Cortisol is also called the stress hormone. It increases hunger and cravings for sweets, and causes the production of belly fat.
In this article you will read everything you need to know about cortisol and discover how you can lower your cortisol level.
Cortisol is necessary for the functioning of your body. This article is intended for people who have a high cortisol level and want to lower it naturally.
- What is Cortisol?
- Symptoms too much cortisol
- Cortisol and belly fat
- Cortisol and hunger
- 5 tips to lower cortisol
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone: it is produced by your adrenal glands when you experience stress and ensures that you can fight or flee.
Cortisol is a necessary hormone for your body. You need it for the following biological functions, among others:
- It suppresses inflammation
- It regulates blood pressure
- It determines your sleep-wake rhythm
- It increases your blood sugar
- It gives you energy to fight or to flee
Cortisol is very useful in a situation where you need to take action quickly. The problem, however, is that in today’s society we experience a lot of stress, and therefore also have a high cortisol value. And that is not without consequences for your health …
Symptoms of too much cortisol
A chronically high cortisol level is comparable to a computer that is used intensively all day long. The letters on the keyboard fade, the computer components wear out, and the computer starts up more slowly. It works much the same in your body.
Long-term stress can cause all kinds of health problems, such as:
- Sleep problems
- Digestive Problems
- A reduced immune system
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain or weight loss
If you recognize many of these symptoms and feel that your cortisol level is too high, you can easily have this tested by your doctor using a saliva test.
Summary: A high level of cortisol carries health risks.
Cortisol makes you more hungry
Cortisol works against weight loss in two ways.
Firstly, the cortisol hormone ensures that you get more hungry and crave sweets. Because cortisol raises your blood sugar quickly, your body makes insulin – which causes your blood sugar to drop quickly again. You experience this drop in your blood sugar as hunger and a craving for sweets.
Second, cortisol ensures that the excess calories you eat are stored as belly fat.
Cortisol and belly fat
Cortisol stimulates the storage of belly fat . This is also evident from research. A study among women showed that women who have a lot of belly fat also say they experience a lot of stress in their lives .
This is because visceral belly fat has up to four times more cortisol receptors than other fat . This means that when your cortisol level is high, your body tends to make belly fat faster than fat in other parts of your body.
Summary: Cortisol can increase appetite and cause a fat belly due to the hormonal sensitivity to cortisol in the abdominal area.
Below you can read what you can do best to lower your cortisol level, so that you not only feel better, but can also lose weight easily.
Lowering cortisol: 5 tips for less cortisol
By adjusting your lifestyle and diet, you can reduce the amount of cortisol you produce.
I would like to point out that reducing stress is the most effective method to lower your cortisol levels. If possible: avoid or reduce stressful situations.
Below I have written out a number of cortisol-lowering tips for you.
1. Get a good night’s sleep
This sounds like a boring tip to many people that they have heard many times before, but there is a great truth in it. If you sleep poorly, your body automatically produces more cortisol.
By sleeping well and deeply you can immediately reduce cortisol (and you feel better about yourself).
The tips below will help you get a good night’s sleep:
- Sleep 7-8 hours every night – For most people, 7-8 hours of sleep is enough to fully rest.
- No work after 8 PM – Do not do anything related to work at least 2 hours before going to sleep. This way your brain relaxes and you prevent worrying.
- No sport after 8 p.m. – An intensive workout gives you an adrenaline rush, which keeps you alert for longer. Plan your exercise in the morning or at the end of the afternoon, so that you have peace of mind in the evening.
- Dim the light at night – Bright white light gives your body the feeling that it is still the middle of the day. After dinner, dim the light and prepare your body for the night.
- 9 p.m. = screens from – Smartphones, tablets, laptops and television screens emit blue light, which suppresses the production of sleep hormones. Therefore, turn off all monitors at least 1 hour before going to sleep. Can you really not do without your mobile or laptop before going to sleep? Then install a blue light filter. The new iPhone and Android devices have already built this in. For the laptop you can use the free program lux.
