Unfortunately, many of us have high cortisol due to our fast-paced lifestyle. When stress is high, our adrenal glands respond by increasing cortisol levels. The body’s stress response creates a chemical cocktail in the body. Norepinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol are all released into the bloodstream. If we consistently release cortisol for long periods, we get the opposite effect of burning fat and increasing our metabolism. Our body goes into survival mode, and we end up with spiked insulin levels. Excess cortisol can lead to sleep disturbances and insomnia, anxiety, irritability, mood swings; memory issues; blood sugar imbalances, dysbiosis, and more. How do you know if you have high cortisol? The best way to test your cortisol is through saliva. When using saliva, you can see an entire day’s curve to assess your natural daily pattern. Here are some ways to help rebalance your cortisol levels: 


Many stress relief techniques can help naturally lower stress and reduce the effects of stress on the body. Some natural stress relief techniques can be yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, prayer, journaling, walking, sound healing, and more. Did you know that even removing, eliminating, and improving health stressors like gut issues, toxin exposure, pathogenic infections, viral infections, autoimmune conditions, etc., can also reduce the stress on your body, which in turn will reduce your cortisol levels? 


Working out is a stressor on the body, no matter how you slice it. However, we also know that movement is beneficial. The key is to find balance for you. If you have high cortisol, high-intensity workouts cause stress to the body and, in turn, also increase your cortisol. Seek more gentle movement like yoga, pilates, barre, walking, and weight training. 


Skipping meals causes stress on the body. Many people will drink coffee or another form of caffeine for breakfast, but caffeine on an empty stomach raises cortisol. Ideally, you should have your caffeine with or after a meal. 


Sleep issues are correlated with elevated cortisol levels. How much sleep you get, when you sleep, and the quality of sleep you get impact your cortisol levels. Aim for the same bedtime at night. Use sleep hygiene techniques if needed, turn Wi-Fi off at night, sleep in a dark room, diffuse lavender, or take a warm Epsom salt bath before bed. 


There are many herbs/supplements that aid in calming the body and reducing cortisol levels. Some of these herbs/supplements are ashwagandha, l-theanine, Rhodiola, Maca, Reishi mushrooms, Valerian root, Holy Basil, Passionflower, lemon balm, and magnesium. 

*This is not medical advice. Please consult with your physician before starting herbs/supplements. 

With the principles of functional nutrition as the foundation, our nutrition team at Sundara Wellness can help manage hormonal balance and much more. To contact Cody, email her at cody@sundarawellness.com. 

Cody Giovannetti, RDN, LDN, IBCLC, is a Registered Dietitian specializing in GI issues, thyroid dysfunction, prenatal/postpartum nutrition, autoimmune disease, metabolic syndrome, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, hormone imbalances, and more.