s5 e2: a holistic approach to optimizing cortisol levels

how to reduce cortisol levels

A Holistic Approach To Optimizing Cortisol Levels

Stress is a part of everyday life, especially in the fast-paced society we live in today. Many people are aware that having too much stress isn’t good for their health and have at least some idea that stress can cause both physical and mental issues. But what do we do about it? How can we mitigate unnecessary stressors and make our bodies more resilient to the unavoidable stressors in our day to day? That’s what I want to talk about in today’s podcast episode! 

As always, this podcast episode is not medical advice. Please talk with your provider before implementing any changes. 

5 main areas we will cover:

  1. Minimizing stressors using nourishment and blood sugar
  2. Supporting minerals for a healthy stress response
  3. The impact of light exposure on cortisol levels and circadian rhythm
  4. How information, inputs, and stimulation can be a blessing and a curse
  5. Your daily rhythm’s impact on stress hormones and minerals

Master Your Minerals Course

Free Resources:

Free Healthy Period Starter Guide
Mineral Imbalance Quiz
Mineral Training
Thyroid Training
Feminine Periodical (monthly newsletter)


Adrenal cocktail blog

Rayvi link

Pickleball link

Light & Circadian Rhythm podcast episode

Cortisol being higher at rest

Information/Social Media

Light exposure studies:

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Amanda Montalvo [00:00:00]:

You. All right, we are on episode two of season five, talking about a holistic approach to optimizing Cortisol. I feel like cortisol is a very trendy word. Lately I often get questions about how do I optimize my cortisol level, how do I lower cortisol is probably like the most common one. Or how do I raise cortisol. Someone has done lab testing and they have very low levels. And so I thought I would put together an episode that goes through five main areas that I like to focus on when I’m thinking about how can I help this person have healthy Cortisol levels. Because we don’t always want to lower them or raise them.

Amanda Montalvo [00:00:42]:

We want to understand why are they out of balance in the first place. So the fine being areas that I’m going to cover are nourishment and blood sugar, of course, supporting minerals for a healthy stress response. And I’m going to go through some tips on how to do that. Light exposure is a big one. I’m going to talk a little bit about circadian rhythm too, but I have a previous episode on that. So I’m going to link it information inputs and stimulation, another huge area for Cortisol levels. And then talking about your daily rhythm, what does that look like, how can we support that to help, again, optimize? Because if we’re not looking at all these areas and getting a full picture as to why Cortisol is higher low out of balance, whatever that imbalance may be for you, then I just think it’s doing a disservice. And it’s not going to help you get those long term optimal levels of Cortisol.

Amanda Montalvo [00:01:31]:

That’s healthy, and it’s going to help you feel good. And ultimately we’re never going to get rid of all stress. I think that’s something where now people know that stress isn’t having too much stress isn’t good for us. They know it’s going to probably have some impact on their mental and physical health if it’s in excess. And it’s kind of like, okay, but what do we do about it? We live in a very fast paced society, right? It’s difficult to limit our unavoidable stressors and manage the necessary ones. So it’s one of those things where I think that there’s a lot we can do personally on a daily basis, but it can take time to work on building these habits. So that’s what I’m going to talk about today. Remember, you can always get additional resources, bonus episodes and regular Q and A’s inside my patreon.

Amanda Montalvo [00:02:24]:

It’s just patreon.com hormonehealingrd. I did a really good bonus episode for episode one of season five where I talked about how to eat to support your hormones. It’s a food journal that is going to be a huge part of how you’re going to support healthy Cortisol levels as well. And as always, before I dig in, just remember, I’m a dietitian but I’m not your dietitian. So you want to make sure that any of the changes that I’m talking about making, you would run by your provider before you implement anything, just to make sure it’s right for you, because this isn’t medical advice. All right, so let’s dig into what happens when our body experiences stressor and just like what cortisol is first, if anyone is not familiar. So cortisol is our body’s main stress hormone. It’s a big part of what allows us to respond appropriately to stress.

Amanda Montalvo [00:03:14]:

So I understand the people’s concern around having healthy cortisol levels. I often find people are trying to lower their cortisol. But unless you’ve done lab testing that measures your cortisol levels, which I always recommend the Dutch urine test, because you don’t want to just see free cortisol. That’s what saliva or blood levels look at, just free cortisol. It doesn’t tell you how much your body is actually making. It just tells you how much is hanging out in your system. And those are two very different things. So I always recommend Dutch testing for cortisol levels.

Amanda Montalvo [00:03:46]:

It’s a urine test. Do it at home. We want healthy cortisol levels, and if they are high, it’s usually because your body’s probably really stressed. So my question is, why would we want to lower your cortisol levels if you are stressed? Because we want your body to respond appropriately to stress. And whenever I’m looking at cortisol panel, like a Dutch test, if it is high and the person is stressed, I’m like, okay, you’re having an appropriate stress response. So it’s not always the cortisol that we want to change. It’s usually the stress in our day to day. Or maybe it’s a deeper hidden stressor from something like a gut health issue.

Amanda Montalvo [00:04:22]:

Maybe it’s mental emotional stressors in our lives. So trying to address more of, like, the why and what’s causing that higher low level is the thing that I try to focus on. And if your cortisol is too low, especially if you haven’t done any testing, I think a lot of people assume that it’s high because they’re like, I’ve been super stressed. I’ve been dealing with this stuff for a long time. Maybe they feel very stimulated and like, they’re constantly in fight or flight. If you lower that cortisol and maybe your levels aren’t high or your body’s not producing a lot, and it’s just kind of hanging out in your system because you have some dysfunction in your stress response, you’re not going to feel good. You’re probably going to be dealing with more fatigue. You’re not going to handle stress as well, which does not feel good in your day to day.

