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The Low Cortisol Lifestyle | UMZU's Guide To Fighting Stress

The Low Cortisol Lifestyle | UMZU's Guide To Fighting Stress

Hello everyone,

Here at UMZU we try to make sure that we provide everyone with the best information that is available. 

This is a compilation of information that we have learned over the years and have experienced positive results for ourselves and the people we have worked with. 

Contents:

Cortisol is an important topic.

The information you’re about to read may just change the way you think about the way you react to the world around you.

By the time you’re finished consuming, and processing, this information, you will have armed yourself with a vast amount of knowledge about an incredibly important topic. It is imperative that you use this knowledge to avoid developing chronically elevated cortisol levels over your lifetime.

Stress is the silent killer.

While cortisol is not an inherently bad hormone (it is necessary for many important processes in your body) chronically high cortisol levels will wreak havoc on your body, your brain, and your testosterone levels.

From this point on, when faced with certain decisions and behavioral choices in your daily life, remember...

“Low Cortisol Lifestyle”

Make choices that help keep your body in a state of balance and you’ll be rewarded with lifelong health and mental clarity.

THE ENDOGENOUS LIMITATION PARADOX

the endogenous limitation paradox

I want to take a few minutes to introduce you to a radical truth. By the end of this section, you’ll understand why you’ve felt so “limited” for much of your life, and what you can do to eliminate these limitations overnight...

Picture this...

Your physical limitations are gone.

And your cognitive limitations are gone.

That might sound like hyperbole - like it would be too good to be true - so I'll take a second to explain what I mean...

Scientists use the term "endogenous" to indicate when something originates "inside" your body. For example, "endogenous testosterone" would be testosterone that your body produces naturally. "Exogenous" (or outside the body) testosterone would indicate a testosterone gel, that you get a prescription for from the doctor and apply to your skin.

See the difference?

Now I'll clarify:

Imagine your endogenous physical and cognitive limitations are gone.

Imagine you are no longer limited by the internal shortcomings of your body. You now exist in a state of optimal human performance. The only limitations upon you are external - things outside of your control.

You are a superior being to your former self. The self that was limited by endogenous shortcomings.

We exist in a limited state. That’s a radical truth.

We're limited by our food choices.

By our sleeping habits.

By our exercise habits.

By our hormones, our neurotransmitter levels, vitamin & mineral levels...

All of these things are within our everyday control to manipulate and optimize, however we seldom take the time to learn how, or actually execute on what we learn.

So we're limited.

Today I'm going to propose a novel way to eliminate certain limitations, to unlock a higher level of performance in your life. I am going to shed some light on an effective way to synthetically and/or naturally (yes, you can do this all with herbs and vitamins/minerals) "upgrade" your cognitive and physical performance - increase memory capacity, focus, energy, muscular strength, endurance, and muscular power.

Read More: 3 Natural Steroid Alternatives

THE POWER OF CORTISOL REGULATION

the power of cortisol regulation

Cortisol isn’t good or bad. It is a natural hormonal element of your body’s homeostatic processes.

Cortisol is your main stress hormone.

On a good note, it plays a key role in helping you acutely avoid danger by aiding in the activation of other hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline.

For example, it can help you get out of the way of a speeding taxi!

However, by its nature, cortisol is a catabolic hormone, meaning it aids in the breakdown of available resources in the body. Cortisol helps the body use these existing resources to “supercharge” in acute scenarios (like avoiding that taxi) so you can survive.

So in acutely stressful survival scenarios, cortisol can be a very good thing!

But in chronic scenarios, over long periods of time, elevated cortisol levels can KILL you.

Have you ever heard about that 35 year old Wall Street Banker who has a heart attack?

Yep, chronically elevated cortisol.

How about the seemingly “super healthy” 40 year old marathoner who suddenly goes into cardiac arrest and dies during a race?

Again, chronically elevated cortisol levels over years.

Cortisol can save you.

Or cortisol can kill you.

