🎅🏼 Santa won’t tell you this .... (and neither am I)

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"Just relax".

Want to see my skin crawl?  Then tell me to "relax" or "chill out" while I am in the midst of an internal tornado.   Especially this time of year!!

To me, it is like telling an insomniac to take a nap.

It does nothing to solve the problem and we all know that what causes STRESS is absolutely everywhere.  Would you agree?

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. Well....maybe a lot overboard.  

It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society - it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” 

It’s released by your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.  

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol can rock your metabolism and are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

If you are saying, "Yes, talk to me"

Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients, and lifestyle (there is that word again) recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!

Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.   If you wonder if coffee is for you? Check out this post.

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day.  

{Hint hint nudge nudge - that is at least half your body weight in ounces.   Don't listen to the 8 glasses a day guide.  It's BS because your needs are not the same as a linebacker from the NFL}

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn't just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.  Whole foods = real foods.

Lower your cortisol levels with soothing teas and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind, go for 80% dark or up). Have a bit to unwind.  

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! We talked about this last week on the Mojo Moni FaceTime Live.  There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.

Lifestyle (there is that word again) techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.  Here are a couple of my favourite:

  • Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.  HOW?  Before you go to bed every night either write down or think of 5 things you are grateful for that day.   Don't over think it.  It could be 'having a bed to sleep on' or 'being healthy'.
  • Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.    It is very important to do the right kind of exercise, especially if you are over 40.  
  • Get enough sleep!  Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.  Need help getting good quality, solid sleep.  Check out this post (don't mind my eye concealer) 
  • Have fun.   What is a fun activity for you to do or try?  This helps boost your serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and reduce cortisol.
  • Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good, quality relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.  

Emphasis on the word 'like' !! hahaha

Conclusion

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

Recipe (High fiber prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 ripe avocados

¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)

¼ cup maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 dash salt

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.

It is not too late to grab your 9 Tips To Avoid Holiday Health (waistline included) Sabotage! 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/ways-to-lower-cortisol/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol

https://authoritynutrition.com/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response