Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?
Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.
You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.
Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?
Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to show you how to reduce stress hormone levels naturally!
Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).
High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.
Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.
Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.
Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fibre.
To learn more about foods and nutrients to reduce stress hormone levels, contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation.
It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.
Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.
Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.
Get enough sleep!
Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.
Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways of how to lower stress hormone levels naturally.
In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.
Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.
In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!
3 ripe avocados
¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 dash salt
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.
Well…yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.
Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”
“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.
Practising “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.
The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction
Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors’ visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!
So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.
Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reduces anxiety and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.
Next I’ll briefly go over the research in two main areas: mood, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.
The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.
In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.
Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.
While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.
Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion). In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut’s microbes such as Candida overgrowth.
Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.
The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.
To learn more about how nutrition as well as mindfulness can improve gut health, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.
Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For your mood, gut health, and more.
Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?
Let me know in the comments below.
There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.
Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can add a touch of honey if desired.
BONUS Guided Meditation “Recipes” (videos, apps & podcasts)
How to Meditate video
How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every Day video
Headspace App (free 10-day trial)
Hay House Meditations Podcast
Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?
All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately.
Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.
You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?
Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you’re totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body’s “fight or flight” response.
Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.
The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body’s normal reaction to stress. Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.
After a short time, the flight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.
But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress?
It wouldn’t feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) “rush,” any more would it?
And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?
They’d get fatigued, right?
When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.
Symptoms like chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.
First off, I have to tell you that there aren’t medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply.
However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).
There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.
Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. My favourites are meditation, walking in nature, more sleep, or taking an Epsom salt bath.
Of course, I also recommend reducing your sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So go ahead and do it.
Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.
Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.
The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, more sleep, or even a lovely Epsom salt bath.
Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salt): Lavender Bath Salts
1 cup (around 300g) Epsom salts
3 drops lavender essential oil
As you’re running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub. Mix until dissolved
Enjoy your stress-reducing bath!
Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.
We all have some level of stress, right?
It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).
Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.
Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.
It’s the chronic stress that’s a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.
Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.
Let’s dive into the “stress mess.”
Did you notice that you get sick more often when you’re stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?
Well, that’s because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.
Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as “intestinal permeability.” These “leaks” can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.
The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.
Picture this: Have you ever played “red rover?” It’s where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though. Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!
Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.
And when you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.
More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health. Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren’t doing you any favours.
To learn more about nutrition and lifestyle for reducing stress, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.
Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.
No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:
Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realise.
Stress has been shown to affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.
There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.
You can ditch that stress mess!
1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled
1 peach, diced
Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.
With the stressful pace of modern living in the West, the adrenal glands can struggle to keep up! Your adrenal glands secrete adrenaline and other stress hormones to help you to cope with stress. When you are feeling exhausted, your adrenals give you the energy to keep going!
With constant stress, your adrenals are continuously being stimulated until they crash. This is when you can experience adrenal fatigue.
People with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) often have adrenal fatigue leaving them bed bound.
So how can you use nutrition for supporting the adrenal glands?
Stress is a major problem in our society with our busy lives.
Spending some time every day writing out your thoughts can help to relieve stress. You can use journalling to list the things you’re grateful for, this is known as gratitude journalling. Also you can use it as a “brain dump” to get all of your thoughts and ideas out of your head to soothe your mind. You can use “ever since” journalling to describe your life after you reach your goals.
It’s one thing to read to learn something that you have to learn, or to advance your knowledge. And, you can also read for pure pleasure. To get caught up in a story and just relax.
Colouring books are all the rage! When you colour in pages with lots of detail and tiny areas, it helps you to relax. Something that can take you hours. You can always opt for something simple, like kids colouring pages too. The idea is the same. Repeated movements and focusing on the art you’re creating can help to clear your mind.
Knitting, crocheting or other yarn activities are a great way to de-stress; this is a skill that comes in all levels from beginner to advanced. You can choose a quick little rectangular scarf to make, or a detailed sweater. You can choose the pattern, size, and yarn. Once you get into the flow of these skills, they’re great to do when you’re feeling stressed. Not only can they relax your mind to focus on your work, but you can end up warming yourself or others with the products you create.
Gently moving your body is another great way to de-stress. Activities that are slower and less intensive are ideal. Things like walking, yoga, stretching, or tai chi can all be great ways to relax your mind and improve your strength and balance at the same time.
A common cause of increased stress hormones is lack of sleep. Too little sleep and too much stress go hand-in-hand. So, getting enough good quality sleep is important to help you break free from stress without having to meditate.
Maybe you love getting massages or mani/pedi’s? Maybe you love a long bath or lighting candles? Perhaps you can add your favourite relaxing music to the mix for a pampering evening? Spending some time to pamper yourself regularly is great for your mind, body, and spirit.
You don’t have to head away for vacation to relax in nature. While a calm beautiful beach or cabin in the woods may be amazing, you don’t have to go that far. Even spending time on the grass at your local park or playground, or walking on a wooded trail in your neighbourhood can do the trick.
It’s so important to spend time with family, friends, and pets whom you love. New research is coming out about the health issues related to loneliness. Reach out and plan to hang out with your besties, or even offer to take your neighbour’s dog for a walk in the park.
Stress reduction is the goal. Try journalling, reading, colouring, knitting/crocheting, gentle exercise, sleep, pampering yourself, spending time in nature, and making time for people and pets you love.
Have other great ideas? Let me know what helps you de-stress in the comments below.
Instructions to inhale directly
Add up to 6 drops of undiluted essential oil to a handkerchief/tissue and inhale occasionally. Use up to 3 times per day.
Instruction for steam inhalation
Add 3 – 12 drops of undiluted essential oil to a bowl of steaming water. Inhale slowly and deeply for 5 – 10 minutes. Use up to 3 times per day.
Tip: Lavender isn’t the only calming essential oil. You can also use angelica, balsam, benzoin, bitter orange, cedarwood, celery, chamomile, cornmint, cumin, curry, frankincense, grapefruit, jasmine, juniper, labdanum, laurel, lemongrass, marjoram, nutmeg, palmarosa, parsley, patchouli, peppermint, rose, rosewood, sage, sandalwood, scotch pine, spearmint, star anise, sweet basil, sweet orange, thyme, or ylang ylang.
For more information on stress management, contact Kate here.
Millions of people are affected by anxiety in their daily lives. Many people reach for artificial drugs such as alcohol and sleeping pills. However you can try one of the many natural remedies available for anxiety.
Finally if you suffer from allergies and would like to book an appointment for personalised nutrition advice, contact Kate on 07652 868342. Alternatively you can send me a message using the contact form below: