Adrenal Fatigue and Cortisol Supplements Part 2

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

Read Part 1 | Part 3

Reducing Cortisol Levels

 Sleep can be aided by cortisol supplementsFunctional cortisol supplements aim is to restore the balance in the body without using the drugs commonly called for by western medicine. To this end, the body is looked at as an entire organism consisting of different parts. What happens in one part of the body impacts the whole body, resulting in different symptoms. Instead of addressing each symptom separately, the aim is to find and remedy the reason for these symptoms, using as natural a method as possible, in order to bring the body back to optimal health.

When cortisol levels are high, instead of using drugs to reduce levels, a more physiologically friendly approach is adopted using natural cortisol supplements and other means.

Natural Methods for Decreasing Cortisol

Get Enough Sleep

Eight hours should be what you are aiming at. High cortisol levels in the blood make sleeping difficult, so you should always try to get yourself in the mood. Watch a relaxing movie or read a book.

Deep Breathing Techniques

Improper breathing methods whereby breathing is shallower, especially due to bad posture, has a compromising effect on oxygen flow to the brain and other organs while stimulating the release of cortisol and adrenaline.

Vitamin B

It inhibits excessive secretion of cortisol. At the same time, excessive cortisol actually depletes your vitamin B reserves. Vitamin B could also be taken as a supplement. Liver is an excellent source of this vitamin.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is high in Omega 3 fatty acids which lower cortisol production due to mental stress, while the vitamin K2 content plays a role in replenishing hormone stores in the body.

Gentle Exercise

Non-strenuous exercise, such as different forms of dancing, walking, or yoga, reduces cortisol levels. Do not over-exert yourself, however, as this leads to the production of adrenalin and more cortisol.

Decrease Blue-Light Exposure

Blue light radiates from your cell phone, computer screen, and even your television set. It has the effect of raising cortisol levels. Exposure to these should be limited as much as possible. If exposed to blue light constantly, consider blue-light blocking glasses that limit the concentrations that you are exposed to.

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

One mug of coffee has the potential of increasing your cortisol levels by thirty percent in a one hour period! Furthermore, it keeps up this effect for eighteen hours. This is why coffee is the favorite of so many writers ? it keeps them awake and functioning.

As to alcohol, research showed a high correlation in men and women with regards to alcohol intake and higher cortisol levels in the body. The chronic intake of alcohol stimulates the HPA axis and results in overproduction of cortisol.


Reflexology has a relaxing effect on the body. It follows that the cortisol production is lessened.

Helpful Herbs and Foods

Certain herbs and their derivatives, as well as food, lower cortisol levels naturally. Examples to consider are garlic, oranges, chamomile tea, berries, black tea, rhodiola, basil, and ashwagandha.

Cortisol Supplements to Decrease Cortisol

Natural sea salt

Although too much salt is never advised, sea salt is a natural way of reducing cortisol in the body. Research has found that salt loading in patients with high cortisol levels has the effect of reducing the amount of cortisol in the patient?s body.

Vitamin C

Natural sea salt is a great alternative to cortisol supplementsStudies show that when vitamin C supplements were given to participants, their cortisol levels lowered along with their stress levels as opposed to the control group. Incidences of high blood pressure were also lower in this group.

Earlier studies conducted on lab rats indicated that when rats were submitted to stress and given vitamin C supplements, they did not respond to either psychological or physiological stress in the normal way, nor was there an increase in their normal cortisol levels. The control group, on the other hand, which was subjected to exactly the same stressors without the supplements, had up to three times more cortisol in their bodies.


Zinc supplements, according to research, play an inhibiting role in cortisol secretion in humans. The research was conducted on two groups, where one group was given oral zinc supplements while those in the control group were given an intravenous saline infusion. Of the two groups who took part in the research, a significant reduction of cortisol was noticed in the experiment group, while the control group saw no significant effect on their cortisol levels.

Phosphatidylserine and Magnesium

Studies show that both of these cortisol supplements play a major role in reducing cortisol levels in the body. Both merit an in-depth investigation into what they are and how to best use them to address high cortisol levels. They will be considered in detail in the following sections.

Note: When considering cortisol supplements, bear in mind that the body?s response varies from person to person and at each stage of adrenal fatigue. What works for one person may not work for another, and may in fact worsen the symptoms of some. Simply taking cortisol supplements without careful consideration of the clinical picture is a common recovery mistake.

An Overview of Phosphatidylserine Supplementation

Phosphatidylserine supplements have, to a large extent, become the go-to supplement when balancing high cortisol levels in the body. Your body produces this chemical, but it?s ability to do so is mostly dependent on the food you eat as a source. Although these supplements used to be made from cow brains, they are now more commonly manufactured from cabbage and soy.

What is Phosphatidylserine?

Pronounced ?faws-fa-tidal-serene?, phosphatidylserine is a negatively charged aminophospholipid supplement that promotes brain function while actively suppressing the production of cortisol.

A phospholipid present in all cell membranes within the body, phosphatidylserine plays a role in many bodily functions. One of its vital roles is cellular communication, as well as intracellular transfer.

Phosphatidylserine and the HPA Axis

During times of stress, the body?s automatic stress response is activated. Through this response, the HPA axis works towards works towards protecting the body against any given threat, releasing vast quantities of cortisol.

Studies have found that phosphatidylserine blunts elevated cortisol levels, and thus their effects, during stressful periods. It also serves to improve one?s mood during this time. Because less cortisol is released while mood is improved, the phospholipid also plays a role in supporting healthy blood pressure levels.

