Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is a molecule synthesized by the body to react to extreme situations.
The clearest example is when a person feels danger: the stress hormone forces the body to run or attack. In an emergency, one of its functions is to increase physical activity.
Average cortisol values are 10 μg / dl. However, in stressful situations, this figure can reach values up to 15 times higher.
This article describes the effects of cortisol on the body, what it does, and effective ways to lower cortisol levels.
The function of cortisol in the body
The primary function of cortisol is to find a quick answer to a problem. In a state of shock, cortisol stimulates the synthesis of other hormones and forces the brain to react.
The body can immediately mobilize energy stores by releasing cortisol into the blood. The glucose is clear from tissues and goes to the bloodstream. The function: increase brain activity and concentration.
In addition, the hormone cortisol is part of the body’s immune response. One of the essential roles of cortisol is to act as an anti-inflammatory. However, when the increase becomes chronic, this can cause the immune system to become “resistant.”
Then there is the accumulation of stress hormones and increased production of cytokines. These molecules promote inflammation and can compromise the immune response.
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Chronic high cortisol values are wrong for your body.
While the increase in cortisol can help achieve quick decision-making. This can have side effects like changes in mood and behavior. Under the impact of cortisol, aggressiveness and sleep disorders appear.
Having consistently high cortisol levels can have serious health consequences and impair other body functions.
In addition, research affirms a direct relationship between the increase of cortisol, overweight, and obesity. Its role in generating alertness can trigger effects associated with eating behaviors, ultimately leading to increased visceral fat.
High Cortisol Symptoms: How Do You Tell It?
One of the ways to know if you have high cortisol is to measure your blood pressure in the morning. If these are above average values, you probably have high cortisol levels.
An increase in cortisol values can cause all kinds of symptoms. It is one of the causes of severe psychological disorders such as chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.
The most common symptoms of high cortisol are:
- Loss of muscle
- Humor changes
- Altered vision
- Hair loss
- Lower performance
- Overweight and obesity
- Dry skin
- Constant tiredness
- Eating disorders
How to lower cortisol?
To lower cortisol, balanced nutrition must be carried out. One of the best strategies to lower the stress hormone is the combination of a healthy diet with moderate physical activity.
Including relaxation techniques such as meditation and following healthy eating rules in your daily routine is the best strategy to lower your values. There are also methods and medications to regulate your matters. Here are seven tips to lower cortisol:
- Sleep well
Sleep is directly related to lower levels of stress hormones. Improving posture when sleeping is an essential tip to achieve this.
- Take melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that acts contrary to cortisol. Taking melatonin in tablet form is safe for health and can improve the quality of sleep and, therefore, the stress levels of a person.
- Perform physical activity outdoors
Practicing some physical or sports activity of moderate intensity lowers cortisol. Results are even better when doing group and outdoor exercises. (5)
- Don’t drive, or drive less
Driving is an activity that keeps the brain on constant alert. This is because the unconscious detects a faster than natural speed. Furthermore, traffic jams and traffic skyrocket your levels. Linking your driving days with a coworker is a simple method of lowering cortisol.
- Avoid excess caffeine
Caffeine has the function of stimulating the central nervous system. Although productivity increases under caffeine’s effects, its excessive consumption is counterproductive to lowering cortisol.
- Get started in meditation and yoga.
Meditation and cortisol are two closely related concepts. Studies affirm (6) that using this method can lower cortisol to as much as 20%. Yoga is a type of active meditation; its additional advantage is increased muscle tone and flexibility.
- Change eating habits
An excess of sweet foods and a low carbohydrate diet can increase cortisol. Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet will help reduce food cravings – one more minor problem for your brain.
- Walk outside and listen to relaxing music.
One of the benefits of walking outside is lowering your stress hormone levels. Ten minutes is enough to give the neurons a rest. Adding music can bring additional benefits. For science, it is still a mystery what music’s exact function is in the brain. However, no one can deny the effects in generating greater relaxation.
Can food help lower cortisol?
Foods rich in antioxidants, such as foods rich in vitamin C, can prevent the oxidative effects of cortisol. In the long term, they avoid the effects of aging. Higher consumption of antioxidants is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer. (7)
Sugar causes sudden changes in insulin levels. When this drops, they generate an increase in anxiety about food. In the long term, they can negatively affect cortisol values in the body.
The stress hormone and physical exercise
According to research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2), cortisol and exercise are two closely related concepts.
It has been proven that cortisol increases to values of 60-65 μg / dl when doing physical exercise in the first 30 minutes. In the next 10, the body gets used to it, and they drop to 35 μg / dl. At 40-45 minutes, they begin to increase again.
When doing muscle hypertrophy exercises, the values increase due to the breakdown of muscle fibers. This is what is known as muscle stress.
On the other hand, the advice not to train for more than 45-60 minutes is based on the cortisol values in the body. One of its effects is muscle destruction at an hour and a half.
While moderate daily physical exercise helps regulate stress hormone levels, overdoing it is not the solution. (5)
The stress hormone destroys muscles.
Having high cortisol values for extended periods destroys muscle tissues. (5) Muscles break down due to increased essential amino acids and glucose consumption.
I am taking back amino acids before a workout is an effective strategy to lower cortisol caused by muscle stress.
In addition, studies confirm that cortisol acts in the opposite way to hormones related to muscle growth. Increasing testosterone under stress is not possible.
Role of supplements in lowering cortisol
Studies claim that taking 10g of branched-chain amino acids per day can be an effective strategy to lower muscle cortisol values.
In addition, some natural supplements such as Rhodiola Rosea and Malaysian ginseng can reduce cortisol values by up to 17%. (8)
The capsules Omega-3 can significantly reduce the oxidative effects of cortisol. Studies associate this function with DHA and EPA molecules. (8)
The stress hormone cortisol mainly improves the ability to make quick decisions in stressful situations.
The relationship between physical exercise and the stress hormone is complex. Short workouts of no more than 45 minutes are best for lowering cortisol.
Simple steps like taking a walk outside, meditation, and changing your sleeping posture can help lower cortisol.
Taking amino acids before training is a solution to reduce the effects caused by muscle stress.
Malaysian ginseng and Rhodiola Rosea are natural supplements capable of lowering the stress hormone.
Limiting sugar and flour intake helps lower the stress hormone. It is also an excellent strategy to increase testosterone in men.