- Foods that May Help Boost Your Estrogen and Testosterone Levels
- 10 Foods That Can Help Balance Your Hormones Naturally
- Hormonal Imbalances
- What Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Says:
- The Exact Foods That Will Help Balance Your Hormones
- Hormone Diets Are All The Rage Now, So Here’s Some Actual Science
- Does the ‘hormone diet’ actually work?
- 5 Reasons Your Food Could Be Messing with Your Hormones
- The Top 6 Anti-Estrogen Foods for Breast Cancer Risk Reduction
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- How A Hormone Balancing Diet and Lifestyle Gave Me A New Life
- This is a very personal article and although it is specific to me, I have a feeling many of you find yourselves here, too.
- Hyperthyroidism (Graves’) and hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s)
- In spite of my thyroid doing great, I started experiencing hair loss in 2010.
- Hair loss is just a sign that there is an imbalance going on in the body.
- Verdict: heavy metal toxicity, estrogen dominance and adrenal fatigue Stage 2.
- What does it mean to have estrogen dominance?
- Can you see yourself in this? You eat well, you exercise, you don’t drink diet Coke.
- How do I reverse adrenal fatigue, estrogen dominance and heavy metal toxicity?
- My action plan to healing.
- Step #1. Removed the biggest source of mercury: my amalgam fillings.
- Step #2. Started juicing daily.
- Step #3. Upped the cruciferous vegetables.
- Step #4. Did a major liver detox
- Step #5. Added an amino-acid protocol.
- Step #6. Minimal supplements.
- Step #7. De-stressing to reduce my cortisol levels.
- What can you do?
- 5 Best Foods to Balance Your Hormones Naturally
- 1. Wild Salmon
- 2. Kale
- 3. Grass-fed Beef
- 4. Cherries
- 5. Maca Root
- How to Fix a Hormone Imbalance With Diet
- Too Much Cortisol
- Elevated Insulin
- Too Much Estrogen (aka Estrogen Dominance)
- Too Much Testosterone
- Too Little Thyroid
- Fix Your Hormone Imbalance With Diet
- The Importance of Nutrition on Hormone Balance
Foods that May Help Boost Your Estrogen and Testosterone Levels
For years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans; in fact, in 2015 heart disease accounted for one in every four deaths. Although there are several types of heart disease, the most common is coronary artery disease (CAD), an accumulation of cholesterol and other substances along arterial walls. This buildup forms a plaque that over time narrows the arteries and impedes blood flow. Undiagnosed or poorly controlled CAD eventually weakens the heart and raises the risk for a heart attack.
What causes CAD? Of course genes are involved, as well as factors such as tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, a diet high in processed foods and saturated fat, stress, high blood pressure and obesity. However, a risk factor that is sometimes overlooked is the natural waning of reproductive hormones, i.e., estrogen and testosterone.
During a woman’s transition into menopause, a period often referred to as perimenopause, her progesterone, testosterone and estrogen levels begin declining. According to Cleveland Clinic, this raises a woman’s risk for CAD because estrogen increases good cholesterol (HDL), decreases bad cholesterol (LDL), relaxes blood vessels and absorbs free radicals in the blood that can potentially damage blood vessels.
As a man enters his 40’s, he begins experiencing andropause, an age-related decrease in testosterone. According to the Mayo Clinic, a man usually has a one percent drop in testosterone every year after age 40. Research published in Nature linked low testosterone levels with CAD risks such as obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as an overall risk for cardiovascular disease.
To help offset the potential health problems associated with low hormone levels, scientists developed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for women and Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) for men. However, various journals have published conflicting articles concerning the risks and benefits associated with HRT and TRT.
For instance, a study in the British Journal of Medicine suggested that HRT lowers the risk of heart disease; whereas, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked HRT with heart disease and breast cancer. As general guidance for the medical community, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends living a heart-healthy lifestyle and using HRT for specific medical conditions.
Additionally, articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and PLOS ONE reported an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes among men who began using TRT. Meanwhile, authors of an article published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics and a review in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that TRT contributed to maintaining heart health. Experts at Harvard Men’s Health Watch explained that evidence supporting the heart-health benefits of TRT is mixed, and the long-term effects are not fully understood yet.
Fortunately, there are tactics you can try to naturally boost your estrogen and testosterone levels. For example:
- Controlling stress – When stressed, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that may cause an estrogen imbalance and block the effects of testosterone. View tips to help you manage stress.
- Strength training – Studies have suggested that intense strength training may help raise testosterone levels. When training, try to regularly increase the amount of weight being lifted, lower the number of repetitions and select exercises that work multiple muscles groups, e.g., squats. Be sure that you consult your MDVIP-affiliate physician before beginning or revamping an exercise program.
