How to Control Cortisol

Four Methods:Managing StressLiving a Healthy LifestyleWatching Your DietIdentifying Adrenal Issues

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands that triggers your liver to release sugar stores into the blood. Naturally, cortisol helps to maintain a sense of equilibrium in stressful and traumatic situations also known as the “fight-or-flight” response. When cortisol levels build up in the blood, however, it has a wide-range of negative impacts on your mind and body. Elevated cortisol levels can interfere with learning and memory, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and mental illness. Stress control is the most effective way of managing your cortisol.

Method 1
Managing Stress

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    Practice deep breathing. Stress forces you to breathe faster and shallower than normal. When you practice deep breathing techniques, you will be able to lower your stress and cortisol levels. Abdominal breathing exercises for twenty to thirty minutes every day will significantly reduce anxiety and stress levels. Deep breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain, which stimulates a state of calmness. Mastering your breathing techniques will connect your body and mind while stopping the stress response caused by the release of cortisol.[1]
    • Combine deep breathing and visualization to stop the devastating effects of cortisol. Imagine holes in your feet where hot air can enter your body. Take a deep breath and visualize hot air flowing in from the holes and then throughout your body. Relax your muscles as you exhale, pushing the hot air back down your body and out the holes. This exercise takes six seconds to complete and is known as the “quieting response.”
    • Harmonize the body, mind, and emotions through specific natural rhythms of breathing. Rhythmic breathing techniques help eliminate stress, fatigue, and anger.
    • Try lying on your back and then place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. As you relax your entire body with your eyes closed, breathe in slowly through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise (not the one on your chest). Hold your deep breath for three seconds and then release it. Do this exercise until you feel completely relaxed.
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    Relax for twelve minutes in the morning. Taking a shower, fixing breakfast and lunch, getting the kids ready for school, putting your work clothes on, and dealing with rush hour traffic are just some of the responsibilities that might be part of your morning. Relax twelve minutes after you wake up before you begin the range of activities that get you ready for the day.[2]
    • Studies have shown that cortisol, “the stress hormone,” can be lowered by taking approximately twelve minutes in the morning to relax. Cortisol is often released early in the morning and is responsible for maintaining homeostasis.
    • Instead of jumping right into the workday by checking email messages or turning the computer, prepare a cup of tea and sit in the sunlight outside until you clear your mind.
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    Perform mindful mediation. Mediation has long been known for its ability to help reduce stress and quiet the mind, but now mediation has been discovered to have a biochemical benefit: it can change brain chemistry to reduce cortisol levels, increase serotonin, and release endorphins.[3]
    • Mediation produces alpha (focused alertness) and theta (relaxed) brain waves.
    • All forms of mediation activate a relaxation response, which puts your body at ease and reduces the impact of cortisol on your body.
    • New research makes clear connections between mindful mediation and a lowering of stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
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    Take a yoga class. Yoga helps clear your mind and reduce your stress levels. Research shows that practicing yoga, even for the first time, will normalize cortisol levels, bringing balance to the body. Yoga reduces muscle tension and thereby neutralizing the stress response. The exercises performed during yoga opens your mind to experiencing the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of your true nature.[4]
    • Relax your facial muscles and breathe deeply and slowly through your nose to reduce stress and anxiety. Be aware of your surroundings while keeping your eyes shut and remaining in the moment.
    • The combination of exercise and mediation produce healing hormones that have proven to effectively reduce cortisone levels and improve the ability to heal.
    • Or, you can get a massage instead. A nurturing massage is the ultimate muscle relaxation response activator that aids in other self-healing processes.
    • Yoga classes can be purchased on dvd or on the internet if you don’t have time to attend a session at a local studio.
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    Walk through the woods. Relax both your mind and body by taking a walk through the woods or a local park. Nothing brings peace to the mind like walking through the forest with birds chirping in the background, leaves falling to the ground, and the rustle of squirrels and chipmunks running up trees. Nature brings stillness and immediate silence from the hubbub of modern society.[5]
    • If you are going to enjoy nature and relax your body from all the noise pollution, then, leave the cell phone, iPod, or tablet at home. Don’ let modern technology disrupt the peace and quiet.
    • Or, if you live in the city, snuggle with a pet. Playing with pets fills us with oxytocin, endorphins, and many other healing hormones. Let Fido cut your cortisol levels while your body heals itself.
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    Listen to music. Listening to music prior to a stressor positively affects the psycho biological nervous system with a faster recover from stress. Listening and playing music increases the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A – the cells that attack viruses and help to boost the effectiveness of the immune system, as well as lowering cortisol.[6]
    • Making, playing, listening to music, or creative expression, promotes the release of endorphins and other positive neurotransmitters.
    • Music can help reduce depression, anxiety, improves your autoimmune system, relieves physical pain while lowering your heart rate, decreasing your blood pressure, and slows down your breathing.
    • Vibrations from the sound of music also have a cathartic effect on the body.
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    Grow a green thumb. Besides the satisfaction of growing healthy food, gardening is considered an exercise that will help lower cortisol levels. Studies show that during the “recovery period” after gardening significant decreases in cortisol were detected, reducing acute stress.[7]
    • Reduction in stress, the release of aggression, and the reduction of weight were all results from the physical exertion of gardening.
    • Known as “horticultural therapy,” gardening’s physical activity, awareness of natural surroundings, and cognitive stimulation and the satisfaction of a job well done has had an important impact on both physical and mental health because of its ability to reduce cortisol.

