Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone and as such is critical to the body’s normal functioning. In this particular instance, however, there can be too much of a good thing. The higher the levels of cortisol in your body the higher the stakes that your health will be affected.
Having your levels too high can give you a long list of health issues including but not limited to:
Yet, the subjective feeling we have when our cortisol is elevated is enough of a tormentor in and of itself. And if this tormentor comes after us day after day, month after month, it gets uncomfortable—if not bordering on unbearable.
So, how do you reduce your cortisol levels and find better ways to cope with stress? Aside from exercise and relaxation techniques, other remedies can help move you to a healthy baseline and we’ll list them here for you today.
Buckle up, we’ll give a run-down of some of the top supplements to reduce cortisol (while quoting experts and citing some of the most exciting research on this topic).
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is dubbed the “stress hormone” and for obvious reasons. It owes this popular moniker to the fact that this hormone is released by the adrenal glands when your body responds to stressful situations.
Cortisol comes into play when your body sets off the “fight or flight” response. In other words, it prepares you for stressful situations when your body anticipates danger.
Alongside the important function of protecting your bodily integrity this way, cortisol is also responsible for maintaining other functions like maintaining blood sugar levels, regulating memory, and managing metabolism. It’s also a major player in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle, establishing the natural cycle of the so-called circadian rhythm (more on that in the next section).
Of course, we don’t mind cortisol with all the above-mentioned powerhouse bodily functions. It’s when this hormone gets triggered for longer than necessary, that it becomes problem material, impacting our bodies negatively. Let’s explore how and why.
Cortisol and Stress Response
So, how do our bodies respond to stress? The main offenders here are hormones and most prominently, the notorious three—cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These hormones are set off when we face stressful situations like taking exams, getting into conflicting situations, having job interviews, etc.
What makes cortisol stand out from adrenaline and noradrenaline is how fast these hormones excrete and trigger the fight-or-flight response.
The Harvard University website used the right wording and examples providing a neat insight into these hormones’ inner workings:
“Whereas adrenaline and noradrenaline levels spike in seconds to minutes, cortisol levels stay high for minutes to hours. In short, cortisol levels creeping higher is what you’re feeling during the slow build of suspense and fear during a horror movie, while hormones like adrenaline kick into gear right after a jumpscare in said horror movie (I’m looking at you, Pennywise).” Source: Harvard University website
How Cortisol Affects Our Physical and Mental Health
When it comes to cortisol and the way it affects our physical and mental health, as mentioned previously, it gets bad when it gets chronic. When your cortisol level surges and stays that way for longer periods this can disrupt almost all your bodily processes. That said, too much exposure to cortisol has been linked to the occurrence of a host of health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, weight gain, and diabetes. [1, 2]
But what’s the background story to this? Researchers have discovered that cortisol follows much of the same pattern—it peaks in the morning around sunrise. As the day progresses, it tends to dip low, building up slowly again only after we’ve fallen asleep.
Now it gets interesting. Science seems to have confirmed what only sounds logical—our bodies anticipate the stress of daily activities and prepare us for stressful activities by increasing cortisol levels. 
However, things get wrong when these natural processes get dysregulated and it stays that way for days, months, and even years.
A case in point here is when you get off your regular sleeping schedule at crunch time and this disrupts your sleeping pattern. This can keep you awake the next evening, as your cortisol levels can peak at the wrong time—setting off a new stressful cycle of insomnia and fatigue. 
We’ve tackled how cortisol works. Now, without further ado, let’s review some of the best supplements to reduce cortisol and help reset you back into balance.
Breaking the Deadly Cycle—What Supplements Decrease Cortisol?
The staple of Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is a natural cortisol blocker that can help your body cope with the physiological effects of stress. Otherwise known as “adaptogen”, ashwagandha is rife with substances thought to help the body respond to various stressors.
It’s one of the most popular supplements to reduce cortisol, curb stress levels, and lighten up the mood. Importantly, science hasn’t fallen behind ancient herbal practices, not hesitating to examine how this ancient herb exudes these beneficial effects on the human psyche.
Namely, according to a 2017 study, subjects who have been taking ashwagandha reported improved levels of stress on the “Perceived Stress Scale” and the “Oxford Happiness Questionnaire.” 
A similar study showed reduced cortisol levels in individuals taking ashwagandha extract. The study results also confirmed a 44% improvement in mental health in these individuals compared to the placebo group. 
2. Omega-3s and B5 Vitamin
When looking for an optimal cortisol manager, most of the time chances that one supplement will do are slim. Sometimes a combination of these will let you see the most benefits when you seek to improve your cortisol status. Omega-3s and B5 hand in hand are often recommended by experts to help you manage your cortisol levels.
Now get this: Stress has been found to lower omega-3 levels, but also if your body is lacking in omega-3s, this, in turn, can increase your cortisol levels.  One condition reinforces the other leaving you trapped in a vicious cycle with detrimental results.
The good news is that this goes the other way around as well. Preliminary research has found that taking omega-3 supplements can help improve your cortisol status. 
Pairing omega 3s with B5 can help improve your coping mechanisms when under chronic stress. B5 or pantothenic acid is dubbed “anti-stress vitamin” and this is by no mere chance.
Keeping your B5 status in check is likely to keep your adrenal glands functioning well. Conversely, when you’re deficient in this vitamin, this can affect the function of your adrenal glands, making it harder for you to recover from the effects of chronic stress.
