Natural ways to empty your cortisol vault

One of the main culprits behind stress-related issues is cortisol otherwise known as the “stress hormone”. When your body is under stress, it releases cortisol...
Lara Fountain
Zen garden with stone as mindful stress relief

One of the main culprits behind stress-related issues is cortisol otherwise known as the “stress hormone”. When your body is under stress, it releases cortisol to help you deal with the situation. However, chronic stress means you exist in a state of constantly high cortisol otherwise known as ‘fight or flight ‘. This may even be unbeknown to you until you fill your stress quoter. Suddenly your cortisol vault is full, you've reached your limit, and the trouble starts.

We know the detrimental effect stress can have on our health. Modern living dosnt naturally foster the most zen-like lifestyles. But let's be real—stress is an unavoidable part of life. When stress sticks around too long, it can wreak havoc on the body and mind. Gaining an understanding on why it is showing up can help you combat its effects.

Understanding the function of Cortisol 

Cortisol as mentioned is often called the "stress hormone" because it’s released during moments of stress. It plays a crucial role in various bodily functions but too much cortisol can lead to problems. Such as anxiety, depression, digestive issues, heart disease, weight gain, and fluid retention.

Produced by the adrenal glands, cortisol plays a pivotal role in regulating metabolism, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure, while also reducing inflammation and aiding in memory formation. Its levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day, peaking in the morning and tapering off by evening. During stressful situations, the body's acute stress response triggers a surge in cortisol, equipping you with the energy and alertness needed to tackle immediate threats. However, chronic stress can lead to persistently high cortisol levels, disrupting these vital processes and the body's natural rhythm potentially contribute to factors that exacerbate health problems caused by underlying conditions.

On the bright side, as there is always a bright side all the symptoms you experience are signals and signs from your body telling you that it's time to make intentional choices to empty the vault by actively taking steps to lower your cortisol levels.

How cortisol imbalance effects your health

Prolonged high cortisol levels can lead to Cushing's syndrome, characterized by sudden weight gain in specific areas like the face, abdomen, and chest, elevated blood pressure, a flushed face, sensitive skin, anxiety, depression, weak bones, mood swings, and irregular menstrual cycles in women. Conversely, low cortisol levels can result in Addison's disease, an autoimmune condition causing muscle and weight loss, changes in skin tone, mood swings, and fatigue. These conditions highlight the importance of managing cortisol levels naturally to maintain overall health. By incorporating lifestyle changes and natural remedies, you can help balance your cortisol levels, reduce stress, and enhance your physical and mental well-being. If you are concerned about the effects of stress is having on your life consult your healthcare professional for personalized advice.

10 signs you have high Cortisol levels

  1. Weight gain predominantly around the midsection
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Flushed face
  4. Head tension
  5. Fatigue
  6. Difficulty concentrating
  7. Thinning skin
  8. Acne
  9. Muscle pain and weakness
  10. irritability

Natural ways to actively lower your cortisol

Intentional nourishment 

The benefits of eating a whole food plant-rich diet isn't news to anyone. A diet high in refined sugars and processed foods will wreak havoc on the body. Not only does it physically put the body through the wringer when it comes to digestively processing them but it also affects the natural delicate balance hormones are happy in, you wouldn't throw a lit firecracker in a closed room and walk away thinking nothing of it, would you?  Well, eating a diet rich in processed food and additives is like doing just that to your body. 

When it comes to how we look and feel food either fuels or pollutes us. What we consume is directly linked to how low or high our cortisol levels are as processed foods raise cortisol which leads to high blood pressure and can put you at risk of obtaining unwanted health conditions such as becoming prediabetic which can lead to developing type 1 or 2 diabetes.

To combat this you can take a food as medicine approach by taking steps to naturally fight the effect high cortisol levels can have on your health and well-being by introducing or increasing a few nature-happy hormone foods into your diet.

  • Increase your fiber intake, fiber is key to promoting hormonal balance as fiber helps regulate gut bacteria and helps to cleanse the body of unwanted toxins. Upping your intake of natural fiber found in fruits and vegetables will directly influence your gut and hormone health positively and help you empty that cortisol vault.
  •  Up your antioxidants, antioxidants help protect your body from the damage caused by stress. Foods rich in antioxidants, like berries, dark chocolate, and green leafy vegetables, can help reduce cortisol levels and improve your overall health.
  • Consume prebiotic foods, garlic, onions, leeks, bananas, resistance starches are just some examples of prebiotic foods that help support a healthy gut. A healthy gut can help reduce cortisol levels and improve your overall well-being. Incorporate more prebiotic foods into your diet to help manage stress.
  • Eat consistently, skipping meals or not eating enough can raise cortisol levels. Make sure you’re following your natural rhythm eating regular balanced meals with plenty of protein to keep your blood sugar stable and your cortisol levels in check. 

