The hormone behind most stress-related conditions is cortisol. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands during times of stress, which is the reason it has been dubbed the “stress hormone.” The body needs cortisol to power through demanding situations, whether it’s dealing with hectic schedules and difficult bosses or a traumatic life event. Unfortunately, many of us over-produce this hormone due to unrelenting stress in our professional and personal lives.
This is especially apparent in women. We feel the effects of stress much more than men do and that is because of our hormonal makeup. We’ve plain just got more hormonal action than the dudes. Of course this is a good thing when everything is humming along smoothly, but when it’s not, things deteriorate fast for us.
How to test your cortisol levels
Lets Get Checked is my go-to provider for at-home hormone testing kits for myself and clients. You just order them online, have the kit shipped to you, then do the tests at home and send the kit back in the mail.
One and done.
And after processing, their team of physicians will review your results and a member of the nursing team will call you to deliver the results and discuss treatment options.
Here is the cortisol test I recommend:
(use discount code Hormones20 to get 20% off the test)
At home Cortisol test to measure adrenal performance or stress with online results in 5 days.
Symptoms of dysregulated cortisol:
- Inability to maintain steady energy levels throughout the day – Reliance on carbs/caffeine
- Fatigue and grogginess (lack of energy in the morning, even after a full night’s sleep)
- Tired but wired feeling, poor sleep (difficulty winding down or staying asleep
- Unstable blood sugar levels – cortisol and insulin work together, and when cortisol goes up insulin goes up. High insulin causes the ovaries to produce more testosterone. We do not want this! PCOS is the result for many women.
- Brain fog and forgetfulness – ADD, scattered thoughts, inability to focus on a task for long
- Estrogen dominance and other conditions of hormonal imbalance
- Fertility issues – difficulty getting and staying pregnant – cortisol directly affects our progesterone levels
- Weight gain in the mid-section – the dreaded muffin top that keeps getting bigger. This is because belly fat has 4 TIMES more cortisol receptors than any other body fat.
- Low stamina for stress, and easily irritated, high anxiety, panic attacks
- Poor immunity; high incidence of colds and flu; chronic infections (bacterial, viral, yeast)
- Dry, unhealthy skin with excess pigmentation, and/or adult acne
- Lack of libido or no libido
If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms then you should definitely get your cortisol levels tested.
Natural ways to reduce your cortisol levels now:
- Reduce your light at night. Too much light at night actually stimulates your adrenals to produce more cortisol to keep you awake. This prevents you from being able to wind down and sleep properly. Does the term “tired but wired” sound familiar to you? Here’s what to do. After 9pm turn off as many lights in your house as possible. Do light candles, they make everyone look pretty and they’re sexy too! Give yourself a laptop curfew, this means no laptops in bed ladies. That bright screen is keeping you up at night.
- Practice saying “probably not or no”. Women are programmed to overcommit, overprovide and people please, often at the expense of our own health and adrenal function. Many times we feel resistance to something but do it anyway, in fear of letting someone down. This week when someone asks you to do something that you know will stress you and your adrenals, practice saying “Probably not…(pause), but let me think about it.” Or just straight up say no. People love us when we say yes to everything so this might ruffle some feathers. No guilt is allowed!
- Walk barefoot on the earth. There is actually scientific evidence that walking barefoot on the earth, grass or beach can help reset your adrenal function and improve chronic fatigue. Our bodies’ electrons become frazzled by the harmful electromagnetic fields emitted by man-made products such as computers, phones, hair dryers & home appliances. The earth’s electrons seem to restore order. This is probably why gardeners and farmers are so happy! Now go lay in the grass or hug a tree…your adrenals will thank you.
- Support yourself nutritionally. Eat regular meals, especially breakfast, which include high-quality protein, whole grains and good fats. Properly timing meals to prevent dramatic dips and spikes in blood sugar minimizes cortisol output and also gives you more sustained energy throughout the day. You goal is to feel full for 4-6 hours after you eat – this is a good indicator that your blood sugar is balanced. This is the key for addressing a number of hormonal imbalances and the basis of my program.
- Supplement wisely. Most of us take supplements and never see any effect. This is because we are probably not taking the best quality we can get and/or not taking the right targeted amounts. Most people do best on 3 or 4 supplements at a time, anymore than that and we get overwhelmed and give up. A good B-Complex vitamin is incredibly powerful in addressing a number of hormonal and reproductive issues. And getting 2000-4000mg a day of fish oil a day has been shown to lower cortisol levels and reduce inflammation. Our lady parts are especially vulnerable to inflammation, which is the negative response our bodies have to foods (think sugar, refined wheat products etc) and environmental pollutants that are harmful to us.
- Reduce or cut out caffeine and sugar. I know, I know. This is tough for many people but think of this: both caffeine and sugar stimulate your adrenals to produce cortisol. In addition, both of these substances do a double whammy on the body by raising not only cortisol but blood sugar levels too. This keeps us on a rollercoaster of blood sugar lows and highs that we can’t seem to escape. That 3pm energy slump? It’s related to imbalanced cortisol and usually we grab something with sugar or we get a coffee to deal with it. Take baby steps and wean yourself off of these elements slowly. Try Dandy Blend coffee substitute and use honey and stevia in place of sugar.
Want to learn even more about this and what you can do? Well you’re in luck because I cover it all in my comprehensive Fix Your Period Program! I talk about all of this and so much more – we’ll cover the best foods to maintain optimal hormonal health to deal with fertility issues, stress, PMS, cramps (you name it!), supplements and botanicals, self-care practices, reclaiming your feminine vitality along with hormone testing and so much more!