Cortisol: The stress hormone and how to manage it

Cortisol: The stress hormone and how to manage it

07 Dec 2021

Cortisol and stress: The connection

Stress is experienced by everyone and is a completely normal part of life. It’s our body's reaction to a challenge or demand (1). But to better understand stress, we first have to get to know cortisol, a steroid hormone.

Cortisol and stress are closely related. When stressed, a hormonal reaction that tells your brain to adapt to a situation through a fight or flight mechanism takes place. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located at the top of your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol (2).

Cortisol and stress

Also known as the primary stress hormone, cortisol helps control the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates; suppresses inflammation; regulates blood pressure; increases blood sugar; and can also decrease bone formation. It also controls the sleep/wake cycle, giving you a boost of energy to better handle an emergency (3).

But what happens when this system of releasing cortisol during stressful times  goes out of hand?

Stress and health problems

A small amount of stress can lead to increased alertness, energy and productivity. For example, an athlete playing in a game gets a rush of adrenaline, allowing him or her to perform with higher levels of energy.

However, repeated or prolonged exposure to a stressor leads to chronic stress and can have detrimental effects physically and mentally. This long-term or constant exposure to stress prevents the person’s body or mind from returning to normal activity (4).

Too much cortisol may lead to weight gain (particularly around the abdomen and neck), fatigue, muscle weakness, easily bruised skin, among other health issues (5).

Managing the effects of excessive cortisol and stress

Cortisol and stress

If you feel that you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is best to contact your healthcare professional for an overall treatment plan. A professional can provide recommendations on how to reduce cortisol.

You can also curb the effects of excessive cortisol and stress by supplementing your daily routine with the right vitamins and minerals. These can be obtained through a healthy and well-balanced daily diet. You may also opt for supplementation to be paired alongside a healthy diet plan.

Below are the vitamins and minerals you may want to consider to help manage stress and cortisol levels:

Vitamin B complex and B12

Each B vitamin plays a unique role in the body, making B group vitamins essential for your body to function optimally. B group vitamins help release energy from nutrients like carbohydrates, fats and protein. They also assist with brain function, healthy stress response, and the immune system function.

One study found that B vitamin supplementation resulted in significant reduction in reports of personal strain due to work stress (11).

Vitamin B12  is essential for cellular energy production and metabolism, both areas that need a boost during periods of stress (6). It also aids the nervous system through the synthesis of protein structures in the myelin sheath around nerves. On the other hand, vitamin B12 deficiency might result in demyelination of nerves, causing neurological problems (7).

Vitable’s Vitamin B12 supplement comes in an easily digested, highly active form that is easy for your body to absorb. It uses methylcobalamin which is a bioavailable form of B12.

Magnesium

Magnesium is required by the body to metabolise dietary carbohydrates and fats for energy (8).

Increased stress can make the body expend more energy. And since we’re using magnesium to metabolise carbs and fats, increased or prolonged stress can lead to a potential magnesium deficiency.

Deficiency is a significant concern because magnesium is also involved in the control of several central nervous system processes, and depletion can lead to neurological symptoms or disease (9).

Increase your magnesium intake to ensure your body gets the energy it needs. Vitable’s Magnesium supplement is in the form of magnesium citrate, one of the most easily absorbed and utilised forms by the body. It also comes in a vegetarian capsule form and is vegan, free from added gluten and lactose, and non-GMO.

Calcium

Calcium plays a vital role in muscle health. Good muscle health properly regulates several muscle contractions like that of the heart’s (10). This aids energy production and immune function that may help us manage stress better.

Vitable’s Calcium Plus supplement is enriched with vegan Vitamin D3. This helps increase calcium metabolism and absorption in the body. The pair works together to support bone health and muscle function.

Ashwagandha

Further reduce stress symptoms and improve sleep quality by consuming Ashwagandha. The traditional Ayurvedic herb has been used around the world for centuries for its calming effects.

Vitable’s Ashwagandha supplement uses a potent and full spectrum, scientifically-backed Ashwagandha extract available in the market. With expansive clinical backing, this herbal extract uses only the roots and not the leaves, providing an undiluted full spectrum of benefits. This adaptogen not only aids in stress relief but helps reduce time to fall asleep.

Ginkgo and Brahmi

The Ginkgo leaf has been used medicinally for thousands of years and is one of the world’s oldest living tree species. Also known as the brain herb, Ginkgo is a powerful adaptogen that has the ability to improve brain function, concentration and memory along with supporting the body’s stress response.

Brahmi is a common herb used as another traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It is renowned as a powerful brain tonic. The nerve tonic exerts nootropic activity to enhance cognition.

Using high quality plant extracts and made using gentle solvents, the extraction ensures that the supplement resembles the composition of the natural plant. The high dosage combination of both herbs makes it a powerful formula to support brain function.

By incorporating specific vitamins and minerals into your diet, you can support your body in beating stress. If you are struggling to meet your daily requirements, then you can consider supplementation. Try out a monthly vitamin subscription with Vitable Australia where you can put together custom vitamin packs that suit your needs, which can be taken alongside a well-rounded diet. You can also make use of our vitamin delivery service to have your daily vitamin packs brought right to your doorstep.

Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:

Vitamin B complex | Vitamin B12 | Magnesium | Calcium | Ashwagandha | Ginkgo Brahmi

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References:

  1. Medline Plus. Stress and your health. NIH US National Library of Medicine. Published on https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003211.htm. Accessed Oct 26, 2021.
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Chronic stress puts  your health at risk. Mayo Clinic. Published July 8, 2021 on https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037. Accessed Oct 26, 2021.
  3. John Hopkins Medicine. Adrenal Glands. Published on https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/adrenal-glands. Accessed Oct 26, 2021.
  4. National Institute of Mental Health. 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. National Institute of Health. Published on https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress. Accessed on October 23, 2021.
  5. Health Direct. The role of cortisol in the body. Published May 2020 on https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/the-role-of-cortisol-in-the-body. Accessed Oct 26, 2021.
  6. O'Leary, F., & Samman, S. Vitamin B12 in health and disease. Published 2010 on https://doi.org/10.3390/nu2030299. Accessed Oct 26, 2021.
  7. Braun, L., and Cohen,Marc. Herbs & Natural Supplements An Evidence-based guide Volume 2. 4th ed. Published 2015. Accessed on October 26, 2021.
  8. Linus Pauling Institute - Micronutrient Information. Magnesium. Published 2019 on https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium. Accessed Oct 26, 2021
  9. Grober, U., Schmidt, J., Kisters, K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Published  2015 on https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/9/5388. Accessed Oct 26, 2021.
  10. Braun, L., and Cohen,Marc. Herbs & Natural Supplements An Evidence-based guide Volume 2. 4th ed. Published 2015. Accessed on October 26, 2021.
  11. Stough, C., et. al., Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focussed intervention: a randomized clinical trial: study protocol. Published December 2014 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290459/. Accessed on November 1, 2021.