A healthy cortisol level helps regulate weight, appetite, body metabolism, blood pressure and glucose. It also aids the immune system and the sleep-wake cycle.
Cortisol levels can be tested by having a health professional use a needle to draw blood from your arm or by providing a urine sample over the course of a day.
1. Fish oil
The stress hormone cortisol is essential for human survival and health. It is produced by the adrenal glands and helps your body respond to stressful situations. High levels of cortisol can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue and depression. Keeping cortisol levels normal may help alleviate these problems. Using the right supplements can help keep your cortisol levels balanced. A supplement called Cortisync is designed to support your adrenal glands and help moderate your stress response. It uses a combination of natural substances and vitamins. It has been shown to reduce stress, increase physical performance, provide energy and vitality, improve sleep and boost metabolism and focus.
A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and getting enough rest are important for reducing stress levels. Ayurvedic herbs such as ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea and bacopa are also useful. These herbs are adaptogens, which neither stimulate nor sedate the body but restore it to a normal state of balance (homeostasis).
Fish oil is also important for lowering cortisol levels. A study comparing 2 groups of people who took fish oil and 1 group who did not showed that the people who took the fish oil had lower cortisol levels than the ones who didn’t take it.
Vitamin C is another powerful stress-busting nutrient. Studies have shown that consuming high doses of vitamin C improves cortisol recovery and helps to maintain a normal psychological stress response. You can get vitamin C from foods such as oranges and strawberries. Avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks, as caffeine is an extra stressor on your adrenal glands and can affect your cortisol levels. If you do drink coffee, try to limit it and preferably to consume it by noon or earlier.
2. Vitamin C
Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. When levels are too high, it can cause a wide range of health problems such as inflammation, gastrointestinal issues, sleep disturbances, weight gain, low mental alertness and poor immune function.
Vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) is an essential water soluble vitamin that supports the adrenal glands to maintain balanced cortisol levels during times of stress. It also works as a powerful antioxidant to reduce the effects of oxidative stress on the body. Vitamin C is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables including oranges, kiwi fruit, broccoli, bell peppers and spinach. Vitamin C injections are the fastest way to get this important nutrient into your system.
Another essential nutrient is Vitamin D. Research has shown that a Vitamin D deficiency can increase the production of cortisol. Vitamin D is primarily produced by the skin during sunlight exposure, but can also be supplemented through foods such as eggs and fish. Ensure your Vitamin D is adequate through daily sun exposure, or supplement with Care/of’s easy-to-digest vitamin D drops.
B vitamins are another important supplement for the adrenal glands, and Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) is particularly effective. When your nervous system is triggered by stressful events, cortisol can disrupt your mood and neurotransmitter production, which can lead to feelings of jumpiness or depression. Vitamin B5 helps restore a healthy balance to the nervous system and supports normal cortisol production, while reducing the levels of excess cortisol triggered during stress events.
Many supplements can support the adrenal glands to maintain balanced cortisol, including ashwaganda and withania. For more targeted adrenal support, look for products such as Integrative Therapeutics Cortisol Manager or Standard Process Rhodiola & Schisandra.
3. Vitamin B
Although cortisol gets a bad rap for being the “stress hormone,” it does play an important role in your body’s ability to adapt to stress and protect against diseases. However, it’s important to recognize when your levels are too high and take steps to reduce them. When they’re too high, they can contribute to anxiety, insomnia, migraines, low energy, weight gain and poor digestive health. This is called adrenal fatigue, and there are several natural ways to support your adrenals and reduce your cortisol levels.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that can help improve cellular energy and boost immune system function. Adrenals use up vitamin C at a faster rate during stressful periods, so it’s crucial to keep your vitamin C intake high. You can get plenty of vitamin C in your diet from whole foods such as kiwi, strawberries, oranges, bell peppers and broccoli.
Another way to support the adrenals is with vitamin B5. Vitamin B5 is a form of pantothenic acid that helps balance the production of cortisol and reduces the excessive cortisol triggered by stress. It also supports a healthy psychological stress response and promotes a normal circadian rhythm.
Studies have also shown that vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 can help control inflammation. The former plays a critical role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid associated with chronic inflammation. The latter helps regulate the stress hormone cortisol by converting it into methionine. (Side note: A high level of homocysteine is also linked to heart disease.) You can find a good amount of vitamin B in many whole foods, but it’s especially important to supplement with these nutrients when your stress levels are higher. Care/of offers a highly-bioavailable multivitamin that’s specifically formulated for stress support.
4. Vitamin D
Aside from its many benefits, vitamin D helps to lower cortisol levels. One study found that vitamin D supplementation reduced cortisol and increased the ratio of cortisone to cortisol in the urine of participants who were given 50mg of vitamin D daily versus those who took a placebo. This is because Vitamin D blocks the action of an enzyme called 11b-HSD1, which is required to make cortisol.
High levels of cortisol can increase blood pressure and restrict the arteries, which can lead to heart disease. It also reduces the kidneys’ ability to retain water, which can cause dehydration and fatigue. Vitamin D counteracts the stress response by supporting the adrenal glands and lowering cortisol levels, which can help improve exercise performance and prevent cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Other natural supplements can also help to balance cortisol. The amino acid theanine found in green tea and black tea, for example, is a powerful stress-fighting agent. Research has shown that theanine can increase GABA and dopamine in the brain, which can relax the body and mind. Another adaptogen, holy basil, has been shown to manage stress hormones and promote immune function.
The best way to keep cortisol in check is through diet, exercise and adequate sleep. Regular exercise is good for the body and the brain, and provides a natural stress reliever that decreases cortisol and increases endorphins which act as a mood booster and promote restful sleep at night. Eating plenty of magnesium-rich foods (such as avocados, bananas and dark chocolate) can help to relax the muscles and nerves. And, of course, getting 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep every night is critical for healthy cortisol levels.
Magnesium is a mineral that’s important for many aspects of your health, including cortisol balance. In fact, studies show that depression and anxiety are linked to low magnesium levels and that supplemental magnesium improves these conditions. ADHD symptoms, such as hyperactivity, also improve with magnesium supplementation. This is likely due to the role magnesium plays in calming the excitatory NMDA receptors in the brain, which are activated by calcium and glutamate.
Another benefit of magnesium is its role in glucose metabolism. A 2020 study found that people who get more magnesium in their diets have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This is because the nutrient helps the body break down sugars, and may even enhance insulin sensitivity in those who already have type 2 diabetes.
A lack of magnesium can trigger symptoms similar to those associated with chronic stress, such as exercise intolerance, pounding heartbeat (ventricular tachycardia), POTS-like symptoms, anxiety, and severe insomnia. Studies show that magnesium may help to normalize the cardionomic circuit dysfunction that occurs when the adrenal glands become overworked under chronic stress.
It’s important to talk to a doctor before taking any supplements, including those that can increase cortisol levels. This will ensure there are no dangerous interactions with other medications you’re taking.
The best way to get more magnesium in your diet is through whole foods, such as spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, beans and nuts. You can also add some of these nutrients to your smoothies or use a magnesium powder in a drink mix such as this one. You can also try a sleep supplement that contains magnesium and other herbs such as phosphatidylserine, L-theanine or Standard Process Rhodiola & Schisandra.