Cortisol is a stress hormone which is produced by the body to cope with stressful situations. It is produced by the brain, however if the levels of cortisol remain too high for long, it does more harm than good like weight gain, hypertension, type2 Diabetes, disrupt sleep and reduce energy levels.
Moderately high levels of cortisol can cause health problems. Studies show, it can cause mental cloudiness, tiredness, increased fat storage, interferes with memory, and makes you more prone to infections.
But fortunately, there are natural ways to lower your cortisol levels through diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.
Sleep well for the right amount:
Sleep is very important for cortisol levels to stay within the appropriate levels. The, quality, time and length of sleep play important role. In one review of 28 studies, it was seen that shift workers who slept during the day and worked at night had high levels of cortisol.
Overtime sleep deprivation causes higher levels too. Insomnia causes high levels too. sleep interruptions even for short time can elevate the levels and disrupt hormonal patterns. If you are a shift worker, then it’s hard to sleep at night or have control over your sleep schedule but there are a few things you can do to optimise your sleep:
Workout but not too much:
Exercise can also increase or decrease the levels of cortisol depending on the intensity. Intense exercise increase levels for short time but later on it decreases. This temporary increase in cortisol levels help coordinate the growth of the body to meet the challenge. While unfit people experience an increased level even with moderate levels, physically fit people experience slight bump even after intense exercise.
Compared to intense exercise, moderate effort workout does not increase cortisol level in the short term and still goes down at night.
Another simple technique to lower your cortisol levels is simply to have fun and be happy. A positive disposition is related to lower cortisol levels, decreased blood pressure, healthy heart and stronger immune system. Simple life satisfaction activities also lower cortisol levels too.
For example, one study of 18 healthy adults showed that cortisol levels decreased in response to laughter. Developing hobbies also can lead to wellbeing which translate to lower cortisol levels. For example a study of 49 middle aged women showed that taking up gardening decreased levels more then conventional occupational therapy.
One study of 30 adults found that gardening decreased cortisol levels more then indoor reading. part of it has to do with the outdoor activities.
2 more studies found that outdoor activities significantly reduced cortisol levels in contrast to indoor activities. while other studies did not find any difference.
Keep a pet:
Having a relationship with a companion animal can cause decreased levels of cortisol. In one study, relationship with a therapy dog relieved stress and caused changes in cortisol levels in children before mild medical procedures.
Another study of 48 adults showed that companionship of a dog helped relieve stress during socially stressful situation better than a support from a friend. Pets too benefit from this companionship following a positive interaction suggesting animal companionship is mutual beneficial.
Overtime elevated levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain, diabetes, fatigue, reduced energy levels and concentration etc. Try the above mentioned simple life style changes to help lower your cortisol levels and feel better.
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