Amanda Montalvo [00:05:08]:

It basically means you don’t have the capacity for things as much. And overall, mentally and physically, you’re probably not going to feel like yourself. You’re probably not going to respond to exercise well or even have the motivation to do it. It can have a huge impact on your mood. So if you haven’t done testing, don’t just willy nilly take supplements for cortisol. And before you do testing, I would say focus on all these areas first, because most of the time we pay for this expensive testing. And then the recommendations that we’re getting, we’re like, oh, it’s all the stuff that I should be working on. That’s what’s really going to improve it.

Amanda Montalvo [00:05:44]:

I just find that people are often looking for a supplement without addressing all those other areas, and that’s not going to really improve your cortisol. Long term, you cannot out supplement stress, and you can’t supplement yourself into healthy cortisol levels long term. Like, you can’t improve your stress response just with supplements because your whole body will affect it. So what actually happens when we experience a stressor? I’m going to keep this super simple so if I have practitioners listening, yes, I’m leaving some stuff out because I don’t want to cause a bunch of confusion for people. I just want you to generally understand what’s happening when we experience a stressor. So, number one, our brains are notified that there’s a stress present. Now, this could be mental, emotional or physical stressor. It doesn’t matter the type of stress.

Amanda Montalvo [00:06:31]:

Your brain gets notified. Like, you could have a stressor in your gut that you don’t even know about, and you still have this stress response happening. So your brain is notified of the stressor. Our hypothalamus, which is a gland at the base of our brain, activates our sympathetic nervous system. This is also known as fight or flight. And through this, this triggers our adrenal glands. I feel like everyone talks about their adrenals. My adrenals are exhausted.

Amanda Montalvo [00:06:55]:

I have adrenal fatigue. But your adrenals are only one part of the stress response. Your brain, your hypothalamus also communicates with literally every other hormonal system in the body. Communicates with your ovaries, your thyroid, your gut is going to have a big impact as well. So we never want to just isolate cortisol issues to the adrenals. We want to, again, like, big picture, keep the whole person in mind so your hypothalamus gets alerted, activates that sympathetic nervous system. Your adrenal glands then release stress hormones, the main one being cortisol and then epinephrine and norepinephrine. Those are also adrenaline and DHEA.

Amanda Montalvo [00:07:33]:

Those are like the big things, big players that are getting released. This increase in stress hormones then leads to more alertness. That’s why a lot of people, an increase in stress can feel good. I think of when people are like, oh, I feel so good when I do intermittent fasting, usually, like, in the beginning before their body gets super depleted, because they’re like, I’m more alert when I haven’t eaten yet. And I’m like, yeah, because you’re running off of stress hormones, your body’s making cortisol so you’re more alert. So stress can feel good. That’s why I think so many people are addicted to it. But we get more alertness.

Amanda Montalvo [00:08:10]:

Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure increases, and this all provides a big burst of energy and it helps to deliver more oxygen to our tissues because that heart rate and blood pressure are increasing. More oxygen, more nutrients. This is going to go to our muscles, our brain and other essential organs. So stress, typically that stress response can feel good when we’re getting this too much over time, or we’re like, we don’t have the resources to back it up like minerals. Then you can feel very scattered and like it’s too much. But that’s like a typical healthy stress response. Our breathing typically starts to pick up too, because your body is trying to boost that oxygen supply. And that’s going to support any physical activity that we have to do, right? Maybe.

Amanda Montalvo [00:08:57]:

Because again, your body doesn’t know if it’s like a mental or physical stressor. It’s going to react the same way no matter what. We also get an increase in glucose in our system. So this is kind of the other part of the puzzle when it comes to the stress response. Yes, we’re getting stress hormones. Yes, we’re getting more oxygen and nutrients to different parts of the body, but we’re also getting more glucose. And so your Cortisol tells your liver to break down stored glucose and releases it into the bloodstream. And this is just a very quick and easy energy source for the body.

Amanda Montalvo [00:09:27]:

So very important helps us to have any sort of physical response that we may have to engage in when we’re dealing with stress. And it’s one of those things where that’s why your blood sugar can be higher in the morning, like if you’re fasted, if your stress hormones are higher, because that Cortisol causes your liver to break down. Glucose for energy. The last big thing that’s happening is the suppression of nonessential functions in the body. Our body’s main goal is always going to be to keep us alive. So during a stress response, it’s going to prioritize all those things for that immediate survival response. And then it’s going to delay things like digestion, reproduction, so that it can save that energy for what matters most, which is survival. So that is our stress response in a very short and brief summary.

Amanda Montalvo [00:10:19]:

So our brain gets alerted, our Hepathalma cells, our adrenals to make stress hormones like Cortisol that ups our heart rate, our alertness, our energy, our glucose levels, and it leads to a suppression of nonessential functions like hormone production and digestion. So you can easily see most likely by this point how if we are in this state all the time, it can lead to health issues. And I think most people recognize that because we’re not going to support those essential functions like digestion and hormone production. And over time, when we’re constantly releasing these hormones, it can affect our mineral status, our sex hormones, our thyroid, so many different things. So we want a healthy stress response. We want to support a healthy stress response. We just want to make sure that we’re not living in a way where we are in this state all the time. So the first big area to help address this and support a healthy stress response and make sure we’re not in fight or flight is going to be nutrition and blood sugar.