In addition to having a calming effect, blunting cortisol production, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, it also plays a role in negating other side effects typically associated with adrenal fatigue. These include alleviating insomnia, promoting better sleep, and supporting weight loss (usually associated with a buildup of cortisol).

You may be able to find stress relief using cortisol supplementsResearch also indicates that phosphatidylserine is effective in negating the effects of exercise-induced stress. Besides of its effectiveness as a cortisol blocker, it also helps prevent the physiological damage which is common due to too much exercise.

Additionally, phosphatidylserine contains choline. Choline is the precursor of acetylcholine, which is tied to certain brain functions such as mental focus and memory. This compound has been used for patients with Alzheimer?s, and in many instances researchers have seen an improvement, although the effect seems to wear off after a period.

In short, phosphatidylserine, has an inhibiting effect on cortisol production and significantly speeds up recovery after strenuous exercise. It improves general well-being, prevents soreness in muscles, and enhances an athlete?s performance. It also works to maintain calm mood and boosts focus and memory.

Phosphatidylserine levels are quickly depleted due to their cortisol inhibiting function, however, so supplements are sometimes necessary in order to raise their levels in the body.

The Benefits of Phosphatidylserine Supplements

Phosphatidylserine supplements are of benefit in many areas, in addition to those mentioned above. Phosphatidylserine:

  • Aids in weight loss where weight gain is associated with high cholesterol levels.
  • Helps combat different psychological issues such as depression, stress, ADHD, and OCD.
  • Helps improve brain performance.
  • Slows down the aging process.
  • Helps metabolize glucose.
  • Increases the fluidity of a cell?s membrane and enhances a cell?s ability to send or receive chemical communications.

Possible Side Effects of Phosphatidylserine

Although no side effects have been reported, as with all cortisol supplements, there are a few possibilities. These are as follows:

Phosphatidylserine supplements should ideally be taken under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner. Different forms are available, depending on the specific clinical application.

Read Part 1 | Part 3

? Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Natural sea salt is a great alternative to cortisol supplements


  • Amy says:

    Thank you for all of your helpful information. I have been trying Phosphatidylserine with some success but wonder if an increasing dose is needed over time? What recommendations do you give for dosing PS? Can you take too much? Should it be discontinued after awhile? How long?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      As your body recovers, the need should reduce. Any compound can be too much if not properly used. Its individual specific as everyone is different

      Dr Lam

  • Adriane says:

    How about low cortisol due to snps in 11 beta hydroxylase and 21 hydroxylase? Since these enzymes are needed to make cortisol, people with Non classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia make some cortisol, but not enough. What would you recommend to help in this case? Thanks!

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Not every snps issue results in low cortisol so I have to be very careful not to draw fast conclusions to start. There are other alternatives, and in last resort, external supplementation.

      Dr Lam

  • Gloria Simonot says:

    YES! As the previous commenter, I have LOW cortisol because of very poor pituitary stimulation and am taking some adrenal glandulars to try to function throughout the dayl
    Some of my friends have a problem with low cortisol as well, but they usually have really high adrenaline so it “balances” out! My adrenaline is also LOW — I have NOT had a “fight or flight” response since I was in elementary school. What kind of help is there for me besides the glandulars?? I am frequently discouraged because of the low energy and am taking a tryptophan prescription for SAD to try to find some “energy” to function!!

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Your deductions are rather simplistic. The body is way more complex than what your understanding may be because there are multiple pathways that regulate cortisol. Adrenaline does not “balance out” low cortisol physiologically though from a symptoms perspective there may be a close association on the surface. Taking glandular for low energy is patching symptom. Do be careful.
      Click Adrenal Fatigue Glandular & Herbal Therapy for more information.

      Dr Lam

  • Anand says:

    And for low cortisol levels?

  • Mary Kate Flaherty says:

    Thanks for the information on phosphatidylserine. I have been using it for several months along with Adrenatone, Dhea and some Chinese herbs for Adrenal Fatigue from PTSD. It has help me dramatically with sleep. I hadn’t read much about it until I found your article. I was taking 150 mg and couldn’t find the same product locally, so I bought 100 mg capsules. Can I take two or is 200 mg too much?

    Thanks again for the informative articles.

    Mary kate

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Dosage varies greatly and also timing is important. It can range from 100mg to many times or more, depending on the circumstances.

      Dr Lam

  • Carol says:

    Great info. High cortisol shows on my saliva and urine tests but not blood test.

  • Kate says:

    If supplementing with magnesium, zinc and Vit C, can theses lower your cortisol too far, resulting in adrenal fatigue? Thank you. Kate

  • Lee says:

    I’ve progressed into deeper af and now have mildly low cortisol throughout the 24 hr cycle. This is after 5 years of treating high night time cortisol with phos serine and magnesium. Do you have anything to read on how to treat low cortisol – there is very little information out there?!

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Low cortisol is a sign of underlying problems. Your effort of the past years may have helped to you, but the underlying issues are not resolved and in fact progressed. Conventional medicine will consider steroid supplement, but that is seldom a good solution long term except in selected cases.

      Dr Lam

  • Shari Gould says:

    I just found your website! I was recently dx with AF. Dr wants to start me on Cortef 5 mg am and at noon. Have been hesitant to try it since I don’t like taking drugs. After reading about the safety of the lower doses I think I will try it.
    What is your opinion? I am also on Armor 15mg every other day ( I am very sensitive to meds).
    Thank your for your work! I am glad to learn there are answers to this troubling issue.

  • Gretchen Roselli says:

    My physician recommended I take phosphatidylserine but I’ve had a hard time finding it. Is there a brand you recommend?