Summary: A good night’s sleep lowers your cortisol levels. A relaxed evening helps you to sleep well and deeply.
2. Schedule an hour for yourself every day
If you relax for an hour every day, you can already reduce a lot of the stress hormone cortisol. Therefore, schedule 1 hour every day for yourself, in which you do what you want.
A few examples:
- read a book
- Listen to soothing music
- Do something creative (like drawing or coloring)
- Make and / or eat a healthy recipe (see our free recipes here)
- Go for a walk
- Clean up the house
I personally am a fan of meditation. I sit quietly and focus for 10 minutes on slowing and deepening my breathing. It always has a calming effect (and it only takes 10 minutes).
Summary: By allowing yourself an hour to yourself every day, you can lower your cortisol levels.
3. Exercise, but not too long
Cortisol puts your body in ‘fight-or-flight mode’. Both actions (fight and flight) are physical exertion, which is exactly what cortisol is for.
During and after exercise, your cortisol level rises for a moment, after which it takes a plunge down [3,4].
Don’t exercise for more than an hour. Endurance sports can actually increase your cortisol levels.
A good way to lower your cortisol levels is to have a HIIT sports session. This allows you to exercise briefly and intensively and to lower your cortisol. It only takes 15 minutes. You can do this on a bicycle, on a rowing machine, with a skipping rope, or by running. It looks like this:
- Warm up: 5 minutes.
- Set: Go to a maximum sprint in 5 seconds and hold for 30 seconds.
- Rest: Continue at a slow pace for 1 minute to catch your breath.
- You have now had one set. Do three to six sets in total.
- Cooling down: slow down for 5 minutes.
Summary: Exercise can lower your cortisol. Just don’t exercise for more than an hour a day.
4. Be happy
It may sound too simple for words, but feeling happy lowers your cortisol levels significantly .
I cannot help you to have a happy life in this article. I can tell you how I see happiness and what I do to become a happier person. Maybe that will help you.
Happiness is comparable to a table for me. A table cannot stand on one leg; it needs four to stand firm. These are the four things that make me happy:
- A good health
- Social contacts
- Experiencing a calm and calm feeling
- Contributing to something I stand behind (like writing this article)
These points are different for everyone, and I can only help you with point 1: good health.
These health articles will help you further:
- Lose weight with low-carbohydrate food
- Green smoothie recipes
- Reduce visceral belly fat
- Healthy recipes
Summary: According to research, feeling happy lowers your cortisol levels.
5. Diet tips to lower cortisol
Cortisol makes you hungry more quickly and can increase your cravings for sweet and fatty snacks in particular. When you give in to this pull, you run the risk of gaining weight and, above all, making extra belly fat.
When you do get hungry, a healthy snack can make the difference between gaining weight and losing weight.
In addition, the antioxidants in healthy food such as vegetables, fruit and nuts protect you against the aging effects of stress. With a healthy diet you can manage the effects of stress and maintain both your figure and your youth!
Diet can also have a direct effect on the amount of cortisol you produce.
With the tips below you can lower your cortisol:
- Do not go to bed hungry
- If you go to bed hungry, this disturbs the quality of your sleep and your hormone balance. Eat a low- carbohydrate snacksuch as a bowl of cottage cheese or a handful of nuts to satisfy your hunger.
- Relax with star mint or chamomile tea
- Star mint and chamomile tea have a relaxing effect on your body. Leave black tea, green tea or fruit flavored tea in the evening. These contain theine, a form of caffeine, which keeps you awake longer.
- No caffeine after 4 p.m.
- Caffeine takes about 8 hours to break down. Therefore, do not drink coffee with caffeine after 4 p.m. if you go to sleep at midnight. You can still drink decaffeinated coffee: 99.7% of the caffeine has been removed.
Summary: Everything in the body is interconnected. With a healthy diet you can lower your cortisol value and partly protect yourself against the effects of a high cortisol value.