On top of that, there are also some interesting findings suggesting that B-complex vitamins can help people better cope with workplace stress. 
When considering a cortisol blocker, probiotics might not be the first to come to mind, but some research suggests they may be used for these purposes as well. Fact: probiotics have been studied for decades for their potential capacity for regulating mood, cognition, and response to stress. Furthermore, researchers have explored the so-called “gut-brain axis” discovering that our gut can affect our brains and vice versa. This happens via the bi-directional link between the brain and the gut microbiome. 
The bottom line is that probiotics can affect not only our gut health but also the way we behave. The human microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms branching into thousands of different species. When you’re healthy, they coexist harmoniously in this powerful and not yet entirely understood ecosystem.
And there’s more. A 2019 study discovered an interesting link between probiotic supplementation and the way humans learn and problem-solve under stressful conditions.
Subjects who have been taking probiotics for 4 weeks showed improved cognition when exposed to acute stress. 
Prebiotics are a special kind of non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines, contributing to the health of your microbiome. Examples include whole grains, fruits, onions, and artichokes. And interestingly, prebiotics can also qualify as cortisol blocker supplements. Let’s extrapolate.
Although research is limited, some studies strongly suggest that the prebiotics can help regulate the activity of the stress hormone cortisol and affect emotional processing.
One randomized placebo-controlled study looked at morning cortisol levels of healthy individuals following a 3-week administration of prebiotics. Morning cortisol levels were found to be significantly lower in subjects taking prebiotics compared to those taking a placebo. 
And it gets more interesting. The subjects taking prebiotics also showed decreased attentional vigilance to negative versus positive information. This adds to the body of research already drawing attention to the beneficial effects of the thriving human microbiota on the human psyche.
Did you know your baseline level of certain minerals can impact the way you cope with stress? This is the case with magnesium, and scientific findings support this claim, that individuals suffering from magnesium deficiency can be more susceptible to stress.  This goes the other way around as well as people with high levels of stress tend to have lower magnesium levels. 
This speaks in favor of keeping your magnesium levels in check to help strengthen your coping mechanisms on life stressors.
Magnesium was also found to speed up the recovery of athletes exposed to severe physical stress. Namely, 17 mmol magnesium supplementation per day helped lower serum cortisol levels in these individuals. 
Wondering what magnesium supplement is best for lowering cortisol levels? So far researchers have found magnesium taurate and magnesium glycinate to be the most favorable forms to exert the best effects of this mineral on your mental health.
NutriDyn Magnesium Glycinate is a natural cortisol blocker that will help support the optimal function of your nervous system and promote sleep and relaxation. This highly absorbable chelated magnesium in magnesium glycinate form will help your body absorb more of this helpful mineral.
L-theanine, the substance most popular for being one of the key ingredients of green tea, has been found to have some influence on cortisol levels in the brain.
L-theanine is also a key player in promoting clarity and mental alertness and producing alpha brain waves. Alpha brain waves are the most optimal within your brainwave spectrum, falling at around 8-12 Hz.
When your brain is operating at these frequencies, you’re able to acquire new information more readily and you can operate at the top of your creative capacities. At these times you’re also more likely to feel more relaxed as well as tap into your intuition more freely.
L-theanine can also help regulate cortisol levels. In one study, participants who consumed a drink containing 200 mg of l-theanine showed an improved cortisol status and they reported feeling more relaxed. 
Need a supplement that will help you loosen up and relax? Cortisol Manager supplement is a blend of l-theanine and ashwagandha root and leaf extract. The herbal formula is designed to decrease your stress levels, promote relaxation, and help you get restful sleep. Cortisol Manager undergoes strict quality control and is NSF Certified.
Looking for Supplements to Reduce Cortisol Levels? Stick With Brands That Ensure Quality
Stress management is such a huge part of maintaining your health and well-being—and keeping your cortisol levels in check is top of the list. Throwing in some exercise, finding unique ways to unwind, and learning about stress management will help you cope going forward.
Want to jump in on some top supplements to reduce cortisol and help you cope with the physiological effects of stress? Simply Nutrients is a dependable dietary supplement supplier and we take pride in ensuring our quality control is second to none. Drop us a word or call us and we’ll help you personalize your supplementation for best health results.
Also, check out resources listed below to stay in the know regarding your cortisol levels and stress management:
- How to Pick the Best Magnesium Supplements for Sleep
- Cortisol Manager: A Beginners Guide and Research-Backed Benefits
- Cortisol Blocker: X Science-Backed Facts You Must Read Today
NOTHING IN THIS WEBSITE IS INTENDED AS, OR SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS, MEDICAL ADVICE. ANY HEALTHCARE AND/OR NUTRITIONAL MATERIAL CONTAINED IN THIS WEBSITE IS FOR CONSUMER INFORMATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. SUCH MATERIAL IS NOT INTENDED AS MEDICAL ADVICE FOR CONDITIONS OR TREATMENT, NOR IS IT INTENDED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR A MEDICAL EXAMINATION BY A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL. CONSUMERS SHOULD CONSULT THEIR OWN HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS FOR INDIVIDUAL MEDICAL RECOMMENDATIONS.
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- Top 6 Supplements to Reduce Cortisol According to Experts - February 8, 2024