Yoga For Cortisol Levels
High cortisol levels are not good for our bodies. Daily and weekly yoga practices help us to keep our cortisol levels low. To understand more about cortisol and how it can damage our bodies, here is an article from University Health News.
High Cortisol Symptoms
The symptoms of too much cortisol develop gradually and mostly overlap with many other conditions and include [1-3]:
- Weight gain, especially in the face, upper back (“buffalo hump”), and torso
- Obesity, especially abdominal obesity/central obesity
- Back pain
- Thin skin
- Decreased concentration
- Swelling in the hands and feet
- Low libido
- Impaired memory (especially short-term memory)
- Female facial hair or female balding
- Poor skin healing
- Menstrual abnormalities
- Blood sugar dysregulation/high blood sugar
- Decreased bone mineral density
- High blood pressure
- Easy bruising
- Muscle wasting and weakness of arms and legs
- Reddish purple streaks on skin
What Causes High Cortisol Symptoms?
Rarely, having too much cortisol is caused by Cushing disease—a hormone-secreting tumor of the adrenal gland. More often, however, high cortisol is caused by prescription corticosteroid medications (including corticosteroid injections into the joints).
Even more commonly, too much cortisol is caused by chronic stress. Chronic stress dysregulates the body’s stress response system—the hypothalamic–pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
The HPA axis is a critical physiological system that mediates responses to all types of physical and psychological stress. When that stress is chronic, the delicate feedback system that is the HPA axis becomes damaged. This can result in chronically high cortisol levels and lead to high cortisol symptoms.
Certain conditions are well known to cause the types of chronic physical and psychological stress that damage the HPA axis and lead to high cortisol levels. These conditions, which are often associated with high cortisol symptoms, include :
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Diabetes mellitus
- Severe obesity
- Metabolic syndrome
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome
- Shift work
- End-stage kidney disease
- Major life stressors
- Chronic pain
What to Do About High Levels of Cortisol
The fortunate news for those with too much cortisol is that many effective treatment options are available, including natural cortisol-lowering therapies. The correct treatment depends on the underlying cause and may involve anything from surgical removal of the adrenal glands (in the case of true Cushing disease caused by an adrenal tumor) to diet and lifestyle therapies aimed at resetting the dysfunctional HPA axis.
If you’re suffering from high levels of cortisol, eat at regular intervals (every few hours) and follow a diet that is higher in lean protein and fiber and lower in carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index (especially sugar). These dietary changes are important for lowering cortisol levels, as is the regular practice of relaxation or mind-body techniques such as meditation or progressive muscle relaxation. Start by actively practicing one of these relaxation techniques just a few minutes a day and gradually increase the time to 20 to 30 minutes.
You also can supplement with natural compounds such as phosphatidylserine, magnolia bark extract, and ashwagandha root extract to help lower your cortisol levels. These supplements have been shown in clinical studies to lower cortisol levels in chronically high-stressed individuals.[8-10]
To start, try phosphatidylserine supplementation at 600 to 800 mg per day; this amount has been shown to lower the cortisol response to acute stress, increase performance, improve mood, and lower feelings of stress.[11,12] These and other natural therapies are sure to lessen your stress response and lower your cortisol, helping you beat high cortisol symptoms for good.