Foods to Balance Your Hormones by Dr. Sarah Schenker

Strawberry spinach and banana smoothie

Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They help control practically every physiological process in your body, including your metabolism, immune system, menstrual cycle, appetite and mood.

A precise hormonal balance is vital to proper body functioning. A poor diet can lead to unbalanced hormones through excessive amounts of unhealthy fats and sugar and through low intakes of essential nutrients such as essential fats, vitamins and minerals.

Conversely, being well nourished and eating a balanced diet can help to restore hormonal balance.

The symptoms of hormonal imbalance are wide ranging and include more common symptoms like weight gain and fatigue, but also lesser known problems like hair loss, skin problems and heart palpitations.

Female hormones

Oestrogen production depends on adequate intakes of various nutrients including protein, omega 3 fats, magnesium and B vitamins. Low intakes of these nutrients through poor eating habits can affect oestrogen production and may cause infertility, unwanted hair growth or loss of hair, poor bone health, weight gain, low mood and menopausal symptoms in older women.

  • Chickpeas – contain phytoestrogens. These are groups of chemicals that weakly act like oestrogen in the body helping to balance out either excessive or low levels. Eating foods that are rich in phytoestrogens may help relieve some menopause symptoms as well as help lower your risk of some conditions associated with menopause.
  • Tofu – particularly rich in a type of phytoestrogen called isoflavones. The isoflavones in soybeans bind to oestrogen receptors in the body. Evidence shows that tofu may lower the risk of ischemic heart disease, improve blood cholesterol levels, and relieve hot flashes.
  • Flaxseed – contains a type of phytoestrogen called lignans. Like the isoflavones in soy, lignans have both an oestrogenic and antiestrogenic effect contains a type of phytoestrogen called lignans. Like the isoflavones in soy, lignans have both an oestrogenic and antiestrogenic effect.

Metabolic hormones

Excessive consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to cells becoming resistant to insulin. When cells are insulin resistant, both blood sugar and insulin levels go up significantly. Chronically elevated insulin levels can lead to a number of health problems, including worsening obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Foods that help normalize insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity include:

  • Salmon – is a rich source of omega 3 fats found that can help lower fasting insulin levels.
  • Quinoa – is a wholegrain balanced in protein, slow release carbohydrate and high in fibre that reduces insulin levels.
  • Peanuts – are a good source of magnesium. Poor magnesium intakes and low magnesium status is associated with poor insulin sensitivity.

Thyroid hormones

Thyroid hormones help control growth, cell repair, and metabolism. As a result, people with low levels of thyroid hormones may experience tiredness, hair loss, weight gain, feeling cold, and a low mood.

A combination of the right nutrients can ensure healthy thyroid function and reduce symptoms. Try to include the following foods

  • Seaweed – is a great source of iodine, which is an essential mineral that’s needed to make thyroid hormones. Poor intakes of iodine are common and affects nearly one in three people.
  • Brazil nuts – are the richest source of selenium that has an important role in activating thyroid hormones so they can be used by the body.
  • Pumpkin seeds – provide zinc that that has an important role in regulating thyroid hormones.

Stress hormones

Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. It has an important role in helping the body deal with stressful situations, the brain triggers its release in response to many different kinds of stress.

However, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, it can lead to many health problems. Over time, high levels may cause weight gain and high blood pressure, disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood, reduce your energy levels and contribute to diabetes.

  • Water – staying well hydrated is also important in controlling cortisol, as dehydration increases cortisol.
  • Fennel – contains preboitics that can help to reduce levels of cortisol.
  • Walnuts – provide omega 3 fats that are important in regulating cortisol production.

Mood influencing hormones

Serotonin acts as a mood stabilizer, it is needed for healthy sleeping patterns and to boost mood. Research shows that shows that serotonin levels can have an effect on mood and behaviour.

  • Turkey – is a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan which is important for the production of the calming hormone serotonin. Tryptophan depletion can lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Bananas – provide vitamin B6 which is needed for the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin.
  • Spinach – contains magnesium that is needed for the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, important for a healthy sleep pattern.

Appetite hormones

Leptin, known as the satiety hormone, is produced by fat cells to reduce appetite and cause feelings of being full. Leptin tells the brain that there’s enough fat in storage and no more is needed, which helps prevent overeating.

  • Mackerel – is one of the richest sources of omega 3 fats that can help to improve leptin sensitivity.

Ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone. When the stomach is empty, it releases ghrelin, which sends a message to the hypothalamus to stimulate appetite

To improve the function of ghrelin it is recommended to avoid high-fructose corn syrup and sugar-sweetened drinks, which can impair ghrelin response after meals.

  • Eggs – it is also important to include a good source of protein at every meal, especially breakfast, as this will reduce ghrelin levels and promote satiety.

The bottom line

Improving your diet and changing your eating habits, along with regular exercise and a good sleep pattern can help to get back to a state of hormonal equilibrium, better health and a sense of wellbeing.

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