Does anyone know of any research to show what kind of meal would significantly block cortisol? I mean, does it have to have a significant amount of calories, fat, protein, carbs, etc? I’m trying to keep my calories during the day very low, so would a small bowl of raw veggies do it?
I had a similar problem due to stress and used to get annoying psoriasis outbreaks on my elbows as a result. I hated it so much! So I tried to find more about why it happens and what I could do about it. I learnt a lot from visiting a Natropath, but I understand how this can be expensive. The thing I learnt from her is that I can’t just attack it through diet, I have to change other areas of my life as well. But your question is about diet, so I’ll answer that first.
Eliminate caffeine from your diet. Apparently 200mg of caffeine increases blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour. Cortisol can remain at high levels in the blood for up to 18 hours.
Eat frequent small meals throughout the day. Balance these meals with protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats like olive oil and flaxseed/linseed (same thing) oil. I wouldn’t stress too much about the calories from good fats, it’s more important that you get the benefits that good fats provide (Omega3 - building blocks of nerve tissue and brain cells). That is a wonderful slippery coating around the cells in our body, without said coating our cells wouldn’t be able to absorb the nutrients needed to function optimally, as well as excrete their waste. We need this coating to be nice and slippery so that all our cells (brain and body) can perform at optimum efficiency. So healthy monounsaturated fats from avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil and eggs (but being vegan makes it out of the question. I’m a vegetarian so it was a great option for me) helps a great deal.
Keep your blood sugar levels stable. Avoid sugar and refined carbs. So only eat carbs with a low glycemic index such as brown rice, wheat bread and pasta, sweet potatoes, beans, and fruits and vegetables. Eat small but frequent meals throughout the day.
Combine a serving of healthy fat with low-glycemic carbohydrates and protein every few hours to avoid overproducing cortisol.
Consuming 15 to 30 grams of protein every two to three hours can drastically blunt cortisol production.
You might want to take a protein powder substitute if you’re finding it difficult to balance your meals. You can get soy, hemp, pea and rice protein in powder form (they don’t taste bad at all, some are flavoured). I recommend complex protein powders not isolates if you can find them. Also it’s best to mix a few different types together as for instance pea protein contains amino acids that rice doesn’t, and rice contains amino acids that pea doesn’t have (both compliment each other).
Amino acids are very important for healthy nervous system function, immune system function, adrenal gland function, brain function, muscle function (and recovery from exercise), normalise blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol. So all of this helps with depression, fatigue, stress, anxiety and insomnia, and thus your cortisol levels.
Beans and legumes are another source of protein, however they can be hard for your stomach to digest if not prepared correctly. You need to soak them in water for at least 24hrs prior to cooking otherwise they will produce a lot of intestinal upset and disfunction. Most restaurants and supermarket food products do not prepare beans and legumes correctly which is another reason why so many people are flatulent and have inefficient digestive systems. When you soak the beans/legumes before cooking, all of the methane gets extracted into the water. You will notice a foul smell from the water, you will need to drain the water a few times, keep refreshing it to get rid of as much of the methane as you can before cooking.
Think about how many people don’t do this and instead consume all the crap inside and wonder why they have nutrient deficiencies, feel bloated and fart so much!
Canned beans and legumes aren’t the greatest option, but if you can’t be bothered preparing them properly you’re better off eating them than getting none of the nutrients at all.They’ve been cooked inside the can (can is also coated with a chemical to stop metal contamination from corrosion), without methane extraction prior to being cooked. Ew…
With high levels of cortisol and for a Vegan especially, it’s going to be really really important for you to make an effort to ensure you’re getting enough Omega 3, and maintaining a healthy Omega 3 and 6 ratio is also important. As Omega 3 suppresses inflammation and Omega 6 increases inflammation. Our bodies need both types, however it’s best to keep the ratio around 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, or 1:4 (that is Omega3:Omega6). Most people are around 1:10-20, which isn’t ideal at all! It makes you highly strung and causes stress. In short, Omega 3 is the off button, while omega 6 is the on button in producing adrenaline. You may have a deficiency in omega 3. Omega 6 is more commonly found and consumed in a lot of processed food. Our bodies produce most of the Omega fatty acids, but can’t produce Omega 3 and 6, which is why they’re referred to as essential. Flaxseed/linseeds have the highest known vegetable source of Omega 3. You will need to ground/chew/break the skin, otherwise the seeds will pass through your digestive system without breaking down, being of no nutritional value. Flaxseed/Linseed oil is the best source! Don’t heat or cook it. Heat destroys the nutrients by breaking them down, leaving no nutritional value. Best to use cold in salads.
Hemp seeds are good, they contain a lot of protein and omega 3 and 6.
Plain uncooked almonds are the healthiest nut you can eat. They contain protein, Omega 3, B vitamins (including B12 which can be really hard for vegetarians and vegans to get enough of. It takes years to deplete this storage, so you won’t know if your diet is deficient of B12 for a long time. Deficiency causes fatigue amongst other things), calcium, magnesium, iron and a lot more.
