Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone, and too much of it can lead to chronic health problems like weight gain, high blood pressure and lowered mood. Luckily, there are many foods, herbs and supplements that decrease cortisol naturally.
Vitamins C and B have been shown to reduce cortisol levels, while schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) decreases it in trained athletes after exercise. Curcumin, from the spice turmeric, also helps.
Ashwagandha is an ancient therapeutic herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It belongs to a group of herbs that are called adaptogens, and it helps the body respond to stressors by returning the body to a state of balance known as homeostasis. This herb boosts endurance, improves cognition, reduces stress, supports a healthy sleep cycle, and enhances sexual function. It also lowers cortisol levels by 30% when taken regularly.
Ayurvedic medicine is based on the philosophy that each person’s body and mind are interconnected. It looks at the whole body as a system that operates together, and it treats symptoms as a sign of imbalance in the entire system. This approach to healing is referred to as functional medicine. Its aim is to restore the balance of the entire body with natural methods, rather than using drugs.
There are many ways to reduce the stress level in the body, including improving diet and exercise, getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and letting go of negative emotions. Some of these methods require time and dedication, while others are easier to implement. One of the easiest methods to decrease cortisol is through dietary supplementation with an adaptogenic herb such as ashwagandha. The steroidal compounds in this plant inhibit the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, resulting in decreased cortisol levels. These effects may extend to other neuroendocrine centres.
The results of a recent study suggest that a full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract can improve resistance to stress, lowering cortisol levels by 30%. The study included 41 participants who were assigned to take placebo capsules or 600 mg of a standardized ashwagandha extract containing 21.4 mg of withanolides each day for 60 days. The researchers evaluated self-assessed stress and quality of life, as well as serum cortisol levels. The study was small, and the data should be replicated in a larger population.
Another way to reduce cortisol is to consume omega-3 fish oils. These fatty acids lower elevated cortisol and lead to reduced inflammation, improved mood, and enhanced cognitive functioning. These supplements are available in a wide variety of foods, but you can also take them as a supplemental supplement.
Phosphatidylserine (pronounced “faws-tidal-serene”) is a negatively charged amino phospholipid that promotes brain function while actively suppressing the production of cortisol. It is present in every cell membrane within the body and helps to communicate with other cells as well as support healthy blood pressure levels. Studies have shown that phosphatidylserine benefits include a reduction in Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, age-related cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, and sports performance.
High levels of cortisol can be caused by a number of things, including stress, exercise, poor diet and medication. By making simple lifestyle changes and taking a few supplements, many people can balance their cortisol levels naturally. If this does not help, it may be necessary to consult a doctor.
While most people get sufficient amounts of phosphatidylserine in their diet, supplementing with the chemical is also very beneficial. A recent study found that phosphatidylserine reduced the levels of cortisol and its triggering hormone adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) following a stress test in a group of 80 people. In another study, phosphatidylserine, along with omega-3s, normalized ACTH and cortisol levels in chronically stressed men.
Besides its anti-stress effects, phosphatidylserine has been shown to increase focus and boost memory in individuals with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also believed to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by dampening the cortisol response that causes movement impairment and tremors.
Phosphatidylserine is available in a variety of forms, including tablets and capsules. It is often sourced from animal brains, but most manufacturers now use sunflower seed phosphatidylserine as an alternative. It is a good idea to choose a brand that uses non-GMO sunflower seeds if you are sensitive to soy. In addition, it is best to take phosphatidylserine with other supplements that contain vitamin C and magnesium to ensure maximum absorption. Several pre-made supplement stacks, including MindLab Pro, contain this important neuroprotective compound. Amounts vary, but 100mg-300mg per day is a safe and effective dose. It is a good idea to talk with your doctor before beginning any new supplement. This is especially true if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition or are on any medications.
Cortisol is necessary to respond to short-term stressors, but chronically high levels can have a disastrous effect over the long term. Too much cortisol slows down cell regeneration and the healing process, destroys muscle tissue, monopolizes chemicals the body needs to produce other hormones essential for healthy function, and weakens the immune system. Luckily, there are many supplements that can help lower cortisol naturally, including ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), L-theanine, and omega-3 fish oil.
The amino acid L-tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a brain chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells and narrows blood vessels. Low serotonin is associated with mood disorders and fatigue, while higher levels are linked to a more positive outlook on life. A nutrient that can boost serotonin is tryptophan, which can be found in turkey, milk, sardines, and other protein-rich foods. When taken as a supplement, l-tryptophan can reduce anxiety and promote better sleep.
While the body can make some of its own serotonin, it is essential to consume enough tryptophan to ensure adequate levels. Studies have shown that a deficiency in serotonin may be responsible for insomnia, headaches, and even premenstrual syndrome. Tryptophan depletion can also replicate symptoms of irritability, depression, and anxiety. Fortunately, serotonin can be restored through diet and supplements.
Some foods and herbs naturally lower cortisol, including garlic, oranges, chamomile tea, black tea, and rhodiola. The dietary fiber in these foods lowers cortisol by improving gut health. Prebiotics and probiotics also help keep the gastrointestinal tract in good working order, which reduces stress and cortisol levels.
Another natural way to lower cortisol is by taking vitamin C. In one study, participants who took vitamin C had lower cortisol and stress levels than those in the control group. Vitamin C is found in oranges, berries, kale, and other fruits and vegetables.
The mineral magnesium, which lives inside cells in the body, gets depleted during times of stress. This happens when you are tense, whether the cause is emotional (anxiety) or physical (getting your period). Heavy sweating and some supplements also deplete magnesium levels, especially among athletes. Foroutan recommends consuming magnesium-rich foods, like nuts and greens, to help keep your levels up. You can also take a magnesium supplement, but choose one that offers an organic form that improves absorption, like citrate or glycinate. Avoid those with enteric coatings, which decreases the amount that your body absorbs.
Magnesium has many benefits, including reducing anxiety and stress, improving sleep quality, and strengthening bones. It also helps to balance the hormone cortisol. It’s a key player in regulating mood, and it boosts the production of GABA, which promotes calm. In addition, magnesium has been linked to improved brain function.
Taking magnesium during times of high stress and anxiety is helpful, but you should only take it with the guidance of an experienced health professional. This is because there are many different forms, delivery systems, and dosage variations for magnesium. When starting a new supplement, always start with a low dose and increase it systematically until you reach your target dose.
There is some evidence that the herb schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) reduces cortisol levels, but this is mostly in animal studies. It is a good herb to take if you’re an athlete, as it will help you recover from workouts by helping your body break down proteins and fats faster.
Another supplement that might lower cortisol is cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis or Cordyceps militaris). This is a fungus that grows in caterpillars. It has been shown to improve exercise performance, and is an adaptogen, which means that it helps your body respond better to stress. It has been found to normalize cortisol levels in the blood, as well as adrenal gland function and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels. It’s a good choice for athletes, and also people who suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or PMDD. It’s also been known to reduce the severity of headaches associated with menstruation.