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In this modern age, we are constantly under stress. This comes not only from career deadlines, family pressures, and financial obligations, but from anything that disrupts our body’s natural state of balance. Here are some tips to counteract the stresses that we face.

The Two Major Stress Response Systems

There are two major systems in the body that mediate the “stress response.”  Both originate from the hypothalamus.

One is called the Hypothalamus-Pituitary and Adrenal (HPA) axis.

These three glands release the following hormones: CRH (Hypothalamus)->ACTH (Pituitary)->Cortisol (Adrenal).

The other stress pathway is the sympathomedullary system, where signals are sent to the adrenals to release adrenaline and norepinephrine.

The HPA axis deals with longer term stressors, while the sympathomedullary system deals with more acute stressors.

Probably the best single measure of your stress response is your blood levels of cortisol.


Lifestyle Strategies to Lower Your Stress Response

  1. Vagus Nerve Stimulation (R)
  2. Positive social encounters (R)
  3. Laughing/being happy (R)
  4. Spending time in nature (R) 
  5. Diaphragmatic breathing (R)
  6. Meditation (R, R2)
  7. Yoga (RR2)
  8. Being physically active – Lowers cortisol in longer term (R).
  9. Regular dancing (R)
  10. Massage therapy (R)
  11. Music therapy (R)
  12. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) (R)
  13. Napping after sleep loss (R)
  14. Glucose restriction/fasting (Be careful) (R)
  15. Chewing – Lowers CRH (R).

Foods to Lower Your Stress Response


  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (R)
  2. Salmon and other fatty (High Omega 3) fish (R)
  3. Turmeric (R)
  4. Green tea/L-Theanine (R)
  5. Dark Chocolate (R) 

Supplements to Lower Your Stress Response


Some of these are in animal studies.

  1. Curcumin (R)
  2. Fish Oil/DHA  (R, R2)
  3. Rhodiola/Salidroside (R)
  4. Magnesium (R, R2, R3R4)
  5. Zinc (R)
  6. Selenium (R)
  7. Probiotics  (R)
  8. Black Cumin Seed Oil (R)
  9. Lysine (R)
  10. Vitamin C (R)
  11. St John’s Wort (R)
  12. Oxytocin (R)
  13. Phosphatidylserine (R)
  14. Aromatherapy (orange essential oil) (R)
  15. Schisandra – Lowers cortisol (R).
  16. Holy Basil/Tulsi – (in rats) (R) 
  17. Tribulus – Lowers CRH and cortisol (R).
  18. Ginseng – Blocks ACTH (R). Especially for chronic stress (R).
  19. Cordyceps – Reduces stress markers (in rats) (R).
  20. Ginkgo – Especially for acute stress (R).
  21. Apigenin – (in cellular models) (R, R2)

GABA Promoting Supplements That Lower Your Stress Response


GABAergics inhibit the HPA axis. This includes GABAb (R, R2) or GABAa (RR2).

GABA Promoting Supplements include:

  1. Butyrate (R)
  2. Ketogenic diets (R) – In ketosis, less glutamate is metabolized and more is made into GABA (R). Contradictory (R).
  3. Honokiol (from Magnolia) (R)
  4. Theanine (R)
  5. Hops (R)
  6. Chinese Skullcap (R)
  7. Kava (R)
  8. Valerian (R)
  9. Taurine (high dosage) (R)
  10. Ashwagandha (weak) (R)
  11. Bacopa (weak) (R)

Hormones That Lower Your Stress Response


  1. Progesterone (R)
  2. GHRH (in men, but not women) (R)

Devices to Lower Your Stress Response

  1. PEMF  – depends on device used (R)
  2. tDCS (Transcranial direct current stimulation) (R)
  3. TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) – CRH production and release (R, R2)
  4. Electroacupuncture – Decreased CRH in a rat model of IBS (R).

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.


