You often hear from health programs that it is possible to lower cortisol with supplements. However, there does not always seem to be the same amount of evidence for this. To answer this question, we've done some research.
In this article, we explain what cortisol is, what it is for, and whether you can lower it with supplements.
What is Cortisol?
It plays a major role in the digestion of your food, the sleep-wake rhythm, and your immune system. When you're in a stressful situation, your cortisol levels rise, making your body better able to make the right decisions. That is why cortisol is sometimes used in an allergic reaction.
Although cortisol is released in large amounts in stressful situations, your body also produces this hormone during the day. Like melatonin, its production adjusts to your circadian rhythm. When you wake up, for example, more cortisol is released, which causes a feeling of hunger and you have breakfast.
What Happens When You Have Too Much Cortisol?
Cortisol is a necessary hormone for a healthy body. However, it can also be counterproductive for your health in large amounts. High levels of cortisol can lead to:
- Weight Gain. Cortisol can cause an increased feeling of hunger, so that you grab something to snack more often, even when your stomach is still full.
- Chronic ailments such as type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure.
- fatigue. Too much cortisol can lead to sleep problems, leaving you feeling more tired during the day than usual.
- Decreased brain function (difficulty concentrating, poor memory). As a result of too little sleep or raging thoughts, you may suffer from concentration problems or poor memory. It becomes easier to forget things, even when they are important.
- Infections. Due to your increased stress level and decreased sleep, your immune system has to endure a lot. It becomes more difficult to protect yourself against diseases and infections so that you will suffer from this more often.
An excess of cortisol is often caused by prolonged stress and tension. You then have to deal with a chronic production of cortisol. This takes a lot of energy and is of course not nice. Therefore, it is good to lower cortisol with supplements. Complaints such as stress can then be reduced.
Can you lower cortisol with supplements?
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You can find omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, plankton capsules, and oily fish. From research, it has been found that these fatty acids have a positive effect on the cortisol content which makes their use can lead to decreased cortisol.
Ashwagandha is an Asian herb that has been used for centuries for its healing effects. It helps to reduce stress and anxiety symptoms and can lower cortisol with supplements.
3. Lower Cortisol With Chamomile Supplements
Although chamomile has no specific effect on your cortisol levels, it does have a calming effect and can counteract symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. As a result, you experience less stress and your body produces less cortisol.
4. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm has been used for centuries for its anti-stress properties. It helps to calm your brain and make you respond better in stressful situations. Also, lemon balm helps improve cognitive functions, such as performing complex tasks. When you feel calm, your cortisol level decreases, which means you experience less stress and can perform your daily functions better.
Note that some supplements do not work well with medication. If you want to start lowering your cortisol with supplements, it is always useful to discuss this with a doctor first.
Is there another method besides lowering cortisol with supplements?
1. Get enough sleep
Your night's sleep is extremely important for your mood and the amount of cortisol in your body. With too little sleep, you are more susceptible to stress and therefore high cortisol levels. A clear routine before you go to sleep, enough sleep, and a good sleeping environment help you to get more sleep so that you are less likely to suffer from elevated cortisol levels.
2. Lowering cortisol with supplements and sports
Exercise is not only good for the body but also for your brain. In the beginning, your body responds to exercise by producing more cortisol. However, your body quickly gets used to this, which reduces cortisol production. This helps you to calm down faster in other situations where your body is under stress. However, too much exercise leads to more cortisol production, so try to find a balance where you don't exercise more than 200 minutes per week.
3. Do Breathing Exercises
Your breathing has a lot of influence on the rest of your body. The right exercises can help calm your parasympathetic nervous system. This helps to lower your cortisol level. Breathing exercises are often also done in sports such as yoga and tai-chi. That is why these often go well with a relaxed body.
4. Lowering Cortisol With Supplements And Cuddling Pets
You probably have a pet that you love very much, or maybe your parents have a pet that you still love to cuddle with. Did you know that this is also very healthy for you? When we cuddle with pets, we create more substances that make us feel happy. As a result, our cortisol levels drop and we feel less stressed. So if you have an exciting deadline, it certainly wouldn't hurt to cuddle with your pet for a few minutes. It has the same effect on them.
Does lowering cortisol with supplements also have a relationship with diet?
So there are several ways in which you can lower your cortisol. For example, you can use supplements for this, or you can adjust certain things in your daily life so that you quickly feel calmer. However, diet also plays a very important role in lowering your cortisol. It is therefore important to find a balance of all aspects so that you have the most success in lowering your cortisol.
As we mentioned above, you can lower your cortisol with supplements such as fish oil, chamomile, lemon balm, and ashwagandha. When you put these products in your food, they work the same way. So try to eat a piece of oily fish or seaweed now and then, take some chamomile and lemon balm tea. Ashwagandha is normally not used much in food, but you can use a powder of this in recipes.
Other foods also affect your cortisol level. For example, sugar-rich products can lead to more cortisol production, and products with a lot of saturated fats also contribute to greater production. Instead, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and choosing whole grains and homemade foods over processed foods may help.
Lowering your cortisol, therefore, does not happen with one panacea, but through a collaboration of several adjustments that you can make in your life. By adjusting your diet, doing relaxation exercises, and taking a supplement now and then, you can already notice a lot of differences. However, do you notice no effect after a long period? Then it is wise to contact your doctor. They can help you further.