Amanda Montalvo [00:11:17]:

And this is one where I truly believe it is one of the best ways to make your body more resilient to stress through the food that you’re eating. If we can balance our blood sugar, we can minimize so many fluctuations in Cortisol because if we have a blood sugar decrease, then we’re going to have an increase in Cortisol because our body’s, like our blood sugar is too low. Again, survival mode kicks in and then we’ll tell our liver to release glucose into the bloodstream. And so it’s not terrible for doing that sometimes, right? It’s survival. But if we are constantly skipping meals, not being mindful of that, then going for long periods without eating, then that can really have an impact on your stress hormones over time if we’re doing that chronically. So that’s a really big one. And something where I talked all about this in episode one where I talked about how to eat to support your hormones. I went through kind of like how to create safety with nutrition.

Amanda Montalvo [00:12:17]:

I went through six main principles that support your blood sugar, like nutrition strategies you can work on and I talked about many other areas. But I would say if you haven’t listened to that episode, I don’t want to repeat everything here, otherwise it’s going to be very long, but please listen. That previous episode, I’ll link it in the show notes. There’s just a couple of things I want to highlight from it because I think they’re extra important and if you haven’t listened, I hope it encourages you to go check it out. But eating enough and following a predictable routine most days or having like if you have different types of days, having a routine for those types of days and having some sort of plan is incredibly important and helpful. If we are undereating, that’s a stressor, right? That’s a stressor in and of itself. If we’re going really long stretches without food, again, another stressor that’s going to lead to more Cortisol release. So I know these two things can be really hard and they can take a lot of effort, especially if you’re very far away from that right now.

Amanda Montalvo [00:13:13]:

But they are worth the effort and they’re usually the things that people are like, I know I should be doing, but I’m not. So then they try to do like lab testing and all this other stuff and skip ahead to the more advanced stuff and they don’t see the progress that they want and it’s because they’re missing that foundation. So if you’re trying to find supplements to fix your Cortisol levels, I’m probably not the person for you. But if you’re like I’m ready to focus more on the basics and the things that I know are going to help me long term, then I would definitely listen to the episode. I go through how to know if you’re eating enough and give specific steps. I also have the food Journal Bonus in Patreon, but that’s like a huge part of it. Eating enough, eating regularly, some sort of predictable routine. Again, doesn’t have to be the same exact thing.

Amanda Montalvo [00:14:00]:

It’s more just like a rhythm. Does your body know that you feed yourself regularly? Once it does, that’s huge and it’s so helpful for your hormones. The other big thing is nutrition strategies support blood sugar. They’re especially helpful for the stress hormones because of how they can impact cortisol, right? Low blood sugar equals more cortisol and then that kind of puts you on a cortisol and blood sugar roller coaster the rest of the day. So I went through the top six in that episode. Definitely listen to it. I would say the number one that is the easiest to do, it doesn’t require you to really change anything that you’re already doing is to and it’s the first thing I have my clients do is to prioritize protein rich foods first. This helps to slow down how quickly you are getting that entire meal, all that glucose, the carbohydrates from that meal into your bloodstream, and that just leads to a smaller spike.

Amanda Montalvo [00:14:52]:

Now, we don’t want to never have blood sugar spikes, right? We want to have a healthy blood sugar response. We want to be able to handle glucose. But if we already have a lot of stressors in our day to day, or like if we’re in a season of life that’s more physically demanding on our bodies, like I think of pregnancy and postpartum or menopause, I mean, that’s another big one where you’ve had hormonal shifts that are changing how your body responds to glucose. Then that’s a time where making these changes and focusing more on like, how can I minimize these big blood sugar spikes throughout the day and make it so they’re more just like these tiny little waves versus like a big mountain, right? Eating your protein rich food first, or at least partly before you get the carbohydrate rich food in will help you do that. Again, you don’t have to change anything else. It’s like a very easy quick win and it’s a good habit to get into. So please listen to the whole first episode if you feel like the nutrition aspect is one where you are lacking. And I really do think it’s the most important for healthy cortisol levels because again, your food is going to have such a big impact on your blood sugar and that’s going to have a really big impact on your cortisol levels.

Amanda Montalvo [00:16:03]:

Then check out that episode. The next big area also has to do with food, but supporting minerals for a healthy stress response. So not only can we minimize our stressors, unnecessary stressors, like not eating for long periods or having blood sugar imbalances, I would say those are like unnecessary. Those are things that you have control over. We can minimize those with nutrition, but we can also strengthen our body’s ability to have a healthy stress response and handle stress with adequate minerals. Minerals are huge. They work like spark plugs in the body. I’ve said this a million times.

Amanda Montalvo [00:16:41]:

They’re like helpers, right? So they don’t just kick off reactions, but they help your body actually carry them out. They’re called cofactors, which just means they help different processes happen. And without them, our body can’t carry them out correctly. It has backup mechanisms, but they’re not as strong. And then we start using other resources in the body and create other deficiencies. So if we can have adequate levels of certain minerals, then that can help us have an appropriate stress response. And one example of how minerals are cofactors is stress. So one of the first minerals used up in the stress response is magnesium.

Amanda Montalvo [00:17:18]:

We then will utilize sodium and potassium. And if magnesium gets depleted, say we don’t have adequate levels or we’re in the season of chronic stress, then we’re going to start to use up zinc. And then that’s going to cause more potassium loss. So minerals all impact each other. They’re very synergistic, meaning they work together. And if one gets used up or a level of one decreases, then it can also lead to more of a decrease in another mineral like zinc and potassium. So when we don’t have adequate levels of magnesium and sodium, our bodies are actually more stressed because they know that they can’t respond to that same stress response appropriately. For example, like magnesium was one when I did that magnesium deep dive.

