Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that plays a crucial role in the body’s stress response.
When our cortisol levels are too high, it can make us feel tired, cranky, and overwhelmed. That’s why it’s important to keep those levels in check.
Eating healthy and getting enough sleep, exercising, and taking time to relax can help balance cortisol levels.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone. Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced and released by glands to regulate a large number of functions in the body. Cortisol is released in response to stress, whether physical or emotional and plays an important role in the body’s stress response.
Cortisol’s Role in the Body
Cortisol is responsible for increasing blood sugar levels through the breakdown of glycogen in the liver. It also increases heart rate and blood pressure, preparing the body for “fight or flight” in response to stress.
What is “fight or flight”?
“Fight or flight” is a special response that your body has when it feels scared or threatened. Your body gets ready to either fight off the thing it’s scared of or to run away from it. It can also be called the “stress response”. Your body gets ready to react quickly by releasing chemicals like cortisol so you can do whatever you need to do to keep yourself safe.
The Negative Effects of High Cortisol
While cortisol is essential for our survival in short-term stress situations, chronic, long-term stress can lead to excessive cortisol production. It can have multiple negative effects on the body. High levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area, and an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues.
Cortisol also has an impact on our mental health. High levels of cortisol can lead to anxiety, depression, and a decrease in cognitive function. It can also disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
The first step in regulating cortisol is to manage stress. This can be done through exercise, meditation, yoga, or other forms of relaxation techniques.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
It is also important to maintain a healthy diet, as a diet high in processed foods and sugar can lead to spikes in cortisol levels.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for regulating cortisol levels. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Avoid caffeine and electronics close to bedtime, as they can disrupt the body’s natural sleep rhythms.
Use Medicinal Mushrooms
Certain medicinal mushrooms have been found to help reduce cortisol levels. Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) and Cordyceps mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis) have been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to help reduce stress, improve sleep quality and increase energy and stamina.
Some studies have shown that these mushrooms can help to lower cortisol levels, as well as improve symptoms of anxiety and depression but more are needed to come to a definite conclusion.
Cortisol is an essential hormone that plays a crucial role in the body’s stress response. However, high levels of cortisol can lead to negative effects on the body and mind. Managing stress, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and possibly taking medicinal mushroom supplements can help to keep cortisol levels in check.