Cortisol is a vital hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands located above the kidney. It is commonly referred to as the stress hormone because it will make an individual’s blood sugar level and blood pressure rise. People who experience high levels of stress on a regular basis have an increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity due partially to the over-secretion of cortisol. Doctors can measure cortisol levels from saliva or from blood. Although keeping your stress level down is the best way to manage the amount of cortisol that is released into your body, it is also a good idea to introduce certain nutrients into your diet.
- Ginseng: A slow growing root often used in traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng has long been known for its healing and medicinal properties. Taking at least 100 mg of Ginseng every day can boost your immune system and help your body regulate stress. This herb can be purchased fresh, dried or in capsule form at many health food stores. Use the fresh or dried root to make a home-brewed tea: mix 1/2 teaspoon into a cup of hot water and drink once daily.
- B Vitamins: Actually a group of eight complex nutrients, B vitamins play an important role in maintaining good health and well being. B Vitamins help your body deal with stress and support a healthier neurological system. Dark leafy green vegetables provide the perfect food source for B vitamins. Other foods high in Vitamin B are liver, fish, cheese and eggs. Remember: caffeine, sugars and alcohol all destroy the B Vitamins, which can explain why so many people suffer from Vitamin B deficiency.
- Calcium and Zinc: Proper calcium, zinc and other trace mineral levels reduce instances of inflammatory stress and help the body to regulate the metabolism. Calcium is abundant in many common foods such as tofu, seeds, dairy and green leafy vegetables. Foods high in zinc include wheat germ, beef, dark chocolate and crab.
- Low glycemic index foods: Foods such as brown rice, bean and vegetables are high in protein and fiber and digest slowly which leads to feeling fuller longer. Unlike foods high in simple carbohydrates, such as white bread and rice, low glycemic foods do not quickly raise insulin levels. Additionally, diets low in simple carbohydrates and higher in protein are better able to resist cortisol responses.
- Valerian: A potent herb, Valerian is a plant native to Asia and Europe. This nutrient is often used as an ingredient in medicines for anxiety and insomnia. Taking valerian in a capsule form twice a day can treat stress, depression and headaches.
- Green Tea: Drinking three cups of green tea per day will help protect your body from the harmful impact of stress, smoking and poor nutrition. Alternatively, you can take green tea extract capsules.
- Vitamin C: Unless you get enough vitamin C in your diet, your body will produce more cortisol than necessary. This nutrient is not produced in the body, it must be ingested. Therefore, your diet should include items such as citrus fruits, broccoli, sweet red peppers and strawberries.
- Phosphatidylserine: Take a lesson from top performing athletes: eating food with Phosphatidylserine, such as soy and white beans, will temporarily reduce your cortisol levels, and it can also lessen soreness after a workout. Phosphatidylserine is a fat found in cells that has been shown to assist in decreasing cortisol levels. This nutrient is present in the average diet, but more may be prescribed for those suffering from stress-related anxiety.
- Inositol: This water-soluble vitamin is similar to B vitamins, and research indicates that it can help reduce cortisol levels in individuals who suffer from mental illness.
- Omega-3: This nutrient that is derived from fish oil has been proven to reduce cortisol levels. Scientists believe that omega-3 fatty acids provide a calming effect for the entire central nervous system. To get in the daily recommended amount of Omega-3, be sure to stock up on salmon, flax seed oil and eggs.
- Magnesium: A mineral essential for nerve function and maintaining muscle, athletes have been using magnesium for years because it can prevent the body from experiencing a cortisol spike after a workout. Magnesium helps to regulate cortisol levels and supports adrenal health. Sources of magnesium include whole grains, almonds and leafy vegetables. Remember, caffeine and alcohol limits the good that magnesium does for your body.
With so many easy ways to keep your cortisol level in line, there is no reason to continue to deal with the damaging effects of the stress hormone. Instead, simply add at least a few of the previously listed nutrients into your daily diet and enjoy the positive health benefits. Effective stress management will also enable the body to produce a healthy amount of cortisol, which will lead to a healthier immune system and proper glucose levels.
Midnight Walker is interested in stress management, how stress affects our bodies and the best ways to counteract stress in our daily lives. As part of any stress management program she recommends health screening for high levels of cortisol, in which your doctor will measure cortisol levels from saliva or from blood. Testing, offered by the online site HealthTestingCenters(dot)com, will offer peace of mind and valuable information about your personal health.
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