6 Ways to Balance Your Cortisol Levels

6 Ways to Balance Your Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is a steroid released from the adrenal glands during the fight-or flight response (stress response). Chronic stress can cause cortisol imbalances that can lead to different ailments such as:

  • Reduced tissue repair
  • Chronic pain
  • Calcium to be leached from the bone
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Reduced skin regeneration
  • Thyroid imbalance
  • Disrupted hormonal balance of estrogen and progesterone
  • Increased fat cells
  • Killing of nerves and dendrites relating to learning and memory

Pauline N. Harding, explains in her article, How to Age Rapidly or Not, how cortisol acts like a circadian rhythm. Normally, the highest levels of cortisol are in the morning, and the lowest levels are at nighttime. However, fight-or-flight can cause higher cortisol levels at nighttime and lower levels in the morning. The “awake feeling” at bedtime and “drowsy feeling” in the morning can be due to cortisol imbalance.

Dr. Harding has found some of the major causes of cortisol imbalance:

  • Skipping breakfast
  • Skipping a meal
  • Eating more carbs than protein in a five hour period
  • Having a flexed (slouched) posture with the chin forward
  • Staying up past 10 PM
  • Being emotionally stressed
  •  Being in pain

Dr. Harding recommends these six guidelines below, which I have expanded a little upon, to keep your cortisol balance in check:

  1. Go to bed by 10 PM. Staying up passed 10:00 PM can throw your cortisol levels out of whack. The best hours for sleep are between 10:00 PM and 4:00 AM. Also, watching violent and dramatic TV shows at nighttime can ignite the fight-or-flight response. I suggest having a relaxing routine before you go to bed. Try to turn off your computer and TV an hour before bedtime. Take a hot shower or bath. You can add some lavender to your bath or lotion. Read a book (not an iPad) or practice meditating. Try to have all electronics unplugged in your bedroom when you go to sleep. Don’t have any caffeine passed 2:00 PM.
  2. Eat breakfast by 7 AM. Many people skip breakfast or do not eat a wholesome breakfast. Having a protein smoothie first thing in the morning can help jump start your day. Stay away from white flour and high sugary breakfasts. You can find a breakfast smoothie recipe if you download, Healthy Natural Diet, at
  3. Avoid excess sugar and starch. Go for wholesome sweeteners such as stevia, agave nectar, coconut nectar, yacon syrup, raw honey and Sucanat. Always choose 100% whole grains over white refined flours.
  4. Eat low glycemic meals every five hours. Low GI foods include 100% whole grains, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds and non-starchy vegetables. Some low GI fruits include apples, pairs, plums, peaches, berries and cherries. Agave nectar and stevia are low GI sweeteners. I try to have one palmful of protein and two palmfuls of whole grains at each meal. I add a medium-large salad for at least two meals. I like to have my fruit in a breakfast smoothie in the morning. I also have fruit with some protein, such as nut butters or organic cheese, for snacks. You can find out more on how to have a complete meal by downloading, Healthy Natural Diet, at www.wholebodyglow.com.
  5. Maintain a good posture and avoid sitting for long periods of time and fetal position at night. If you sit at a desk all day, it is crucial to make sure that you have correct posture. Here is a link to see how to sit correctly at your desk:
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/88933-correct-posture-desk/ When sitting at a desk, it is recommended to get up twice in the hour to walk around. Practice yoga or Pilates a few times a week.
  6. Control pain. There are many different causes for pain. Some pain can be managed by getting a massage or acupuncture treatment weekly, bi-monthly or monthly. Meditation and deep breathing can also help.

Simply by following the guidelines above, you will be able to manage your stress levels. Try following these 6 recommendations for one month and see how you feel.