Make sure you’re well hydrated otherwise this may cause your body to stress and can raise cortisol levels. Water is hydrating and will help your digestive system, liver and kidneys flush toxins out, however water alone cannot keep you well hydrated. In some cases water intake can reverse hydration, by flushing out all your salts and minerals from the body before they can be put to good use. During and after high intensity exercise drink water with electrolytes (hydrating salts). I buy electrolyte sachets from the chemist (usually free from artificial colours and flavours and not expensive) to mix in with my water so that I remain well hydrated. Sometimes I take some during the day with me to work, so I can create a mix with water if the weather is too hot. You could buy those sports drinks containing electrolytes from the supermarket, but in my opinion the high sugar content, artificial colours and flavours in them don’t make it worth it. You can buy the sachets from a chemist/pharmacist (not sure what you’d call the place where you’re from) and potentially mix up more drink, without the toxins, at the same price, sometimes lower when on special! They also come in tasty flavours
Make sure you’re getting all the minerals needed to reducing stress. Such as magnesium (eases muscle cramps, aids nervous system function), all B vitamins, chromium, zinc, calcium, vitamin C, iron and omega 3. Don’t over consume calcium as it retards the absorption of magnesium, do not under consume it either as it is needed for healthy adrenal gland (where cortisol is produced) function too. With magnesium (I’m naturally quite highly strung, so my body churns through magnesium more so than someone else’s might) if you’re looking to boost your intake with a supplement, don’t go for supplements with mainly Magnesium Oxide, it will make stools runny, go with Magnesium Chelate, you can consume a lot more magnesium this way without a massive laxative effect. Unless you have kidney disease, or consume large amounts of alcohol, or have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and things like that, you shouldn’t have a serious problem taking the Mag Chelate. Make sure of what your vitamin levels are before taking supplements though! Get a blood test done to find out your deficiencies. I find doctor’s useless sometimes. Be wary of what doctor’s say about your test results. When I got my iron blood test results back, the result was in the normal range, however it was very near the lowest level of the normal range and the doctor said I was fine, when I felt the opposite. I later told the natropath what my iron level was, she said it’s like passing but getting a low score. You want to pass the test with a high mark, then your body will feel and run better because it has the tools available to operate at maximum efficiency.
Exercise regularly as it aids with sleep and produces serotonin and dopamine, the brain chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression. However eat protein and magnesium to assist in your muscle recovery (reducing muscle cramping and repairs muscle tearing from physical activity). Eat carbohydrates immediately following exercise also to blunt the surge of cortisol that intense activity causes. And always stretch afterward to elongate the muscles. When you exercise the muscles compress, over time if this is not addressed it can put your body out of alignment. It’s hard to relax and sleep well when your body is misaligned.
Make sure you get adequate deep sleep!!! Sleep is so important, it’s when our bodies do most of its cell repairing. Do whatever it takes to make sure you sleep well, even if it’s getting a new mattress. Also you may be interested in training yourself to wake up without an alarm (yep, it is possible). I’ve found my mood to be more stable on days when I woke up without an alarm or before my alarm. Also, maybe changing your alarm so the noise isn’t quite so jolting and sends your brain waves into panic mode! You don’t realise how stressed it makes you feel until you try waking up without it.
It sounds really stupid. But I’ve been able to wake up at a certain time in the morning just by telling myself “I’m going to wake up at 7 am tomorrow morning” the night before. If you keep doing that over time you become subconsciously aware of your own body clock. Otherwise you can just change the alarm noise to something less piercing, like gentle music.
So to recap on everything… to reduce cortisol you will need to:
Have deep long sleep.
Remain well hydrated.
Get regular exercise.
No caffeine, (no drinking and smoking is beneficial for anything )
Eat balanced small meals throughout the day. Most effective minerals and foods:
Omega 3 - found in good fats such as linseed oil (the best), olive oil, avocado, various seeds, various nuts)
Amino Acids - found in Protein
Low Glycemic carbohydrates - brown rice, wholemeal wheat bread and pasta, sweet potatoes, beans, and fruits and vegetables.
Eliminate as many stressful factors in your life as possible. This may include doing something about any personal issues or learning how to accept the things in life that you can’t change.
Do more things for yourself to unwind and relax. Make sure you’ve got a healthy work/play lifestyle. Maybe take up yoga or meditation or whatever works for you.
Remember, if you want to reduce production of cortisol you will need to do more than change your diet to accommodate.
Having high cortisol levels really sucks, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, which is why I’ve gone into detail.
All the best!!
I wanted to include a few helpful links in my original post, but was unable to as the forum rules don’t allow links in first posts (just in case you’re only here to advertise websites etc). I can’t post them until I have more than 75 posts. They’re informative links, not advertising any product at all. Could someone else maybe post them up for me if I send them in a private message?