- Eating foods that can help raise estrogen and testosterone levels.
- Studies conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University indicated that eating plant-based foods that contain phytoestrogens may help women raise estrogen levels. Examples of such foods include:
- Seeds: flaxseeds and sesame seeds
- Fruit: apricots, oranges, strawberries, peaches, many dried fruits
- Vegetables: yams, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, kale, celery
- Soy products: tofu, miso soup, soy yogurt
- Dark rye bread
- Legumes: lentils, peas, pinto beans
- Olives and olive oil
- Culinary herbs: turmeric, thyme, sage
- Results from research conducted by the University of Texas at Austin suggested that men can help raise their testosterone levels by eating foods high in monounsaturated fat and zinc. Also, a study published in Biological Trace Element Research concluded foods high in magnesium can help maintain testosterone levels. That said, consider including the following foods in your diet.
- Oils: olive, canola and peanut (monounsaturated fat)
- Avocados (monounsaturated fat and magnesium)
- Olives (monounsaturated fat)
- Nuts: almonds and cashews (monounsaturated fat, zinc and magnesium)
- Oysters (zinc)
- Wheat germ (zinc)
- Shellfish: lobster and crab (zinc)
- Chickpeas (zinc)
- Oatmeal (zinc)
- Kidney beans (zinc)
- Raisins (magnesium)
- Dark green leafy vegetables (magnesium)
- Bananas (magnesium)
- Low-fat yogurt (magnesium)
- Studies conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University indicated that eating plant-based foods that contain phytoestrogens may help women raise estrogen levels. Examples of such foods include:
Aside from maintaining appropriate hormone levels, you can also lower your risk of CAD by working with your MDVIP-affiliated physician to make sure you are taking advantage of all the benefits offered in the practice. Your annual wellness services include a comprehensive heart and stroke screening assessment, and if necessary, advanced cardiac tests.
The results of these screenings and tests are used to help create your customized heart-healthy action plan. Additionally, your physician can work with you to help improve your lifestyle habits, e.g., managing weight, exercising, controlling stress and quitting smoking. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated physician? MDVIP has a nationwide network of physicians. Find one near you and begin your partnership in health.
10 Foods That Can Help Balance Your Hormones Naturally
When it comes to changes in our hormones or issues related to these changes such as stress or PMS, we often don’t think to turn to food as a remedy. However, certain foods can help balance out your hormones, and including these foods in your diet can help level out your body and improve your overall health without having to take any medication. Although everyone’s body reacts differently, incorporating these health foods can help to at least ensure a healthy diet, which can keep your body functioning optimally.
“Hormones control nearly every aspect of how we feel, and insulin, serotonin, cortisol and dopamine, not to mention estrogen and testosterone, can all be effected by food choices we make,” says Marci Clow, MS, RD and Senior Nutritionist at Rainbow Light to Bustle over email. “Each macronutrient (fat, carbohydrate and protein) plays a role in how hormones function and how they are synthesized in the body.”
On the flip side, unhealthy foods such as sugar, high glycemic foods, and alcohol can have a negative impact on your hormones, so it’s important to only eat these foods in moderation, says Lindsay Langford, MS, RD, CSSD to Bustle over email.
If you want help keep your hormones in balance the natural way, try incorporating these 11 foods into your diet.
Avocados are a delicious addition to any meal, but they can do a lot more for your health than you think. On top of being a great go-to brunch treat, avocados can help manage stress hormones, and even impact the hormones that control your menstrual cycle.
“Avocados are loaded with beta-sitosterol, which can effect blood cholesterol levels and help balance the stress hormone cortisol,” says Clow. The plant sterols present in avocados also have an effect on estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones responsible for regulating ovulation and menstrual cycles, according to LIVESTRONG.
You may have heard of this new superfood, but did you know that flaxseed can have all sorts of benefits for your hormones?
Flaxseed is a significant source of phytoestrogens, and it specifically contains a type of phytoestrogen called lignans. “Lignans have both an estrogenic and antiestrogenic effect, and they have been suggested to have protective benefits against certain types of cancer,” says Clow.
Flax seed is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. try eating it in your oatmeal, or even throw it in your smoothy.
There’s a reason you were always told to eat your broccoli. On top of its multitude of health benefits, broccoli can also work to balance your hormones. This cruciferous vegetable can help maintain estrogen balance, and since it is so high in calcium, it can also help with premenstrual syndrome, according to LIVESTRONG. “Broccoli contains phytoestogenic compounds which may promote beneficial estrogen metabolism, helping to rid environmental, or ‘bad’ estrogens from the body,” Clow says.
But broccoli isn’t alone in being able to do this. Other cruciferous vegetables you can enjoy include cauliflower, bok choy, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, turnips, and kale.
