Cortisol is a necessary hormone that helps protect against environmental allergens, mobilizes energy, improves fatigue, increases appetite for sugar. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone.” When the body is stimulated through a stress response there is a spike in cortisol levels. Amino acids from muscles, glucose from liver, and fatty acids from the bloodstream is released to provide the body a high level of energy.
Physical exercise is a stress regulator. When cortisol is triggered through physical exercise the body can use the byproducts that are released to help with the energy surge. Unfortunately, if a person activates the sympathetic nervous system while in a sedentary state, then the byproducts of cortisol will most likely end up in fat storage.
Drinking caffeine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and increases the production of cortisol. Chronic levels of stress hormones increases; blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and fat levels due to increased appetite. Stress hormones also has an adverse effect on hunger hormones. Stress stimulates cravings for eating valueless, high sugary foods. Through the aging process the natural levels of DHEA and HGH decline. The combination of high cortisol, low DHEA and low HGH production cause store fat, lose muscle and disrupt the metabolic rate.
Ways to lower cortisol production.
1. Eliminate chronic caffeine drinking. Caffeine suppreses DHEA levels. A 12 oz. cup of coffee increases blood cortisol levels by 40% in one hour. Cortisol can remain in the blood for up to 18 hours after a caffeinated beverage intake.
2. Get a good nights sleep. Cortisol production increases during sleep cycles throughout the aging process. After the age of 50 cortisol levels increase up to thirty times more than a 30 year old. This could be related to the decline in melatonin levels. Taking a melatonin supplement before sleeping could help regulate the sleep cycle and reduce cortisol levels.
3. Exercise regularly. Exercise activates all the systems of the body and helps with the managment of cortisol production.
4. Maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Avoid insulin spikes from consuming high levels of carbohydrates. Eat carbs sparingly and pay attention to the serving size / sugar ration. Eat your fruit spread out over time. Don’t consume a lot of fruit at once.
5. Eat foods loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Nutrient dense foods help regulate hormone production and gland stability.
6. Meditate or listen to music that relaxes you. Meditation increases alpha and theta wave activity, which reduces cortisol levels. Avoid resorting to caffeine to use as a relaxant. Caffeine promotes beta waves suppressing alpha and theta waves.
Daryl Conant, M.Ed