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How to Control Cortisol

By Lori Hamann, M.S.E. ; Updated August 14, 2017

Often referred to as the "stress hormone," cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and responsible for many bodily functions including our fight or flight response. Too much cortisol production, however, can result in weight gain (especially around the midsection) a compromised immune system, blood sugar issues and depression.

Drink your orange juice. Having adequate levels of vitamin C in your system is not just your first defense against the common cold anymore. PsychologyToday.com reports that stressed individuals who received 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C showed much less of a stress response—and therefore cortisol production—than individuals who did not take a supplement.

Avoid coffee. While it might be easy to think that coffee actually helps your stress and improves your focus, caffeine has been shown to spike cortisol levels to up to 18 hours after consumption. It's not just your coffee that contains caffeine; be wary of sodas and teas that are caffeinated. Avoiding caffeine will help to control your cortisol levels.

Get your workout in. Daily exercise has been shown to reduce stress. Aerobic exercise produces endorphins, and weight training increases human growth hormone, both of which aid in blocking and controlling cortisol levels. Don't over exercise, however. Keep your exercise sessions between 30 and 45 minutes for optimum cortisol control.

Reduce your life stress. If you find yourself taking on too many activities during the day, never saying no to any requests, you could be running on empty. This will cause your cortisol levels to be continually elevated, and eventually lead to adrenal burnout. Be easy on yourself, don't take on more than you can handle and treat yourself to relaxing activities.

Meditate daily. Meditation has long been shown to reduce stress levels and quiet the mind. However meditation also has a biochemical benefit, in that it can “change the pattern of your brain chemistry,” says CBCnews.com. It reduces cortisol levels, increases serotonin and causes your body to release endorphins.

Take melatonin. Women’s Health-Natural Solutions.com states, “The average 50-year-old has nighttime cortisol levels more than 30 times higher than the average 30-year-old. Try taking melatonin, a natural hormone produced at night that helps regulate sleep/wake cycles, before going to sleep to boost your own melatonin production, which decreases with age. A good night’s sleep will also help with your stress levels—so make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night and you will be on your way to controlling cortisol.

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