This antioxidant-filled fruit can help block excess estrogen production in the body, according to a study from the American Association for Cancer Research. The study also found that this could mean pomegranate has the potential to prevent types of breast cancers that respond to estrogen.
“Pomegranates have a natural compound that may inhibit the enzyme in women’s bodies that converts estrone into estradiol, which is a powerful estrogen that may play a role in origin of hormone dependent cancers,” Clow says.
According to the American Heart Association, it’s important to eat fatty fish, which is high in omega-3s at least twice per week. A 3.5 ounce serving of fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna can not only keep your heart healthy, it can help those at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Fatty fish provides excellent good fats for cell-to-cell communication, which leads to overall improved hormonal communication, Ginny Erwin, MS RDN CPT, tells Bustle. This can also lead to improved mood and cognition.
6. Leafy Greens
Nutrient-rich foods such as leafy greens are ideal for balancing hormones. Because they’re filled with so many antioxidants, leafy greens help prevent inflammation and lower levels of stress, which can help improve cortisol levels, according to SFGate.com. They can also help with estrogen balance.
Certain veggies like collard greens, spinach, kale, beet greens, dandelion greens, and swiss chard are also a good source of iron. Since iron deficiency can be an issue that leads to fatigue, brain fog, and headaches, it’s always good to incorporate your leafy greens into your daily meals!
Nuts like almonds have an effect on your endocrine system, which can assist in lowering your levels of cholesterol, according to LIVESTRONG. They can also help lower insulin and maintain blood sugar levels.
Walnuts in particular contain polyphenols, which can protect our heart and cardiovascular system by fighting free radicals in our body. This component can also have anti-inflammatory properties, and they’re rich in omega-3s which are good for brain health.
Most of us know that soy affects estrogen levels, but eating the bean can have some positive benefits, especially during menopause. “Edamame and tofu in small amounts have estrogen-like effects on menopausal women,” Erwin says. This can help diminish symptoms such as hot flashes, according to WebMD.
According to the Mayo Clinic, soy may also be able to reduce the risk of breast cancer in some people. While it was once believed that soy could increase breast cancer risk, because it can mimic estrogen in the body, it has actually been found that those who have a lifelong diet rich in soy may reduce their risk of breast cancer.
Turmeric has lately been known as a great remedy to treat inflammation. Because it is made of curcumin, turmeric is found to have many healing properties. One 2009 study even found that turmeric had the ability to ease pain in those with arthritis just as much as ibuprofen could.
Like soy, tumeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, can mimics the activity of estrogen. The root can help minimize menstrual pain, such as period cramps.
Because quinoa is a complex carbohydrate, it can help keep your blood sugar levels steady, which in turn keeps insulin and androgen levels at bay, Trevor Cates, ND tells Prevention.
But quinoa is chock full of other benefits too. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, quinoa is a great source of protein and fiber, having 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per cup. Quinoa also doesn’t contain gluten, making it the perfect snack for people with celiac’s disease.
Eating a good combination of healthy foods can keep your hormones balanced, but if you are experiencing anything out of the ordinary, you should always visit a doctor.
This post was originally published on May 7th 2017. It was updated on June 3, 2019. Additional reporting by Kristin Magaldi.
Learn how to balance your hormones naturally with food.
Just like you, I’ve suffered from many hormonal imbalances. At first, I bought into the belief that hormonal problems are genetic or that the causes are “unknown.”
Some of you may have been told that there is little you can do about your hormones apart from taking birth control pills or supplementing your body’s natural hormones. This may be the case for some women, but what I have discovered on my journey is that there is more.
I’ve found that hormonal balance requires healthy digestion, stable sugar levels, and a well-functioning liver. Restoring your gut, sugar levels, and liver health will not only rebalance your hormones but will reverse many other, seemingly unconnected ailments that might have been plaguing you for years, such as seasonal allergies, hives, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to lead large online communities of women who have gone through my hormone-balancing diet, with life-changing results. When I polled the community about the biggest change that this way of eating had created for them, I thought I was going to read replies pertaining to weight loss, better sleep, or better mental function. To my surprise, the biggest benefit the women reported was having learned to “listen” to their bodies.
This skill will set you free.
For some of you, just eliminating gluten and dairy from your diet might resolve years of suffering. For others (and that’s me), it takes some real tuning in and figuring out what foods your body loves and what it rejects. By eating the “rejected” foods, you are in a constant state of inflammation that won’t bring you to hormonal balance and bliss.