Amanda Montalvo [00:18:01]:

It’s one where I had a great visual of like, the body experiences a stressor, uses that magnesium, magnesium becomes sufficient, and then that causes the body to experience a stressor. Again, same thing with sodium. They’re such important minerals that when they get depleted, our body experiences stress because it’s like, okay, we need more of these in order to function properly. So obviously we can minimize unnecessary stressors. It’s important, it’s helpful. But replenishing minerals and making sure you’re eating enough and eating regularly and supporting your nutrition and nourishment on a daily basis is what’s going to help you have a healthy stress response right now and in the future. So some of my top tips for replenishing minerals in the most simple way you don’t have to have lab testing in order to know whether or not you should do these is just one is generally salting your food. That’s a great way to get sodium on a regular basis.

Amanda Montalvo [00:19:00]:

Sodium is one where I wouldn’t go too hard on unless you have done lab testing. Because if we increase it too quickly, like if we’re like, okay, I’m going to start adding sea salt to everything and also having adrenal cocktails. If we have very low sodium levels when we do that, we can actually experience fluid retention because our body is trying to adjust to this increase in sodium that it is not used to. We can avoid that fluid retention if we also increase potassium, because potassium, as we increase potassium, it helps get rid of excess sodium. So those are two minerals that work very closely together. But salting your food generally works for most people. I don’t think we need to overdo salt. I think people focus a lot on sodium and salt when they have stress concerns and not enough on potassium.

Amanda Montalvo [00:19:53]:

Potassium is so important. It’s really important for healthy stress response, healthy blood sugar, healthy thyroid function, healthy digestion, and many more, and healthy blood pressure. So it’s one of those where if you can focus on sodium and potassium first together, I think that that is like a great, great way to get started. It can help you in many different areas. Potassium is a really cool one where it can support optimal digestion, like motility in your gut. So a lot of our clients that are constipated, we work on upping their potassium. And that’s like one of the first things that really helps their constipation. So really big one.

Amanda Montalvo [00:20:30]:

My favorite ways to get potassium, you can get it from roots and fruits, of course. Potatoes, tomatoes, winter squash, sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, cooked spinach, cooked Swiss chard has like a ton of potassium in there. You can get 350 to 650 milligrams per one cup serving of those foods. So a good amount, the recommended amount that I recommend for most people would be about 4700 milligrams a day. If someone’s like pregnant or breastfeeding, I’m usually like closer to 5000 milligrams. Again, talk to your doctor. I’m not your dietitian, so I don’t know what’s best for you. But generally that is a good amount for people in that season or if they have a deficiency.

Amanda Montalvo [00:21:13]:

So potassium from those food sources, I often get people that are like, what about low carb potassium sources? Easy. There’s a ton of potassium in meat and seafood. Beef, chicken, pork, salmon has a ton of potassium. I think it’s like 6oz has like 700 milligrams or something. So that’s a great one to get. Cotton shrimp are another good one as well. So even just like, ground beef has like at least 400 milligrams and like a four ounce serving, I believe. So that’s significant.

Amanda Montalvo [00:21:43]:

You’re going to be getting potassium from most of the foods that you eat, but roots and fruits, meat and seafood, dairy is another one where you can get a good amount. Milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, that sort of thing. You’re going to get about three to 600 milligrams per one cup serving. And then beans and legumes, another great source that’s going to have lots of good fibers. So that if you are someone that can tolerate those foods, then I would definitely include them. One cup serving is going to have four to 600 milligrams and then beverages, right? These are the ones where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck. But I still think we should have a variety. We can get a little too caught up in the beverages, but coconut water is going to have a significant amount.

Amanda Montalvo [00:22:27]:

There’s about 600 milligrams and one cup of coconut water. Aloe vera juice is another one. I always recommend the inner leaf, but there’s 470 milligrams and half a cup of aloe. So it’s another really great source. Those are my two top favorite liquid sources and ones that I definitely recommend if someone is struggling with constipation as well and then drinking adrenal cocktails. So the food sources for sure, getting potassium from food, using sea salt on your meals, that’s going to give you a nice mix of sodium potassium in general. And then if you want to utilize adrenal cocktails as well, those are a mix of sodium, potassium and whole food. Vitamin C, great for your adrenals.

Amanda Montalvo [00:23:09]:

Of course, that’s like where they get the name from. They’ve got the nutrients that support healthy adrenal function. Vitamin C is very important for the stress response. And I have a ton of recipes on my blog. I’ll link to the blog in the show notes, but those are like my top ways for getting some sort of increase in sodium potassium. For adrenal cocktails, I always get like, how much do you have in a day? I would say like, for most people, one to two a day is plenty. Sometimes the women are pregnant and breastfeeding, they need more. Sometimes if we’re super stressed, we need more.

Amanda Montalvo [00:23:42]:

And sometimes if you’re craving them, then I would say, like, just listen to that. Again, tons of recipes on my blog. The basic, basic adrenal cocktail recipe that I love the most is 4oz of coconut water, quarter teaspoon of sea salt and a lime. You could also do this 8oz of coconut water for more potassium. If you want to get more, you don’t have to use the whole lime. I like it very limey citrusy, so you can make it work for you. And with adrenal cocktails, I would say you can’t mess it up. I often get messages online of people asking like, well, what if I did this, this and this instead? Or what if I sub this? I’m like, you’re probably still getting pretty close to the amount of sodium and potassium and vitamin C.

