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KEEP CALM AND REDUCE THE EFFECTS OF CORTISOL 1024 1024 Delphine Remy | Holistic Nutrition & Eating Psychology Coach

Many of us know that cortisol, the stress hormone, can directly affect our metabolism, speed up aging and greatly affect our long term health but relaxing is much easier said than done. We make an effort to eat better foods and exercise regularly yet the feeling of internal stress remains. Why is that?

Cortisol is more than just a ‘stress hormone’. Cortisol, along with adrenaline, dopamine and others are the hormonal response to a particular type of stress. They maintain and protect the body’s vital systems in a perceived state of ‘fight or flight’. Hormones like cortisol also manage blood, sugar and oxygen levels to help you take an action. The good news is — cortisol is what makes it possible for you to take an action. The bad news is — your body can only operate at this level for a short period of time. When the body experiences extended periods of stress, the higher levels of cortisol can actually lead to distress and disease. The body cannot sustain extended periods of unmanaged stress. Adverse effects of cortisol are high blood pressure, high blood sugar, increased risk of diabetes, increased abdominal fat, increased risk of heart disease, irregular menstrual cycles in women, low testosterone and low sperm count in men, and a suppressed immune system.

How can I reduce cortisol levels?
Once upon a time, before we all became modern men and women, our lifestyles accommodated our body’s natural cues to keep cortisol levels in check. Today, processed foods, refined sugars along with emotional stressors and hectic schedules are all factors that contribute to high cortisol levels. While some of these factors cannot be avoided, some can.

The No-No List
Trans Fats. Let’s agree to stay away from packaged foods and labels that read “hydrogenated” or partially hydrogenated” oils. Trans fats increase cholesterol in the body, which is the reason they raise cortisol lever and affect arterial flow.
Refined sugars. Sugar is most forms will raise your cortisol more than almost any other food. No need to say that refined sugar is the worse! Sugar spikes will cause cortisol to be released causing you to feel hungry and possibly overeat. Taking care of the blood sugar is the first step to reduce cortisol.
Refined grains. Exactly like refined sugar, refined grains should be avoided. Refined grains are any grain that isn’t labeled 100% whole grain, they are empty calories. Even whole grains with gluten have been linked to higher cortisol levels. So opt for gluten-free grains as much as you can and these are quinoa, millet, rice, amaranth, buckwheat and more.
Alcohol. Keep it to a (2) drink maximum! Studies show that excessive alcohol causes oxidative stress on the liver and raised cortisol levels (particularly when stress drinking).
Caffeine. Caffeine can go both ways. For those who are not currently experiencing high-stress lives, enjoy your cup of joe (and the digestive benefits of coffee)! but for those of you who are, caffeine can cause cortisol spikes leaving you feeling anxious and mentally drained.

Up Your Antioxidant Intake!
Antioxidants do a wonderful job of countering the damage done by stress hormones in the body so up your intake of antioxidants by eating more berries! Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries — all the berries!


Eat Proteins And Quality Carbs!
Everyone’s body is different so it may take you some time to learn what works best for you. What works for me is a high protein breakfast and lunch and healthy carbs for dinner. The protein keeps me feeling full and satisfied longer; and mentally sharp. What does a protein rich breakfast look like? I’m not suggesting steak and eggs (although I definitely experienced my fair share of that while living in Texas). I like eggs, smoked salmon or avocado for breakfast and for lunch perhaps a chicken salad or chickpea buddha bowl. At night I like to enjoy roasted veggies like squash, sweet potatoes or gluten-free pasta pasta with lots of veggies (healthy carbs).

The relationship between maintaining a healthy weight and stress is an interesting one. Numerous studies have shown that those who produce high amounts of cortisol are strongly associated with fat accumulation, specifically in their mid section. Eating well, exercising regularly can only do so much but there are other contributing factors that play a big part in how stress affects your body.

Light + Cortisol
Surprisingly enough, light has a huge impact on cortisol levels. Natural light, artificial light, the light from your phone or computer, and TV. In fact when we expose ourselves to bright lights our body is led to believe it is day and needs to be awake and active. This is counterintuitive if it’s bedtime and your body just received a fresh dose of cortisol. In many cases this can lead to restlessness or insomnia.

TIP. Spend at least ½ hour outdoors each day so that your body is always able to differentiate between night and day and use soft lights indoors such as lamps or dimmers at night time to avoid spiking your cortisol levels at bedtime.

Sleep + Cortisol
Sleep is not overrated! It’s necessary and so important to healing the body and one of the only ways to truly reduce stress. The body has a delicate balance of hormones and a lack of sleep can disrupt everything making you feel groggy and restless. Poor sleep quality can lead to fatigue, brain fog, memory loss and more stress. Prioritize sleep by creating a routine that works for you.

Reducing the effects of stress is absolutely possible but it takes discipline and self awareness. Take the necessary steps to organically reduce stress in your life to experience the benefits of reduced blood sugar and cortisol spikes.


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