When we struggle to lose weight, we do not leave a single stone un-turned to get results. But what if you are missing out on one of the most unseen reason. Is Cortisol the reason behind no weight loss despite all the efforts? Here are some Diet tips to reduce cortisol naturally and lose weight.
What is Cortisol?
This hormone is termed as the stress hormone which gets released through the adrenal glands when you are under mental as well as physical stress.
Each one of us experiences stress in our day to day life due to several reasons. It may be difficult to figure out what goes on in your body when you feel stress. Precisely, a hormone called cortisol kicks in when you sense stress. It tends to activate your fight response when faced with stressful situations.
Functions of Cortisol in the body:
- Controls blood pressure
- Regulating the sleep and wake cycle of the body
- Reducing inflammation
- Managing the utilization of macronutrients in your body.
Factors that trigger Cortisol Production:
Cortisol is majorly released in the body at the time of stress. Following are the factors that lead to stress in the body and trigger cortisol production-
- Emotional disturbances
- Less sleep
- Irregular work shift or Night shifts
- Irregular meal timings and skipped meals
- High Carb intake / excessive sugar intake
- Excess workload leading to mental and physical stress
- Illness and infections
- Surgery or traumatic injury
- Excess cardio and Endurance Exercises
If you are one of those that feel that they are not losing weight despite all the diet and exercises, Then you might need to check on other details. Check on total hours of sleep, meal timing, and mental peace. These might be the actual reason behind your weight loss plateau.
Side Effects of Cortisol Imbalance in the Body :
High cortisol levels make our body insulin resistant. This exposes a person to a risk of developing Type II diabetes. And the second major threat that a person faces is developing a hypothyroid problem. Side effects of cortisol on health include the following –
- Risk of developing Hypothyroid
- Risk of developing Type II diabetes
- Decreased memory
- Poor concentration
- Poor digestion Leading to acidity and flatulence
- Low BMR
- Constant headaches and fatigue
- Increase in heart rates
- Increase in blood pressure
- Risk of developing Hypertension
- Sleep problems
- Constant weight gain
Cortisol and weight Connection:
By now we know the connection between stress, cortisol and weight. Stress is the biggest culprit of all the factors that lead to unhealthy weight gain, and obesity. Stress changes the hormonal secretion within our body. It increases the production of some hormone-like cortisol which further leads to a decrease in the production of thyroid hormones. This leads to instability of other hormones like insulin, fluctuations in the blood sugar levels and decreases metabolic rate. All of this together results in obesity.
Generally, the levels of cortisol are lowest at night and highest in the morning. Your body can reduce cortisol production when there is a correct communication between the adrenal gland and brain. Let’s take a look at some effective diet tips and remedies to lower cortisol in relation to cortisol and weight.
Diet Tips and Remedies to Lower Cortisol:
Consume sea salt
Sea salt has the ability to heal your adrenal gland. High cortisol levels can drain out the salt in your body. So it is important to add a good quality sea salt to your diet. Don’t forget to watch our special video on Types of salt and how they help you in your health.
Magnesium can decrease cortisol. Stress results in tense muscles mainly in the shoulders and neck. Magnesium is required to offset this muscle tightness. Sources of Magnesium include –
- All green leafy vegetables ex – spinach, fenugreek and kale
- Fruit like anjeer, avocado and banana
- Nuts and seeds
- Black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans
- All dark green veggies like – broccoli, cabbage and green beans.
- Fishes like salmon, mackerel, tuna
- Dark Chocolate
Consume Vitamin C rich foods
Vitamin C reduces cortisol production. It can remove excess cortisol from the body. Sources of Vitamin C are –
- Citrus fruits such as orange, kiwi, lemon and grapefruit
- Awla (Indian Gooseberry)
- Broccoli, cabbage and red cabbage
- Bell peppers
Have dark chocolate
Dark chocolate comprises several antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonols which help to lower cortisol levels.
