How to Re-Boot Your Cortisol Levels Naturally

Picture this...

You're laying in a hammock next to the beach, with the sound of the ocean just a few feet from you, island music being carried to your ears on warm ocean breezes, tropical birds singing above...

Now picture this...

You're late to work, rushing to get ready, stomach burning, hair on end, eyes bulging , and lips pulled so far back up off of your teeth that you look like zombie from one of those low budget movies.

What do these two mindsets have in common?

One word...Cortisol

Cortisol is everywhere in your body.It's the big daddy of the stress hormones.

It's made in the adrenal glands,and regulated by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland releases ATCH in response to stress and that causes the adrenal glands to then release cortisol.

People tend to think of cortisol as "bad" or dangerous, but it's what gets us going in the morning, keeps our energy levels on an even keel and helps the performance of other key hormones, like estrogen, testosterone, and the thyroid. 

When you have normal amounts of it, it stabilizes immune function,blood sugar and blood pressure. You literally need it to survive.

Different types of stress cause different cortisol reactions. If you're at risk, or you're gearing up for a really important interview or test, your cortisol will kick into fight or flight response and get you through exactly how it's supposed to and then level out again.

In todays world though, that doesn't always happen. The demands of our society continue to grow and when you're in a prolonged state of chronic stress,that triggers cortisol functions to go berserk.

It streams endlessly throughout your body without leveling out. Over time, it even shrinks the area in your brain—where you store memories and control emotional responses, the hippocampus.

Let's perform a quick self check up.

Have you been :

  • Not sleeping?
  • Anxious?
  • Excessively tired lately? 
  • Do you have excess belly fat that won't go away, even though you haven't changed any eating or exercise habits?

Then perhaps it's time to get your cortisol levels tested. This is done to see if your cortisol production is either too high or too low. 

There are several different ways to test your cortisol levels.

Blood/SerumTest:

Cortisol levels vary throughout the day, but they’re usually highest in the morning. Your doctor will most likely schedule the test in the morning for this reason.  Blood will be drawn and your cortisol levels measured. The blood tests downfall is when testing adrenal hormones like cortisol,it can only show your total cortisol (the part that binds to proteins in your blood) rather then the free cortisol (in urine and saliva)

Saliva Test:

There is a 24 hour pattern to your cortisol levels. That means that when you're testing with saliva, you need to test at the same time each day. If you test at 11 am one day and 6 pm the next day, your results won't give you an accurate picture of your true levels. Testing saliva several times a day at the same time each day will give you a pretty comprehensive look into what your cortisol is doing throughout the day.

Urine Test-dried diurnal(DUTCH):

This uses dried urine,(you urinate on a test strip that is then dried) and is the most comprehensive test for anyone who is worried that they might have a hormone problem. The test is done four times in a day, and the strips are then used to give you a complete hormone "snapshot", including metabolites. You can also check the free cortisol which is a better marker of cortisol strength.

Whew...OK,now that we've gone over the types of testing available to check you're cortisol levels, let's look at some things that you can do now, to naturally get them back to where they should be.

Let's start with something that I think is one of the most if not the most important thing necessary to help not only your cortisol levels, but also your cognitive functions.

1. Sleep

In modern society, it's long been a badge of honor to be able to say "Oh, I only need 5 hours of sleep and then I'm right back to work". 

We take pride in multitasking and the ability to run on fumes, but at what cost in the long run?

In order to have normal sleep patterns, we need to be trying for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Check out our natural GABA boosting formula here to help with that.

Cortisol levels drop during the night for a deep, restful sleep that allows hormone levels to reset and your brain to regenerate.

If you're stressed out, your cortisol levels are spiked at night and you can't get the amount or quality of sleep that you need. This lack of sleep sends your cortisol levels even higher. It's a vicious cycle that must be broken and reversed.

2. Eat to fight inflammation

High levels of inflammation that come from a diet high in processed foods, sugar and salt can cause high cortisol levels and a host of other heath issues.

  • Eat minimally processed foods with lot's of colorful fruits and veggies (full of color=full of anti-oxidants).
  •  Incorporate healthy fats and lean protein (animal or plant based) into your meals to help with processed food cravings.
  • Experiment with different whole grains and fiber. This keeps sugar levels normal which keeps inflammation at bay.
  •   Try pro-biotic rich foods like Kefir, Kimchee, and Yogurt.

3.Take Nootropics and Adaptogens

These natural herbs and foods have been used for centuries to promote stress relief, clarity, focus, brain health, and body health. They basically help the body to "adapt" to the stressors both around and within the body.

Studies on brain cells have revealed that adaptogens exhibit neuro-protective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic and central nervous system stimulating activity.

It was discovered in that the stress—protective activity of adaptogens is actually seen on a molecular level. 

Examples of adaptogens are:

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    Bacopa Monnieri- or Brahmi 
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    Rhodeola Rosea
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    Gingko Biloba
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    Licorice Root
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    Holy Basil
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    Macca
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    Panax Ginseng
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    Ashwaganda...just to name a few.
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4. Consciously RELAX

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    Meditate at the beginning and end of your day, to focus and wind down. Even 10-15 minutes will make a huge difference. This is a perfect short meditation.
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    Get a deep tissue massage. Once your muscles are relaxed, your brain seems to follow.
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    Get out in nature-take a hike and remove yourself from the daily grind.
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    Try some hot yoga...it's not as dirty as it sounds :). The heated room and strategic movements not only de-stress you but also de-tox your body.

There are so many little things that you can be mindful of during your day that will keep your stress levels from staying on red alert. I encourage you to be aware of what you do and make any necessary changes needed to keep that cortisol in the healthy range.

About the Author Kelly Anderson

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