Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
HOW TO LOWER THE STRESS HORMONE CORTISOL
Long-term stress can cause many physical and mental health consequences. Many of the problems that arise as a side effect of stress are due to the hormone cortisol. Learning how to control cortisol levels can help you further your efforts to reduce stress and tension. Read on to learn more about the stress hormone cortisol and how ashwagandha stress relief supplements may benefit you.
WHAT IS CORTISOL?
Cortisol is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands located just above your kidneys. The hormone plays an essential role in your body. When everything functions correctly, cortisol rises in response to fear to prime your body for flight or fight. Changes in cortisol levels impact your:
- blood pressure
- energy level
- glucose level
- inflammation level
- metabolization of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins
- sleep-wake cycle
HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT CORTISOL?
When your mind senses danger, the adrenal glands release cortisol. Once levels become too high or the threat passes, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland senses the problem and tell your brain to slow down cortisol production.
This system is designed to protect you from short-lived threats, such as an angry dog crossing your path on the sidewalk or a vehicle veering into your lane on the freeway. Cortisol puts you on high alert, so you can respond more quickly and protect yourself.
Unfortunately, the mind can't differentiate between threats that well. When you go through periods of high stress, the mind can misinterpret and believe you are in constant danger. This leads to an overproduction of cortisol.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF HIGH CORTISOL LEVELS?
When cortisol levels remain elevated over a long period of time due to stress, you may experience:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Digestive issues
- Insomnia or light sleep
- Memory problems
- Weight gain
Studies have also linked long-term elevated cortisol to an increased risk of heart disease and clinical depression. If you have diabetes, high cortisol levels may also make it difficult to control your blood sugar levels.
HOW TO LOWER CORTISOL NATURALLY
The best way to lower cortisol is to manage stress better. Some ways to de-stress include:
- Taking time out for self-care
- Exercising regularly
- Enjoying hobbies
- Deep breathing
ASHWAGANDHA AND CORTISOL
Supplements are a great choice to complement the lifestyle changes in their stress management plans. Brands such as Body Kitchen use this powerful herb in combination with other ingredients to specifically help stress-management. Body Kitchen Stress Release is a premium-level supplement composed of natural ingredients. It uses KSM-66, a highly-reputable form of Ashwagandha backed by clinical-studies. Ashwagandha is a popular choice because of its effects on cortisol levels. Studies have found that an ashwagandha supplement may reduce cortisol by up to 30% to help diminish symptoms associated with having too much of the hormone.
WHAT IS ASHWAGANDHA?
Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub found in Africa and Asia. Practitioners of the ancient healing tradition of ayurveda have been using it as a natural remedy for centuries. Sometimes, people refer to the herb as winter cherry. However, other herbs go by the same name.
HOW DOES ASHWAGANDHA LOWER CORTISOL?
Studies into ashwagandha cortisol-lowering benefits are still underway. Still, scientists believe that the herb works as an adaptogen, a natural substance that helps defend the body from stress. Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, ashwagandha seems to help regulate the activities of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. By promoting balanced activity, the herb may help to keep cortisol levels in check.
OTHER ASHWAGANDHA BENEFITS
Ashwagandha isn't just used for elevated cortisol and stress. People also use supplements for:
- Anxiety. People who take ashwagandha for anxiety do so because of the herb's potential adaptogenic benefits. Anxiety symptoms may also arise due to the effects of stress on the body, making ashwagandha possibly capable of easing symptoms.
- Blood sugar control. Some people with pre-diabetes or diabetes may take ashwagandha to improve the effectiveness of other treatments used to maintain blood glucose levels within a healthy range.
- Depression. A small study found that people who took concentrated ashwagandha supplements saw a decrease in symptoms of clinical depression.
- Fertility. There is evidence to suggest that ashwagandha may boost testosterone levels. As a result, some men use it to promote virility and fertility.
Performance enhancement. Research shows that ashwagandha may help people get more from their workout routines. A small number of studies have found that the herb supports the production of lean muscle mass in response to exercise.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking an ashwagandha supplement for cortisol management or another concern.