Amanda Montalvo [00:24:26]:

I would just do what, one, you enjoy and two is easy for you that you know you’re going to implement, right? If we look at the recipe and we’re like, oh, I don’t have all the things for I don’t have time to make it, and it’s not working for you, then I would think about, how can I alter this so that it will work for me? I personally make, like, a two to three day batch of them at a time and just have a big glass jug that I keep in my fridge because everyone in my house drinks them. So we usually go through it pretty quickly. So I make them in bulk because it’s just not realistic for me to stop and just make one. And usually I’m making more anyway because my daughter is going to want one if I’m drinking it. So that’s an easy way to do it. They also make powders now that are awesome. Like Jigsaw makes an adrenal cocktail powder. I’m going to be honest, doesn’t taste very good.

Amanda Montalvo [00:25:13]:

So if you buy it, don’t at me telling me how bad it tastes. I know. So I usually will just mix it with a little bit of diluted orange juice. Like if I’m traveling and I’m trying to make it easy for myself, I’ll bring the powder and I’ll just mix it with like diluted orange juice or coconut water or something. But I usually use either ravy, which is a powdered coconut water blend. It’s very high in potassium. It has potassium, vitamin C, and only a little bit of sodium. So I add a pinch of sea salt to the ravy powder.

Amanda Montalvo [00:25:44]:

You just mix it with water and then I also love Pickleball by Jigsaw. Again, that’s very high potassium, not a ton of sodium. So I always add a pinch of sea salt as well. But those make it so easy to have things on the go if you’re going on vacation, if you’re getting back from travel and you don’t have anything made. I also try to get more potassium because usually pregnant or breastfeeding. So that is one where I can increase it through that as well. Again, you want to get foods, too. You don’t just want to get supplements, but they can be very helpful.

Amanda Montalvo [00:26:15]:

And the ravy one is food based, so I’ll link those in the show notes as well. The last big thing for replenishing minerals, like easy things that everyone can kind of get started with is using topical forms of magnesium. If you have tested your minerals and you know that your sodium levels are good, then you could take an oral magnesium. But if you listen to the sodium and magnesium episodes from last season, then you know that if you have low sodium, you want to avoid magnesium supplements like the oral ones because they can actually lower sodium levels and make it very hard to increase low sodium and potassium. So that’s one where if you haven’t tested, don’t worry. Topical types are usually where I recommend people start anyway. So you can get like a magnesium spray or a lotion. I love ancient minerals.

Amanda Montalvo [00:27:02]:

The spray is going to have more magnesium than the lotion will, but the lotion is really nice for people with sensitive skin. They make a sensitive skin spray. But I’ve had clients still. Say that it’s still sensitive. So the lotion usually works though. They also have like bass salts. You can just get a plain Epsom salt. I would just avoid anything that’s got like fragrances and stuff in it, but just regular bass salts are good.

Amanda Montalvo [00:27:27]:

A lot of other companies are starting to add magnesium to things too, like Humble Hive Co. I love them. They have really good beef tallow bombs and stuff. I get their sunscreen. It’s like tallow based, but it has zinc in it. And they make a magnesium one now too. So very cool. So it’s much easier to find these sources.

Amanda Montalvo [00:27:49]:

But the spray lotion is very easy. You can always take up some salt baths too. If you have kids and you’re like, I never have time to take a bath, then put it in their bath and then put your feet in. That’s what I do with my daughter. And that’s like a great way to get regular exposure. But those are very easy, simple ways to get started with supporting your minerals that you don’t necessarily have to have lab testing for. And they’re the ones that are really good to address first before you dig into any other minerals. So hopefully you implement some of that if you have not already.

Amanda Montalvo [00:28:23]:

But that’s going to help support a healthy stress response because of that sodium and potassium and magnesium. So that’s your minerals. The next big area, light exposure. This is one where it has a huge impact on our Cortisol levels in both good and not so good ways. Like, let’s take blue light, for example. Blue light can actually stimulate cortisol production, which can be very helpful because we want to get light exposure soon after waking. That’s when our Cortisol should be the highest in the morning. So you can say like you’re struggling with energy, you think you’re not responding to stress as well, so you want to support your Cortisol levels after you wake up.

Amanda Montalvo [00:29:06]:

Trying to get outside within the first couple of hours is a great way to get blue light in your eyes and just tell your body that it’s daytime and you need to make Cortisol. You can also do it with artificial blue light, like in your home, turning on all the lights in your home or like one of those happy lights or something. All those are going to make a difference. But obviously natural blue light from the sun would be the best option. Even if it’s not super bright out, it still helps. So even by a window, whatever it is, trying to get some sort of light in the morning, it’s a great way to boost cortisol production in the morning. This can also help with our Cortisol pattern throughout the day because it should be highest in the morning peaks, and then it should go down throughout the day and be the lowest at night so that we can make melatonin and then sleep. If cortisol is too high at night, it’s going to oppose Melatonin and your production will be lower.

Amanda Montalvo [00:29:59]:

And then of course, Melatonin helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. So that can have a big impact on your sleep and quality of sleep and how you wake when you get up in the morning. So blue light is a big one. I think a lot of people are very aware of blue light now and they wear a lot of blue light blocking glasses and we want to be mindful of that. You want to think about what does your blue light exposure look like throughout the day. Ideally it’s matching the sun, right? And this can help support healthy cortisol levels, especially in the morning time. So I personally use a ring light during the day. You can probably see it here.