And it’s incredibly important that you understand that simple truth - controlling your cortisol levels is paramount to living a healthy, thriving life!

cortigon by umzu

THE DIRE REALITY

the dire reality of stress

Reality can sometimes hurt...

Most of us - at one point or another in our lives - suffer from chronically elevated cortisol levels.

We may be working a stressful job.

Family life may cause us to lay awake at night.

Financial stress.

Relationships.

Commuting.

Politics.

Poor diet.

Lack of physical fitness.

Or too much of the wrong type of fitness training (over training).

All of these things can cause horrible cortisol issues. If you’re wondering what elevated cortisol feels like, some of these symptoms might be familiar:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low Testosterone
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to focus
  • Trouble recalling simple information or doing simple arithmetic
  • Uncharacteristic anger outbursts
  • Low libido
  • Low energy
  • Low well-being and a negative general outlook on life

Your body manifests these symptoms with elevated cortisol levels for a reason.

Cortisol is catabolic.

When it is elevated over time, it will consistently allocate bodily resources away from “higher level” processes like cognition, sexual health, and vitality and well-being over to base level processes like storing body fat and breaking down muscle tissue.

Remember, your body doesn’t understand that your stress is coming from your commute or your boss.

To it, stress is stress.

It reacts the same way it did to truly important threats thousands of years ago, only in our modern age, the “threats” that trigger cortisol elevation are different...

They are mostly psychological and environmental.

You’re not being chased down by a lion, you’re instead having to deal with that horrible 2 hour commute to and from work every day.

So over years and years, your cortisol levels stay high, eventually breaking down your ability to function at a “higher” level with cognitive, physical, and psychological processes.

So you experience the symptoms of a poorly functioning endocrine system.

Symptoms that keep you from operating at your highest potential - cognitively, physically, and emotionally.

THE CORTISOL SOLUTION

the high stress solution

Luckily, you CAN control your cortisol with the right behaviors over time...

Behavioral cortisol control is very effective. It just takes a lot of deliberate hard work and the ability to change environmental stressors.

The first step to take is to identify the main cause(s) of your elevated cortisol levels.

These could be (but not limited to):

  • Job-related
  • Commuting
  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Lack of sleep
  • Toxic environment (big city smog for example)
  • Financial Issues
  • Low testosterone
  • Sex life problems

Once you identify the main issue(s), you need to come up with a plan to alleviate the effect that issue is having on your life.

This plan might be a simple fix, and it may be a long process. Either way, you need to do it.

But here’s the problem: most of us suffer from nearly ALL of these issues, and many of them can be very difficult to get rid of.

For example, we cannot just quit our job.

We cannot just leave a troubled marriage.

We cannot just “wish” we had higher testosterone levels.

We cannot get rid of all the smog in our city, or all the crazy drivers on our commute. So what are we supposed to do in these kinds of scenarios??

THE BASICS

what is cortisol

What is Cortisol and Why Lower it?

Cortisol is the principal stress hormone of the human body, released from the adrenal cortex under times of short or long-term stress.

It also gets A LOT of attention in the fitness world.

That’s because it’s a catabolic (breaking) hormone, one that induces muscle breakdown and visceral fat gain, slows down the immune system, and lowers testosterone levels in the process.

It’s basically the opposite of testosterone, the other side of the coin, and somewhat of an “enemy” when you’re interested in keeping your testosterone levels and other protective hormones high.

Hence, why everyone’s telling you to keep your cortisol levels as low as possible. A statement which is somewhat true, but we also have to remember that cortisol is not completely useless…

…It’s also the hormone that wakes you up in the morning, it’s deeply involved in the muscle glycogen storage/release process, and without cortisol, we would still be crawling instead of walking.

So a certain baseline is needed for some of the most basic functions of the human body, and in that manner, cortisol is not that bad, and your body is pretty good at protecting itself from the negative effects when the levels stay within a reasonable range.

The problems start when your cortisol levels are elevated for prolonged periods of time, a situation not that uncommon for a modern person who eats processed junk, is deficient in multiple nutrients, and suffers from chronic stress.

