ASK NICOLE: High Cortisol Levels and Fat Burning
I have recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, a pre-cursor to hypothyroidism (my TSH and T3/T4 are still normal). I also have elevated cortisol levels from extreme stress. Can you suggest a supplement for fat burning that will help me lose abdominal fat associated with high cortisol? Stimulant based fat burners make me feel ill. Any suggestions?
With your condition, I would honestly not recommend you take any fat burning supplements. I’d suggest that you try to decrease your cortisol levels naturally. You need to make nutritional and lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stress levels and in turn decrease your cortisol levels.
You need to remember that cortisol is a necessary hormone in the body. It is activated during stress and aids the body by determining what type of energy it should use to meet its physiological demands during that specific period of stress (i.e. carbs, protein or fat). While cortisol regulates and mobilises energy, if we have too much of it, as in your case, it produces a number of negative side effects, from elevated blood sugar and weight gain to lowering immunity.
Make sure that you are getting enough high-quality lean protein. According to some studies, low protein consumption can lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels. Lean cuts of meat such as chicken and fish, along with beans and nuts, are excellent sources of protein.
Omega-3 fatty acids, available from food sources like flaxseeds, walnuts, kidney beans, olive oil and fresh cold water fish, such as salmon and tuna, help to reduce inflammation and cortisol levels.
Try stick to gluten-free grains. Foods with high gluten contents, such as those with processed flours (pasta, bread etc), lead to inflammation in the intestinal tract, which may lead to the secretion of cortisol. Gluten-free grains such as quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat should, therefore, be consumed. Stress has also been known to deplete vitamin C stores in the body, and vitamin C helps reduce cortisol levels. As such, you may want to supplement with a well-formulated vitamin C product.
Meditation is a proven way to relieve stress. It helps to calm the senses and reduce stress in the body and, in turn, reduces the production of cortisol.
Getting regular massages may also help relax the body and the mind, further reducing stress levels (and cortisol levels) almost immediately. Take a candlelit bath with ½ a cup of Epsom salts added to your water when you are feeling really stressed. This will help draw the toxins out of your body and also helps you to relax and de-stress.
Regular exercise, whether it is a gym session, a fun game of tennis or a walk around the block, all produce endorphins. These are the body’s ‘feel good’ hormones, which also help to reduce stress and elevate your mood.
Getting regular, good quality sleep at night is also extremely important. Cortisol levels are naturally lowered at night, so if you don’t get adequate, deep REM sleep at night, your cortisol levels may remain elevated.
So try the aforementioned strategies before doing anything else and see if they help! If you still don’t have success with these lifestyle and nutritional changes, then I would consider seeking professional medical advice before taking any supplementation.
All the best!