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  • Chola

    I’m not an expert (yet) but the general idea should be this: GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter (“int”), and let’s say noradrenalin (NA) is an excitatory neurotransmitter (“ent”). Brain cells have receptors for more neurotransmitters, some have more for one, some for other neurotransmitter, but let’s simplify that by saying “GABA neuron or NA neuron”. We will now use 2 different models to explain different outcomes with the same supplement (in this case GABA). Imagine described pathways as a string of multiple neurons.
    Pathway 1: ↑GABA(int) -> ↓GABA(int) -> ↑NA(ent) – Here more activated inhibitory neuron inhibited another inhibitory neuron which reduced the inhibition of excitatory neuron and the end signal now is amplified compared to baseline – resulting in anxiety, anger, agitation;
    Pathway 2: ↑GABA(int) -> ↓NA(ent) – Here more activated inhibitory neuron inhibited excitatory neuron and the signal now is reduced compared to baseline – resulting with anxiolytic calming effects.
    It seems like most people are wired like pathway 2, while you’re like pathway one.

    Keep in mind this is oversimplified just for your understanding, there are more neurotransmitters involved and all people have both pathways, but this is just for illustration

  • Marie

    Most GABA promoting supplements I’ve tried made me feel more stressed. Any idea why this happens ?

  • John J Söder

    According to the source for that Butyrate increases GABA, it seems to be plant-cells, Not human cells.

    1. Joseph M. Cohen
  • Oskar

    While you are at writing those panacea posts about curcumin, resveratrol etc you could write one about CBD oil as well. I suspect that as a FAAH inhibitor it might be especially relevant for anyone with screwed up stress hormones, anxiety issues etc as it appears that the stress response and amygdala signalling is controlled in large part via endocannabinoid system in PFC and amygdala. Take a look at the following article for example:

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      I have a post on FAAH

  • Dylan

    Oh and to add to that, my post meal fatigue seems to be caused by high cortisol as well. Since cortisol triples when you eat, I have to eat way smaller meals earlier in the day as to avoid huge spikes, and slightly larger meals later in the day. When taking PS, I can sort of blunt the spikes, and almost have got rid of what I thought were food sensitivities but may have just been high cortisol. Maybe your theory about CRH being the culprit is correct all along. But what makes it go so high and stay so high?

  • dylan

    Nice post, bro. Lately I’ve been using very high dose phosphatidyl serine, and it has been inhibiting my over responsive HPA-axis. I’ve noticed that when my cortisol goes too high that I go hypothyroid. When I take PS, it lowers it and the hypothyroid symptoms go away, but I haven’t perfected it yet.

    According to Dr. Bryan Walsh, people with HPA-axis dysnfunction (high cortisol) should take 2 grams of PS a day. I’m close to 3 grams on some days, but nothing else works like it.

    What I’ve noticed over the last two years with hpa-axis dysfunction is that I have basically tried everything and spent allot of money to learn that doctors have no clue about what it is or how to treat it.

    It seems to me that it’s similar to PTSD, and your body overproduces cortisol in response to stress, leading to the phenomena of post exercise fatigue, and hypothyroid symptoms.

    I would surmise that extremely high levels of cortisol would cause condition much like insulin resistance when insulin is too high, it would be cortisol resistance, and since the levels of cortisol would be resisted, it would make thyroid hormone inaccessible, even though blood levels of t3 look normal.

    What causes your system to stay out of order for so long is hard to know. Could it be auto immune or pathogen driven? Could it just be genetics, and it’s sort of like buggy genetic code that allows for an infinite loop to occur.

    1. Carl Betz

      Dylan, have you found that PS is working long term? I’m taking 100mg before bed, and thats it. Also, any new info about this? I have high A.M. Cortisol (28.1) that I cant get down, seems like the CRH switch is stuck in the ON position. Bryan Walsh is definitely a leader in this space.

  • thomlandia

    Question: Are the probiotics you mainly link – Swanson 65 and Garden of Life – are they at least histamine neutral?

  • Daniela R.

    I LOVE this new kind of articles – extremely simplified and compressed amount of information.

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      Thanks, I’m trying to make articles more user-friendly, but still not dumb the content down

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