Amanda Montalvo [00:30:40]:

And it’s not just for the lighting, obviously on the podcast it is, but I use this when I’m working during the day because this, even though it’s artificial blue light, this is still telling my body, because it’s so bright in my face, that it is daytime. This is when we make cortisol. It’s really great for focus. So it’s something that I put on when I start working and then I’ll shut it off, usually around 02:00 when I stop because that’s typically when my daughter’s waking up. So it’s one of those things where I think it can be very beneficial. I know a lot of people that entrepreneurs like friends and stuff that do this too. And it’s not just like the lighting effect, it’s that it’s like it can actually increase your cognitive ability and focus because it’s impacting your cortisol during the day and then you can turn it off when you’re done working. Or I would still say like probably in the afternoon, turn it off.

Amanda Montalvo [00:31:33]:

And then ideally you can kind of slowly reduce your blue light exposure as the day goes on, matching the sun. So this is going to tell your body, okay, it was daytime, it’s getting later in the day, we’re working during the day. Of course we’re getting blue light from our computers as well. But having that extra light and just that bright light can be helpful, especially if you deal with fatigue. I would definitely try it if you deal with fatigue. And I don’t think it has to be any particular light, just like a regular bright light. And then as you go throughout the evening and nighttime gets darker out, you can start to reduce your blue light in your home as much as you can, whatever’s realistic. And then of course it’s going to shift depending on the time of year.

Amanda Montalvo [00:32:15]:

But that’s going to help have healthy cortisol levels in the morning throughout the day and then they should be decreasing as the day goes on. So remember, blue light equals makes cortisol promoting. We want that in the morning, during the day, and then as we want our Cortisol levels to dropping, get us prepared for bedtime, we want that exposure to decrease. So of course that’s like devices, the lights in our home, all those types of things, if we can start to reduce those, then that’s going to help. I love dimmers. I don’t know if anyone else has like a ton of light dimmers in their home, but that is one that I’ve really enjoyed. I didn’t realize how easy they were to put in, but it’s one of those things where it’s like you can slowly start to dim the lights as it gets later and later, but still have some light because for a while we use salt lamps, which are also great option. But I will say, like, the dimmers make it a lot easier, especially with a kid, because you need to see things at nighttime.

Amanda Montalvo [00:33:13]:

I don’t want her bumping into stuff. So typically I would say if you can do light dimmers if you own your home, wherever you live, they’re really easy to put in yourself. I’ve had friends in the past that went way overboard with trying to reduce their blue light and they actually removed all blue light exposure in their home and it actually messed with their sleep because they weren’t getting enough blue light. So yes, I feel like all we hear are negative things about blue light now. But it’s like you want the blue light exposure during the day at the right time, and then you want to slowly start to reduce it. If you feel very invested in this, get dimmers because I’m telling you, they’ll change your life. And then you’re not just like in the complete dark once it’s dark, but it’s a big one and I think it can have a huge impact, especially if someone’s really struggling with low or high Cortisol in the morning time. Get outside or get some bright light in your face, even if it’s artificial, and then really try to reduce that as you go throughout the day.

Amanda Montalvo [00:34:16]:

This blue light will also have a big impact on our blood sugar, which is another reason it impacts our Cortisol levels. Research shows that blue light exposure at night can reduce glucose tolerance and impact how much insulin we’re releasing. So basically this means that we can release less insulin after dark and have higher blood sugar levels, which will eventually lead to a low blood sugar and a release of stress hormones. So that’s kind of another way. Not only can blue light exposure increase how much Cortisol we’re making, it can also affect how well we’re using that glucose in our blood sugar levels, which will increase Cortisol as well. So light exposure is huge, obviously. Get outside. I mean, I think that everyone kind of knows that.

Amanda Montalvo [00:35:00]:

Get outside as much as you can. It really does make a difference. That’s why you sleep so well when you’re outside so much, because you’re giving so much that blue light at the right times, and then you have less and less exposure. So that’s a really big one. That’s light. Get light in the morning, reduce it throughout the day. Use bright light in your face if you have to work in an office or at home and you’re not outside. And then use dimmers to reduce it throughout the day and night.

Amanda Montalvo [00:35:29]:

Okay, the next big area information inputs and stimulation. This is a big one, and it’s one that I felt like I had to include because when I talk to clients, women in my course community, and just even friends and people in my life in general, I just feel like a lot of people are overwhelmed by the amount of information that’s available today. We live in the information age, and we are taking in more now than we ever have. It’s estimated that people receive about 105,000 words a day, or 23 words per second during their waking hours through their phones, TV, email, social media, podcasts, anything like that. And that’s from 2019, so this is probably way higher now. In 2011, there was a study done that shows we get 174 newspapers worth of information a day. That’s a lot. And that’s only your leisure time.

Amanda Montalvo [00:36:26]:

That does not include work time. And depending on the type of job you have, you could be taking in tons of information. I’m always taking in tons of research and stuff, so I can’t even imagine how many newspapers I technically read a day. But it’s a lot for our brains. They are amazing. Our brains can do really cool things. We have over a billion neurons that can make even more connections. But I really do wonder how much information is too much.

Amanda Montalvo [00:36:54]:

If we think about it. I think now we get like 34GB of information every day. And this was again studied from like a few years ago. 1GB is one truck full of paper. So that’s 34 truckfuls of paper that we’re getting exposed to, it’s just so much that I don’t know how it could not have an impact on someone’s mental health and physical health through the stress that it can cause. But it’s also a good thing because we have so much information at our fingertips, we can get answers to our questions, especially with our health, and maybe we’re not getting the information that we need from our doctors. So we’re going and doing our own research. I think it can be truly life changing.

