Cortisol is a stress hormone made by the adrenal glands, regulating several processes throughout the body such as metabolism and immune response. Cortisol is responsible for several body functions including the ability to lower inflammation and increase glucose. It serves as a balancing mechanism between salt and water, and can regulate blood pressure as well.
Along with your brain, cortisol controls mood, motivation and fear. Cortisol is a stress hormone and can be likened to an alarm system within your body. So when you experience the ‘fight or flight’ feeling, you can attribute this to your increased cortisol level.
How Cortisol Works in Your Body
Certain areas of your brain determine the correct amount of cortisol needed for your body. Generally speaking, if cortisol level is low, the amount being produced is adjusted automatically. If it’s too high, adrenal glands come into play, adjusting the levels as needed.
Having a particularly stressful day? Cortisol can actually shut down your body organs that may interfere with its release. “These might include your digestive or reproductive systems, your immune system or even your growth processes,” according to WebMD. You may also experience a decrease in digestive secretion and an increase in blood pressure, as well.
Outside of stress, how can you tell if your cortisol levels are high? Look for the following common symptoms:
3 Ways to Measure Cortisol
Cortisol is commonly measured using a blood test. In order to get an accurate read, it’s recommended to test twice in one day. Once in the morning when levels are often running high and once in the evening when levels are lower. In addition to a blood test, you can also measure cortisone levels through a urine or saliva test. When using a urine test, you’ll need to collect urine over a 24-hour period to ensure accuracy. If testing by saliva, your healthcare provider will give you a kit and provide the proper instructions.
Reducing Cortisol Levels
There are many ways to reduce cortisol levels. When looking at stress management, remain cognizant of stressful moments as they arise. Engage in relaxation activities and take steps to control blood pressure. Spending time with loved ones is also beneficial – so cultivate heathy and supportive relationships.
If you want to follow a natural-based approach, there are simple lifestyle practices you can do such as exercise (just don’t overdo it!) and eating balanced meals. Additionally, you can also take a supplement.
Which Herbal Supplements Should You Choose?
Adaptogen herbs are plants that help the body resist physical, chemical and biological stressors. Below are a few supplements we recommend.
Ashwagandha is an Indian herb used as a nervine tonic, which calms the nerves. It’s an important herb of Ayurveda and is well-known for its wide range of health benefits. Often referred to as ‘Indian ginseng’ or ‘Winter cherry,’ Ashwagandha is used for immune system regulation and easing anxiety.
Ashwagandha is also used to treat asthma and cancer. Further studies are being conducted exploring its effectiveness for enhancing memory, promoting reproductive balance and aiding the body’s resistance to stress.
Ashwagandha is available in capsule, pill, powder or elixir forms and it’s safe for all ages; the suggested dose is 300 mg twice daily.
Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is an aromatic shrub and comes from the basil family. For centuries, Holy basil has been effective in addressing physical, chemical and psychological stressors. It can protect tissues and organs from pollutants and heavy metals, and help reduce physical stress, particularly stress connected to prolonged exertion. Holy basil can also help manage blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels. It has anti-depressant properties and may help improve brain and memory function.
Holy basil can be taken in capsule, essential oil or tea forms; the suggested dosage is 600 mg multiple times/day.
Rhodiola is an herb grown in the cold, mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. The roots are known as adaptogens, which means they help your body adapt to stress when they’re consumed. Rhodiola also relieves anxiety, suppresses cortisol and provides overall resistance to general stressors. Rhodiola rosea extract has demonstrated some anti-aging and anti-inflammatory functions in recent studies. Additionally, there are pharmacological properties being studied on the benefits for cancer chemoprevention, particularly for urinary bladder cancer. Rhodiola is well-known in Europe and Asia for its ability to enhance mental and physical endurance.
Rhodiola is available in capsule, tablet, dried powder and liquid extract forms; the suggested dosage is 200-300 mg of standardized extraction.
Cordyceps is a medicinal mushroom high in antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties. It’s often used to treat kidney disorders. Referred to as a natural energy booster, cordyceps has been linked to protecting against health issues, such as depression, fatigue, asthma and upper respiratory infections. Like Rhodiola, cordyceps is believed to boost athletic performance, although there is no scientific evidence to date supporting this claim. Cordyceps can make you resilient to the damage caused by high cortisol and can also help manage hormone levels.
The suggested dosage for cordyceps depends on individual factors such age and health, among others.
Want to learn more?
Since cortisol receptors are located throughout your body, they affect a wide variety of functions. It’s an important hormone for protecting your overall health and well-being. Your body naturally works to keep levels balanced. However, when stressful situations arise, cortisol can easily increase. There are a variety of lifestyle options you can choose to help balance levels, as well adding a supplement to your diet.
If you would like to learn more about cortisol or if you have questions about the right supplement to take, please contact us at 734-369-8782 to schedule an in-person or virtual consultation with Mona Alaudhi, Registered Dietician.
Important note: Please discuss with your physician or one of our pharmacists before taking any supplement, as some supplements may interact with medications or have contraindications with certain medications and/or health conditions.
Do you have any questions or would like a customized diet plan? Schedule a consultation by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.