Method 2
Living a Healthy Lifestyle

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    Exercise regularly. Get your daily workout in to reduce stress levels. Aerobic exercise produces endorphins while weight training increases the human growth hormone, both block and control cortisone levels. Avoid over exercising by keeping your workout between thirty and forty-five minutes in order to maximize cortisol control.[8]
    • Take care of your post-workout as well by preparing a carbohydrate-protein shake to help replenish your glucose and nitrate levels, which will help you recover your normal cortisol levels much faster.
    • Lifting weights will build muscle mass and increase the release of serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals reduce anxiety and depression. Take DHEA supplements to accelerate the building of muscle mass to increase the feeling of strength and energy and the motivation to continue.
    • Aerobic exercise also reduces stress, high blood pressure, and the regulation of blood sugar levels while maintaining a healthy weight.
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    Make social connections. Loneliness has an important impact on heart disease than those people who are social and outgoing. Some researchers say loneliness is a bigger concern regarding health than quitting smoking or exercising.[9]
    • Join a club, gym, or volunteer activity to get you out of the house and moving around. Volunteering will make you feel good inside and out.
    • Try to set up a “friends night out” or meet colleagues after work.
    • Meeting and talking to people will give you a positive mental attitude.
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    Create a relaxing environment. Surround yourself in a tranquil environment to reduce stress when you come back home from a busy day. Be wary of disorganized, chaotic, or conflicted situations that will stress you out. Instead, surround yourself with positive reinforcement.[10]
    • Place fresh flowers on your table, near the entrance way, and in your bedroom to calm the atmosphere.
    • Burning incense will also provide you with a feeling of calm and relaxation.
    • Natural sunlight is not only good for your body it is also good for your mental health.
    • Open the blinds and let the natural sunshine in. Sun provides warmth and happiness.
    • Clean up a dirty house. Clutter gives off negative feelings of chaos and disorder.
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    Get lots of sleep. If you want to regulate and reduce cortisol levels in your body then you will need to sleep deeper and longer for at least eight hours. Sleep impacts what we look like, how we perform daily, and affects the overall quality and length of life. Getting enough sleep is important.[11]