In other words, I believe that most of the people on this very planet have got too much cortisol circulating in their bloodstreams…

…And those are not good news for your testosterone molecules and other protective hormones:

According to a few studies conducted by an endocrinologist Matthew Hardy, our testicles produce this enzyme called 11ßHSD-1, which protects testosterone from the destructive effects of cortisol…

…However, when cortisol is too high, there simply isn’t enough of the enzyme 11ßHSD-1 to counteract the stress hormone, and as a result a lion’s share of your freshly produced testosterone molecules will be destroyed before they even leave the sack. This can also be extrapolated for other protective hormones such as progesterone in women. 

Not only that, but cortisol and testosterone are both made from pregnenolone (which the body synthesizes from cholesterol), when cortisol is elevated, it basically “robs” the raw building material of protective hormones making a stress hormone, rather than the protective hormones.

Read More: How To Boost Sexual Performance Naturally (The Last Article You'll Ever Need To Read)

How Stress Choke Holds The Endocrine System

stress and the endocrine system

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the term stress means, but an explanation that comes rather close, goes something like this: “stress is the body’s principal method of reacting to a challenge”. To open up the term a bit more, this “reaction to challenge” can be divided into two categories.

  • Short-term stress, where a quick challenge (a fight for example) arises and the body reacts to that with a burst of stress hormones (glucocorticoids), which makes you more alert and focused to tackle the stressor. This kind of stress is often not detrimental to health and has no long-term effects in the body. Many experts believe that short bouts of manageable stress (ie: small daily challenges) can in fact be a healthy thing to have.
  • Long-term stress, where the challenge is something that goes on for a long period of time (for example: a demanding boss that gives you work related tasks that feel unbearable, or a debt that you simply can’t pay, etc). It’s this kind of chronic stress that keeps stress hormone levels high for extended periods of time, often leading to detrimental effects on health of the body and mind. It’s also this kind of stress that wreaks havoc in the endocrine system, and the kind we will be covering in this article.

So, short-term stress can be a good thing to have…

…Long-term stress on the other hand, why is it so unhealthy? And how does it affect your hormonal health?

Long-Term Stress and Protective Hormones

long term stress and protective hormones

There are two major reasons as to why chronic long-term stress hammers protective hormone production.

Firstly, the principal stress steroid hormone; cortisol, which is released from the adrenal cortex during times of prolonged stress, has a direct testosterone suppressing effect inside the hypothalamus and testicular leydig cells. (when we use testosterone we use it as a general term to also represent all other protective hormones we want to protect.)

Secondly, the synthesis of cortisol requires cholesterol, a molecule that is also needed in the biosynthesis of testosterone. When cortisol levels skyrocket during stress, more of this essential building block goes towards creating cortisol.

Obviously those are not the only reasons that can cause messed up protective hormone levels during prolonged stress. As a guy who battled with some serious work-related stress a few years ago, I can guarantee you that increased alcohol consumption, messed up sleep quality, poor diet, lack of exercise, and depression can (and more than likely will) contribute to the stress induced reduction in protective hormones.

The research on how long-term stress (both physical and mental) alters testosterone and protective hormone levels is rather cruel:

Science Behind Stress and Testosterone:

  1. a) In multiple animal studies, it has been noted that nearly all kinds of long-term stressors (surgical stress, noise stress, immobilization stress, oxidative stress, chronic stress, etc) can significantly lower testosterone levels in various species (study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study). In pretty much all of these studies, the suppression of testosterone goes hand-in-hand with the increase in cortisol, and the reduction in testosterone is not caused by increased excretion, but through decreased production.
  2. b) In military studies, psychological stressors (such as the fear of combat or death) have been linked to significant reductions in testosterone. Same goes for stressful military training courses, such as: the officer school, ranger school, and survival training (study, study, study, study, study, study, study). One study also showed that refugees who experience physiological stress, have low testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels, coupled with very high cortisol levels.
  3. c) In non-military men, chronic stress, and stress-related depression has been linked to low testosterone production and elevated cortisol levels (study, study, study, study, study).
  4. d) Surgical stress is no different (be this physical or psychological), it lowers testosterone levels too, usually the magnitude of the suppression is directly correlated with the severity of the surgery (study, study, study, study).

