Cortisol is the body's stress hormone, and it is responsible for the natural fight or flight response that helps an individual determine whether to fight or flee from a perceived threat. This hormone, which is made in the adrenal glands, is a necessary hormone, but an excess of cortisol can lead to certain health problems. Weight gain, high blood pressure, lowered immunity, osteoporosis, Cushing's disease, and adrenal fatigue have all been linked to high cortisol levels. There are a few things that can be done to reduce cortisol levels, such as reducing caffeine, eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques.
Reducing or, if possible, eliminating caffeine is said to be one of the quickest ways to reduce cortisol levels. Coffee, soda, and tea all contain high levels of caffeine, which is thought to drastically raise cortisol levels. Caffeine can stimulate the production of cortisol, and one cup of coffee can raise the levels of cortisol by almost 30 percent.
Eating a healthy diet is also very important when it comes to reducing levels of cortisol. High glycemic levels in the blood are thought to increase cortisol production, and a low glycemic diet can help reduce cortisol levels. Also, instead of eating two or three large meals during the day, many doctors suggest eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day. Skipping meals can also raise cortisol levels in the blood, as it can put unnecessary stress on the body.
Exercise is another way to reduce cortisol levels in the blood. This can increase the production of chemicals such as dopamine and seratonin, which have been shown to lower depression and anxiety levels. When exercising though, it is important not to overdo it. Many doctors agree that when an individual is trying to lower cortisol levels in the blood, he should keep workouts limited to 30 to 60 minutes because longer workouts are actually thought to stimulate cortisol production.
While it may seem impossible to some, getting enough rest is another way to help reduce cortisol levels. A body that is well rested is better able to deal with small everyday stressers. Maintaining a regular sleep cycle, with a set bed time and wake time, can help a person get to sleep and stay asleep.
Because cortisol is released during times of stress, some relaxation techniques may help to reduce cortisol levels. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or a relaxing hobby are all great ways to reduce stress and help maintain a healthy lifestyle. A certain amount of time should be set aside each day for a relaxing activity.