See also Yoga for Women’s Health: The Best Pose and Acupressure Point to Reduce Bloating
I learned to cook because I had to—to save my life and sanity. I’m 45 years old. I’ve gone through having Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue stage II, estrogen dominance, and hypoglycemia. I’ve battled chronic Candida, heavy-metal poisoning, bacterial infections (H. pylori), and parasitic infections (many times!), and I’ve had active Epstein-Barr virus (aka mononucleosis). Despite “eating well,” I’ve suffered irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For years, I dealt with an addiction to coffee and cigarettes. My neurotransmitters were so out of whack at one point that I became abusive to the one person I loved the most, which ended our many future plans and hopes. Yet despite all this, I came out on the other end. I’m in better health today than I have been since I was 20 years old.
What I have learned is that our health is a journey, especially for those of us with difficult childhoods, past trauma, and undetected lingering infections. This journey can be highly frustrating and unrewarding at times; after all, I’ve committed my life resources to healing and I do not always get the results I hope for. Nevertheless, I’ve come to appreciate this journey, as with every obstacle comes deep understanding and discovery that you will learn and benefit from. What fascinates me equally is how this journey has armed me with the “soft” coping skills of patience and self-forgiveness. Without those, there will be no healing.
So, back to hormones. They are responsible for how you think, feel, and look. A woman with balanced hormones is sharp and upbeat, with a good memory. She feels energetic without caffeine during the day, falls asleep quickly, and wakes refreshed. She is blessed with a healthy appetite and maintains a desired weight with a good diet. Her hair and skin glow. She feels emotionally balanced and responds to stress with grace and reason. When menstruating, her menses comes and goes with no or little PMS. She has an active sex life. She can maintain a full-term pregnancy. When entering perimenopause or menopause, she slides into a new phase of life with ease. If that doesn’t describe you, your hormones are imbalanced. Don’t despair. You are not alone. Millions of women experience hormonal imbalance. The good news is, you can rebalance your hormones naturally and resolve your symptoms. Here are a few quick ways to start to assess what imbalances you might be suffering from.
See also Yoga for Women’s Health: The Best Pose & Acupressure Point to Relieve Menstrual Cramps & PMS
High Cortisol: You are in a state of chronic stress, and your adrenals are working extra hard. Family issues, poor relationships, job problems, finances, overexercising, and past trauma and abuse could be causes, as could chronic digestive issues or infections.
Low Cortisol: If you have low cortisol levels, you have had high cortisol levels for a while now and your adrenals are therefore too tired to produce sufficient cortisol. To confirm whether you do have low cortisol levels, it’s important to get a diagnosis from a qualified functional physician and get a urine or saliva test four times a day.
Low Progesterone: Low progesterone can be caused by excess cortisol levels (from chronic stress) or excess estradiol, the antagonistic estrogen produced in your body or introduced externally as synthetic estrogens (known as “xenoestrogens”) from skin-care and house-cleaning products. High cortisol levels are inflammatory and can block progesterone receptors, inhibiting progesterone from doing its work. When stressed, we end up with less progesterone.
High Estrogen (Estrogen Dominance): This condition can manifest in a few ways. You could have more estradiol (E2), the antagonistic estrogen, compared with estriol (E3) and estrone (E1), which often happens when many xenoestrogens, or synthetic estrogens, are present in your life. Second, you might have insufficient progesterone to oppose estradiol (even if your estradiol levels are within range). Estrogen dominance can also happen when there are more antagonistic estrogen metabolites (which are the byproducts of estrogen metabolism). Visceral fat also produces estradiol. Women with high testosterone levels (and often polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS) can suffer from estrogen dominance, too. This is because testosterone gets converted to estradiol in the aromatization process. Inhibiting this process can break the cycle of estrogen production and relieve symptoms of estrogen dominance.
See also Yoga for Menopause: Alleviate Symptoms with Yoga
Low Estrogen: Declining estrogen levels typically happen to women going into perimenopause and menopause, but I have seen young women suffering from stress and toxic lifestyles experience this too. The ovaries are producing less estrogen because of aging, stress (and high cortisol levels), or toxicity.
High Testosterone (Androgen Dominance): The leading cause is high sugar levels. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is commonly caused by androgen dominance. While making dietary changes, get a formal diagnosis of PCOS and high testosterone level.
Low Testosterone: Most often, when the adrenals are exhausted, they also underproduce testosterone.
Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism and/or Hashimoto’s Disease): Sadly, too many thyroid conditions go undiagnosed because of incomplete tests and wrong lab ranges that conventional doctors use. The consensus among functional practitioners is that 30 percent of the population experiences subclinical hypothyroidism (this means the symptoms are subtle). This could be an underestimate. One study in Japan found 38 percent of the healthy subjects to have elevated thyroid antibodies (indicating the body’s immune system attacking the thyroid). Another study reports that 50 percent of patients, mostly women, have thyroid nodules. If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, it was most likely caused by Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition. When you put out the fire in your gut and the immune system, you may see your thyroid health improve and symptoms subside or go away.
