Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Subscribe to the Magazine for free
Subscribe for free to keep reading! If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

4 Ways to Increase Cortisol (w/ Signs & Tips)

Medically reviewed by 
4 Ways to Increase Cortisol (w/ Signs & Tips)

Cortisol is a crucial hormone produced by the adrenal glands, known for its role in the body’s stress response, metabolism, and immune system regulation. Addison’s disease is a common cause of low cortisone levels, affecting about 100-140 of every million people in developed countries. 

It’s helpful to explore how to increase cortisol levels, cortisol’s effects on the human body, and effective strategies for individuals with clinically low cortisol (often due to adrenal insufficiency). Doing so can boost cortisol production, achieve hormonal balance, and optimize overall health and well-being.


Recognizing the Signs of Low Cortisol

Cortisol is sometimes called the “stress hormone”. It’s produced by the adrenal glands located on top of the kidneys. Hormones are chemicals that transmit messages through the body and tell it what to do. Proper hormone balance is vital to proper body functioning and preventing worrisome complications. 

Recognizing the signs of low cortisol levels can prevent an Addisonian crisis and the life-threatening medical problems associated with this condition. 

Symptoms of Cortisol Deficiency

The symptoms associated with low cortisol levels (adrenal insufficiency) include:

Not treating low cortisol levels can lead to an adrenal crisis (Addisonian crisis) and the following symptoms:

Patients should see a medical professional at the first sign of these or other new, unusual, or alarming symptoms. An adrenal crisis is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical intervention. 

How to Diagnose Low Cortisol

The diagnostic process for low cortisol may consist of one or more of the following tests:

Risk factors for Addison’s disease, a common cause of low cortisol levels, include:

Patients need to consult with an endocrinologist or healthcare provider for the most accurate assessment and diagnosis of specific hormone irregularities.

Their specialist discusses a patient's symptoms and medical history, completes a physical examination, and determines which diagnostic tests to order before developing a treatment plan. 

The Top 4 Ways to Increase Cortisol

Tips for how to increase cortisol in patients with low levels include:

#1. Use Medical Interventions When Appropriate to Increase Cortisol

Corticosteroid Therapy

A primary treatment for low cortisol is corticosteroid replacement therapy, as this treatment works to mimic the body’s natural cortisol rhythms.

Physicians may prescribe hydrocortisone (Cortef), methylprednisolone (Medrol), or prednisone (Rayos) to replace cortisol. They could recommend fludrocortisone to replace the hormone aldosterone. Providing the right dosage and establishing medication accuracy and timing is crucial.

Patients might need to take medications short-term or for the rest of their lives, depending on the underlying cause of hormone imbalance. Providers may have to increase medication dosages if patients experience trauma, an infection, surgery, or another stressful situation to prevent an adrenal crisis.

Patients need to consume enough salt in their diet, particularly during periods of hot weather, heavy exercise, or if they have diarrhea. 

Overtreatment with hydrocortisone could result in osteoporosis, obesity, or type 2 diabetes, while overtreatment with fludrocortisone could cause high blood pressure. That’s why providing the right dosage and routine medical monitoring are crucial.

Adrenal Crisis Care

Patients in an adrenal crisis (Addisonian crisis) need immediate medical attention. Treatments for this type of medical emergency include hydrocortisone injections and an intravenous saline solution. Some patients also need antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection if this is the underlying cause of their symptoms. 

Treatment for dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance related to adrenal crises includes water, coconut water, sports drinks, or intravenous (IV) fluids. Consuming carbohydrates can help increase low blood sugar in patients with hypoglycemia

#2. Use Nutritional Support to Increase Cortisol Naturally

A patient’s diet can affect their cortisol levels. Providers should encourage patients to support adrenal health and balance cortisol levels by consuming a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. 

Patients should maintain a healthy body weight by eating various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein-rich foods, and heart-healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, etc.). It’s also important to drink plenty of water to optimize overall health and avoid dehydration

It’s vital to consume adequate levels of salt (suggest adding salt to foods or trying salt tablets if necessary) for some patients with adrenal insufficiency. They should meticulously follow their provider’s advice regarding nutrition, sodium intake, and hydration to avoid complications. 

Encourage patients to avoid excessive alcohol, high amounts of caffeine, and using tobacco products since these lifestyle habits can affect cortisol levels.

