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58 Ways to Inhibit Your Stress Response & Decrease Cortisol

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Reviewed by Genius Labs Science Team | Last updated:

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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 also from anything that disrupts our body’s natural state of balance. Here are some tips to counteract the stresses that we face.If you are struggling with chronic health issues – the way I used to – you probably have piles of lab tests that can potentially tell you a lot about your health. Cortisol may be one of them. However, doctors never had enough time to explain it properly. They will only notice it if the lab flags your test results as outside of normal. But what if all your results are coming back normal, yet you know you are feeling nowhere near healthy? They may even tell you there is nothing wrong with you, and that it’s all in your head – I’ve been there.

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 [1]
  2. Positive social encounters [2]
  3. Laughing/being happy [3]
  4. Spending time in nature [4]
  5. Diaphragmatic breathing [5]
  6. Meditation [6, 7]
  7. Yoga [89]
  8. Being physically active – Lowers cortisol in the longer term [10].
  9. Regular dancing [3]
  10. Massage therapy [11]
  11. Music therapy [3]
  12. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
  13. Napping after sleep loss [12]
  14. Glucose restriction/fasting (Be careful) [13]
  15. Chewing – Lowers CRH [14]

Foods to Lower Your Stress Response

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  2. Salmon and other fatty (High Omega 3) fish [15]
  3. Turmeric [16]
  4. Green tea/L-Theanine [17]
  5. Dark Chocolate [18]

Supplements to Lower Your Stress Response

Some of these are in animal studies.

  1. Curcumin
  2. Fish Oil/DHA [3, 19]
  3. Rhodiola/Salidroside [20]
  4. Magnesium [21, 22, 2321]
  5. Zinc [24]
  6. Selenium [25]
  7. Probiotics [26]
  8. Black Cumin Seed Oil [27]
  9. Lysine [25]
  10. Vitamin C [25]
  11. St John’s Wort [28]
  12. Oxytocin [2]
  13. Phosphatidylserine [3]
  14. Aromatherapy (orange essential oil) [29]
  15. Schisandra – Lowers cortisol [30].
  16. Holy Basil/Tulsi – (in rats) [31]
  17. Tribulus – Lowers CRH and cortisol [32].
  18. Ginseng – Blocks ACTH [33]. Especially for chronic stress [34].
  19. Cordyceps – Reduces stress markers (in rats) [35].
  20. Ginkgo – Especially for acute stress [34].
  21. Apigenin – (in cellular models) [36, 37]

GABA Promoting Supplements That Lower Your Stress Response

GABAergics inhibit the HPA axis. This includes GABAB [38, 39] or GABAA [4041].

GABA Promoting Supplements include:

  1. Butyrate [42]
  2. Ketogenic diets – In ketosis, less glutamate is metabolized and more is made into GABA [43]. Contradictory [44].
  3. Honokiol (from Magnolia) [25]
  4. Theanine [25]
  5. Hops [25]
  6. Chinese Skullcap [25]
  7. Kava [25]
  8. Valerian [25]
  9. Taurine (high dosage) [45]
  10. Ashwagandha (weak) [46]
  11. Bacopa (weak) [47]

Hormones That Lower Your Stress Response

  1. Progesterone [25]
  2. GHRH (in men, but not women) [48]

Devices to Lower Your Stress Response

  1. PEMF – depends on the device used [49]
  2. tDCS (Transcranial direct current stimulation) [50]
  3. TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) – CRH production and release [51, 52]
  4. Electroacupuncture – Decreased CRH in a rat model of IBS [53].

Irregular Cortisol Levels?

LabTestAnalyzer helps you make sense of your lab results. It informs you which labs are not in the optimal range and gives you guidance about how to get them to optimal. It also allows you to track your labs over time. No need to do thousands of hours of research on what to make of your lab tests.

LabTestAnalyzer is a sister company of SelfHacked. The proceeds from your purchase of this product are reinvested into our research and development, in order to serve you better. Thank you for your support.

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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