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How to Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally

Plus, the Best Lab Tests for Identifying a Hypercortisolism
March 22, 2023
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If you’ve ever narrowly avoided a dangerous situation or faced a stressful event, you’ve experienced a spike in cortisol.

Excess cortisol in your blood can lead to increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate, and an abrupt halt of your digestive system.

Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands and affects nearly every organ and tissue in your body. It helps manage your metabolism, immune response, and inflammation. It’s also responsible for triggering the fight or flight response.

Experiencing cortisol surges on occasion can help you quickly avoid danger. However, cortisol levels that remain too high for too long can negatively change your immune response. It can also suppress your digestive, reproductive, and growth processes.

Let’s explore the dangers of high cortisol, learn how to lower cortisol naturally, and find hormone lab tests that can help you figure out what’s causing your symptoms.

Why Is Higher Cortisol an Issue?

Cushing syndrome, or hypercortisolism, is commonly found in adults between the ages of 20 and 50. It occurs when cortisol levels remain high over time. This can occur naturally or be the result of taking oral corticosteroid medications.

If left untreated, high cortisol levels can lead to health complications, including:

  • Frequent infections
  • Loss of strength
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis

What Happens When Cortisol Is High?

Prolonged periods of high cortisol can cause the following physical signs and symptoms:

  • Weight gain around your midsection and upper back, a rounded face, and a hump between your shoulders
  • Pink or purplish stretch marks on your abdomen, thighs, breasts, and arms
  • Thinning, fragile skin that easily bruises
  • Slow healing cuts and bruises
  • Acne

High cortisol can also lead to more serious health conditions, including:

  • Unexplained weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme fatigue

Women may also experience thicker or more visible body and facial hair and irregular (or absent) menstrual cycles.

What Does It Feel Like?

Hypercortisolism can lead to regular weight gain (despite exercise and diet), extreme fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and night sweats. Major depressive disorder is the most prevalent mood disorder in those with Cushing syndrome, affecting 50-70% of cases.

People struggling with Cushing syndrome often report feeling weak, tired, and sad. However, people with high cortisol levels may also struggle to control their emotions or experience impaired memory and concentration.

What Causes Low Cortisol Levels?

Addison’s disease, or adrenal insufficiency, is an uncommon disorder that occurs when your adrenal glands underproduce cortisol. People with the following autoimmune disorders have a higher risk of developing Addison’s disease:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Grave’s disease
  • Chronic thyroiditis
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Vitiligo
  • Myasthenia gravis

How to Lower Cortisol Naturally

Making some lifestyle changes can help you manage your anxiety. If you want to learn how to lower cortisol naturally, follow these steps:

  • Eat a whole-food, plant-based diet
    Fill your plate with colorful fruits, leafy green vegetables, and plenty of whole grains (e.g., brown rice, and oatmeal). Avoid processed foods to improve gut health, and lower your risk for things like high cortisol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises
    Repeating deep breathing exercises a few times a day can help reduce cortisol levels, and ease anxiety and stress.
  • Limit caffeine intake
    Chronic stress can leave you feeling tired and reaching for caffeinated beverages just to get through the day. However, caffeine doesn’t address the root cause of your stress and can perpetuate fatigue by increasing cortisol levels.
  • Get enough quality sleep
    Set a regular bedtime schedule and allow your body to rest for seven to nine hours every night. Getting adequate rest can significantly decrease cortisol levels and restore your body.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes every day
    Moving your body and elevating your heart rate for at least 30 minutes every day can regulate your hormones.It can be as easy as taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood.
  • Opt Outside
    REI was on to something when they launched this campaign a few years ago. Spending time in nature has a calming effect on the mind and has been shown to lower cortisol levels.

How to Test Cortisol Levels

The best way to test your cortisol levels is with a blood test. Our physician-approved cortisol lab tests are convenient, affordable, and always confidential.

We offer a variety of testing options that can check for increased or decreased cortisol production, such as:

Quest Diagnostics conducts all tests. Results are typically available within 1-2 business days.
Doctor's orders are never required.

Supplements to Reduce Cortisol

Here are four supplements that can help rebalance your cortisol hormone levels, keep them in a healthy range, and lower stress and anxiety:

  • Ashwagandha root
    Try this supplement to lower stress and anxiety and improve your general sense of well-being.
  • Rhodiola
    Use this supplement to help increase your body’s resistance to stress, exhaustion, and fatigue.
  • Lemon balm
    Take this supplement to alleviate stress and improve mood, cognition, and memory.
  • Chamomile
    Sip this supplement as a tea to reduce anxiety.

What Is a Natural Cortisol Blocker?

A natural cortisol blocker is a dietary supplement or medication used to block stress hormones. They help regulate and balance cortisol levels and other bodily functions.

Many people use these blockers to treat Cushing syndrome, anxiety, and increase new muscle tissue. Talk to your doctor to find out if these blockers are right for you.

What Foods Decrease Cortisol Levels?

If you want to learn how to lower cortisol naturally, try foods rich in omega-three fatty acids:

  • Fatty fish (e.g., salmon, tuna)
  • Nuts (e.g., pistachios, almonds, walnuts)

Foods rich in magnesium:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Dark chocolate

Foods rich in L-theanine:

  • Black or green tea
  • Gut healthy foods (e.g., probiotic-rich yogurt, prebiotic-rich artichoke)

Are you living with chronic stress and anxiety that are elevating your cortisol levels? Find the Ulta Lab Tests that are right for you and start healing your immune, digestive, and reproductive systems.

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