Mental Health 6 MIN READ 269 VIEWS March 12, 2023

Simple Ways to Reduce Cortisol – The Stress Hormone

Reduce Cortisol

Cortisol works as an indicator for stressful situations but it is better to reduce cortisol as it can produce adverse effects on the body. It is a steroid hormone produced and released by endocrine and adrenal glands near the kidney, which gets transported to other parts of the body. Every cell in the body has cortisol receptors, so it might act according to the situation. 

Cortisol also regulates other processes in the body like blood sugar levels, metabolism, immune response, etc. Stress is the main trigger for this hormone, as it regulates the body to respond under fight or flight circumstances. 

The cortisol levels keep fluctuating every day, higher during the mornings and lowering through the rest of the day. The process is called the Diurnal Rhythm. 

Function of Cortisol

Cortisol plays a vital function, as it affects and regulates most parts of the body. As every part of the body, the system contains glucocorticoid receptors, cortisol can influence the immune system, respiratory system, circulatory system, etc. 

Some specific roles include: 

  • Managing the stress response
  • Controlling the body’s metabolism
  • Reducing inflammation  
  • Decreasing blood sugar 
  • Creating a proper sleep cycle
  • Regulating blood pressure

Mechanisms of Changing Cortisol Levels

Cortisol gets controlled by three areas of the body i.e. the pituitary glands, the adrenal glands, and the hypothalamus located in the brain, which manages to provide the appropriate levels of cortisol. Lower cortisol levels in the blood get sensed by the brain, which prompts the brain to adjust the release of corticotropin-releasing hormones. The pituitary glands also produce adrenocorticotropic hormones. The adrenal glands also pick up this change and adjust the amount of cortisol.

Cortisol receptors are present all over the body, which is received and use this hormone in various ways throughout the day. Mostly stress induces higher cortisol levels. High cortisol for too long may lead to inflammation, which creates mental and physical health issues like anxiety, being overweight, heart disease, etc.   

Symptoms of High Cortisol Level

Most symptoms can vary according to the severity of the condition but common signs of higher cortisol are:

  • Abnormal weight gain around the abdomen and face
  • Undistributed fats around the shoulder 
  • Wide stretch marks on the belly
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Higher blood sugar levels that can turn easily into type 2 diabetes 
  • Hypertension
  • Excessive hair growth in women 
  • Osteoporosis in extreme conditions 
  • Lack of sex drive in a few women
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Increase in thirst 
  • Continuous urination

Causes of High Cortisol Level

Hypercortisolism for a longer than usual period is called Cushing’s Syndrome. It is a rare disease. Causes for a higher level of cortisol include: 

  • Excessive corticosteroid medication like prednisone, prednisolone, or dexamethasone can induce higher cortisol levels. 
  • Tumours that produce pituitary gland hormones called adrenocorticotropic hormones can prompt higher cortisol. 
  • The neuroendocrine tumour can also cause an increase in cortisol.
  • Adrenal glands tumours or excessive tissues of adrenal glands can provide excessive cortisol levels. 

Symptoms of Low Cortisol Level

When the cortisol levels dip lower than usual, it triggers a few unhealthy symptoms: 

  • Increase in fatigue
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Lowered appetite 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Sleep-deprivation

Causes of Low Cortisol Level

Lower levels of cortisol mean adrenal deficiency. Indirectly, loss of adrenal rush when something is exciting or fearful. There are two types of adrenal insufficiencies that result in low cortisol. 

1. Primary Adrenal Insufficiency

It is the most commonly seen chronic deficiency that causes autoimmune reactions. Healthy adrenal gland cells get mistakenly attacked by the immune system, which is called Addison’s disease. It can occur due to infections or tissue damage to the adrenal glands, which results in low cortisol production. 

2. Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency  

If for some reason the pituitary glands are inactive, or there may be a pituitary tumour that can restrict their hormone cells from developing, this can limit cortisol production. 

3. Changes in Medication 

Sometimes, changes in corticosteroid medication can lower cortisol levels. A sudden stop of treatment after a long usage can have adverse effects.  