Amanda Montalvo [00:37:40]:

Obviously I put a ton of information out online, but I also think it can be a curse because a lot of times people are experiencing overwhelm from how much they’re taking in. And this can be so hard on a healing journey. I just really feel for people that are, like, struggling on their healing journey don’t really know where to turn because they are taking in so much information from so many different people. A lot of it’s conflicting and it can make everything so confusing and stressful. This is in especially a lot of times, especially with free information because you’re just getting in as much as you can from a bunch of different sources and it’s not all streamlined and made super easy for you to understand. So it’s tricky. I think there’s so many pros with the amount of information at our fingertips, but I think there’s also a lot of cons. And I couldn’t not mention it when it comes to healthy stress levels because I think that if you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you can’t spend a lot of time on social media, maybe you’re not subscribing to all the best newsletters, all that sort of thing.

Amanda Montalvo [00:38:45]:

You are like I don’t really listen to that many podcasts. I know there’s so many great health podcasts and stuff. I think that’s normal. I listen to pretty much no podcasts. Some of my friends have good ones and I listen to a few episodes but I just can’t take it anymore than I already do. I have to actively reduce it because it is too much. And especially just like the amount of research I do for my job. Maybe we have a hard client case or creating a podcast episode or making new resources for my Master Mineral students.

Amanda Montalvo [00:39:18]:

The amount of reading that I’m doing, it’s just so much. And then to also open an app and try to engage with people on there and see what all my friends are doing and all that, it’s just like way too much for me the majority of the time. Everyone’s on threads now and I was like, I made the account and then I went on there for like 2 seconds and I was like, no, I absolutely cannot do this. And I just think it’s okay if you feel like that too, if you’re like hey, I feel way better when I’m taking in less information. Yes, we want to learn, we want to constantly be growing, but so often we’re taking in a ton of information and we’re not even taking action on it. We’re just getting confused and stressed and just in this state of freeze. So I would really check the amount of information you take in how you feel when you’re reading something or following someone and put boundaries and limits on that because I just find that most of the time people are just wanting more and more and more information but it’s like are you taking action on it? Is it helping you? Is it actually helping you move the needle or is it keeping you from taking action and making you feel more overwhelmed? Because that is one thing where we have control over this for the most part. So I think it’s an area that could greatly reduce mental and emotional stress.

Amanda Montalvo [00:40:35]:

But it’s also one of those things that a lot of us enjoy being online and engaging and reading things. So just trying to find what feels healthy for you, I think is so important, but take in less information. 34 truckloads. I was like, that’s insane. The last thing I want to talk about, definitely one of the most important ones when it comes to cortisol is our daily rhythm. So we couldn’t talk about stress hormones if I didn’t talk about how we’re living every day because this is what leads to more stress hormones release, right. What pace are you living at every day? A lot of us are addicted to cortisol stress hormones and are addicted to constantly doing being in that fight or flight state because that’s what we’re used to, right? I think about women especially. I feel like women are extra addicted to cortisol.

Amanda Montalvo [00:41:28]:

I know I absolutely was. And it’s something that I do have to like, check myself on a regular basis. Just having an online business, it’s hard to not get caught up in things. But it’s something where you feel more alert. You’re constantly doing, you’re being productive, you’re checking things off of a list. You can get addicted to those feelings. And even if you’re not always being productive with it either, it could be like constantly on your phone and being stimulated. Right.

Amanda Montalvo [00:41:56]:

Or constantly being listening to a podcast episode, feeling the need to have something going in your ear. Or visually being connected to something like twenty four, seven. I think all of those are signs that we’re addicted to cortisol. Feeling like you can only do intense workouts, right? Because you need that rush of adrenaline. You don’t like other workouts. It has to be super intense. Like coffee. Being addicted to coffee is like a big one.

Amanda Montalvo [00:42:23]:

And fasting. Like being preferred to be doing fasting and going long periods without eating. Not always, but I say that’s like a big one. That does stimulate a lot of cortisol release and like false energy. So I always like to mention that. But a lot of us are living in a very fast paced we’re never slowing down. Our bodies are always in fight or flight. And so that’s going to impact our stress hormones and our minerals.

Amanda Montalvo [00:42:47]:

I have an exercise inside my master minerals course. It’s called A Day in the Life, where I have students reflect on what their typical day looks like. We do this with our one on one too, and I think it’s really helpful when it comes to understanding what pace are you living at and do you have a daily rhythm? Sometimes people don’t even know. So we just have you go through what is your typical day look like? What do you do literally from the moment you wake up till you go to bed? And sometimes people will just write stuff down. They’re like, I don’t really know. So they just track it for a day. But you wake up, are you immediately rushing out of bed or are you getting up, eating breakfast and not having something immediately to do. I have a toddler, so I know that sometimes I’m not getting up and immediately I am immediately doing something.

Amanda Montalvo [00:43:39]:

But just what is the intention behind everything you’re doing? Are you like, I got to do all these things? And are you super stressed or are you taking things slower and being present? Because I think there is a way to not have as much stress as society tells us that we have. As moms, I think it’s more about your mindset and just the intention that you’re taking with everything that you’re doing and not multitasking with everything. Although I know that that can be really hard sometimes. But what does that typical day look like for you when you wake up? Are you rushing or are you in late for things? Or do you give yourself plenty of time? Do you spend any time outside? How much time are you getting outside? Sometimes when we track this and we reflect on a day, we’re like, oof, I’m getting way less time than I thought outside. And sometimes that’s all that’s really possible for us. But again, it’s good to know because then that’s the person that I would say if you’re getting very little time outside, I would definitely get one of those lights for your desk that could help. And then the times that you can get outside really try to maximize that on the weekends. I also like to have people think about where are they eating their meals? Are you sitting? Are you standing? Are you working? Are you on your phone? What does that look like? Are you eating without distractions or are you super distracted? And that’s probably impacting your digestion? And do you ever do just nothing or do you feel like you always have to be doing something and you feel very uncomfortable if you’re not doing anything? That is something that it’s going to impact our cortisol levels.