Bottom line: Chronic stress (be it physical or psychological) has a tendency to lower testosterone levels, and this suppressive effect is nearly always caused by elevated cortisol production.

The Low Cortisol Lifestyle, aka. Lifestyle Optimization for Stress-Free Living

low cortisol lifestyle

40% Higher Testosterone and -24% Lower Cortisol After 4 Weeks of Resistance Training

If you are a regular reader of THOR, you are more than likely already aware that strength training increases testosterone levels. However, there’s always a group of people who claim that the increases in testosterone and/or reductions in the stress hormone cortisol, would be short-lived, and that exercise wouldn’t change your resting levels of the hormones by any significance.

It’s normal to assume that, since in many studies, the effects are usually monitored for a day or two, and in these kinds of studies there’s usually an increase or decrease in testosterone (depending a bit on the type of exercise and subjects), and then after sometime the levels fall back close to the baseline…

…So no matter how much you train, your hormonal baseline stays put, and the exercise induced hormonal changes are just acute, right?

Well, that’s a big no – at least if you ask the Spanish researchers, who found out that in newbie trainees, 4 weeks of strength training results in a significant 40% boost in RESTING testosterone, and -24% drop in RESTING cortisol.

Here are the details:

In 2006, Andrada et al. from the University of Extremadura, had 20 male volunteers (average age 22) with no prior experience with strength training. All of the subjects were tested and medically examined, so that there was no possibility of performance enhancing drug use to screw up the results.

After the medical examination, each of the volunteers were given a 4-week sub maximal strength training routine, which was to be conducted on three days of the week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). All the sessions were to be conducted at 12pm, and the use of any nutritional supplement during the 4-week period was forbidden.

The resistance training routine itself consisted of 7 basic exercises in the following order:

  • 10-15 minute warm-up
  • bench press
  • seated-pulley
  • knee extension
  • behind-neck press
  • leg press
  • bicep curls
  • tricep pull-downs

NOTE: All of the exercises were done in 3 sets of 10 reps, with 3 min recovery in-between the sets, and with a weight that was 70-75% of the trainees one-rep max (1-RM).

After a month with the program above, the results speak for themselves: even though right after the exercise there was acute reductions in T (likely because resistance training makes muscle cells absorb more androgens from the blood, and as a result the testosterone level goes down for a while), there was a statistically significant 40% increase in resting testosterone, and a -24% decrease in resting cortisol (the primary stress hormone).

How Listening to Music Can Alter your Cortisol and Productivity

music and stress

We are exposed to music on a daily basis, but did you know that it can have a serious positive and/or negative impact for your hormones and productivity?

There are multiple studies which show very clearly, how listening to various kinds of music can significantly alter the levels of anabolic hormones, stress hormones, productivity, mood, and even immune system functions.

Allow me to explain…

... I have been a drummer since childhood, ever since, playing and listening to music has played a huge part in my life…

… Needless to say, I was not very positively surprised when I stumbled upon this study some years ago, where it was concluded that listening to various kinds of music styles, caused an acute drop in the subjects testosterone levels. These effects were noted even when the subjects had the choice to listen to their favorite bands/artists

(to be fair, this study was conducted in Japan, so the music might not be that T friendly anyway, haha).

Did those findings have any impact on the amount of music I consume?

Hell no. In fact, I’m writing this section with music playing in the background. I do most of my work while listening to music…

…And there’s a good reason for that:

  • In a study from England, it was found out that listening to background music significantly raised efficiency in a series of experiments involving repetitive-work.
  • According to Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, IT specialists who listen to music complete their tasks more quickly and come up with better ideas than those who don’t, because the music improves their mood and greatly reduces anxiety.
  • Multiple other studies on the subject have shown that background music can be used to improve cognitive functions and productivity (study, study, study).

