Cortisol Fighters: Curb This Stress Hormone Naturally : An Exclusive Renegade Health Article by Dr. J.E. Williams

Sunday Aug 14 | BY |
| Comments (18)

Managing your stress will help keep your cortisol levels balanced. This is important, as chronically elevated cortisol levels accelerates aging – most noticeable in those over 50.

Resident Medical Authority: J. E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM


There is a lot of talk about adrenal fatigue, collapsed adrenals, exhausted adrenals; but, even in my clinical practice based on patients with chronic disease – including plenty of chronic fatigue syndrome cases – it’s actually uncommon to find a patient with adrenal burn out. Most often, instead of finding patients with complete adrenal hormone deficiency, I find an array of adrenal hormone imbalances, with some patients tending towards abnormal adrenal diurnal cycles, and others with too much adrenal hormones, especially cortisol.

Cortisol, or hydrocortisone, is a steroid hormone, or glucocorticoid, produced in the adrenal cortex. It is released in response to stress; so is often called the “stress hormone.” Its primary functions are to increase blood sugar; suppress an over active immune system; and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It also decreases bone formation, so too much is not good for those with osteoporosis.

During the stress response, adrenaline goes up and so does cortisol. Even pre-competition jitters are associated with a rise in cortisol. Strenuous exercise increases cortisol release, as does too much caffeine, and lack of sleep. The long term, insidious stresses of modern living, like freeway driving, overworking, and excess caffeine consumption lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels. Too much cortisol has profound affects on the brain. The areas most affected are the hypothalamus and hippocampus – the part of your brain that helps you adjust to anxiety-producing situations. Too much cortisol, over time, accelerates aging by preventing the brain from creating and regenerating new brain cells. These effects are most noticeable in those over age 50.

Get to know your adrenal health by getting a blood test for fasting cortisol and DHEA-Sulfate, another important adrenal hormone. Both blood and salivary tests are useful in determining your adrenal health. Optimal levels for cortisol in serum are in the lower half of the normal range and in the upper half for DHEA-Sulfate. This provides for a healthy DHEA-Cortisol ratio.

Healthy Cortisol Levels, Serum (Blood Test)

Normal Range AM 6.2-19.4 µg/dL
Desirable Levels AM 6.2-15.0
Optimal Levels AM 6.2-10.0

Healthy DHEA-Sulfate levels are gender and age-matched. But, even as men and women age, you don’t want your level to be lower than 150. For women, at least 200 is better, and for men, 250-350 is an ideal range.

Normal Reference Values for DHEA-Sulfate


If your cortisol level is 17.0 and greater in the morning, without having breakfast and no exercise, you may be too high. If your level is over 21.0, you are definitely too high. Get started on a cortisol-managing program by lowering stress, getting regular exercise, balancing your blood sugar, and getting enough rest and deep sleep. Sex is another way to distress and manage cortisol. Single, random sexual encounters tend to spike cortisol (likely caused by the stresses associated with such meetings), but regular sex reduces cortisol, promotes health brain cell regeneration, and decreases anxiety.

Supplements that help lower cortisol include magnesium (250-500 mg daily), omega-3 fatty acids (1,000-3,000 mg daily), and soy-derived phosphatidylserine (100-300 mg daily). Vitamin C is good for adrenal health and may blunt cortisol production. Adaptogenic herbs like Rhodiola rosea, are also useful in regulating adrenal gland health as adaptogens have anti-fatigue and anti-stress properties that increase mental alertness and improve physical performance.

Green and black tea also can lower cortisol, but it’s still not clear whether the positive effect on cortisol is from the chemical compounds in tea or from the calming effect when making tea. One Japanese study of women over age 50 who regularly practiced the Japanese tea ceremony found a longevity effect. In a stressed-out world, it appears that the ritual of boiling water, adding tea leaves, inhaling the delicious aroma, and taking the time to sit down and slowly sip the tea may be almost as beneficial as the brew itself.

Regardless of how you do it, keep your cortisol levels steady: not to high and not too low. And, don’t underestimate your adrenal glands, they often are not as weak as you think, and your fatigue might just be from imbalance of hormones from stressed out adrenals rather than wiped out adrenal glands.


Here’s How You Can Access Some of Dr. Williams’ Most Important Health Secrets and Protocols…

Dr. J. E. Williams has over 30 years of clinical experience in the natural health world and has had over 100,000 patient visits over that time.

We’ve recently created a selection of programs based on his work, to help you get real, tested and effective natural solutions.

These programs include how to improve thyroid function, how to read your blood tests, and how to support your adrenals naturally.

To learn more about these programs or to get one today, please click here!

Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

Visit Dr. Williams’ Website:

And Follow on Facebook:



Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Marisa says:

    I’m surprised he didn’t mention a 24-hr saliva test. Is that not much more accurate than a one-time blood test?

  2. Kristi says:

    Great info, as always. Way to spread the word on Adrenal Fatigue too. I thought I had depression, chronic fatigue or fibromialgia until I stumbled upon a pharmacist who pulled me aside, mentioned he was a training herbalist and told me about Dr. Williams site. It was a miracle for me… Started feeling better in a month. And now, adding Tulsi (holy basil) to my diet I am continueing to recover.

    Thanks Kev!