Insulin Resistance or Leptin Resistance: If you eat processed carbohydrates (including cereals, puffy rice, breads, bagels, pasta, cakes, and cookies), sugar (found in incredibly high amounts in most packaged foods), or processed proteins (such as protein shakes), it’s likely you have a problem with sugar. It first manifests with high and/or low blood-sugar levels (you feel cranky, unfocused, lightheaded, and tired when hungry) and ends up with a full metabolic disorder such as insulin or leptin resistance. Women suffering from high testosterone or PCOS tend to have elevated sugar levels or insulin or leptin resistance. The good news is this: These conditions are completely reversible with diet, exercise, detoxification, and stress management The key to balance is not too much or too little of any hormone. Where fat is stored in your body can tell a bigger picture—one of a hormonal imbalance.
See also 6 Tricks to Make Your Supplements Work Better for Your Body
Listening To Your Body
Once you know about the role of food in balancing hormones, you can create daily eating habits that work best for you. Certainly, eating a whole-food diet and an abundance of green, leafy vegetables while reducing the amount of processed foods, sugar, and alcohol in your diet is a good place to start. But there is no one-size-fits-all diet plan or nutritional protocol that will work for every single woman. You have probably noticed that the same food affects you and a family member or friend differently. Perhaps your best friend can’t stop talking about how great quinoa is, but you find it upsets your stomach. Or, you love fermented vegetables as a good source of probiotics, but your colleague can’t tolerate them, breaking out in hives and feeling itchy and anxious after just a bite. One person’s health food can be another person’s poison. The only way to find a diet that supports your health is to respect your body and listen to what it tells you about which foods are friends and which are foes. Start with small changes and the recipes here, and see what you notice.
See also Yoga for Women’s Health: The Best Pose & Acupressure Point to Reduce Irritability During Your Period
The Jicama and Pomegranate Slaw Is Your New Lunchtime Best Friend
(Gut healing, estrogen balancing, immune boosting)
You see jicama in most health-food stores but probably wonder what to do with it. This crunchy and yummy root gets its sweet flavor from inulin, which is a prebiotic, or food for the probiotics in your gut. This salad couples jicama with the mighty phytoestrogenic pomegranate; I hope it becomes one of your favorites.
Click here for the recipe.
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About the Author
Magdalena Wszelaki is a holistic nutrition coach and founder of the popular Hormones & Balance online community. Learn more at hormonesbalance.com.
Excerpted from Cooking for Hormone Balance by Magdalena Wszelaki, HarperOne, 2018. Reprinted with permission.
What Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Says:
Does It Work?
Research suggests that a Mediterranean diet, similar to Turner’s, can aid weight loss. You will lose weight on the plan because it is low in calories.
But promising that it can “balance hormones,” cure a whole host of problems and diseases, restore sleep, give you glowing skin and healthier hair, and more is not based on solid, scientific evidence.
Eating a clean, natural, preferably organic diet, free of preservatives and processed foods is ideal, but it’s not practical or necessary for weight loss or good health. Nor are the tremendous amounts of supplements, including herbal and bowel cleansers.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
Following a Mediterranean-style, low-glycemic diet is a sensible approach to healthy eating and weight loss that could benefit most people. Reaching a healthy weight can improve many conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
The Final Word
The cocktail of supplements and the hormone theories are unfounded and not recommended. Keep in mind that many things affect your hormone levels. It’s not just about your food. To say that certain foods are “hormone hindering” is inaccurate and oversimplifies the role of nutrients in the body.
Phases two and three, or the “Glyci-Med” portion of the diet, are the most nutritionally balanced phases and the most likely to be sustainable. Anyone seeking a very green diet may want to use this plan as a template for a low-calorie diet, but be sure to add a daily multivitamin with minerals, and also make physical activity a habit.
If you think you have a hormonal imbalance or would like to follow this diet, consult your doctor.
The Exact Foods That Will Help Balance Your Hormones
We blame our hormones for a lot of things—mood swings, random food cravings, and being especially snappy to our S.O. at any given time, to name a few. But here’s a wake-up call: What you’re putting in your body has a direct effect on how your hormones operate, so technically, it’s your responsibility to make sure they are happily in balance (yes, that means putting down the cheese puffs). Mind Body Green released a list of 48 foods to eat to balance your hormones recently, noting that healthy fats are especially important. “For years, we’ve been told that fat-free is good, while cholesterol and saturated fat are bad,” editor Megan Kelly writes. “This is a dangerous lie. Healthy fat is the raw material that we need to produce and maintain proper hormone function.” (We actually talked about how butter can be considered a healthy fat in moderation recently, too.) Since hormones are produced using certain fatty acids and cholesterol, any diet lacking these building blocks will cause an array of hormone-related problems, Kelly explains.
