Stress, weight gain, and mood swings: Is cortisol causing these?

Stress is a typical part of life, but when it becomes chronic, it can produce excess cortisol, a stress hormone [1].

High cortisol levels, including weight gain, anxiety and sleep problems, can harm your health [2]. Besides cortisol, inflammation and lifestyle choices also significantly affect stress-related health issues.

Fortunately, several natural ways to reduce cortisol levels and improve your overall wellbeing [3]:

Consider supplements: Certain supplements, such as ashwagandha and fish oil, have been shown to help lower cortisol levels. Consult with a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your routine.

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Establish a routine: Daily routines can provide stability and control, reducing stress and cortisol fluctuations.

Exercise regularly: Engaging in physical activity releases endorphins, which can counteract the effects of cortisol. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

Get adequate sleep: Quality sleep is essential for maintaining healthy cortisol levels. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to help regulate cortisol production.

Laugh more: Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which can counteract cortisol’s effects. Watch a funny movie, read a humorous book, or spend time with people who make you laugh.

Limit alcohol and caffeine: Both alcohol and caffeine can contribute to cortisol spikes. Limit your consumption of these substances, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Maintain a balanced diet: A diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent cortisol spikes. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar intake.

Manage stress: Stress-reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga can lower cortisol levels over time. These techniques promote relaxation and help your body handle stress more effectively.

Massage therapy: Regular massages can help relax your body and reduce cortisol levels. Consider incorporating massages into your self-care routine.

Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness involves staying in the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Regular mindfulness practice can help reduce stress and cortisol levels.

Prioritize self-care: Taking time for self-care activities like reading, taking baths or practicing hobbies you enjoy can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Reduce screen time: Excessive screen time, especially before bedtime, can interfere with sleep quality and increase cortisol levels. Try to establish a technology-free bedtime routine.

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Socialize and seek support: Maintaining strong social connections and seeking support from friends and family can help reduce stress and lower cortisol levels. Don’t hesitate to lean on your loved ones during challenging times.

Spend time in nature: Spending time outdoors in natural settings can calm the nervous system and reduce cortisol levels. Take walks in the park or go for a hike when possible.

Stay hydrated: Dehydration can lead to an increase in cortisol levels. Ensure you drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated.

In conclusion, high cortisol levels can hurt your health and wellbeing. These natural strategies to manage stress and promote relaxation can lower cortisol levels and improve your overall quality of life.

Remember that consistency is critical and may take time to see significant results. Consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about your cortisol levels or plan to make substantial changes to your lifestyle.


The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.