For that post I did some research on cortisol because it was a topic that was new to me. What I found certainly didn’t give me any reason to drop coffee from my diet but it did shed light on how stress affects the body. As I note in my guide to living a longer life and as is a main theme to Dan Buettner’s book on Longevity: The Blue Zones, people who have low stress levels tend to live much longer lives. Buettner actually noted that the cultures in which people actually were able to keep stress levels to a minimum always seemed to be able to live longer than their peers.
A while back I’ve written how studies have shown that people who drink alcohol in moderation tend to live longer lives on average and this was backed up in this awesome documentary series I found on YouTube a while back on the world's longest lived people. I’m specifically referring to those centenarians interviewed that still enjoy an afternoon brandy on a daily basis. Drinking like this is a stress relief and shouldn’t be discounted. Other stress relievers include exercise, prayer and meditation, yoga, massage, and vacationing. There are, however, other things you can do to relieve stress in your body in the form of inflammation. Systemic inflammation is correlated with shorter lifespans as I discussed in these posts on the calorie restriction diet and on decreasing inflammation with walnuts a while back.
Foods That Reduce Cortisol Levels
Basically the premise behind lowering your cortisol levels naturally by eating the right foods relies on the science behind eliminating stresses on your body by eliminating inflammation which is sometimes called the silent killer. Basically you can’t always easily tell that inflammation exists. It’s been found that people who don’t floss tend to have higher levels of inflammation and hence live shorter lives. People who eat certain inflammatory foods also tend to live shorter lives and there is a whole host of people who have inflammation in their digestive tract due to the effects of gluten. These days, more people than ever are realizing that gluten intolerance is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The inflammation resulting in your intestines may only be a nuisance to you now but it may be adding to your stress levels and causing your cortisol levels to increase needlessly.
To reduce cortisol levels you need to cut out foods from your diet that cause undue stress and inflammation. Common culprits are wheat in those with gluten intolerance. If you don’t know if this applies to you then see your doctor and ask him or her about it. If he or she feels there is a risk for this then you can get a simple blood test to test it out. If you are intolerant to gluten then you should see a remarkable improvement in your systemic inflammation by simply removing gluten from your diet. There are plenty of gluten free meal plans to follow so just find one that works for you if you need to cut gluten from your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also well known to help minimize inflammation throughout the body. These can easily be found in abundance in many common fish varieties and can easily be supplemented with OTC vitamins found at any health food store or grocery store. The best prices will tend to be found online and when shopping in bulk. This is a good option for omega-3 supplementation however anything that is convenient for you should be fine. Other sources of omega-3’s which can easily be found in normal every day food include flaxseed which can be found in many cereals, kidney/navy beans, and walnuts. If you do a lot of cooking you should also make sure to use olive oil more often because this is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Lastly it’s important to decrease the quantity of fatty red meat from your diet. Your don’t have to eliminate it but nutritionists have known for years that lean meats like chicken, pork, and seafood anti-inflammatory when compared to red meats. Protein is an important part of any diet but getting the balance right in quantity of meat in your diet and the right mix of meats in your diet is even more important. If you can decrease the quantity of meat in your meals and replace the lost calories with additional vegetables instead then you should experience a decrease in inflammation and most likely a reduction in stress on the body which could manifest itself as a reduction in cortisol levels.
Of course you want to support your system naturally with your diet and in cases where high cortisol levels are particularly problematic taking a cortisol support supplement may help. In a future article I plan on detailing out additional ways to lower stress in your body with the intent of decreasing cortisol levels and improving your long term health. Thanks for reading!