Health & Fitness

5 Causes of High Cortisol Levels

5 Causes of High Cortisol Levels | If you suspect your cortisol levels are high, it could be because you're too stressed, you exercise too much, you have a food allergy, you have an eating disorder or you are a chronic dieter.

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In a previous post, I shared some common symptoms of high cortisol levels. You can read that post here. Today, I’m going to share some common causes of high cortisol.

Before we get into it, let me remind you that cortisol is not a bad thing. It is a stress hormone and is really useful (and necessary) for many things, like survival.

It’s when our cortisol levels are out of balance (either too high or too low) that we experience some unpleasant side effects.

While there are quite a few things that can cause high cortisol, I’m going to talk about some of the more common ones, especially with women.


5 Causes of High Cortisol Levels


1 Chronic Stress

We all know stress is one of the worst things for your body. It negatively impacts every area of your health.

When you experience chronic stress, your body will continuously pump out cortisol (remember, it’s a stress hormone).

To your body, stress equals threat. Cortisol gets released to help your body fight off any threat.

Let’s face it, stress is a part of life. It isn’t going away. However, there are things you can do to manage your stress.

Some of my favorite ways to manage stress (and these are all backed by science) include:

  1. meditation
  2. breathwork
  3. journaling
  4. exercise
  5. sleep
  6. eating a healthy diet (lots of plants and quality protein, while limiting added sugar)
  7. spending time in nature
  8. limiting time on social media
  9. hanging out with pets
  10. getting a hobby

You can also check out this post for 5 Grounding Activities to Help with Stress.


2 Food Allergies

Ingesting something your body is allergic to is considered, you guessed it, a threat. So, in order to fight off the perceived threat, your body will produce excess amounts of cortisol.

If you suspect you have a food allergy (this is different from a food sensitivity), schedule an appointment to get the necessary blood work completed.


3 Over Exercising

You read that right. I said OVER exercising, not under exercising.

Yes, it’s possible to exercise too much.

This doesn’t mean you’re off the hook from moving your body…nice try.

Too much exercise is a form of stress on the body.

There is a lot of literature out there saying that anything over an hour of exercise (this is high intensity exercise that significantly increases the heart rate, not just walking) can create inflammation in the body.

To your body, inflammation equals threat. Cortisol gets released to help your body fight off any threat.

One of the best, and often underrated, forms of exercise is walking.

Walking has incredible health benefits (helps lower blood glucose levels after eating, helps balance hormones). It’s low impact, free and needs zero equipment (only comfortable shoes).


4 Chronic Dieting & 5 Eating Disorders

I put these two together because they essentially do the same thing to your body.

Any sort of extreme diet will put your body under incredible stress. And as we’ve now know, stress equals threat.

What response does your body have to threats? Yup, it pumps out cortisol in preparation to fight for survival.



If you’re experiencing any of the above AND you relate to the symptoms from this post, you could potentially have higher than normal cortisol levels.

I’m not a doctor, and this post is in no way medical advice. If you feel like your cortisol might be out of balance, I would strongly advise you to schedule an appointment with your doctor.


I’d love for you to share in the comments if any of these causes surprise you


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I’m Jessica! Just another health coach promising that I’m the one you need to find yourself to health… except, not really. I can’t promise anything but I will tell you one thing — you made it here for a reason and you owe it to yourself to determine whether or not a coaching experience is what you need to get back to a feel-good place for you. This site is your place to decide. I, of course, hope to hear from you and would LOVE to get the chance to potentially work with you!

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Once Diet-Obsessed Amateur Turned Empowering Health and Mindset Coach

Hi! I’m Jessica.


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