Aside from being a good tool for increased productivity, listening to music can greatly reduce the stress hormone; cortisol (study, study, study).

A large review study investigating over 400 studies on music, led by Professor Daniel J. Levitin, found out that music can be so strong stress-reliever that it reduces cortisol levels in subjects undergoing a surgery, more so than any prescription medicine used for such purposes.

What about workout music then?

Aside from the fact that lifting weights with huge ear muffs looks a tad bit ridiculous, the acute reductions in testosterone noted by Fukui et al. could actually cause a small drop in your workout performance. This however, could be easily negated by the reduced stress and improved mood that comes when listening to music, so I wouldn’t worry about that. I have personally had a good amount of gains and high protective hormone levels for a long time now, and the gym where I workout plays music from the speakers all the time.

Few tips:

— If the music is too loud, productivity will suffer, keep it as background noise when working.

— During work involving writing or speaking, instrumental music is recommended (lyrics distract the process).

— Heavy-metal music and heavy weight lifting go hand-in-hand.

— The best stress-relieving music is something that includes sounds from nature.

— Video game music is awesome for productivity, since it’s designed to enhance the experience without distracting the player. (chilltendo is a good place to start)

How to Optimize your Sleep for Balanced Cortisol Levels

It goes without saying that sleep is a great way to reduce stress…

…And obviously this means that it’s also a great way to reduce the principal stress hormone, cortisol (study, study, study).

Sleeping more is not only good for stress reduction, as it’s also one of the best ways to increase your natural testosterone production…

…You can double your testosterone levels by sleeping more (seriously).

How does one improve his sleep quality and duration for higher T and lower C you might ask?

Well check these tips out:

  • Sleep in complete darkness. By this I mean that there should not be a single LED light visible in the room where you’re sleeping. As even a single dot of light in your night clock or mobile phone is enough to disturb the pineal gland’s ability to secrete the sleep hormone melatonin.
  • Close all the mobile-networks and wi-fi hotspots. This Saudi-Arabian study found out that the electromagnetic frequencies decrease sleep quality.
  • Exercise during the day, as research has shown that just a simple exercise session incorporated in your daily life, can dramatically improve sleep quality.
  • Sleep in a cold room and be naked if you can. Firstly because cold room will mimic the natural sleeping habitat of the human body (we were meant to sleep outside), and secondly because the testicles need to be a tad bit colder than the basal body temperature is, for optimal functioning (that’s why they hang in a pouch outside the body and that’s also why cold showers and loose boxers increase testosterone).
  • Don’t watch bright electronic displays before you hit the sack, as the “blue light” in most electronic screens will impair pineal gland’s ability to produce melatonin (I use a software called f.lux, which automatically dims the screen and reduces “blue light” when it's getting close to bedtime).
  • Supplement with Ashwagandha, as several studies have found that it positively influences sleep quality, which is likely due to the fact that it lowers the stress hormone cortisol (it’s also a potent testosterone booster).
  • Consume some high quality protein before hitting the bed, as certain amino acids such as glycine will relax the nervous system, thus also improves sleep quality.

The Surprising Hormonal Effect of Fixing your Posture

fixing your posture and stress

Most of the communication we do is non-verbal, meaning that we speak more with our bodies and expressions than we do with our mouth…

…It’s also a known fact that confident humans and animals both have a habit of showing “alpha” body language…

…For example a baboon might express his power by holding his breath which causes his chest to expand. Whereas a successful business man or a boss can cross his fingers behind his head and lean back on a chair to open up showing that he isn’t afraid of taking space and is in control.

Insecurity and weakness can also be seen through body language. Actions such as restless legs and fingers, closing up to a small space, crossing arms, not making eye contact, and hunched up posture all show that you’re scared, weak, and not in control.

It’s all in our evolution, these models are somewhat “hard coded” into our brains, and we often do these things without noticing it ourselves.

But could showing powerful “alpha” body language actually make us more powerful and confident? Could weak body language really make you weaker and inferior?