Intentionally Natural best chia seed pudding recipe

 The best chai seed pudding recipe 

Find more healthy nourishing recipes on the Intentionally Natural recipes journal

Go easy on the caffeine

Consuming high amounts of caffeine has been shown to have negative health effects as it creates a disconnect between your natural hormonal daily rhythms. Caffeine prolongs elevated cortisol which can lead to excess fat storage as it is one of the body's key fat storage hormones. Therefore, consume your caffeine consciously is a good way to Combate elevated cortisol if removing it from your diet completely feels too drastic for you.

Small to moderate amounts of caffeine have been shown to boost your mood and you know your body best so tune in and listen to what it  tells you when you have a cup of coffee. Does it lift your spirits, or does it make your heart race and send you into fright or flight response?

Tea is a great alternative and can be extremely beneficial in decreasing cortisol levels. Studies have shown that drinking green, herbal and black tea in moderation can reduce cortisol levels after a stressful event. Goes to show there is something to be said for it being common practice to offer a cup of tea when someone is experiencing stress.


On Sundays Green Jasmine Tea In Tin And Glass

 On Sundays Green Jasmine tea

Green tea is ideal in the morning if you're looking to switch up your morning brew as it contains an amino acid called L-theanine. L-theanine promotes relaxation and reduces stress without making you drowsy. Plus, it’s full of antioxidants that can help protect your brain from the negative effects of cortisol.
On Sundays English Breakfast Tea with teapot
Black tea also contains L-theanine and tannins that help you relax and lower cortisol. It pays to note that black teas contain a lower amount of caffeine which is considered slow-release caffeine. Slow-release caffeine won't give you the burst of energy that a cup of coffee, but it will give you a prolonged subtle release of energy. Although black tea contains less caffeine it's a good to be away that you shouldn't replace your one cup of coffee for 4 cup of black tea in a day, like with everything moderation is key.
On Sundays Dreamland loose tea in tin
Herbal tea is also a wonderful option, Peppermint tea invigorates the sense and support digestive health, Chamomile, Tulsi, Lose and lavender are famous for their calming properties and a great option to have in the afternoon or evening. Drinking chamomile tea can help reduce stress and anxiety, which in turn can lower cortisol levels. Herbal teas are a great way to support hydration while also getting the herbal benefits that their botanical ingredients impart on your health and wellbeing.

Stay hydrated

Dehydration can increase cortisol production as our bodies are 60 -70% water, our brains 85% water and blood is 50% water. Water is crucial to both health and function so when you are even slightly dehydrated the body sends signals that you are in danger kicking in the 'flight or fight' response leading to further dehydration and elevated cortisol.

Hydration is a critical factor when it comes to lowering our cortisol levels and one we can easily control so be sure you're getting your daily water requirement is a simple step in the right direction to lowering cortisol and combating the symptoms associated with stress

Avoid alcohol

Not consuming alcohol is a huge factor when you're trying to get a handle on your stress levels. Alcohol affects the Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a vital communication system in the brain that influences hormone regulation and nervous system function. Consuming alcohol directly elevates the production of cortisol, but it doesn't stop there. With regular, Binge, and excessive alcohol consumption when you stop drinking and go into the withdrawal phases as your bodies systems work to reregulate hormone function cortisol production is increased for an excessive amount of time.

Priorities Quality Sleep to lower cortisol production

Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for managing cortisol levels. Make you bedtime routine as stress free and relacing as possible. Ensure you are getting enough sleep as the loss or bad and broken sleeping patterns can lead to increased cortisol. The best way to know if your are getting quality rest is if you wake up and you feel like you alive and ready for what the day brings you're well rested. If on the other hand, you wake up and feel envious of sleeping beauty and want to hit snooze 100 times then you need to do yourself a favor and make a few changes to create a better sleep ritual for yourself.

Simple ways to promote better sleep quality to lower cortisol 

  • Go phone and screen-free at least 1 hour before sleeping as screen time elevates cortisol production.
  • Take time to mentally decompress from the day, so much of what contributes to elevated cortisol isn't just the conscious stressors for the never-ending always growing to do list. there also the subconscious ones that accumulate throughout the day leading to elevated cortisol. Take a moment before bed to journal, meditate, practice yoga or breathwork to calm the nerves system and mind, and release any stress that you may be subconsciously holding onto.
  • Have a warm bath with Epsom, it's been shown that a warm bath with Epsom salt can help to relieve muscle tension and lower stress levels.
  • Create to a regular evening relaxation ritual and sleep schedule, read a book, defuse some lavender or relaxing oils, dim the lights, enjoy a relaxing cup of tea, practice gratitude then prep your bedroom and bed so it's comfortable, stress-free zone. 

