Cortisol is commonly known as the stress hormone because the human body creates more of it when we are under stress. It is released by a part of the adrenal gland called the adrenal cortex. When too much is dumped into the body, cortisol has the power to raise blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as depress immune system responses. Under normal functioning, cortisol helps fight inflammation and aids the liver in removing toxins.
One of the prime offenders at inducing high levels of cortisol is caffeine, especially in the form of coffee. If you drink more than three cups daily, it's a good bet that your adrenal gland remains chronically depleted. If you're a heavy coffee drinker, you are likely to suffer from weight gain, insomnia, depression, fatigue and a weakened immune system. Caffeine can remain in the body for up to 30 hours after ingestion, which leads to a glucose stampede into the bloodstream, followed by a fall in blood sugar. This “crash” often results in yet another pick-me-up cup of coffee that perpetuates the process even further. If you need to raise your cortisol level, out-of-control coffee drinking is not the best way.
After reducing caffeine intake, the first step in raising your cortisol level to normal is to begin nourishing the adrenal gland so it can perform more efficiently. Potassium from a variety of fruits and vegetables is the ticket. Choose from vegetables like carrots, corn, avocados, potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, lima beans, spinach, apples, as well as fruits such as bananas, oranges and peaches. As far as proteins, chicken and fish will help raise cortisol levels. If you can add enough of these foods to your diet naturally, there may be no need to take a potassium supplement. If you have a hard time filling your meals with such food, ask your doctor to recommend a good potassium supplement.
Another important bit of nutrition for a healthy adrenal gland, and subsequently a return to normal cortisol levels, is pantothenic acid. This acid is found in foods such as whole grains, broccoli, salmon, liver, tomatoes and peanuts. If you don't eat these regularly, the Natural Progesterone Advisory Network suggests you take a B-complex supplement with at least 50 mg of pantothenic acid in it. When low cortisol leads to infections or respiratory ailments, licorice root helps prolong the half-life of the cortisol that is in your system.