That’s what this study from Cuddy et al. examined:

They had 24 test subjects who gave their baseline saliva hormones to the researchers and then were randomly assigned to groups where they would do either “power-poses” or “low-power-poses”. (poses used in the study shown below).

Each subject held the pose for 2 minutes and then the researchers again tested their salivary hormones to see if there was anything different going on…

Remarkably the results showed that only a mere 2 minutes of holding a “power-pose” was enough to increase testosterone levels by 20%, whereas the stress hormone cortisol also decreased by -25%!

However the “low-power” group saw a -10% reduction in salivary testosterone levels and a 15% increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

These results show that when you express power and leadership through your body language, your brain and hormones will pick up and follow, actually making you more powerful, confident, and relaxed.

Whereas when you’re expressing weakness and insecurity through closed up and hunched postures, then your brain and hormones will again pick up, but this time they make you weaker and more stressed.

Relaxation Exercises and Walking

walking

Meditation and relaxation exercises should by all means of common sense be super-great at lowering cortisol levels. Walking in nature on the other hand has been known for decades as a potent stress-reliever.

How do these play out in studies?

  1. a) This study found out that both meditation and relaxation exercises, improve the cortisol to testosterone ratio (more testosterone, less cortisol), and that’s not all, growth hormone levels increased quite significantly too, most likely this was due to the decline in cortisol.
  2. b) In 1995, a researcher by the name of Frank Perna, concluded a study on Olympic cyclists and rowers, just to see that the athletes produced more cortisol when they were under stress. He continued the research in 1998 with this study, where he found out that when the athletes are assigned to a course which consists of 45-minute sessions of various relaxation techniques, their cortisol levels plummet. In fact the control group (which didn’t go to the sessions) had 2x more cortisol in their morning sample when compared to the test group!
  3. c) In this study, the researchers put their 40 test subjects to do some Abbreviated Progressive Relaxation Training(APRT), to see if it would impact their cortisol secretion. It did, just 15 minutes of ARPT nearly halved salivary cortisol levels.
  4. d) In this Japanese study, 280 subjects were assigned to walk in either a city, or a forest. Surprisingly, the participants who walked in the forest & nature, had significantly lower salivary cortisol levels than their peers who did the same amount of walking in a city.

Alcohol and Marijuana: Two “Relaxing” Substances that May Actually Increase Cortisol

cortisol and alcohol

Alcohol and marijuana are both naturally occurring depressants that have a tendency of causing lack of inhibitions and inducing a great sense of relaxation.

Because of that, one might think that they both drive down cortisol levels?

Actually quite the opposite is true.

Science has shown that marijuana, as well as alcohol, both cause dose-dependent increases in cortisol.

So even though you might feel relaxed, your body is actually responding to these substances with a stress-response.

Are you Drinking Enough Water?

are you hydrating?

Would you think that something as simple as drinking enough fluids, can have a MASSIVE effect on your stress hormone levels?

  1. a) Even mild (1-2% of body mass) dehydration before and during exercise has been shown to significantly raise the levels of the stress hormone cortisol (study, study). Since cortisol tends to reduce testosterone levels and is made from the same ‘raw building material’ (pregnenolone), even mild dehydration at rest and/or during exercise likely has a testosterone suppressing effect.
  2. b) In this 2008 study, the subjects all completed three identical resistance training bouts in different hydration states (hydrated, dehydrated by ~2,5% body mass, and dehydrated by ~5% body mass), while the researchers investigated various endocrine hormones at rest, during training, immediately post-exercise, and 60 minutes after the exercise. The results showed that dehydration increased cortisol levels significantly, while it also attenuated the normal exercise-induced rise in testosterone.
  3. c) There’s also some evidence that growth hormone levels get suppressed in the state of dehydration (study,study), which is just another reason to drink plenty of water during exercise!

