If you want to win the war on stress, it is important to understand the role of cortisol and how it can be your friend or foe. If balanced, cortisol can help your body keep its immune system in check. But, left unchecked and unbalanced, cortisol can wreak havoc on your body.
Cortisol is critical to your body. Also known as the ‘stress hormone,’ it is essential to helping you regulate your blood pressure and immune system when your body is in crisis. When your cortisol levels are balanced, it protects your immune system from emotional setbacks as well as physical attacks. Cortisol also helps you to use your energy reserves to protect your body’s ability to fight off infections.
However, if your cortisol levels are always working at a high level, this hormone can cause some problems to your body. Some of these problems include sleeplessness, a non-functioning immune response, abnormal blood sugar levels and weight gain in your stomach.
Abnormal blood sugar levels and weight gain occur when you are stressed out because your body urges you to eat something high in calories. It provides a temporary boost in energy and leads to weight gain and increased sugar levels. So it’s important to strike a balance with your cortisol levels.
Here are five ways to lower your cortisol:
1. Pay attention to what you eat. Nutrition is critical and controls the production of cortisol in your body. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and low-glycemic foods like eggs lower the cortisol levels in the blood. Whole grain products also help to control the production levels of cortisol in the body. When you add in vitamin B5 and folic acid, which is plentiful in beans, fish, whole grains, sunflower seeds and fruits to this mix, this also provides balance for your cortisol levels. Processed sugar and flours do the opposite, causing cortisol levels to increase. By paying attention to what you eat, you can balance the cortisol levels in your body helping to protect your immune system.
2. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise serves two purposes. It helps you manage your weight and also results in weight loss. When you exercise, your body produces those feel good endorphins. As endorphins are released into your brain, this helps you to combat stress and anxiety. As a result, excess cortisol production is alleviated. By exercising regularly, you also contribute to reducing excess amounts of cortisol from your system. In other words, it’s a stress buster.