How do I Reduce Cortisol Levels?

Christina Edwards

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.

The caffeine in coffee can increase cortisol production, so cutting back can reduce it.
The caffeine in coffee can increase cortisol production, so cutting back can reduce it.

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.

Yoga might reduce cortisol levels by relieving stress.
Yoga might reduce cortisol levels by relieving stress.

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.

Cushing's disease has been linked to high cortisol levels.
Cushing's disease has been linked to high cortisol levels.

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.

Elevated levels of cortisol may cause lethargy and even infertility.
Elevated levels of cortisol may cause lethargy and even infertility.

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Discussion Comments


I'm trying to reduce my cortisol levels. I use meditation/prayer for relaxation as well as natural herbs like lemon balm or passiflora. These herbs are excellent for relaxation, I drink them as tea in the evening. Eating healthy, fresh foods help also.


@fBoyle-- Exercise may reduce cortisol levels but it may also increase them. Intense exercises increases cortisol instead of reducing it because the body is under physical stress.

Cortisol is basically a reaction to stress, whether it's emotional/mental or physical. Our body cannot differentiate between the two. Intense physical exercise signals to the body that there is some preparation to protect the body from a threat. Our body doesn't know that we are just working out in the gym, it reacts as if there is a tiger running after us.

The same exact reaction occurs when we are under emotional stress. Has anyone gotten an annoying email from their boss and felt like running away? Has anyone felt nervous or felt a rush of energy to the limbs? Yep, that's cortisol doing its work. The mind and body feel under threat and prepare to fight or flight.

Unfortunately reducing cortisol levels naturally while being bombarded with constant stress from our environment is very difficult. Sometimes one has to gather the courage to make major life changes to avoid the detrimental effects of high cortisol levels.


When my cortisol levels were high due to work stress, I could not have caffeine because the cortisol gave me anxiety. Caffeine made my restlessness and anxiety worse, so I had to avoid it completely. When I'm not stressed, I can have two cups of coffee a day and a cup of black tea without no problems. So the key is lowering cortisol levels by avoiding stress.

Exercising, being outdoors, doing yoga and meditating can all help reduce cortisol levels.

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