When it comes to stress, few hormones ring more bells than Cortisol. It’s known to bodybuilders and stressed out housewives alike and most people are NOT a fan. But is it really so bad? Is it worth controlling? To answer that question, let’s first talk about what Cortisol is.
What is Cortisol
Cortisol is a stress hormone which is released in times of stress and low blood sugar. One of its primary functions is to supply the body with energy as quickly as possible. It does this by shutting down certain functions that aren’t necessary to deal with the stress at hand including:
Cortisol supplies the body with energy by pulling Glucose from as many sources as possible. Unfortunately, this includes proteins which are harvested for amino acids that are then converted to Glucose for energy.
Why Does Cortisol Get So Much Hate?
Actually, Cortisol is what kept us alive throughout the course of our evolution. It’s released in times of stress, both physical and mental and its primary job is to create an optimal environment for our bodies to deal with that stress.
Back when we were cavemen, a stressor might have been something like running from some sort of predator that wants to rip our heads off. By shutting down a bunch of extra functions (immune function, reproductive function etc.) and harvesting glycogen, protein, and fat for Glucose, Cortisol optimizes us for dealing with stress.
Stress, in the traditional sense, was short-lived. Either you died or you dealt with the stress and it went away. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line we evolved to the point where we stress ourselves out more than our ancestors ever thought was possible.
Everything from public speaking to family problems causes Cortisol release but since many of these problems aren’t exactly life threatening, they continue for a long time, and Cortisol production stays high.
Over time, Cortisol can really take a toll on our general health and wellbeing.
Supplements That Can Help Control Cortisol
If you’re stressed out frequently, you may very well have higher than normal Cortisol levels. If that’s the case, there are a few safe supplements that can help. These supplements won’t lower your Cortisol levels to the point where it become unhealthy. They simply help keep Cortisol towards the lower end of the normal, healthy range…
Ashwagandha is an herbal adaptogen (helps the body adapt to stress) which has been used for hundreds of years throughout Ayurvedic medicine.
Preliminary studies in mice showed that Ashwagandha significantly lowered Cortisol release caused by acute stress, and higher doses have been shown to completely blunt the Cortisol response to stress.
In humans, Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce perceived mental stress as well as decrease serum Cortisol in stressed individuals. Similar effects have been noted elsewhere in humans, so the general anti-stress effects are considered reliable in the eyes of science.
Unfortunately, not all Ashwagandha extracts are created equal so it’s important to select the right one. KSM-66 and Sensoril are two types of Ashwagandha extracts which are obtain through patented methods and standardized for a given amount of withanolides (the active components).
You can take non-branded forms of Ashwagandha because their cheaper, but you can’t be certain that you’re actually getting effective doses of what matters, so it’s really best to stick with a standardized extract.FIND IT HERE
When it comes to Ashwagandha supplements, standardization is key. You need to make sure you’re getting 300-600mg of a reliable extract. We recommend Sensoril or KSM-66. Both use patented extracted techniques and both have been proven effective in clinical trials.
Relora is a patented combination of two extracts: Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense which has been studied clinically and proven to be effective for managing stress.
Relora has been shown to reduce anxiety and subjective reports of mental stress in healthy human subjects, indicating it isn’t just effective for highly stressed individuals.
Similar findings were found in another study in moderately stressed subjects and found that Relora supplementation reduced serum Cortisol and improved mood parameters.FIND IT HERE
Dosing with Relora may require a bit of trial and error. Some people take 300mg once a day, some people take 300mg three times a day. Some people take it first thing in the morning, some peoeple take it at night. You should ideally start with 300mg/day, takven whenever you’re usually feeling the most stress.
Phosphatidylserine is not an herbal supplement like Relora or Ashwagandha. It is a phospholipid which is naturally occuring in the brain and various other tissues throughout our bodies. In the brain, it serves as a primary component of cell membranes and is therefore integral for brain health.
Phosphatidylserine has been shown to reduce perceived stress as well as blunt the physiological indications of stress such as increased Cortisol. Additionally, it has been shown to blunt the Cortisol response to exercise. This makes it especially useful for athletes who wish to maintain an optimal anabolic environment.
Phosphatidylserine was original derived from bovine cortex (cow brains) but due to concerns over mad cow disease, alternative methods of extraction were developed. Soy turned out to be a fine source of it, so soy derived Phosphatidylserine is what you’ll find nowadays.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) has been shown to favorably impact stress at doses as low as 100-200mg, but does as high as 600-800mg have been used safely for the purposes keeping Cortisol in check. Start with 100-200mg and go from there. It’s extremely safe, even at high doses so it’s unlikely you’ll experience any sort of negative side effects.
The Bottom Line
Cortisol is necessary for our bodies to function normally, so it’s not as if it’s a “bad” hormone. It’s just that we as humans tend to find ways to increase it beyond what is necessary, in some cases to the point where it become quite harmful.
Too much can take a toll on immune health, accelerate muscle loss, and cause weight gain, so if you’re constantly stressed, it may be time to step in and handle it. Luckily, the supplements discussed above can are safe and scientifically proven to keep Cortisol levels in check.