Lower Cortisol with mindful choices

Making mindful choices can help reduce cortisol levels and improve your mood. Get back in touch with the simple things that brought you joy as a child. Indulge in quality time and play with your kids or pets, delve into creative pursuits that bring you joy and express unique talents. Connect with the people who lift your spirit or listen to music while implementing movement as these can all be wonderful ways to release stress and dense energy that leads to stress.

Take Cortisol-Reducing adaptogens 

It's no secret that for centuries traditional medicine looked to nature to support and increase one's resilience to stress. With a wide range of natural, safe, and effective adaptogens and supplements available today you can offset the stress without the nasty side effects modern medicine offers. Just be sure to consult your general health practitioner before you add anything new into your diet. 

Proven natural supplements that naturally combat stress 

Phosphatidylserine is a fatty substance that covers and protects your brain cells. It can help reduce cortisol levels and improve your mood. You can find it in supplement form or in foods like soy, white beans, and egg yolks.

Rhodiola is another adaptogen that can help lower cortisol levels. It’s known for its ability to reduce fatigue and improve mental performance, making it a great addition to your stress-busting toolkit.

Cacao consuming 70% cacao or higher can help reduce cortisol levels. It's packed with antioxidants, which help combat stress, calm your nerves, and lower cortisol.

Ginseng is another adaptogen that can help lower cortisol levels. These supplements can be a powerful part of your stress-reduction strategy.

Zinc, magnesium, and selenium are essential minerals that can help reduce cortisol levels. You can find them in foods like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and seafood. A wonderful and easy way to obtain all three of these minerals is to use Celtic sea salt as a seasoning in your meals.

Omega-3 fatty acids are great for supporting brain health and function, reducing inflammation, and lowering cortisol.  Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids Omega-3s are found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts to help keep cortisol levels down.

Antioxidants help protect your body from the damage caused by stress. Foods rich in antioxidants, like berries, dark chocolate, and green leafy vegetables, can help reduce cortisol levels and improve your overall health.

Curcumin the active ingredient in turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It can help reduce cortisol levels and improve your mood. Try adding turmeric to your meals or taking a curcumin supplement.

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that helps your body adapt to stress. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, support hormone function in both women and men, and improve overall well-being. You can take it as a supplement or in powder form mixed into smoothies or tea or in capsules.


Mother Made Mood Ashwagandha caps Intentionally Natural


Mother Made Mood Ashwagandha capsules


Stand tall and speak kindly to yourself

We all know the saying you are what you eat but i really when it comes down to it you are what you consume and that speaks directly to the thoughts and self-talk we digest whether consciously or subconsciously. Your inner dialogue and body language can affect your cortisol levels. Standing tall with your shoulders back and taking up more space can help reduce cortisol and boost your confidence. Practice positive body language to help manage stress.

Gentle Exercises to lower cortisol

Last but not least exercise is a great way to reduce stress and lower cortisol levels, to be clear I'm not talking about partaking in a high-intensity workout before bed at all. I'm talking about gentle exercise that releases those happy endorphins which lift the mood and work as natural painkillers to relieve stress and gently increase blood oxygen levels. An evening after-dinner stroll with your loved ones, gentle yoga or swimming if it's warm enough are great ways to actively keep cortisol levels in check.


A final word on address high cortisol

Managing stress and maintaining healthy cortisol levels is essential for overall well-being. It is a topic I am personally passionate about as I have had many struggles when it comes to getting and keeping this hormone in check. It's important to know like with everything our hormones including cortisol aren't either good or bad. It's all about fostering the perfect balance to ensure our natural rhymes e thrown out of wack when life happens. We are all so uniquely different and finding your natural flow isn't a one solution works for all wonder. It's about implementing and adopting striates and making changes that fit you best, meeting you where you're at and then actively working to refine these to foster hormonal harmony within yourself.

Although it can feel like such a battle at times which can lead to overwhelm just remember. Your body is always communicating with you and by listening, getting curious, and implementing simple subtle lifestyle changes to how you care for yourself you can rebalance and regulate your hormones including cortisol to combat stress naturally and enhance your mental, emotional, and physical health.

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About the author

Lara Fountain

Lara a certified organic skincare and cosmetic formulator shares natural, and effective beauty solutions, wellness insights, and recipes created to empower and nourish your glow naturally from the inside out.