Method 3
Watching Your Diet

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    Refuse caffeine. Avoid drinking too much coffee. Caffeine, despite the fact if reduces stress and improves focus, spikes cortisol levels up to eighteen hours after drinking it. This goes for sodas and teas that are caffeinated as well. Not drinking coffee will help control your cortisol levels and your wallet.[12]
    • About one 12 oz cup of coffee has 200 mg of caffeine. That amount increases cortisol levels by thirty percent within one hour. Eliminating coffee (caffeine) from your diet is the fastest way to decrease your catabolic metabolism and increase your anabolic metabolism.
    • Too much caffeine, more than 500 mg of caffeine a day, will cause headaches, restlessness, or anxiety. This, in turn, affects your sleeping patterns and will increase your cortisol levels.
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    Consume vitamin C. Vitamin C is a antioxidant that strengthens cell membranes, supports immune-cell function, and performs collagen synthesis. Combined, vitamin C’s multifaceted approach to protecting cells is how it counteracts stress.[13]
    • Sources of vitamin C can be found in all citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit, as well as in tomatoes, broccoli, and peppers.
    • A does of 1,000mg/day of vitamin C supplements greatly improves the capacity of the adrenals to normalize cortisol release.
    • Other “stress-formula” multivitamins that contain vitamins B-1, B-5, and B-6 were able to bring cortisol ranges back to their normal levels.
    • Minerals such as magnesium greatly reduce cortisol levels following extensive exercise while zinc shows a dramatic fall in plasma cortisol levels, also after exercising.
    • In addition to reducing stress and controlling cortisol, these supplements also boost the immune system.
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    Take melatonin. Melatonin is the natural hormone your body produces at night to regulate your wake/sleep cycle. Before going to bed, boost your melatonin levels by taking a supplement to make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep.[14]
    • Although there are many clear connections between melatonin, it does not have the same impact on everybody. Therefore, consult with a doctor before you decide to start taking this drug.
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    Keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar to keep your insulin production low. Rather, eat small meals that are balanced in protein, complex carbohydrates, and good fats like olive oil and flaxseed oil. This will keep cortisol levels low.[15]
    • Glucagon is released overnight while you are sleeping and between meals. It is important to control glucagon in order to regulate the body’s blood sugar and fuel balance. If unbalanced, then cortisol will be produced to increase blood sugar levels.
    • Stay hydrated by keeping bottled water or a thermos with you to drink water when you get thirsty.

Method 4
Identifying Adrenal Issues

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    Know the signs of adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal insufficiency, or Addison's disease, occurs when your body does not release enough cortisol.[16] It is a rare, chronic condition with no cure; however, hormone treatment can be effective. Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:[17]
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Weight loss
    • Low blood pressure, which can lead to fainting
    • Low blood sugar
    • Reduced appetite and/or salt cravings
    • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Muscle or joint pain
    • Irritability
    • Depression
    • Darkening of the skin
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    Talk to your doctor if you suspect adrenal insufficiency. Your doctor can perform tests to diagnose any issues with your adrenal gland. Some tests your doctor might run include:[18]
    • A blood test to measure levels of sodium, potassium, cortisol, and ACTH.
    • An ACTH stimulation test, in which the cortisol levels in your blood will be measured before and after an injection of synthetic ACTH. If your adrenal gland is damaged, there will be no change in your cortisol level.
    • CT scan to check the size of your adrenal gland.
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    Treat adrenal insufficiency with corticosteroids. If your doctor finds that you have Addison's disease or another adrenal disease, follow your doctor's instructions for treatment. Adrenal insufficiency can be life-threatening if not treated, and can lead to an adrenal crisis.[19]
    • Take oral corticosteroids. Hydrocortisone, prednisone or cortisone acetate may be taken orally to replace cortisol.[20]
    • Take corticosteroid injections if you are ill or in case of emergency. If you are vomiting and cannot keep your medication down or if you experience an emergency like an adrenal crisis, you can inject yourself with corticosteroids.[21]
    • Keep extra medication with you. Forgetting your medication can have serious consequences. Keep an extra supply at work; in your purse, briefcase, or backpack; and in a travel bag or suitcase.[22]
    • Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet and carrying a medical alert card in your wallet. A severe drop in cortisol may cause you to faint or become unconscious; a medical alert bracelet can be extremely helpful to emergency workers. They will know precisely what kind of help you need.[23]
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    Recognize an adrenal crisis. An adrenal crisis (or Addinsonian crisis) occurs when there is a sudden, critical drop in cortisol, causing acute adrenal failure. This usually occurs when the adrenal gland is damaged, most often by adrenal disease.[24] An adrenal crisis must be treated immediately with an injection of hydrocortisone. If you notice any of the following symptoms, especially if you know you have Addison's disease, seek medical help immediately:[25]
    • Pain in your lower back, abdomen or legs
    • Fever
    • Severe vomiting and diarrhea, leading to dehydration
    • Low blood pressure
    • Loss of consciousness
    • High potassium (hyperkalemia) and low sodium (hyponatremia)
    • Shock (cold, moist skin; blue or pale extremities; hyperventilation; confusion)[26]
    • Weakness

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Categories: Alternative Health