Nutrition and hormone balance is one of my favourite subjects. Did you know that you can use your own mouth to send a message?
No, not THAT kind of message! The food you eat sends messages to your hormones. Hormones are the messengers for all functions of the body from heartbeat to libido, and what you eat affects these quality and clarity of this complex feedback system.
A diet that is high in refined carbohydrates (white bread and rice, alcohol, sugars of all kinds, or straight-up candy, to name a few) sends some not-very-nice messages to our hormones. How rude!
When you eat a doughnut, instead of your hormones saying “Let’s maintain balanced blood sugar levels”, they’re screaming out “Let’s spike! Now crash! Store fat! Arrrg!” Sounds a tad stressful, no?
What would the food you eat say to you? I like to think that the Cabernet I so enjoy is speaking to me in sultry passionate whispers…
So if you are experiencing weight gain or other symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, or low sex drive, your body is likely trying to send you a message. Can you hear it?
Excess body fat is significant in hormonal imbalance. Body fat actually produces hormones called cytokines, which are involved in inflammation. Cytokines are is a risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Body fat also stores estrogen, which contributes to throwing your hormonal balance off kilter. This is why estrogenic cancers are found in the breast, where there is always adipose (fat) tissue.
Eating for hormonal health includes supporting optimal liver function, but also providing nutritional support to the endocrine system – particularly the thyroid gland.
The thyroid regulates metabolism, mood, and energy levels, as well as the sex hormones. Thyroid function is also affected by stress levels and blood sugar levels. Excess sugar and refined carbs in our diet disrupt hormonal balance which in turn affects weight and libido.
Another important factor in the hormone balancing act is having a healthy digestive process. If you are someone who regularly has constipation, bloating, gas, or diarrhea this could be an indication of digestive problems. Any of these conditions can hinder the healthy metabolism of estrogen. At least one bowel movement per day, preferably two or three, moves excess estrogen out of the body.
Many of us do not drink enough water and it’s truly our bowel’s best buddy. Help move things along by increasing your water intake. In my experience for both myself and for my clients, sometimes the addition of a good quality probiotic can really help with digestive issues. Talk to a health practitioner who specializes in digestive health.
Here are some of the recommendations I make to my clients:
Be mindful how you dish it out!
Ensure half of your plate contains brightly coloured, low starch vegetables. On the other half your plate should be ½ protein and ½ carbohydrate. A diet that includes whole foods – especially healthy protein sources – supports our neurotransmitters with proteins, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. All of these are essential for improving mood, focus, libido and energy.
Limit or omit sugar in all its refined forms, artificial sweeteners, and trans fats.
Yes, our body needs sugar – glucose is the fuel of our cells. The challenge is to avoid refined sugars, and it’s not a question of willpower. Sugar is, addictive and we crave it. In fact, sugar lights up the exact same area of the brain that cocaine or heroin do – which might be why you might lunge across the boardroom table for your co-worker’s Timbits. So, it makes sense that it is addictive and that we crave it. And “thanks” to science, artificial sweeteners are now so sophisticated that they trick the brain into responding to them in the same way that it would for actual sugar. They also create calorie dysregulation because they interfere with your brain’s ability to associate sweetness and a calorie-dense food. Stevia is a naturally derived alternative – consider experimenting with some of the varieties available in most shops.
Find out if you have food sensitivities.
Many people are sensitive to dairy products, soy, eggs, corn, and modern wheat. Get checked out!
Reduce stress in all its forms.
Are you getting enough sleep and exercise? If possible, find some time to connect with spirit, whatever that looks like for you (no, not the liquid kind of spirit). Even 5 minutes can provide wonderful results! This also helps with hot flashes and libido – it’s not all about the food.
Include plant-based proteins such as beans, legumes, fermented soy (such as miso and tempeh), and lean animal proteins (organic, grass-fed sources preferably). Proteins in hormone health provide us with amino acids needed for brain function and help stabilize blood sugar levels. When you eat animal proteins you are also eating all of the toxins that animal may have eaten. Toxins in the plants which animals eat accumulate in their fat cells, the same way we humans store toxins. Consider what an animal would consume during its lifespan. It would include pesticides, growth hormones, medications, and GMO grain and corn. Look for meat and dairy from grass-fed cows, and meats and poultry from animals raised on a natural diet (preferably without growth hormones and antibiotics).
Reach for foods like sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, beans, and legumes. Low glycemic (low sugar) carbs will keep you feeling full and satisfied a lot longer (and won’t spike your blood sugar).
We need fiber for good digestion and to properly eliminate toxins and excess estrogen. If you follow the “plate half full” method of eating vegetables, you will most likely be getting enough fiber. Other great sources of fiber include apples, berries, cruciferous vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa), ground flaxseed, and chia seeds.
Provide essential fatty acids required for normal brain function and to build hormones. Fish always comes to mind in this category, but walnuts and chia seed are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
If you are doing all of this and still experience hormonal concerns, you can always speak to your holistic health practitioner about hormone-healthy supplements and/or bio identical hormones.
Or better yet, get in touch with me! :-)
“Nutrition & hormone balance” was written by Nutritionist & Orthomolecular Practitioner Tricia Pearson. Thanks for reading!
Tricia Pearson is a Certified Nutritionist specializing in cancer and diabetes. Check out Tricia's services and find out how to harvest the best of your health.
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