Amanda Montalvo [00:45:13]:

If we can never get out of that fight or flight state, I don’t think it’s our fault. And I would say if that is you, sometimes people are like, oh, that’s just my personality. I’m like, that’s just where your nervous system is stuck because that’s all it knows. So we want to very gently start to slowly get out of that fight or flight. And I would say this never happens overnight. This is why when we do the exercise, you want to just recognize where am I currently at? What kind of pace am I living at? How stressed out am I throughout the day? Even if you’re not necessarily moving fast, are you always listening to a podcast? Are you always stimulated if you don’t have your phone on you? Are you uncomfortable and anxious? Those are other things that I would consider as well. Because as we start to improve those, you can start to really calm that nervous system and get out of that constant fight or flight. Then when you are in that fight or flight, you can feel it.

Amanda Montalvo [00:46:04]:

So it’s something where most of us are living at a really fast, unsustainable pace. And that’s a big part of why we have the health concerns that we do. And we’re not going to change it overnight, but if we can just slowly start to tick away at it, I think it’s really important and it requires a lot of reflection just on what you’re currently doing and a lot of honesty. Because sometimes we’re like, oh, we think we’re relaxing and stuff at meals and this can even happen. Like, myself included, all of a sudden, it’s like one day you do one thing at lunch and then it’s like, happening every single day. And you’re like, I got to take this back. Or even like nighttime routines. I think about when my daughter started to sleep a little better and depend on me a little bit less at night, I would get better sleep and I felt more resilient.

Amanda Montalvo [00:46:50]:

So I’d like, stay up a little bit later to get some alone time with my husband, and then I’m in this routine where I’m staying up much later than I normally do and I don’t feel as good. So it’s not about being perfect all the time. It’s not about always doing the right things because it’s good for your health. It’s about looking at how you’re living, being a little more intentional, and just starting with the basics. Just like with food. Like I talked about in the previous episode, if you don’t currently eat breakfast, let’s start there. Let’s get a high protein breakfast in the morning. When it comes to looking at your day to day, I also like to start in the morning.

Amanda Montalvo [00:47:29]:

So are you rushing in the morning? Are you waking up late? Are you waking up really early? What does that look like for you? And what do you have control over? And how can we start to adjust that? A lot of people have really stressful mornings. It’s like one of the most stressful parts of their day. We go through our one on one clients a lot and we’re like, how can we minimize that? How can we change that and improve that for you? Because that does have an impact on your stress hormones throughout the rest of the day. Sometimes we can’t sometimes it’s changing more your mindset or giving yourself something really good and relaxing after a stressful morning. Like, I have an older client that she is a mom and her mornings getting her kids out of the house, insanely stressful, and it really messed with her breakfast. So instead of trying to do a full breakfast while also doing 80 other things, she started doing a smoothie in the morning. And then she would get her kids all squared away and then she’d come back and make a breakfast for herself. And it was like, calm, peaceful.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:24]:

She wasn’t eating distracted. She would just enjoy it and enjoy the peace and quiet. And that was a great way to kind of mitigate the higher stress that she’s experiencing, like first thing in the morning with her kids. And so same thing. It’s like maybe you have a commute. I used to have a really long commute to work. Things like that can be so stressful. Maybe it’s like listening to a podcast you really look forward to on the way.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:46]:

Or maybe it’s like, okay, you’re super stressed in the morning, but on my lunch break I’m going to go for a walk after I eat. Something like that. How can we balance things out so that we’re not constantly in that fight or flight and putting ourselves on that cortisol and blood sugar roller coaster all day? So if we can support these things and slowly start making changes and just like assessing where we’re currently at, I think that’s what’s going to help us improve everything and it’s going to make you feel better. If you have more balanced cortisol and blood sugar levels, because you are being intentional with your food, your light exposure, looking at how you’re living, even just working on what your morning looks like or whatever the most stressful part of your day is, working on that, that’s going to make everything more balanced. You’re going to have more energy, you’re going to make better food choices, you’re going to be in a better mood, you’re going to feel more resilient to stress. You’ll probably sleep better. So a lot of these changes are not easy and they might not be like the thing that you want to do right now. You might just want to take a supplement.

Amanda Montalvo [00:49:48]:

You might just want to know is there a specific herb or something that can help balance your cortisol levels? But we can’t out supplement stress. We cannot force our bodies to have healthy cortisol in mineral levels and hormone levels if we are living in this constant state of stress. So I think it’s something that if we can start to live at a slower pace or just be more intentional with the way that we’re living, that paired with nutrition, a little blood sugar support, being mindful of our light and how much information we’re taking in. I just think those are really that’s how we look at the whole person and address stress holistically and support healthy cortisol levels. So I hope that this was helpful for you guys and gives you some encouragement depending on which area you feel like you need to focus on the most. But yeah, there’s a lot in this lesson. Don’t do everything at once. As always, just pick one thing and chip away.

Amanda Montalvo [00:50:44]:

And if you want more, join me inside Patreon. Go to Patreon.com Hormonehealingrd Be and I will see you in the next episode.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

Master Your Minerals

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Hormone Healing RD