Imagine your life without stress. You’d lose a few pounds, maintain better relationships with loved ones, and have a more positive outlook on life. For centuries, different cultures have used natural herbs and remedies to help combat the effects of stress, and now you can too! Learning how to naturally lower your cortisol and anxiety levels is as easy as reading this article, and taking the steps you need to take to help get your life back on track.
Cortisol is a necessary component of LIFE. It is designed to help wake you up in mornings, and to help cope with dangers in the case of life-threatening emergencies. When your cortisol levels spike, a rush of amino acids are released from the muscles, glucose from the liver, and fatty acids into the blood stream so that we are supplied with the energy we need to deal with such situations.
However, in this day in age, the stress response is triggered for all the wrong reasons (whether by drinking coffee, reading the news, driving in traffic, etc.). When these situations trigger a cortisol jolt, our state of stress is heightened on top of situations that are already deemed stressful. As a result, our organs suffer, and we become the victim of something that we can, with patience, take control of.
How Does Stress Affect The Body?
The effects of stress on the body are endless. Here is just a short list:
– It ages us (contributes to tissue destruction, muscle loss, bone loss, immune system depression, brain shrinkage)
– Makes us gain weight (stimulates our cravings for sweet, caloric-dense foods)
– Promotes heart disease and diabetes (insulin resistance)
– Impairs the immune system (inhibits white blood cell production)
– Promotes GI tract issues (lowers enzyme production needed to digest food, takes energy away from the digestive tract)
– Elevates mood swings and depression
– Contributes to fatigue and insomnia (interferes with the body’s ability to enter Stage 3 and 4 sleep)
Lifestyle Tips To Reduce Cortisol
1. Turn off the news, and stop reading the newspaper (the news is fear-based and elevates cortisol)
2. Exercise regularly (promotes chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression)
3. Sleep longer
4. Keep blood sugar levels stable (eat frequent, small, balanced meals)
5. Meditate (relaxation tapes, yoga, making art, mandala drawing)
6. Eliminate caffeine (fastest way to help reduce cortisol production)
7. Consume foods and take herbal remedies to help lower cortisol (see below)
9 Plant-Based Remedies To Help Lower Cortisol and Anxiety
Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is identified as an adaptogenic herb, which means that is helps the body adapt to stress. Holy basil literally reduces the production of stress hormones, and improves the way our body reacts and responds to stress. You can buy holy basil, or tulsi, in tea-based form, or you can eat it fresh, if you can find it (I often find it at my local organic nursery garden, Sage Garden Herbs, here in Manitoba). I would recommend drinking 1 cup of Tulsi tea per day.
Magnesium in spinach balances cortisol production in the body. How? Magnesium is a mineral (which, might I add, most of us are deficient) that calms your nervous system and prevents the build-up of excess cortisol. It also helps regulate our melatonin levels and blood pressure. Include spinach in your smoothies and juices as an effective stress-reducer.
Barley and Beans:
Phosphatidylserine is a supplement that has gained fame as one of the best cortisol-blockers on the market. Fortunately, we can find this compound in real, whole-foods like barley and beans. These phosphatidylserine-rich plant-foods help counteract the adverse effects of cortisol, making you less anxious and stressed.
We all know that citrus fruit is loaded with vitamin C. Oranges, grapefruit, limes, lemons, kiwi and pineapple are all incredibly high in this crucial cortisol-busting vitamin. Many studies have found that vitamin C actually helps slow the production of cortisol mainly by inhibiting enzymes involved in steroidogenesis (the formation of steroids by the adrenal cortex, testes and ovaries. Cortisone is one of the several end products of this process). Just 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day will help improve the capacity of the adrenals to adapt to stress.
Who doesn’t love bananas? I put them in smoothies, raw ice cream, or dehydrate them for a few hours to create a banana that tastes just like banana bread! Fortunately, these sweet fruits are high in the compound tryptophan, which gets converted to serotonin in the brain, and makes us happy and stress-free. Bananas are also high in B vitamins, which are important for nervous system support (and calmer moods).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, brussels sprouts and cauliflower all have one thing in common – they are rich in inflammation-busting, and cortisol lowering omega-3 fatty acids! These fats are involved in brain biochemistry, physiology and functioning and are important for helping the hippocampus (a part of our brain) respond to excess cortisol and corticosteroids. Add chia seeds, hemp, or flaxseeds to your smoothies or cereals, and snack on walnuts and cauliflower to include these awesome stress-busting superfoods in your diet!
Leafy Greens and Micro-greens:
When we infuse our bodies with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, the response to stress is significantly lowered. This is why leafy greens, and especially micro-greens, should always be apart of your daily diet. Micro-greens are even more nutrient dense than their mature counterparts, containing over 4-6 times more stress-fighting vitamin C.
Studies have found that foods rich in zinc help inhibit the secretion of cortisol in our body. This mineral, which is also important for bone and immune health, is found abundantly in pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, lentils, garbanzo beans, cashews, quinoa, hemp seeds, almonds, walnuts, peas, chia seeds and broccoli.
Berries are one of the best fruits to help infuse your body with beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants play an important role in helping reduce inflammation and slowing cortisol production. They are our bodies front line defence system against cell damage caused by free radicals, and help us become stress-free. Load up on berries by making an antioxidant-rich smoothie, or enjoy them on their own as a snack!