4 natural ways to reduce cortisol and improve health

On TikTok, videos that are garnering millions of views tout the best techniques to naturally reduce the hormone cortisol, believed to be the root of many health issues. These videos offer a wealth of advice on how to stabilise cortisol levels, effectively reducing stress, weight gain, and fatigue.

Understanding cortisol: The stress hormone

Cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” significantly impacts our health because it influences many of the body’s physiological processes. “Cortisol is your friend,” explains Gregory Fricchione, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, to the New York Times. “Until you produce too much of it.”

When cortisol levels become excessively high, it exacerbates stress and damages health. Employing techniques to manage cortisol can be beneficial, as detailed by Sylvie Chokron, neuropsychologist, research director at CNRS, and author.

The role of cortisol in the body

Secreted by the adrenal glands located above the kidneys, cortisol is produced from cholesterol, also known as hydrocortisone. It’s essential for the body’s “fight or flight” response, mobilising additional energy sources in response to stress.

“Cortisol is released significantly during stress, particularly chronic stress rather than acute stress,” explains Sylvie Chokron. “In acute stress, adrenaline is released, causing a rapid heartbeat. But with prolonged stress, cortisol is secreted, reflecting stress that is felt and thought but not urgent.”

Cortisol also influences sleep, blood pressure, and the metabolism of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. It maintains muscle functions and regulates inflammation. “Cortisol is also a wakefulness hormone,” adds Chokron. “Around 5 a.m., the brain releases cortisol, increasing over the hours to help us wake up and stay alert.”

Techniques to reduce cortisol levels

Excessive cortisol can harm health and weaken the psyche. A 2018 study found that “average cortisol levels increased about nine times during stress periods compared to relaxation periods.”

Here are some effective techniques to reduce cortisol naturally:

1. Engage in enjoyable activities

“There are activities that naturally decrease cortisol,” says Chokron. “Laughing, listening to or making music, social interactions, and altruism—all these activities help.” Any activity that boosts physical and psychological well-being can restore healthy cortisol levels.

“Anything that deeply benefits us can reduce cortisol levels. Humour, walking in nature, and exercising release pleasure hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, which lower cortisol,” Chokron explains.

2. Emotional regulation

“Self-regulation is an intentional practice aimed at improving or stabilising emotions, thoughts, mood, or energy, which can help reduce cortisol levels,” says psychologist Ashley Olivine in an article for VeryWell Health.

3. Healthy diet

A healthy, varied diet is crucial. “Limiting or avoiding processed foods and adopting a nutrient-rich diet with plenty of vegetables and healthy fats can help,” Olivine notes. “Caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners can increase anxiety, which correlates with higher cortisol levels.”

4. Physical activity

Physical activity is another key to reducing cortisol. “Low- or high-intensity exercises temporarily increase cortisol during activity. However, cortisol levels begin to decrease immediately and continue to do so in the hours following exercise, leading to an overall reduction,” confirms Olivine.

Managing cortisol is essential for reducing stress and improving overall health. By engaging in enjoyable activities, practising emotional regulation, maintaining a healthy diet, and staying physically active, you can naturally lower cortisol levels and enhance your well-being.

For more tips on stress management, explore our comprehensive guide with 29 articles dedicated to helping you lead a stress-free life.

This article was syndicated from Marie Claire France
Translated and adapted by Praise Vandeh, Marie Claire Nigeria Content Writer


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