Stress getting out of control? Here are foods to balance cortisol levels | Health - Hindustan Times
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Stress getting out of control? Here are foods to balance cortisol levels

By, New Delhi
Jul 05, 2023 02:21 PM IST

Too much or too little stress both can be problematic. Here are foods you must have to balance your cortisol levels.

There isn't a single soul in this planet who doesn't get stressed. Before an important meeting, a significant event, an examination it is natural and in fact crucial to get stressed. Without feeling stressed, one may not get into the right frame to face the problem. When we get stressed our cortisol levels go up and this helps one feel alert, energetic, and ready to face almost any challenge. But what happens, when the stress continues to bother us long after the said event is over and the cortisol levels remain high? This could hamper our heart health, digestive health, increase blood sugar levels, impact our immunity and thus negatively impact overall health. (Also read: Yoga for heart health: Ways to improve mindfulness, beat stress to boost cardiovascular health)

When we get stressed our cortisol levels go up and this helps one feel alert, energetic, and ready to face almost any challenge.(Freepik)
When we get stressed our cortisol levels go up and this helps one feel alert, energetic, and ready to face almost any challenge.(Freepik)

Stress can be good or bad. Some folks thrive on a moderate level of stress while others crumple, says Dr Sara Gottfried, a Harvard-educated MD and bestselling author of books like Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Year in her recent Instagram post.

Why do we even need stress?

"We need to be able to respond to a crisis. Cortisol is a hormone that you really need. We can’t live without it. But cortisol is a bully and if it is high, it impacts all the hormones in our bodies. Addressing your cortisol response and finding ways to manage your stress is essential," says Dr Gottfried.

How does cortisol help you?

Cortisol helps you in the morning. It helps you get out of bed, feel like you've got energy, and it’s at its peak level when you first wake up in the morning within about 30 to 60 minutes, says the expert.

However, Dr Gottfried adds that remaining stressed all the time means the cortisol can stay elevated and cause a number of problems.

What are the side effects of excess cortisol

Too much can make you gain weight, particularly around the middle; it can make you cranky; it can fry your memory; it can give you brain fog. High cortisol has also been shown to accelerate the aging process.

Signs of too much cortisol

Dr Gottfried lists signs that your cortisol is high:

  • Feeling you are constantly racing from one task to the next.
  • Feeling wired yet tired.
  • Struggle to calm down before bedtime, or get a second wind that keeps you up late.
  • Difficulty falling asleep or experiencing disrupted sleep.
  • Feeling of anxiety or nervousness—can’t stop worrying about things beyond your control.
  • Experience quickness to feel anger or rage—frequent screaming or yelling.
  • Memory lapses or feeling distracted, especially under duress.
  • Indigestion, ulcers, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • More difficulty recovering from physical injury than in the past.
  • High blood pressure or rapid heartbeat.
  • High blood sugar (maybe your clinician has mentioned the words prediabetes or even diabetes or insulin resistance).
  • Shakiness between meals, also known as blood sugar instability.
  • Increased abdominal circumference, greater than 35 inches not related to bloating.

How to balance cortisol?

If your cortisol levels are too high, and the hormone is working against you, here are some things you can do to balance cortisol:

  • Make sure your multivitamin includes the B vitamins (B1, B5, B6, B12).
  • Add vitamin C and tyrosine as they can help lower cortisol.
  • Try phosphatidylserine (PS). This has been shown to reduce cortisol levels when taken in pill form.
  • Take fish oil daily. Men and women who took 4,000 mg (4 grams) of fish oil a day for six weeks lowered morning cortisol to healthier levels.
  • Wean from caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol raises cortisol and the effect persists for twenty-four hours in men--probably longer for women. Caffeine directly induces the adrenocortical cells to produce more cortisol, as well as more epinephrine, norepinephrine, and insulin.
  • Avoid common food intolerances like gluten and dairy as I often see that they may raise cortisol in some people. Think of this as “food stress.”

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