Have Green tea
Green tea can hinder the production of cortisol. The presence of an amino acid called theanine helps to reduce cortisol. This amino acid creates a calming effect and increases dopamine in the brain. Read – Benefits of Matcha Green tea.
Probiotics and prebiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reduce cortisol. They include kimchi, yogurt, and sauerkraut. Prebiotics include soluble fiber that offers food to these bacteria. Both help in minimizing cortisol.
Fruits such as pears and bananas, in particular, are known to lower the cortisol levels especially, after a strenuous activity.
Consumption of extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil comprises a compound known as oleuropein which can decrease the levels of cortisol. A tablespoon of this anti-inflammatory oil can be taken with salads in your daily diet. Read – Which oil is best for cooking.
Remedies to lower Cortisol:
In addition to following a healthy and balanced diet, there are numerous other ways to reduce cortisol.
Get sufficient sleep
The quality, timing, and length of your sleep have a great influence on the cortisol production. Sleep deprivation can result in high cortisol levels. So it is best to form a habit of sleeping at the same time each night and target at least 7 hours of proper sleep. Some tips to maximize your sleep quality are-
Get physically active. Physical activity can naturally reduce cortisol in addition to improving the immune system and reducing fatigue. But intense physical activity can raise the levels of cortisol as the body tries to cope up with the additional stress placed on it. So choose your workout wisely and do not over do it. And do not forget the fact that exercises will decrease cortisol and weight loss will be triggered at the same time.
Avoiding caffeine at night
Avoid the intake of beverages and food containing caffeine before bedtime to keep low cortisol levels. Caffeine can affect the quality of your sleep. Hence it is important to keep away from it for a good night sleep.
Restrict bright light exposure
Before bedtime it is good to turn off the bright lights, have flux screen on your laptop or computer. Black out your room and put the sleep mask on.
Taking nutritional supplements can help to bring down the levels of cortisol. Fish oil and Ashwagandha are known to reduce cortisol. Fish oil is full of omega- 3 fatty acids which helps to lower cortisol levels. Ashwagandha is a traditional herbal supplement that has been used to manage stress and anxiety.
Practice relaxation techniques
Stress can be greatly reduced by performing various relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and meditation. These exercises can boost the flow of oxygen in your brain and result in relaxation and peace of mind.
It is difficult to sense stress when we are having a good laugh. So being happy and keeping an optimistic attitude can decrease cortisol levels.
Listen to music
Music has no doubt a calming and healing effect on your brain. It can decrease the sudden spike in the level of cortisol in the course of a stressful situation.
Dancing is one of the best ways to reduce cortisol levels. It can lift your mood and makes you feel alive.
Have more water
Dehydration can result in high cortisol levels. Having fluids can lower immediate stress. Read – Flavoured water
Limit alcohol consumption
Heavy alcohol consumption can stimulate the release of cortisol. It affects the chemicals in the brain and produce more cortisol.
Social interactions and connectivity can significantly minimize the cortisol levels. Social bonding releases oxytocin. This hormone can block the increases cortisol and decrease anxiety.
Develop a hobby
A hobby can be a satisfying and rewarding way to lead a healthier and fuller life. It can enhance the quality of your life and result in decreased cortisol levels.
Take care of a pet
Having a great relationship with animals can also reduce cortisol levels. Some studies reveal that contact with a dog can be more beneficial to decrease cortisol compared to a supportive friend during stressful situations.
Standing tall for as little as two minutes can have a great impact on cortisol. Maintaining a powerful body language can increase confidence and reduce stress hormone.
End Note –
Now that we know how cortisol and weight are connected, you might find your answer to your sudden weight gain in the period of stress. Excessive amount of cortisol in the blood can prove harmful to the body as it can lead to diabetes, weight gain and high blood pressure. The best way to reduce cortisol is to minimize stress. The above diet and tips to reduce cortisol naturally can be helpful to live a more active and healthier life.