Most people agree that too much stress has a negative effect on the human body, but many may be surprised that high cortisol levels can increase fat storage, cause insulin resistance and even trigger the premature death of brain cells. Dr Robert Kapolsky, author of the best-selling book on stress “Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers," explains how the stress hormone interacts with a variety of different body systems. Some herbs can attenuate the release of cortisol.
Phosphatidylserine stands out as one of many phospholipids present in the human body. It has received particular attention due to its abilities to reduce cortisol levels. Charles Poliquin, the Canadian strength coach who has trained 16 Olympic medal-winning athletes, recommends the use of this supplement in the evenings to improve sleep and lower cortisol levels, which creates a better environment for muscle growth. Phosphatidylserine increases sensitivity to cortisol at the hypothalamus, a part of the brain responsible for maintaining hormonal balance. This effect results in a reduced signal to the adrenal glands and less cortisol release.
One of many adaptogenic herbs, Siberian ginseng comes with a wealth of research to support its use in a variety of conditions. Also known as eleuthero senticoccus, traditional medicine in both Russia and China has employed this herb to improve resistance to infection, enhance stress response and even sustain athletic performance. Researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center credit the eleutherosides inside the herb as responsible for the adaptogenic effect, which involves reducing any excessive production of cortisol at the adrenal glands.
Vitamin C plays a number of roles in the human body, from strengthening to walls of blood vessels to providing a strong antioxidant function at every cell. However, the vitamin also demonstrates a powerful influence on the function of the adrenal glands, facilitating a balanced release of hormones from the adrenal cortex and normalizing cortisol levels when they climb too high. David Robson, a contributor to Bodybuilding.com, noted how patients under stress recorded significantly lower cortisol levels after receiving 3g vitamin C per day.
- “Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers”; Dr Robert Kapolsky; 2002.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Siberian Ginseng
- Bodybuilding,com: David Robson – The Implications of Cortisol Release
- stressed blond girl image by Andrejs Pidjass from Fotolia.com