How to Restore Your Cortisol Balance
You might now be thinking of cortisol as a frenemy, especially if you’ve experienced any of the problem patterns described on the previous page. Here’s the good news: There are concrete ways to befriend the hormone and -normalize your levels, says Gottfried — none of which requires a trip to the pharmacy.
A low-carb diet can support weight loss, but it’s not ideal for those with disrupted cortisol. In a 2014 clinical trial, subjects with cortisol issues were able to “reset” their curves by eating low-carb breakfasts, moderate amounts of healthy carbs in the afternoon, and higher amounts of healthy carbs (think sweet potatoes, not pasta or bread) in the evening.
Supplement Your Nutrition
There’s no single supplement that can reset your cortisol pattern, but Gottfried suggests stocking up on three essential nutrients: omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins C and B5 (pantothenic acid).Because vitamin B5 appears to reduce the hypersecretion of cortisol, Gottfried recommends it as a “low-risk treatment” for those with chronic stress.
We’re more likely to become dehydrated under stress — and not only because we might neglect drinking water. Feeling anxious raises our heart rate and triggers faster, heavier breathing, both of which lead to fluid loss.
Even if we’re drinking plenty of water, we can still get dehydrated when stressed, says Trindade, because we urinate more frequently. “The water may be going through you instead of into your cells,” she says.
If you notice that you urinate within minutes of drinking, it can be a sign that you’re not getting the benefits of hydration. When that’s the case, Trindade suggests adding some trace minerals or amino acids to your water to ensure you receive its benefits. Maintaining optimal levels of essential fatty acids is also helpful.
Your adrenal glands don’t care if stress is mental or physical. Their job is to protect you when you feel endangered, and they’ll pump out cortisol whenever you feel agitated and threatened — at least until they burn out. But when you learn to calm the mind and regain a sense of control, the sympathetic nervous system stays quiet.
Trindade emphasizes the value of a spiritual practice (however you define that) as an antidote to a constant sense of alarm. It could be praying, doing yoga, walking through the woods, or taking five minutes at lunch to quietly listen to the sounds around you. “Find a practice that’s easy to do and makes you feel connected and centered,” she recommends. Gottfried concurs: “Contemplative practice is nonnegotiable.”
NOTE : This is esentialy true if youre struggling with your weight.
Time Your Workouts
We’ve been taught that intense exercise is a great way to de-stress, but Trindade says that isn’t necessarily so. “Taking a spin class at 8 p.m. can create a very different cortisol level than a restorative yoga class at that same time,” she says. “For many people, creating a cortisol spike in the evening is just not helpful.”
Intense exercise raises cortisol levels, which is great if you’re looking for an extra energy boost in the morning or midafternoon. But an evening or nighttime workout is not so beneficial if it’s prompting insomnia or anxiety.
This doesnt mean to ditch workout. Not at all, but standing behind a consice workout scheme can be benefitial for you and your health.
Relieve Stress With Adaptogens
For thousands of years, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have used adaptogenic herbs — ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha, eleuthero, and others — to relieve stress.
“Adaptogens can be a good way for some people to bring their cortisol back to a healthy pattern,” says Trindade. “Some are very well-researched and can make a big difference, no matter what type of adrenal issues you’re dealing with.”
Get Some Sleep
Rest is key to restoring a healthy cortisol curve, so even when you still have a lot to get done, you’re not sleepy, or it’s your only time to really catch up on email, go to bed anyway.
“Sleep is huge when it comes to cortisol, absolutely huge,” says Trindade. “We know that going from eight hours of sleep to six hours will cause big disruptions in cortisol patterns in less than two weeks.”
That’s because cortisol and melatonin — the hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles — work in tandem. When cortisol drops, melatonin takes over and makes you sleepy. When you’re asleep, relatively low levels of cortisol allow your cells to repair and heal. If cortisol levels stay elevated, your body can’t make those repairs and you wake up feeling fatigued.
When your cortisol curve is back on track, you’ll have the energy you need throughout the day and get the rest you deserve — without slogging through the wired-but-tired cycle. You’ll enjoy the pleasing feeling of skiing down a mountain rather than being jerked around on a roller coaster. And you and cortisol will be friends again, working together instead of dragging each other down.