#3. Use Adaptogenic Herbs to Support Healthy Cortisol Levels

Incorporating adaptogenic herbs into your daily routine can be a natural and effective way to support healthy cortisol levels and enhance overall well-being. The following have been shown in research to be effective for naturally increasing cortisol levels:

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

  • Benefits: Helps to maintain healthy cortisol levels by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down cortisol, thereby prolonging its action.
  • Recommended Dose: Standardized extract (containing 20% glycyrrhizic acid) 250-300 mg three times daily
  • Contraindications/Drug Interactions:some text
    • May raise blood pressure and cause potassium depletion.
    • Contraindicated in individuals with hypertension, kidney disease, or heart disease.
    • Can interact with corticosteroids, diuretics, and medications that lower potassium levels.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

  • Benefits: Known for its adaptogenic properties, rhodiola helps to balance cortisol levels, reduce stress, and improve mental performance.
  • Recommended Dose: For adults, oral doses of 100-600 mg daily for up to 12 weeks
  • Contraindications/Drug Interactions:some text
    • May cause dizziness or dry mouth in some individuals.
    • Use with caution in individuals with bipolar disorder or those taking SSRIs, as it can potentially interact with these medications.
    • Avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to a lack of safety data.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

  • Benefits: Acts as an adaptogen to reduce stress and lower cortisol levels, promoting overall hormonal balance.
  • Recommended Dose: A standard dose ranges from 250 to 500 mg and should be taken 1-2x daily.
  • Contraindications/Drug Interactions:some text
    • May cause gastrointestinal upset in some individuals.
    • Avoid in individuals with hyperthyroidism, as it can increase thyroid hormone levels.
    • Can interact with sedatives, thyroid medications, and immunosuppressants.
    • Not recommended during pregnancy as it may cause early labor.

General Guidelines for Using Adaptogenic Herbs

  • Consistency is Key: For best results, these adaptogens should be taken consistently for at least several weeks.
  • Quality Matters: Choose high-quality, standardized extracts to ensure potency and efficacy.
  • Consult with a Healthcare Provider: Always discuss with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

#4. Use Stress Management Techniques to Balance Cortisol Levels

Stress management, including relaxation techniques, can support exceptional adrenal gland health by reducing the risk of too-high cortisol levels. Examples of stress management techniques to try include:

The connection between stress and cortisol production is well-researched. Studies show that average cortisol levels increase by about 9% during stressful times compared with periods of relaxation. 


Key Takeaways

It’s helpful to recognize how to increase cortisol levels when needed to prevent complications and improve quality of life, particularly in patients diagnosed with Addison’s disease. 

Patients should take an active role in their health by following professional medical advice, properly adhering to their treatment plans, taking any medicines exactly as directed, and making informed lifestyle choices that support optimal hormone balance. 

It’s important to adopt healthy habits that include nutritious meal plans, regular exercise, high-quality sleep, a strong social support network, and relaxation techniques patients can complete on a routine basis. 

Additionally, individuals should seek immediate medical attention at the first sign of low cortisone levels, particularly if they show signs of an Addisonian crisis. 

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
Learn More
No items found.

Lab Tests in This Article

No items found.

Anderson, S. (2022a, July 22). 5 conditions that make it harder to lose weight. Rupa Health.

Anderson, S. (2022b, September 14). This is what happens to your body when you are dehydrated. Rupa Health.

Bertagna, B. (2024, January 11). The science behind meditation and sleep: How mindfulness practices improve sleep quality. Rupa Health.

Çay, M. (2017). The effect of cortisol levels increasing due to stress in healthy young individuals on dynamic and static balance scores. Northern Clinics of Istanbul, 5(4).

Chaunt, L. A. (2023, April 3). Mental health benefits of yoga and meditation. Rupa Health.

Christie, J. (2023, January 6). A functional medicine approach to obesity and weight management. Rupa Health.

Cleveland Clinic. (2021, October 12). Cortisol: What it is, function, symptoms & levels. Cleveland Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic. (2022a). Addison’s disease |Cleveland Clinicc. Cleveland Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic. (2022b). Adrenal crisis: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment. Cleveland Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic. (2022c, April 4). Hormonal imbalance: Causes, symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic.

