How to Naturally Lower Stress Hormone (Cortisol)


Its causes are absolutely everywhere.

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.”  It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally.

Foods and Nutrients to Lower Cortisol

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

High doses of caffeine also increase cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest. Read this article if wonder if coffee is doing you harm or good.

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate – but not the sugary milky kind – the dark decadent kind with min 70% cacao. Have a bit to unwind.

70% cacao

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber. Sauerkraut is one of my very favorite go-to fermented foods.  Check out how easy it is to make.

Interested in learning more about fermented foods? This FREE Guide to Fermented Foods can help!

Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.  I’ve produced an easy checklist to help you get a better sleep. You can get it here.

Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.

wellness massage

Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.


Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol levels. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

Recipe (High fiber prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding
Serves 6

3 ripe avocados
¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 dash salt

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.


4 replies
  1. Dana
    Dana says:

    I’m a 46 year old woman and I actually had a mild heart attack last year that was deemed to be caused solely by years of stress and anxiety. I had no other risk factors and no blockages. I didn’t even know that was possible until it happened to me. This article was very helpful and a good reminder for me to get back on track by looking out for me for a change! Thank you!

    • Michelle Gaetz
      Michelle Gaetz says:

      Wow, you’ve been through a lot for being so young. Thank you for your kind words, Dana, & I am so glad to hear it was helpful and that you are taking care of yourself. As you found out first hand, stress is so hard on our body. Take care & continue looking out for you! 🙂

  2. fitoru
    fitoru says:

    I appreciate the information you stated here. More power to your blogging career

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