Hormone Diets Are All The Rage Now, So Here’s Some Actual Science
When it comes to losing weight and getting healthy, there never seems to be a shortage of diet and fitness crazes claiming to hold the secret to easy, sustainable weight loss.
Some of the most recent popular diet crazes include the ketogenic diet (low carbohydrate, high fat), the carnivore diet (only eating meat and other animal products), and intermittent fasting (eating only within a strict timeframe, or on certain days).
But another diet plan that’s come into the spotlight recently is the hormone diet, which claims that the reason people struggle to lose weight is because their hormones aren’t working properly.
Numerous books have been written about this topic, with advocates of the hormone diet claiming people can experience quick and significant weight loss by using diet and exercise to manipulate or “reset” their hormones. There are a few variations of the diet, but the main idea with each is that the key to losing weight is by correcting perceived hormonal imbalances in the body.
Hormones play an important role in our body’s everyday processes, from digesting food to helping bones grow. They’re transported around the body through the bloodstream and act as “chemical messengers” which instruct cells to perform specific jobs.
For example, insulin is essential for regulating metabolic processes and allows the body to store the carbohydrates from food as energy in our muscle cells. When we eat, it causes blood sugar levels to rise, which results in the pancreas releasing insulin into the bloodstream. The insulin then attaches itself to cells and signals them to absorb sugar from the bloodstream and store it for later use.
Insulin was once thought to play a key role in weight gain, but recent research shows that total calorie intake is actually the primary factor in gaining or losing weight.
Fat loss can only be achieved by creating a calorie deficit, which simply means that you must burn more calories than you consume. Similarly, this is why many people have success with intermittent fasting, as it typically results in the consumption of less food and therefore fewer calories.
One popular book promoting the hormone diet uses a three-step programme that claims it will help people lose weight, gain strength, and feel younger. Steps one and two of the diet focus on changing nutritional habits. Step three concentrates on exercise.
According to the author, readers must “detox” their body. In step one, readers remove foods such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, red meat, cow’s milk and milk byproducts (such as cheese or yoghurts) from their diet, while simultaneously eating more fruits and vegetables, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products from sheep and goats, and plant milks.
In step two, readers must then cut out processed foods, artificial sweeteners and refined grains. Step three involves an increase in cardiovascular and strength exercises.
The dietary recommendations provided in steps one and two require a decrease in food products that are typically high in calories and low in nutritional value, such as alcohol, high-sugar foods, and processed foods.
The diet also promotes foods such as vegetables, fish and fruit, which increase fibre intake (important for the digestive system) and provides the body with a variety of vitamins and minerals which perform numerous bodily functions required for overall health and well-being.
These foods are also generally lower in calories than alcohol, high-sugar foods and processed foods. And paired with the recommended exercises in step three, this “hormone diet” will probably increase calorie ‘burning’ along with other health benefits.
Does the ‘hormone diet’ actually work?
Generally, the hormone diet recommended in this book is not bad nutritional advice. However, the key here is that any potential weight loss will probably be from the change in calorie intake, rather than an effect (if any) on your hormones.
Weight loss (or body fat loss) is achieved by creating a calorie deficit, not by “resetting your hormone balance”.
Despite what advocates of the hormone diet might claim, hormonal imbalances are usually the result of a more serious underlying health condition, such as diabetes (impaired insulin function) or hyperthyroidism (where the thyroid produces too many thyroid hormones), which couldn’t simply be fixed through diet alone, and would require medical treatment.
Currently, there is no viable theory to demonstrate that a person can “reset” their hormones to influence fat loss. There is also no peer-reviewed research in a major journal that has specifically studied the hormone diet and its effects.
But there might be a simple explanation for why people think the hormone diet works: it helps to create a calorie deficit through improved nutritional habits and exercise, which will probably result in weight loss.
Ultimately, anyone that wants to lose weight or body fat should focus on creating a calorie deficit. How a person creates this calorie deficit may vary from person to person, and might even include following popular diet plans like keto or intermittent fasting.
However, the best approach is whichever someone finds the most compatible with their lifestyle.
Robert Naughton, Senior Lecturer, University of Huddersfield.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
5 Reasons Your Food Could Be Messing with Your Hormones
Photo: Katarína Mittáková / EyeEm / Getty Images
As with all things in wellness, balance is key-in your diet, exercise plan, and even your hormones. Hormones control everything from your fertility to your metabolism, mood, appetite, and even heart rate. Our healthy (and not-so-healthy) habits alike contribute to keeping them in balance.
