When cortisol is functioning in the normal range, it helps us meet our daily challenges and stressors by converting protein into energy, releasing glycogen and counteracting inflammation. Our bodies are designed to handle stress in small amounts, helping us cope with danger by releasing amino acids from the muscles, glucose from the liver, fatty acids into the blood steam to produce a large amount of energy (Fight or Flight Response). When our bodies are under extended stress which raises our cortisol levels our body is in a catabolic state which causes you to lose muscle and stored fat, weaken our immune system as well as create digestive and metabolism issues which can lead to weight gain around the middle and diminished clarity of mind.
As the body ages, high levels of cortisol and estrogen for men increases, DHEA, growth hormone and testosterone decrease. At 40 years old, we start to feel aging. DHEA production falls, cortisol rises, and suddenly, we no longer have the same energy or endurance we once took for granted.
The combination of high cortisol, low DHEA and low growth hormone production causes the body to store fat, lose muscle and slow the metabolic rate.
Stress makes you burn fewer calories and cortisol can actually reduce the body’s ability to release fat from its fat stores to use for energy! Stress hormones cause increased body fat in the abdominal region, exactly where we don’t need or want it.
Chronic stress can lead the body to ignore the function of insulin.
8 Tricks to Control Cortisol:
1. Limit the amount of caffeine you ingest in your daily diet. No caffeine after 3:00 pm which will help you sleep better and reduce your cortisol.
2. Get at least 8 hours of deep uninterrupted sleep each night. The average 50 year old has nighttime cortisol levels more than 30 times higher than the average 30 year old. Melatonin, a hormone produced at night that helps regulate sleep/wake cycles, before going to sleep to boost your own melatonin production that also decreases with age (Nightmares are a side-affect experienced by some).
3. Hire a personal trainer to help you create a high intensity work out and interval cardio to build muscle mass and increase brain output of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression.
4. Stabilize your blood sugar. Avoid whenever possible sugar and refined carbohydrates; eat foods high in fiber to keep your insulin production from increasing.
Eat small frequent balanced meals throughout the day. Each meal should consist of lean protein, low glycemic carbohydrates and anti-inflammatory fats. Low glycemic carbohydrates keep cortisol levels lower than high glycemic carbohydrate diets. Drink at least ½ your body weight in ounces of water every day to keep yourself hydrated and to help stabilize your cortisol levels.
5. Take supplements like B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, chromium and zinc, and antioxidants like vitamin C with didydroquercitin, R-fraction stabilized sodium alpha lipoic acid, grape seed extract, and ubiquinol or quinogel.
Adaptogen like Ginseng, Rhodiola and Ashwagandha helps the body cope with stress and restore the metabolism back to balance. These supplement and herbs will not only lower cortisol levels but they will also help you decrease the effects of stress on the body by boosting the immune system.
6. Meditate, pray, relax learn self-hypnosis and practice relaxing yoga at least 4 times a week, it promotes the production of alpha (focused alertness) and theta (relaxed) brain waves. Avoid too much computer, texting and jolting alarm clocks that take you from delta waves (deep sleep) to beta waves (agitated and anxious) and stimulants that promote beta waves while suppressing alpha and theta waves.