Cloyd, J. (2023a, March 29). Top 5 differential diagnosis for abdominal pain and how to treat with functional medicine. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2023b, April 10). A functional medicine hypertension protocol. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2023c, May 4). A functional medicine protocol for epilepsy: Testing, supplements, and nutrition. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2023d, July 28). A functional medicine diarrhea protocol: Comprehensive lab testing, therapeutic diet, and supplements. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2023e, August 25). A root cause medicine protocol for patients with insomnia: Testing, therapeutic diet, and supportive supplements. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2023f, September 28). Integrative medicine approach to treating hypotension. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2023g, October 2). A functional medicine approach to stress management. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2023h, October 30). How to interpret your cortisol urine test results. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2023i, December 27). Hormone testing 101: How to test and interpret your results. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2024, January 3). Saliva testing: Cortisol and hormone test result interpretation guide. Rupa Health.

Cloyd, J. (2024b, March 7). What is hyponatremia, and how can you test for it? Rupa Health.

Cortisol by Boston Heart diagnostics. (2024). Rupa Health.

Cox, A. (2022, September 8). 4 herbs and supplements that may help control type 1 diabetes. Rupa Health.

Creedon, K. (2022, March 18). 8 ways to prevent osteoporosis as you age. Rupa Health.

DeCesaris, L. (2023, January 25). How to support a healthy menstrual cycle. Rupa Health.

Gerow, S. (2024, February 27). Neurological health in athletes: Preventing and managing concussions and brain injuries. Rupa Health.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2023). Adrenal insufficiency (addison’s disease).

Khakham, C. (2023, March 28). An integrative medicine approach to kidney disease. Rupa Health.

Maholy, N. (2023a, April 14). How to reduce stress through mind-body therapies. Rupa Health.

Maholy, N. (2023b, April 24). A functional medicine protocol for hypo-responsiveness adrenal dysregulation. Rupa Health.

Mayo Clinic. (2022a, December 8). Addison’s disease - diagnosis and treatment - mayo clinic.

Mayo Clinic. (2022b, December 8). Addison’s disease - symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic; Mayo Clinic.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2019, November 22). Definition and facts | NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Neibling, K. (2023, February 27). Integrative medicine treatment for headaches. Rupa Health.

Orbeta, R. (2022, April 1). 8 signs and symptoms of an autoimmune disease. Rupa Health.

Preston, J. (2023a, September 13). A functional medicine protocol for fatigue: Lab testing, nutrition, and helpful supplements. Rupa Health.

Preston, J. (2023b, December 18). Functional medicine strategies for managing joint pain in cold weather. Rupa Health.

Rathbun, K. M., & Singhal, M. (2020). Addisonian crisis. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing.

Restivo, J. (2023, December 1). High-protein foods: The best protein sources to include in a healthy diet. Harvard Health.

Sodium by Boston Heart diagnostics. (2024). Rupa Health.

Sweetnich, J. (2023a, February 28). How to balance cortisol levels naturally. Rupa Health.

Sweetnich, J. (2023b, April 25). Complementary and integrative medicine approaches to type 2 diabetes management. Rupa Health.

Weinberg, J. (2022, November 16). 4 science backed health benefits of the mediterranean diet. Rupa Health.

Weinberg, J. (2023a, February 21). 5 lab test to run on your hypoglycemia patients. Rupa Health.

Weinberg, J. (2023b, June 26). Top functional medicine labs that can help individualize integrative treatment options for cushing’s disease patients. Rupa Health.

Weinberg, J. (2024, March 5). What is congenital adrenal hyperplasia?: Testing and treatments. Rupa Health.

Weinberg, J. L. (2022, September 7). An integrative medicine approach to hypothyroidism. Rupa Health.

Yoshimura, H. (2023a, April 18). Preventative treatment options for recurrent geriatric infections with integrative medicine. Rupa Health.

Yoshimura, H. (2023b, July 3). 5 functional medicine lab tests that can help individualize care for Addison’s disease patients. Rupa Health.

Yoshimura, H. (2023c, November 7). The remarkable power of exercise on our health: A comprehensive overview. Rupa Health.

Yoshimura, H. (2023d, December 20). Functional medicine for mental clarity: Combating brain fog naturally. Rupa Health.

Subscribe to the Magazine for free to keep reading!
Subscribe for free to keep reading, If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.