Your Body is Stressed Out and Asking for Help!

Western medicine is great at treating symptoms. Sometimes those treatments absolutely lead to curing what ails us. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. Our bodies are complex with interdependent systems, each doing a specific function as best it can. That’s why putting a band-aid on one thing can lead to a new problem somewhere else.

Stress affects us in multiple ways. It’s insidious because our body has natural responses that are there to help us manage stress. Illness and other issues pop up because our body is programmed for the quick response, fast recovery kinds of stress.

The natural “fight or flight” stress response works great if you need to run from harm or jump out of the way of a passing car. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew.

Today, many of us deal with high levels of stress almost all day long. Our body tries to help us but when it becomes a long-term reaction, bad things can happen.

The main stress hormone is cortisol. It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep. When it’s functioning optimally it will help you be alert and respond as needed.

When it’s releasing constantly to counteract your stress, cortisol levels become elevated beyond what is healthy. That’s when what was meant to help can begin to harm.

Too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and can even lower your immunity. On top of that, you’re likely dealing with other sources of stress so it’s no wonder you don’t feel well.

Fortunately, there are some great ways to combat the flood of cortisol and help regulate your body back to levels that are better for you.

Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

It’s no surprise that sugar and caffeine can both contribute to higher cortisol levels. Cutting back or eliminating these will help. You’ll notice a decrease in anxiety, and improved energy levels as well.

Being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty. This is an easy step that can also improve your skin and help flush away toxins. Keep your water bottle close by!

Eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods will help reduce the stress hormone. Bonus: we know that also aids all aspects of your health. A small portion of dark chocolate (not the sugary, milky kind) can help you unwind and lower cortisol.

I also want to mention probiotics and prebiotics. There is new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key to good health. Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.

Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol. Meditation and even a minute or two of breathing exercise can help.

Download this guided meditation for a quick way to reduce stress and return to ease.

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels. Consistency wins!

A good night’s sleep is underrated as a key part of a healthy lifestyle. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and helps with alertness, improved energy, and mental focus.

Relax and have fun. Things like massages and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol. What brings you joy? Do more of that!

Be social and bust loneliness. Science has shown that we suffer health risks from social isolation and loneliness. Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key. Call up a friend and catch up. You’ll both be healthier for it.

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally. Focus on nutrient rich foods and have less sugar and caffeine. Add water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors matter too. To lower your cortisol exercise regularly, get more sleep, relax, and have more fun. That’s the Return to Ease lifestyle. The best part is that it’s all do-able. Make incremental changes where you need to and keep doing the things that are working well.

What’s your go-to when you need to de-stress?


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