- Dr. Nancy
A Food First Approach to Hormone Balance
Hormonal imbalances can have a major impact on your health. A lot of things can alter the delicate balance of your hormones and diet is definitely one of the factors that can do this.
Unexplained weight gain, tiredness, bad skin, sleep problems and PMS can all be subtle signs that your hormones aren’t as balanced as they could be. Looking at your diet can be one of the simplest ways to start to balance your hormones and improve hormone health.
Pack in the protein
Protein is a really underrated way to balance your hormones, especially insulin and estrogen. Lean meats, fish and eggs are all great examples of ways to up your protein intake. Fatty fish such as wild Alaskan salmon and mackerel are great protein choices as they contain anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.
Red meats and processed meats can increase inflammation, and this can raise the risk of hormone imbalances that are linked to inflammation.
Eat carbs and plenty of healthy fats too
Alongside protein, you’ll also want to include some carbs and healthy fats. These three macronutrients are important for balancing your hormones. Ideally, try to include protein, carbs and healthy fats every mealtime.
For fats, choose olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Vegetables oils and margarine are full of inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids.
Don’t forget to pack your plate with veggies too, especially from the cruciferous family! Try to keep 80% of your plate full of veggies. Eat the rainbow every day because there are hormone health promoting options in every color, shape and size.
Support your gut with ferments
These food-based probiotics help to reduce inflammation and balance hormone production. They are a key factor in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
Eat plenty of fiber
Eating lots of fiber isn’t just great for your digestive health. It can also bind to estrogen and help to reduce some of the effects of excess estrogen. Hint: eat more veggies.
High glycemic foods raise insulin levels
Foods that rank highly on the Glycemic Load Index increase insulin levels and alter the way that your body uses estrogen. They’re also inflammatory and can raise your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Refined carbs such as white flours are a big culprit for hormone imbalances, partly due to their inflammatory nature. Eating more low GL foods helps to balance hormones.
Soy can be a problem
If you already have an excess of estrogen, soy can be an issue. It contains some natural estrogens, so it stands to raise your levels of this hormone even more. This is good news if you have low estrogen levels, but it can be a big problem if your levels are already on the high side due to factors such as contraceptive pills and hormone mimicking toxins from your lifestyle.
Soy contains isoflavones, which can increase the effects of hormones such as estrogen. This can result in much higher estrogen levels than you realize, and this can present itself in problems such as heavy periods, bloating, acne, chronic headaches and mood swings.
There’s another problem with non-organic, GMO soy products too. They can often contain a chemical called glyphosate, another known hormone disruptor. Fermented soy products avoid this, as do non-GMO, organic options.
You might find soy to be an issue if you’re a vegan, as many vegan friendly foods are packed with soy and you can easily find yourself eating a lot of it.
Processed foods can raise estrogen levels
Processed foods are another one to avoid as they can significantly raise estrogen levels. Experts suggest eating a diet rich in processed foods can lead to estrogen levels that are as much as double the “normal”, healthy levels.
If you’re worried that your estrogen levels are on the high side, cutting back on processed and sugary foods is very important.
Ditch caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol can both affect hormone production. Drinking caffeine can raise cortisol levels and can also have an impact on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis. The HPA axis influences many of areas of your health, from sleep to digestion to hormone balance.
Alcohol has been linked to “estrogen dominance” and can potentially increase insulin resistance and lower testosterone levels. The latter can be a factor in low libido, vaginal dryness and impotence.
Don’t skip meals
It’s not just what you eat that affects your hormones; when you eat can be important too, especially for insulin. Skipping meals is a surefire way to raise both cortisol and insulin levels.
Hormone health is essential to optimizing overall health. It is a symphony, not a solo. As such, there are many things that can disrupt their delicate balance. Taking a food first approach to hormone health gives you a sold foundation to build upon.