And, unsurprisingly, what you put in your body every day can be a huge contributor to hormone imbalances. Here, the biggest triggers and what you can do to keep levels in check. (Also see: The Most Important Hormones for Your Health)
Just because a food is considered “healthy” doesn’t mean you’re protected from hormone disruptors. For example, the oils from whole grains used in cereals, breads, and crackers can go rancid, so preservatives are often added, says Steven Gundry, M.D., a heart surgeon and author of The Plant Paradox.
Preservatives disrupt the endocrine system by mimicking estrogen and competing with naturally occurring estrogen, which can cause weight gain, low thyroid function, and lessened sperm count. The concerning fact is: Preservatives, such as butylated hydroxytoluene (a compound commonly called BHT that dissolves in fats and oils), do not have to be listed on nutrition labels. Because the FDA generally regards them as safe, they don’t require them to be disclosed on food packaging. (These seven strange food additives are on the label.)
Your fix: In general, it’s best to eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible. Consider buying bread from bakeries, or eat fresh foods with a shorter shelf life to avoid added preservatives.
Phytoestrogens-natural compounds found in plants-are present in many foods including fruits, vegetables, and some animal products. The quantity varies, but soy, some citrus fruits, wheat, licorice, alfalfa, celery, and fennel have higher amounts of phytoestrogens. When consumed, phytoestrogens may affect your body in the same way as naturally produced estrogen-but there’s a lot of controversy around phytoestrogens and the positive or negative health effects. Case in point: All three experts cited here had differing options. Therefore, the answer about consumption is not one size fits all.
Some research shows that dietary phytoestrogen consumption may be linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, menopausal symptoms, and hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, says registered dietitian nutritionist, Maya Feller, R.D.N. She recommends visiting a qualified health professional to determine how age, health status, and gut microbiome may affect how your body responds to phytoestrogens. (Related: Should You Eat Based on Your Menstrual Cycle?)
“Women with breast or ovarian cancer frequently avoid phytoestrogen compounds in soy and flax, but the ligands in soy and flax can block the estrogen receptors on these cancer cells,” says Dr. Gundry. So not only are they perfectly safe but probably useful as part of an overall healthy diet, he says.
The effects of soy can vary depending on the person, the specific body organ or gland in question, and the level of exposure, says Minisha Sood, M.D., an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC. While there is some evidence that soy-rich diets actually lower breast cancer risk, there is also evidence that soy is an endocrine disruptor as well, she says. Since there’s conflicting information, avoid consuming soy products in excess, like exclusively drinking soy milk. (Here’s what you need to know about soy and whether it’s healthy or not.)
3. Pesticides & Growth Hormones
It’s worth noting that foods themselves generally do not disrupt hormones in a negative way, says Dr. Sood. However, pesticides, glyphosate (a herbicide), and added growth hormones in dairy and animal products can bind to the hormone receptor in a cell and block your body’s naturally occurring hormones from binding, causing an altered response within the body. (Glyphosate was the chemical that was recently found in many oat products.)
Experts have mixed feelings on soy itself, but there’s another potential pesticide issue at play: “Glyphosate-based herbicides are used extensively in soy crops and there is often a residue on soybeans that could be problematic for people who consume high quantities of soy milk, especially before puberty,” says Dr. Sood. Eating too many phytoestrogens treated with glyphosate may decrease sperm count and affect levels of testosterone and estrogen.
While there is no way to completely avoid pesticides, considering even organic farmers use them. (You may want to consider buying biodynamic foods.) However, organic produce tends to be grown with less toxic pesticides, which may help, says Dr. Sood. (This guide can help you decide when to buy organic.) Also, try soaking fruits and veggies for 10 minutes in baking soda and water-it’s been shown to reduce exposure, she says. When available, buy animal and dairy products from local farms with a track record of hormone-free products to avoid the added growth hormones.
Alcohol can have a profound effect on both the female and male reproductive systems. Chronic use of alcohol disturbs communication between your body’s systems, including the neurological, endocrine, and immune systems. It can result in a physiological stress response that can present as reproductive problems, thyroid problems, changes in your immune system, and more. (This is also why it’s common to wake up early after a night of drinking.)
Both short- and long-term alcohol consumption can affect sex drive and testosterone and estrogen levels, which could lower fertility and interfere with menstrual cycles, says Dr. Sood. Evidence on the effect of low to moderate drinking on fertility is still unclear, but heavy drinkers (who consume six to seven drinks per day) or social drinkers (two to three drinks per day) have more reproductive endocrine changes than occasional or non-drinkers. The best route is to drink in moderation or at least drink less when you are trying to conceive, says Dr. Sood. (See: How Bad Is Binge Drinking for Your Health, Really?)
