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Coach Amelia


June 25, 2024

Basic Blueprint to Support Cortisol Levels

Cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, plays a crucial role in our body's ability to adapt to challenging situations and return to a state of equilibrium, known as homeostasis. However, chronically elevated cortisol levels can lead to a range of health issues, including inflammation and metabolic disturbances.

It's important to recognize that cortisol spikes are a natural response to stress and serve a valuable purpose in helping our bodies cope with various stressors. Whether it's the physical stress of exercise or the mental strain of a demanding workday, cortisol assists in mobilizing energy reserves and enhancing our ability to respond effectively.

However, as mentioned above, chronic elevation of cortisol levels is where problems arise. When cortisol remains consistently high due to prolonged stress or other factors, it can lead to detrimental effects to various systems in our body as listed below:

  1. Metabolic Disorders: Chronically high cortisol levels can contribute to metabolic disturbances such as insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, and increased abdominal fat deposition. These changes elevate the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  2. Cardiovascular Diseases: Prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels can contribute to hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Cortisol promotes vasoconstriction and inflammation, which can adversely affect cardiovascular health.
  3. Immune Suppression: Cortisol has immunosuppressive effects, meaning it can dampen the immune response. Prolonged elevation of cortisol levels may weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections, including bacterial, viral, and fungal pathogens.
  4. Osteoporosis: Cortisol can interfere with bone formation and promote bone breakdown, leading to decreased bone density and increased risk of fractures. Over time, chronic elevation of cortisol levels can contribute to the development of osteoporosis, a condition characterized by brittle and fragile bones.
  5. Mood Disorders: High cortisol levels have been associated with an increased risk of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can disrupt neurotransmitter balance in the brain, contributing to alterations in mood regulation and emotional well-being.
  6. Digestive Disorders: Cortisol can affect digestive function by increasing stomach acid secretion and altering gastrointestinal motility. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels have been linked to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, and inflammation of the digestive tract.
  7. Cognitive Impairment: Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels have been associated with cognitive impairment, including difficulties with memory, concentration, and decision-making. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones may contribute to structural and functional changes in the brain, particularly in areas involved in memory and learning.

Balancing Blood Sugar Levels

One key aspect of managing cortisol levels is to balance blood sugar levels effectively. 

Notice how I said balance, as blood sugar levels should and will rise throughout the day. We should NOT completely eliminate all sources of sugar as the concept here is not related to how much carbohydrate we are ingesting; rather it is how we are ingesting carbohydrates throughout the day.

Further, I will die on this hill: carbohydrates are not bad! (There is no such thing as a “good” or a “bad” food - which is another conversation -, and all food has a purpose especially carbohydrates as they serve as the main energy source for our bodies).

Carbohydrates, which ultimately break down into glucose, can cause rapid spikes and subsequent crashes in blood sugar if consumed in isolation. To prevent this rollercoaster effect, it's crucial to pair carbohydrates with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. By doing so, the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream is slowed down, resulting in a more gradual rise and fall in blood sugar levels. This not only helps to sustain energy levels but also promotes feelings of fullness and satisfaction, reducing the likelihood of overeating or reaching for unhealthy snacks.

Additionally, Consistency in meal timing and composition is key. Eating regular, balanced meals throughout the day helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and minimize stress on the body's metabolic processes.

Prioritizing Quality Sleep

Another essential factor in cortisol management is prioritizing high-quality sleep. During sleep, the body undergoes crucial processes of repair, recovery, and hormone regulation. Poor sleep quality can disrupt these processes, leading to imbalances in hunger and satisfaction hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin. These hormones work in tandem to signal hunger and fullness, helping to regulate appetite and energy balance

Ghrelin: Ghrelin is often referred to as the "hunger hormone" because it stimulates appetite and promotes food intake. It is primarily produced by the stomach and acts on the hypothalamus in the brain to increase feelings of hunger. Ghrelin levels typically rise before meals and decrease after eating, signaling to the body that it is time to consume food. When you don't get enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin, which can stimulate appetite and lead to overeating or cravings for high-calorie foods.

Leptin: Leptin, often referred to as the "satiety hormone," is produced by fat cells and acts on the hypothalamus to suppress appetite and regulate energy expenditure. Leptin levels typically increase after meals, signaling to the brain that the body has received enough food and prompting a decrease in hunger. Sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality can lead to reduced leptin levels and decreased sensitivity to its effects, which may result in increased appetite and decreased energy expenditure.

To optimize sleep quality, establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and ensure your sleep environment is conducive to rest. By allowing your body to get the rest it needs, you support its ability to regulate cortisol levels and promote overall well-being.

Incorporating Exercise and Mindfulness Practices

Exercise is not only beneficial for physical health but also plays a significant role in stress reduction and cortisol regulation. Engaging in regular physical activity has been linked to lower levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. However, it's essential to prioritize enjoyment and stress reduction in exercise rather than focusing solely on calorie burn in relation to cortisol management. Depending on your health goals, it can be more important to exercise at lower intensity in order to keep your exercise-induced cortisol levels low so that your body can learn to adapt more quickly and to avoid more chronic levels of cortisol elevations.

In addition to exercise, mindfulness and meditation practices offer powerful tools for managing stress and promoting relaxation. These practices activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the body's natural counterbalance to the stress response. By incorporating mindfulness techniques into your daily routine, you can help your body recover from elevated cortisol levels and restore balance.


In conclusion, supporting optimal cortisol levels requires a holistic approach that encompasses nutrition, sleep, exercise, and mindfulness practices. By prioritizing balanced meals, quality sleep, regular physical activity, and stress-reducing techniques, you can effectively manage cortisol levels and promote overall health and well-being. Remember, it's not about eliminating stress entirely but rather fostering resilience and adaptability in the face of life's challenges.

Coach Amelia

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