Here’s a simple and cheap long-term solution for you to get the most out of your exercise sessions with nothing less than W-A-T-E-R…

  • Get yourself a plastic-free bottle (I use two of these myself). Why not plastic? Because soft plastics leak xenoestrogens into the water.
  • Get some sort of tap-water filtration system to filter out chlorine and fluoride.
  • Go exercise and remember to drink to thirst. When someone asks what’s in your fancy metal bottle, tell them it’s your secret anabolic liquid.
  • Enjoy your slightly increased anabolism, and watch with pride as your fellow gym rats try to figure out what kind of anabolic fusion matrix is hidden in your gym bottle.

Read More: Natural Hair Regrowth: Hair Loss Has Finally Been Solved

The Quick Action Guide to Low Cortisol Nutrition

low cortisol nutrition

In this section, you’ll get the incredibly quick, actionable, bullet pointed list of things that HAVE to be in check in your diet if you wish to have balanced cortisol levels.

  • Eat Enough Calories (or if you’re dieting, don’t have a too aggressive deficit): This is simply because when you lower your calories, you make your body deprived of energy, aka. starved. This causes bodily stress in various ways, and results in increased cortisol secretion. Lowering calories is A MUST if your goal is to lose weight, so yes, your cortisol levels will increase when dieting, you can however keep this increase minimal with a deficit that is not more than -10-20%
  • Do NOT Follow the Low-Carb Dogma: Getting an adequate intake of fats and protein is necessary for optimal cortisol balance. However, getting plenty of carbohydrates is even more beneficial if one seeks to remain at low-cortisol state. Yes that is correct. Carbohydrates are your friend, and they do suppress cortisol (study, study, study)
  • Make sure that you are not deficient in any micronutrients, as stress hormones tend to rise when micronutrients are inadequate in the body. 

That’s about it for low-cortisol nutrition, really, it’s that stupidly simple. If you would like an in depth step by step guide designed to eliminate micronutrient deficiencies and promote hormonal balance then make sure to check out The Thermo Diet inside of UMZUfit!

the thermo diet

​Supplementation

supplementation for stress

Strategic supplementation can be extremely valuable for balancing cortisol levels in the body.

There isn’t a supplement that can magically fix high cortisol levels. However using strategic supplements can help. 

Why is that? Well allow me to give you few examples:

  1. Magnesium deficiency (which is what roughly 46% of the Americans have) has been shown to cause significantly elevated cortisol levels. Whereas, supplementation with magnesium has shown to lower cortisol levels in healthy human subjects with no known deficiencies...
  2. Vitamin C is well-known for its cortisol lowering effects (study, study, study, study)...
  3. Iron deficiency has been shown to cause high cortisol levels...
  4. Vitamin E deficiency as well...
  5. It’s also worth mentioning that stress and high cortisol deplete the body from multiple micronutrients, which is again, why everyone seeking to lower their cortisol levels should be taking a multivitamin…

So, eat micronutrient dense foods, and supplement with a solidly formulated supplement. This is a stupidly simple low-cost trick that helps significantly in most cases.

Phosphatidylserine

phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a naturally occurring phospholipid that exists in the cell membranes of all species. In simple words, it’s a type of fat that can be found in every cell membrane of the human body that also contains the mineral phosphorus.

Roughly 60 grams of phosphatidylserine can be found in the human brain, testes, lungs, muscle tissue, kidneys, liver, and blood plasma. About 50% of the PS in the body exists in neural tissue.

The Functions of PS in the Body Include:

  1. a) Transports molecules in and out of the cell
  2. b) Delivers signals to the interior of the cell membrane
  3. c) Improves signaling between the cells
  4. d) Protects cell membranes from oxidative stress

Because nearly 50% of the phosphatidylserine exists in neural tissue, it’s also believed that the phospholipid has a brain function improving effect. In other words, it’s believed to be a nootropic (smart drug)…

…And research supports this belief, as several human studies have found out that phosphatidylserine improves cognitive function, attention, working memory, processing speed, processing accuracy, and general memory (study,study, study, study)

Not to mention that PS is also known for reducing stress, fatigue, ADHD symptoms, and cognitive decline (study, study,study, study, study, study).

