Natural Ways To Lower Cortisol Levels: Stress Reduction Techniques

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. While it plays an important role in the body’s fight-or-flight response, elevated cortisol levels over long periods can lead to negative health impacts.

From increased anxiety and depression to weight gain and sleep issues, chronically high cortisol can disrupt overall well-being. The good news is there are natural, safe ways to help lower cortisol production and manage stress levels.

What Happens When Cortisol Is High?

When cortisol production goes unchecked, it can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health in numerous ways:

Lower Cortisol Levels

Weight gain

High cortisol increases appetite and abdominal fat storage, especially unhealthy visceral fat around the organs. This can lead to obesity and metabolic disorders.

Sleep disturbances

Cortisol regulates circadian rhythms and elevated levels make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. This contributes to exhaustion and burnout. 

Depression and anxiety

Cortisol directly impacts mood regulation in the brain. Excess levels are linked to depressive and anxious symptoms.

Lower immunity

Cortisol suppresses the immune system, making you prone to more frequent illnesses and infections.

Digestive problems

Excess cortisol reduces healthy gut bacteria and deteriorates the stomach lining, leading to issues like ulcers.

Heart disease

High cortisol causes circulatory problems and raises blood pressure, increasing cardiovascular disease risk.

Cognitive impairment

Elevated cortisol affects memory function and emotion processing in the brain over time.

9 Natural Ways To Lower Your Cortisol Levels

1. Relaxation techniques – Activities that activate the body’s relaxation response like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing, lower cortisol by inducing a calm state.

2. Good sleep habits – Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep allows cortisol levels to optimize overnight. Maintain a dark, cool sleeping environment.

3. Exercise – Moderate exercise helps metabolize excess cortisol. But intense, prolonged workouts may have the opposite effect.

4. Healthy diet – Eat a nutrient-dense, whole-food diet low in sugars and processed carbs. Getting vitamins C and B complex also helps normalize cortisol.

5. Laughter – Laughing lowers serum cortisol levels and releases endorphins that improve mood.

6. Massage – Research indicates therapeutic massage reduces cortisol levels significantly.

7. Nature exposure – Spending time outside in green space normalizes cortisol patterns that are disrupted by urban living.

8. Social connection – Close relationships and social bonding minimize cortisol responses versus isolation and loneliness.

9. Caffeine and alcohol moderation – Caffeine and alcohol release extra cortisol and have dehydrating effects, so limiting intake can help.

Precautions For Lowering Your Cortisol Levels

While excessive cortisol has negative impacts, it’s important to understand normal physiological ranges to regulate levels safely:

? Don’t attempt to eliminate cortisol completely – It has essential functions like maintaining blood pressure and glucose levels. 

?Consult your doctor – Make sure your symptoms are due to high cortisol and get personalized treatment advice.

?Introduce changes gradually – Drastic measures can disrupt your body’s natural cortisol fluctuations.

?Consider supplements judiciously – Things like Ashwagandha may help but discuss with your doctor first.

?Avoid very intense exercise – Very heavy training like marathons can spike cortisol.

?Don’t quit medications suddenly – If you take steroids or meds affecting your adrenal glands, don’t stop without medical guidance. 

?Check for adrenal problems – High cortisol can result from Cushing’s syndrome or tumors that require specific treatment.


Managing high levels of the stress hormone cortisol is crucial for both mental and physical health. While drugs like steroid medications may sometimes be necessary to reduce cortisol, lifestyle measures like regular exercise, restorative sleep, relaxation practices, and a healthy diet can go a long way in balancing levels naturally.

But take care not to suppress cortisol completely. Working with your healthcare provider and customizing an approach that suits your needs is ideal for keeping cortisol in a healthy range.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are healthy cortisol levels?

Normal cortisol levels vary throughout the day, peaking in the morning around 8 am at 10-20 μg/dL and dipping to less than 10 μg/dL at night. Consistently elevated levels can be detrimental.

2. How long does it take to lower high cortisol?

Making lifestyle changes to address the source of stress and regulate cortisol may take several weeks or months to show a measurable difference in levels. Patience and consistency are key.

3. Can high cortisol levels be reversed?

Foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits and bell peppers help regulate cortisol. Healthy fats like olive oil and avocados also minimize production. Adaptogens like ashwagandha may also be beneficial.

4. What foods help reduce cortisol?

Foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits and bell peppers help regulate cortisol. Healthy fats like olive oil and avocados also minimize production. Adaptogens like ashwagandha may also be beneficial.

5. Can high cortisol cause weight gain?

Yes, elevated cortisol increases appetite, promotes fat storage around the abdomen, and makes it harder to lose weight. Getting cortisol under control is important for weight loss.

Read More: Antipsychotics And Weight Gain – Mental Health Benefits vs. Obesity Risks

About the Author

Nicole Carter is a dedicated and passionate nutritionist, committed to helping individuals achieve their health and wellness goals through the power of proper nutrition. With a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and years of practical experience.

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