Top 5 Supplements To Reduce Cortisol, Backed By Science

“Dear stress, let’s break up!” If you want to figure out how to deal with stress effectively, read our blog about Cortisol and Supplements to Reduce Cortisol in Your body.

Stress is a natural human emotion that affects everyone at some point in their lives. 

A stress reaction may help your body work harder and stay awake longer if you have an important test coming up. When stressors persist without reprieve or moments of relaxation, it becomes a problem.

Now, if you think altering your diet and lifestyle in a way that puts your body in “relaxation” mode rather than “fight-or-flight” is the way to go, then this is your stop! 

Stay tuned to know the supplements that will help you cope with your stressful lifestyle!

Understanding the relationship of Stress with Cortisol :

Cortisol is a stress hormone that the adrenal glands generate. It helps your body cope with stressful situations by triggering its release through the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight or flight” system [1].

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone, and it has the potential to be life-threatening if it is overexposed to stress responses.

When your body is exposed to a stressful scenario, the hypothalamus in the brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands on the kidneys to release cortisol. 

Cortisol is released when your body is exposed to emergencies.

Acute stress can cause an individual to adapt to environmental pressures. Chronic, excessive stress, on the other hand, has a collective adverse influence on health conditions via “allostatic load” [2].

Is there anything we can do to reduce these soaring cortisol levels when stressors are out of control? 

Yes! But first, let’s look at the symptoms of excess cortisol levels.

If you are more sensitive to stress, you must acquire stress management skills and adopt a low-stress lifestyle. 

Symptoms of excess cortisol :

The amount of cortisol produced by the body is typically just right. It generates too much in cases like Cushing’s syndrome and produces insufficient amounts in conditions like Addison’s illness [3].

Symptoms that indicate excess cortisol are :

Weight gain:

Your body may send messages to the brain that you are hungry and need food as your cells cry out for energy. False hunger signals can lead to a desire for high-calorie foods, causing you to overeat and gain weight [3].

Acne:

Acne is a skin condition that affects a lot of people. On the skin, it forms patches and uncomfortable lumps. The face is the most visible area, although it can also appear on the back, shoulders, and buttocks. Scarring can result from severe acne [3].

Fragile skin:

Since ancient times, the complex association between stress and skin disorders has been recognized. According to recent clinical findings, psychological stress has also been linked to the onset or aggravation of a variety of skin conditions [4].

Why do we need to keep cortisol levels low in our bodies?

Cortisol’s brief release may assist you in fleeing danger quickly, but when cortisol levels are elevated for too long, it can do more harm than good [1].

Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleeplessness or trouble sleeping, mood swings, and low energy levels can all emerge due to the overtime release of high levels of cortisol [1,5].

How can you reduce cortisol levels?

To keep your cortisol levels in check, you might want to start incorporating some healthy lifestyle choices.

Here are a few suggestions: 

Getting adequate sleep:

Ensuring you receive adequate sleep may be an effective method to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol levels have been linked to chronic sleep problems like obstructive sleep apnea and sleeplessness [6].

Moderate exercise:

Cortisol levels might rise or fall depending on the intensity of activity.

Shortly after intense activity, cortisol levels rise but then fall a few hours later. This short-term boost aids the body’s coordination in meeting the challenges. Furthermore, regular exercising can reduce the extent of the cortisol reaction [7].

Pay attention to stress:

Mindfulness-based stress management involves becoming more self-aware of stress-inducing thoughts, accepting them without judgment or resistance, and allowing oneself to process them [8].

Breathing and Meditation:

Deep breathing is a basic stress-reduction strategy. Studies reported lower cortisol levels after incorporating deep breathing into one’s daily routines [9].

This form of practice is common in mindfulness-based disciplines like meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qigong, which place a heavy emphasis on breathing and connecting the mind and body [10].

A healthy diet:

As we are well equipped with the phrase “a healthy mind paves the path to a healthy body,” it is necessary to understand the importance of nutrition and a balanced diet.

Although all foods can be relished in moderation, being attentive to what you consume may help you control overall cortisol levels and decrease signs of stress.

Cortisol levels may be raised if you consume a lot of added sugar regularly. Surprisingly, a high-sugar diet may inhibit cortisol release amid stressful situations, making it harder for your body to deal with stressful situations [11].

Believe in yourself and be confident:

Shame, guilt, or incompetence can all lead to negative thinking and higher cortisol levels [12].

Fixing the root cause of some sources of guilt would include making a change in your life. Practicing to pardon and accepting yourself and others the way they are can help you move on and increase your sense of well-being.

It is important to develop the attitude of accepting others in relationships.

You can also try and incorporate natural supplements that will help you lower cortisol levels. 

Let us now move ahead to the top 5 best supplements to reduce cortisol levels.

Top 5 Supplements to reduce Cortisol:

It’s time to dive into our top 5 adaptogenic herbal supplements for naturally lowering cortisol levels. 

Schisandra Supplement:

Schisandra chinensis is a shrub whose fruits have long been used in traditional Eastern medicine. However, Schisandra appears to be an underappreciated herb in modern therapy in East Asian countries.

Schisandra is used as an “adaptogen” to boost resistance to sickness and stress, and increase energy and athletic performance.

It has been proven that the plant improves coordination and endurance. One study found that supplementing with Schisandra chinensis root reduced cortisol levels and improved physical performance in athletes undergoing a lot of physical activity [13].

Ashwagandha Supplement:

Ashwagandha is a popular adaptogenic herb that has been demonstrated to reduce cortisol levels. It has been utilized in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, particularly for anxiety.

Participants who received 300 mg of high-concentration comprehensive Ashwagandha root showed a significant decrease in serum cortisol compared to those who did not get ashwagandha root in a trial with chronically stressed adults [14].

