How to Naturally Lower Stress Levels

Chronic stress effects everything!! Your whole body and mind.

Your immune and digestive systems are just a couple of our bodily systems that are affected. That’s why when you have ongoing stress your more prone to getting colds, pain from inflammation and ultimately more serious diseases. Also, when your digestive system is compromised you are unable to digest your food properly, so even if you do eat well its most likely you’re not getting all the vitamins and minerals from your food.

So, what is chronic stress and where does it come from?

Well its causes are absolutely everywhere.

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But that doesn’t happen too much in our society -it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.”  It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

As I have said too-high levels of cortisol are associated with not only immune and digestive issues but also increased belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure and high blood sugar?

Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!

Foods and nutrients to lower stress

Bowl of blueberries
Berries are packed with Antioxidants

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar, we eat and drink can be great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest. Only you know how it makes you feel click here to find out whether you should be drinking coffee or not!

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water everyday, especially if you feel thirsty.

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.

Oranges. Vitamin C found in oranges helps reduce stress hormones, while strengthening your immune system.

Fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon, anchovies and sardines, can prevent surges in stress hormones and may help protect against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). 

Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews are a good source of healthy fats, which lower cholesterol and inflammation in the body. Nuts are also an excellent source of vitamins B and E. And, they contain zinc and iron–key nutrients for maintaining a balanced mood and energy.

Chocolate. Pure, dark chocolate without added sugars or milk reduces cortisol, the stress hormone that causes anxiety symptoms. Cocoa can release serotonin and improve your mood. 

Berries. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are rich in vitamins and phytonutrients (plant nutrients), with a variety of antioxidants that are considered extremely beneficial for relieving stress and balancing your mood.

Avocado. One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to get enough potassium, and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana.

Asparagus. These slender stalks are high in folate, which is essential for keeping you calm and collected. 

Green leafy vegetables. Spinach, kale, swiss chard, and collard greens contain magnesium, a mineral which promotes relaxation. Additionally, greens help to protect your mood by fighting free radicals.

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind. At least 60% cacao. I go for the 70% personally as it tastes great and are also packed full of antioxidants to protect you from heart disease and importer brain function!! YAY! But go easy its not the case with the more you eat the larger the benefits! 

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics!There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber. This is a huge topic and another blog post in itself!

Slow down to release stress

Lifestyle techniques to lower stress

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels. Yoga, Pilates, tai chi and walking, especially out in nature, are great stress relief exercises that you can do anywhere.

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.

Relax and have fun.Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? People that are lacking in social support are said to die at least 7 years before someone that has a strong social network. It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key

Conclusion

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea,dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax,and have more fun.

In the comments below, let me know your favorite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

Also, for a super yummy dessert recipe to bust that stress click here! Enjoy!