Foods that Reduce Cortisol and Maintain Stress Levels 

Other than some basic self-care management, a healthy regular diet can decrease cortisol levels and become a stress-relieving antidote. As cortisol manages neurotransmitters which are the messengers of the brain. These neurotransmitters and cortisol play a crucial role in keeping the mood uplifted.

A nutritious meal full of vitamins, fibres, iron, protein, and minerals can boost the stress-managing power of the body. Mediterranean diets also help to relieve stress and benefit overall health.

Even though cortisol may occur due to environmental, psychological, and genetic conditions, there may be few measures to reduce cortisol symptoms. There are food items that reduce inflammatory responses that can lower cortisol levels. 

1. Food with High Vitamin  

It is better to consume food with higher vitamin B as it can help speed up the metabolism. Vitamin C can also help to maintain adrenal gland hormones and decrease cortisol levels. Foods which can help to regain vitamins are:

  • Chicken 
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains
  • Organ Meats
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Beef
  • Strawberries 
  • Citrus fruit 
  • Red peppers

2. Omega 3 Fatty Acid Food 

Omega 3-induced food can help in reducing inflammation which causes cortisol to decrease in the body. These cortisol lowering foods are:  

  • Avocados 
  • Olive oil 
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Salmon 
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Anchovies 
  • Oysters 

3. Food Enriched with Magnesium and Potassium

Magnesium and potassium-based food can reduce inflammation and generate metabolism that helps in keeping cortisol levels low. Those food ingredients include:  

  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potato 
  • Prunes
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dark chocolate 
  • Spinach 
  • Other leafy vegetables 

4. Highly Induced Protein Meals

Foods that reduce cortisol must contain protein items as they can control blood sugar levels that might affect cortisol levels it can include food items such as:

  • Almonds 
  • Lentils 
  • Low-fat milk and yoghurt 
  • Beans 
  • Quinoa  
  • Lean beef

5. Gut Safe Food 

To maintain a healthy immune system for a longer period, it is essential to have a healthy gut. Probiotics and fermented food can manage blood sugar and cholesterol. Foods enhancing gut health include: 

  • Greek yoghurt 
  • Kefir 
  • Kimchi 
  • Kombucha 
  • Sauerkraut  

Foods to Avoid Higher Cortisol Levels

Just as some foods can reduce cortisol, some can quickly increase the levels of cortisol, which can negatively affect the body. Some of these necessary foods items to avoid are:

  • Alcohol 
  • Caffeinated items 
  • Sugar-induced foods 
  • Higher carb foods
  • Soda   

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Cortisol 

No home remedy can change Cushing’s Syndrome, as it is necessary to gain medical treatment for higher or lower cortisol levels. But some of the day-to-day activities can help prevent cortisol fluctuations. They may include:

  • Better sleep cycle, as sleep deprivation can lead to higher cortisol levels in the body. 
  • Regular exercise is a recommendation to increase sleep quality and reduce stress levels. 
  • Avoid tension and overthinking, which can increase stress and anxiety. 
  • Daily yoga or meditation helps mental, as well as physical states, which can positively affect cortisol. 
  • Laughter stimulates endorphins and relaxes the cortisol hormones. Enjoying a fun activity of your choice can also be helpful for mental health.


High or low cortisol levels may have adverse effects. It is better to regulate average cortisol levels every day.   

Maintaining a stress-free healthy lifestyle can help reduce cortisol levels. As stress can be a part of life, it can be much harder to relieve stress daily. Stress management can help in managing overall health. Building new relationships or talking to the family can be a great way to reduce tension.   

Eating healthy and regularly is the most effective way to handle cortisol, as food can provide balanced sugar levels. Utilising these natural cortisol lowering foods filled with nutrients can positively reimburse the body. But over-relying on food without other treatment may not work in your favour.   

Immediate medical care may be needed for Cushing’s syndrome or Addison’s syndrome symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Reduce Cortisol

High blood pressure and sugar levels with unsafe fatty deposits get mainly seen during the higher level of cortisol.

Stress management, exercise, and nutritious food are some of the simplest ways to maintain low cortisol.

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