If you want to try ashwagandha, make sure you get it from a trustworthy source and consult with a healthcare practitioner first.

Fish Oil Supplement:

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of omega-3 fatty acids. 

Compared to a placebo, a 3-week randomized controlled experiment found that a combination of fish oil around 60 mg per day and DHA -252 mg/day supplementation significantly reduced cortisol levels in response to a stressful workload [15].

You can receive omega-3s through fish in your diet, but you can also take a fish oil supplement for a change. Make sure it’s right for you by speaking to a healthcare professional first.

L – Theanine:

Tea is wonderful not just because of its smooth and pleasant flavor but also because it is high in the amino acid L-theanine.  Green tea and Black tea contain this amino acid, which offers it its soothing effect.

A brief study indicated that combining L-theanine- 97 mg with caffeine – 40 mg helped a group of young adults focus better under times of pressure [16].

This amino acid has also been researched for its capacity to lower stress and cortisol levels, improve brain function, and promote sleep, among other benefits.

Magnolia and Phellodendron bark:

There are about 200 different types of magnolia trees in the world.

Magnolia Officinalis is usually referred to as the houpo magnolia or simply “magnolia bark.” The houpo magnolia plant is found in China, where it is often used as a supplement in traditional Chinese medication along with Phellodendron.

Though these barks are commonly used in traditional Chinese medications, you might be curious about what the latest study says about the tree bark.

In a trial of 40 women aged 20 to 50, consuming 250 mg extracts of magnolia and Phellodendron bark three times a day relieved them of short-term and transitory anxiety better than taking a placebo [17].

Wrapping up:

Our top 5 supplement picks are backed by science for naturally lowering cortisol! 

Most of these natural supplements still require more research, but we’ve found that these are the ones that have some good quality evidence.

They have worked effectively for lowering cortisol levels in extremely stressed individuals.

Adopting healthy lifestyle changes can help naturally reduce your cortisol levels. 

If you seek a natural solution to lower your cortisol levels and general stress, consider the natural supplements mentioned above!

FAQs:

Q: Does magnesium reduce cortisol?

A: Magnesium can assist reduce cortisol levels; if you don’t have enough magnesium, your body won’t be able to relax and eliminate excess cortisol [18].

Q: How do you lower cortisol levels quickly?

A: Adequate rest and exercise can help you lower your cortisol levels at an increased pace [19].

Q: Are there any other methods of reducing cortisol?

A: Yes! You can manage your cortisol levels by making certain lifestyle changes like 

  1. Getting enough sleep
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Adding breathing exercises to your routine etc

Q: How can fish oils reduce cortisol levels?

A: Fish oils are rich in omega-3s which can reduce inflammation and cortisol levels.

References:

  1. Thau L, Gandhi J, Sharma S. “Physiology, Cortisol.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (2021) 
  2. Lee, Do Yup et al. “Technical and clinical aspects of cortisol as a biochemical marker of chronic stress.” BMB reports vol. 48,4 (2015): 209-16. 
  3. “The role of cortisol in the body” Health direct (2020) 
  4. Chen, Ying, and John Lyga. “Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging.” Inflammation & allergy drug targets vol. 13,3 (2014): 177-90. 
  5. Hannibal, Kara E, and Mark D Bishop. “Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation.” Physical therapy vol. 94,12 (2014): 1816-25. 
  6. Hirotsu, Camila et al. “Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions.” Sleep Science (Sao Paulo, Brazil) vol. 8,3 (2015): 143-52. 
  7. Chen, Chong et al. “The exercise-glucocorticoid paradox: How exercise is beneficial to cognition, mood, and the brain while increasing glucocorticoid levels.” Frontiers in neuroendocrinology vol. 44 (2017): 83-102. 
  8. Hofmann, Stefan G, and Angelina F Gómez. “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression.” The Psychiatric clinics of North America vol. 40,4 (2017): 739-749. 
  9. Perciavalle, Valentina et al. “The role of deep breathing on stress.” Neurological sciences: official journal of the Italian Neurological Society and of the Italian Society of Clinical Neurophysiology vol. 38,3 (2017): 451-458. 
  10.  Stephens, Ina. “Medical Yoga Therapy.” Children (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 4,2 12. (2017), 
  11. Iranmanesh, Ali et al. “Glucose ingestion selectively amplifies ACTH and cortisol secretory-burst mass and enhances their joint synchrony in healthy men.” The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism vol. 96,9 (2011): 2882-8. 
  12. Lupis, Sarah B et al. “Role of shame and body esteem in cortisol stress responses.” Journal of behavioral medicine vol. 39,2 (2016): 262-75. 
  13. Panossian, A G et al. “Effects of heavy physical exercise and adaptogens on nitric oxide content in human saliva.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 6,1 (1999): 17-26. 
  14. Chandrasekhar, K et al. “A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Indian journal of psychological medicine vol. 34,3 (2012): 255-62. 
  15. Barbadoro, Pamela, et al. “Fish oil supplementation reduces cortisol basal levels and perceived stress: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in abstinent alcoholics.” Molecular nutrition & food research vol. 57,6 (2013): 1110-4. 
  16. Giesbrecht, T et al. “The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness.” Nutritional neuroscience vol. 13,6 (2010): 283-90. 
  17. Kalman, Douglas S et al. “Effect of a proprietary Magnolia and Phellodendron extract on stress levels in healthy women: a pilot, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Nutrition journal vol. 7 11. (2008), 
  18. Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. “Magnesium and stress.” Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press;(2011). 
  19. Hill, E E et al. “Exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect.” Journal of endocrinological investigation vol. 31,7 (2008): 587-91. 
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