  3. Bo says:

    This is quite timely as I was just talking to someone today who was experiencing post-menopausal weight gain and fatigue.

    Cortisol can be very much a factor in both of these, and can be a factor in women especially gaining abdominal body fat. Cortisol can be more pronounced and have more impact when other hormones reduce as part of a woman’s normal life journey, and affects thyroid function, insulin resistence etc.

    Was interested to read how exercise can be a stressor and raise cortisol too. Sometimes women can’t understand why they are exercising so much but not seeing any results.

    I also liked Dr Williams’ take on both the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of taking tea!

  4. Janet says:

    Thanks, this is interesting. As I understand it, our bodies receptors, that normally receive and process nutrients in the body, can change to habitually expect to receive cortisol. They ‘switch off’ from receiving the nutrients we need and therefore eat.

    Thus we become addicted to the release of cortisol in our bodies, and will seek out or at least expect to experience stressful situations, or repeat stressful memories in our everyday life, without even realizing we are doing so.

    The obvious answer is to resolve the stresses that we experience because of our beliefs (conscious or unconscious beliefs). They CAN be re-discovered and changed. Then the body’s habits will change in response to our new, more relaxed emotional state.

    However, it’s beneficial to help things along by taking suppliments and healthy foods to give our bodies the best chance to recover.

  5. Rita Romney says:

    Marisa, I agree with you. I underwent a 24 hour saliva test with 6 different measured time periods. You can’t see the entire picture just using an AM cortisol test. Better to see the entire rhythm. Frankly, Dr. Williams may be helpful to those who have experienced milder adrenal fatigue (or whatever you want to call it..I call it HPA axis dysfunction). I think his treatments may be harmful to those with severe HPA axis dysfunction. This is my opinion, of course.

  6. Bill says:

    You people will never get it completely controlled by your minds

  7. Judith says:

    Does anyone know……. if your cortisol levels are actually LOW, is taking cortisol
    as a supplement harmful or beneficial? I’ve heard both theories and I’m very confused.

  8. maca says:

    @Rita – I think what Dr Williams is suggesting is a starting point. If you were a patient of his he would take a thorough medical history and suggest tests and treatment that are appropriate for you. He definitely doesn’t work on a one size fits everyone approach.

  9. HopandSkip says:

    Idaho Balsam Fir essential oil has been shown to decrease cortisol levels by 28% in 2 hours.

    Also, I take a supplement called Cortistop that has pregnenalone in it. Amazing stuff. You can find/request more info on these two at

    My sis says Rhodiola rosea is incredible as well.

    Another friend just started taking Holy Basil and says it is wonderful.

    Would be interested in those of you taking Rhodiola rosea what source you like best.

    That’s my two cents! Thank you Kevin!

  10. HopandSkip says:

    Oh, I forgot B vitmains! Particularly B3 (Niacin) for anxiety and to lower cortisol…lack of B6 can cause adrenal atrophy…but all the B’s are great. :0)

  11. JESSIE says:

    What about low cortisol levels? I have seen many such cases. They appear depressed and what’s the best remedies?

  12. rose says:

    i am taking stress advantage by new chapter which i can recommend.

    there are other good formulas out there also-
    stress free, ginseng revitalizer etc.

    it helps me ; i dont need to do a test!

  13. LA says:

    Maca HRT and MACA Adrenal by Magic Maca are wonderful tinctures I’ve been taking the past few months and now I’m off the glandulars I was taking for 4 years. I highly recommend. They are mixed herbal Tinctures combined withe Maca. One helps the Endocrine/Hormonal balance and the other helps the Adrenals. Never thought I’d get off adrenals.

  14. LA says:

    Maca HRT and MACA Adrenal by Maca Magic are wonderful tinctures I’ve been taking the past few months and now I’m off the glandulars I was taking for 4 years. I highly recommend. They are mixed herbal Tinctures combined withe Maca. One helps the Endocrine/Hormonal balance and the other helps the Adrenals. Never thought I’d get off adrenals.

  15. Lynn says:

    Thanx again Kevin, for another great article. It answered a lot of questions and gave me a few sources to seek help.

  16. Cassandra says:

    This article couldn’t have been written at a better time for me personally, I was literally just looking online for some adrenal balancers because I can actually FEEL the aching above my kidneys right now (I’ve been super stressed, over-worked, and just finished taking antibiotics that I really really didn’t want to take…) I have many of these things in my cupboards already too 🙂

    You guys never fail me. Thanks for always being awesome, Kevin!! [And AnnMarie. And Jonny 5 too ;)]

  17. Jerry Langlois says:

    Thanks Kevin another great session,you are the best,AnnMarie,and Jonny5 as well.I was ready to look into the reason why I was”nt loosing my gut,now I have something to try. Thanks so much Jerry

  18. Em says:

    I wasn’t planning to comment, but this was such useful information to me that I thought I would. I just had a nice cup of relaxing raspberry tea & I just had to say that I LOVE the way Dr. Williams put that about the relaxing effect of making, smelling, sitting & having a cup of tea! I have always felt so cozy! and wonderful! deep down when I drink a cup of tea! Thanks Dr. Williams for putting that into words for me! 🙂
    Now I really must get to bed…must get more sleep, haha! CHEERS fellow health-seekers <3

    Comments are closed for this post.