and manage your stress levels!
Some cortisol is necessary to live, but too much in your system and you’re in trouble, so practice awareness to recognize your stressors and better cope with them. Some strategies:
Practice Meditation: 10 to 20 minutes in the morning and/or at night can have significant results.
Use breathing exercises, like alternate nostril breathing when you feel high anxiety levels
Move your body! Dance, walk, laugh - during the day! Start your morning with a happy playlist and dancing in the shower.
- Reserve time for fun and self-care even during office hours, a simple five-minute break every half hour will do wonders for you.
- Change the idea of “I have to” to “I get to” as it unconsciously triggers gratitude feelings.
#2 Eat a Hormone Balancing Diet
Just like hormones and weight gain are connected, so is cortisol and nutrition. Some foods that help you naturally manage cortisol in the blood. If you’re looking how to decrease cortisol levels, this is one of the most fun ways!
Eat Chocolate! Yes, permission to eat dark chocolate as studies show it helps decrease cortisol effectively.
You can keep it healthy too: vegan chocolate protein brownies, chocolate nice-cream, and healthy hot chocolate substitute.
Have bananas: the potassium in them helps lower blood pressure. It’s an inexpensive option if you’re wondering how to decrease cortisol quickly.
Get probiotics: research shows that you can decrease cortisol levels balancing your gut. You can find probiotics naturally in yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, pickles, tempeh, saurkraut and more.
Drink Water or Tea: green tea helps inhibit stress after mental tasks and water flushes out toxins, hydrates pathways, and helps to decrease cortisol organically.
- Try Adaptogen Mushrooms: adaptogens are foods that help you naturally manage stress. Reishi mushrooms, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, Shiitake, Turkey Tail and Chaga are all adaptogenic mushrooms, but they don’t all taste great.
#3 Get a Regular Sleeping Schedule
Looking into how to decrease cortisol levels? Start with your bedtime! Going to bed at the same time and rising at a regular time helps naturally regulate your hormonal secretion system.
Pro tip: an hour or two of zero screen time will lower your blue light exposure and helping kick melatonin -the sleep hormone- into gear.
#4 Find a Hobby Other than Netflix
We love marathoning a series as much as the next person, but overexposure to blue light interferes with cortisol production. A hobby helps you fill more relaxed and fulfilled when you’re looking at how to decrease cortisol: fun is the way to go.
#5 Exercise in Ways You Enjoy
Physical activity helps regulate cortisol levels, but you don’t have to necessarily break a sweat - if you don’t want to. Swimming, yoga, and power-walking are all forms of exercise that can help you feel better without exerting too much effort. However, if you do like breaking a sweat, go for it!
#6 Practice Mindfulness
Being in the present moment in an aware manner is to be “mindful,” it sounds simpler than it is, but it requires practice. How to decrease cortisol with mindfulness? Anchoring your thoughts in the present moments help you break obsessive and stressful thinking patterns.
#7 Avoid Caffeine at Night
Caffeine lovers know: the more you drink, the more you’ll need. Avoid caffeine after 2:00 PM and at night, as caffeine takes a few hours to be completely flushed out and it will restart your cortisol-fueled alert state.
#8 Schedule Time for Fun!
Our favorite “how to decrease cortisol” tool: pure fun. It’s easy to get caught up in daily life, work, relationships, the news or the kids. If you don’t have a regular fun and self-care practice, this is the time to start one! Book a painting class, learn to dance, go to a comedy show - whatever rocks your fun boat.
#9 Try a Herbal Supplement
If you’re having trouble disconnecting from stressing situations Bach flowers, Valerian root, lavender extract, and ashwagandha may be helpful. These plant-based supplements can be gentle enough that they won’t create dependency, but powerful enough to get you through a stressful time.
We put ashwagandha on our Green Juice because it’s a great way to help you power up for your day feeling energized but not wired.
#10 Relax with Essential Oils
We live in a very visual world, which means we often forget the power of aromas. However, essential oils either applied directly on your skin (after diluting) or in a diffuser can be subtle yet very effective ways to help you relax and lower cortisol levels.
How to decrease cortisol levels with essential oils:
- Get a massage from a professional or a loved one.
Add them to your breathing exercises throughout the day.
Have them in the background as you do other things, the smell will unconsciously relax you.
- Create a sacred space and light candles, diffusers, or incense as you say your thanks for the day.
BONUS: Spend Time with a Pet
Research shows that the benefits of petting an animal -from fluffy rabbits to rough turtles- brings stress levels down significantly in both animal lovers and non-animal lovers. Want to know how to decrease cortisol? Play with a pet, yours or not!
Elevated cortisol levels are dangerous for your overall physical and mental health, learning how to decrease cortisol helps you not only manage stress but sleep better, lose fat, reduce the abdominal circumference, resist infections and colds better, and overall - just feel good.
We recommend a hormone balancing diet as the cornerstone of your protocol to decrease cortisol, add sleep and fun activities as you go. Any other ideas to lower cortisol? Let us know!