cortisol – how to make it work for you

by team nuut

cortisol is known as the body's stress hormone for its powerful effects on different functions throughout the body. it is an important player in our stress response, helps maintain blood pressure, immune function and the body's anti-inflammatory processes, and can be used daily for better well-being.

it’s also a little like a real housewife of beverly hills – it loves drama and always has its nose in everybody's business! connected to your body's fight-or-flight response cortisol plays a role in almost every major organ system, from regulating metabolism and brain function to joint and immune health. it also works with insulin to maintain blood sugar and helps quell inflammation.

with life busier than ever, cortisol imbalance is often blamed for health issues like fatigue, bloating, and complexion issues, leading to myths and misinformation about how this hard-working hormone works.
cortisol levels go up and down depending on your sleep/wake pattern. when you wake in the mornings, they rise to raise blood sugar and blood pressure, which jolts you to life and gives you energy for the day. come evening, they start to drop off and fall to their lowest point when you sleep. a slight uptick is experienced when you eat, exercise or feel stressed, which is a healthy bodily response. health problems, however, occur when you interfere with the larger natural pattern of cortisol flow, like an all-night party which can be felt in disrupted sleep patterns, digestive issues and weight gain.

when you learn to use cortisol as a wellness tool, your levels even out, and you can self-monitor with ease, so you feel sharper, energised, calmer and ready to take on whatever life throws at you.

1. vigorous exercise

vigorous exercise is one of the best and most accessible stress busters there is. what could be more empowering than finishing a tough spin session or going for a lost-distance run? intense cardio causes a temporary rise in cortisol levels that return to normal as quickly as 15 minutes post-workout. if you get stressed easily, raise your cortisol using gentler movements like pilates, walking, slow jogging, or swimming. work out in the mornings to coincide with cortisol's most significant spikes between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. if you prefer to exercise at the end of the day, ensure it is not close to bedtime. cortisol takes around four hours to reach its lowest level, which is optimal for sleep.

2. rest and recovery

rest and recovery are essential for balancing cortisol levels.

after working out, it's necessary to bring your cortisol levels down, so stay, stretch, cool down and practice some breath work. seven hours of sleep a night is always the goal. ensure your environment is fitted out to encourage high-quality zzz by darkening your room, allowing airflow, wearing earplugs, and silencing your mobile.

3. eating healthy

eating healthy, well-timed meals gives your body the fuel it needs to get through the day. it experiences its second-largest cortisol spike around 4 p.m. so eating after 5 p.m. can cause an unwanted boost when you don't need it. eating after exercise is essential for increasing blood sugar levels which tells your body to slow cortisol production. consume 30-40 grams of carbs (we add bananas and oats to carb up our protein-rich nuuts) to increase blood sugar levels, which signals your body to slow cortisol production.

what are the symptoms of high cortisol?

high cortisol causes symptoms throughout your body depending on what's causing the increase in your cortisol levels:
• weight gain around the face, midsection and upper back
• acne and thinning skin
• easy bruising
• flushed face
• slowed healing
• muscle weakness and fatigue
• irritability
• lack of focus
• headache
• high blood pressure