So, phosphatidylserine clearly has some benefits as a brain booster and I guess we can easily call it a well researched nootropic…

…However cognitive stuff is not all that this lipid has been researched for:

There are two very interesting facts about phosphatidylserine that could make it a potential testosterone booster…

…Firstly, it’s a message sender between the cells, which means that it could also improve the signals that come from hormones.

…Secondly, it protects cells (think leydig) from oxidative damage (brains and testicles contain the most of phosphatidylserine in the body).

So on paper, there could be some testosterone boosting effects in phosphatidylserine supplementation due to its ability to act as a secondary message sender and a potential cortisol/oxidative damage blocker.

Fortunately we don’t even have to speculate, as a few studies have examined the above already:

Phosphatidylserine and Testosterone Research:

  1. a) Few studies have found that phosphatidylserine supplementation lowers cortisol secretion in stressed subjects (study, study), and this study found out that 800 mg’s of daily PS reduced exercise induced rise in cortisol by 30%.
  2. b) This peer-reviewed study from Starks et al. found out that 600 mg’s of daily PS in combination with resistance training produced a staggering 180% improvement in testosterone to cortisol ratio of healthy human subjects when compared to placebo.

At this point, phosphatidylserine becomes a very interesting supplement.

Not only is it great for the brain, it seems to also be great for guys who exercise – after all – scientists often use the testosterone to cortisol ratio as a measure to see how effectively the body can build lean muscle mass.

Cortigon has the exact dose shown in clinical research to be effective for these purposes. 

cortigon by umzu

Are there any food sources for phosphatidylserine?

Answer: Bovine brain, chicken heart, pig spleen, pig liver, and certain lecithins are all good sources of PS. However to reach the dosages used in the studies above supplementation is easier, but not required (see a chart of foods highest in PS here).

What are the phosphatidylserine supplements made of?

Answer: Originally PS supplements were all derived from bovine brains, but when the mad cow disease panic started in the US, manufacturers started deriving their supplements from plants. That’s why most of the phosphatidylserine on the market is now derived from soy lecithin. Make sure you use a supplement with non-GMO lecithin PS (link).

Adaptogenic Herbs

stress fighting herbs

There are few herbal compounds that have been shown in studies to be particularly effective against high cortisol levels.

One of these is Ashwagandha:

  1. c) This human study from the C.S.M. Medical University in Lucknow, India, had 60 subject males who were given 5 grams of Ashwagandha along with skimmed milk for 90 days, and after those 3 months had passed the researches looked at their hormonal profiles. What they found out was that their subjects had increased testosterone levels by 16% on average and that their stress hormone (cortisol) levels had dropped by 30%.
  2. d) This double-blind, randomized, controlled, placebo study gave both, men and women, a 250-500 mg dose of Ashwagandha for mixed durations (1-6 months) and found out that on average their subjects cortisol levels dropped by 14% and that their HDL cholesterol levels increased by 17,3%.

Testro-X has the highest quality ashwagandha variety available on the market in the exact clinical dose shown to be effective. 

testro-x

Another good one is called Rhodiola Rosea:

a)Rhodiola Rosea has multiple studies backing up the fact that it significantly reduces the feelings of fatigue in humans. This in theory means that it should also lower the stress hormone cortisol, which is known for suppressing testosterone. And the theory is supported by these studies, which all found out that Rhodiola Rosea supplementation reduced high cortisol levels (study, study, study).

Those two above are not the only adaptogenic, stress-reducing herbs, a simple Googling will give you plenty of more, with a lot of potent supplements backed up by science.

Conclusion 

And that’s everything that you need to know to start lowering your cortisol levels and get out of the cortisol dominant state and into a low stress life. Enjoy your newfound wisdom. Feel free to share this with whoever you feel needs it. If you have any questions reach out to me or anyone on the UMZU team in our facebook communities (The Thermo Diet Community and the UMZU Community) or on our new platform UMZUfit! 


Cheers, 


Christopher Walker

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