Recycling, avoiding straws, and buying reusable items have a bigger impact than just saving the turtles-your hormones will also thank you. Bisphenol A and bisphenol S (you’ve probably seen them referred to as BPA and BPS), found in plastic bottles and in the lining of cans, are endocrine disruptors. (Here’s more on the issues with BPA and BPS.)
There are also phthalates in plastic wrap and food storage containers. Studies have shown that they can cause premature breast development and block thyroid hormone function, which regulates metabolism as well as heart and digestive functions, says Dr. Gundry. He recommends avoiding plastic wrapped food (like pre-portioned meat at the grocery store), switching to glass food storage containers, and using a stainless steel water bottle. (Try these BPA-free water bottles.)
- By By Shannon Bauer
The Top 6 Anti-Estrogen Foods for Breast Cancer Risk Reduction
Why should you add anti-estrogen foods into your diet? Let’s just start by stating that multiple benefits burst out of these foods and into your cells to help you heal from breast cancer, decrease its recurrence, and aid in reducing the risk of it occurring in the first place. Since estrogen feeds and fuels 80 percent of all breast cancers via estrogen binding to an estrogen receptor on the cell’s surface, the goal of hormone therapy is to reduce estrogen levels in the body (like the aromatase inhibitors do) and to keep it out of the receptors (like tamoxifen does). Certain foods also have anti-estrogen properties and can either reduce the production of estrogen, and/or block estrogen’s binding to receptors. If you have (or had! or don’t want!) an estrogen-driven breast cancer, make sure you eat these anti-estrogen foods every day because they can work alone and/or alongside your medication to reduce the odds of cancer cell formation, growth and spread.
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Whole foods made from soybeans contain phyto (plant) estrogen compounds called isoflavones. When consumed in their whole food form (we’re not talking supplements or fake meat products with soy protein isolate here), isoflavones behave as a very weak form of estrogen on “ alpha” estrogen receptors in the body (with 1/10th to 1/100th the signaling power of your real deal estrogen); so instead of stimulating the growth of cancer, when isoflavones bind to alpha estrogen receptors, they block the ability of estrogen to bind and send signals to the cancer cell to multiply and divide. When isoflavones bind to “beta” estrogen receptors, guess what happens? They act as strong anti-estrogens by shutting alpha down, and by going into fat cells to shut the estrogen-making aromatase enzyme down, thereby lowering estrogen levels.
How much? The research on soy foods and breast cancerhas found that eating 1 or 2 half-cup servings each day can be protective. Choose organic, unprocessed tofu, tempeh, edamame, soybeans, or unsweetened soy milk, and try tamari or miso paste as a seasoning when making soups or sautéing vegetables. Make sure to read our detailed post on soy where we set the record straight on many misconceptions.
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Well known for their cancer-fighting compounds, mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Research has confirmed that the phytochemicals in mushrooms not only reduce the risk of breast cancer, but also help fight it by boosting the immune system, halting tumor growth, and even killing cancer cells.
Mushrooms are also a source of vitamin D, which is associated with lower risk and better survival of breast cancer. Much research has been done on varieties like shitake, maitake, and reiki mushrooms, but even the white button variety, which is in everyone’s produce department, has benefits. Scientists have found that they have anti-estrogen properties and can prevent the growth of breast cancer cells.
How much? A daily serving about the size of your thumb should be enough. Cook them for at least one minute to destroy agaritine, a natural toxin found in mushrooms, and experiment with different types to get the most benefits.
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3. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes, turnips) also have amazing anti-cancer and estrogen-blocking properties. Their distinctive sulfur smell comes from a compound that kills cancer cells in their tracks, so this is a class of vegetables that should be on everyone’s plate.
How much? Aim for a generous 2 ½ cup serving each day. Because some of their beneficial phytochemicals are more available when they’re cooked, and others when they’re eaten raw, eat a variety, and mix up how you prepare them too.
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4. Citrus Fruits
In addition to being great sources of the antioxidant, vitamin C, citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, pomelos, grapefruits, lemons, and limes also contain various phytochemicals that protect and fight cancer. One of those phytochemicals (2-Hydroxyflavanone, for those of you who miss O-chem; i.e., organic chemistry) prevents the spread of breast cancer cells by downregulating estrogen receptors.
How much? Eat at least one whole fruit each day.
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5. Ground Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds provide omega-3 fatty acids, as well as protein, fiber, and compounds known as lignins. Just like the isoflavones in soy, lignins are a weak form of phytoestrogens, so they block estrogen receptors and decrease the growth of breast cancer. Studies have found that breast cancer survivors with higher levels of lignins in their blood survive longer.
How much? Sprinkle 2 tablespoons/day on fruit, salads, or mix them into your smoothie for a nutrient boost. Grind your flaxseeds or use flax meal — otherwise, you won’t absorb their goodness.
This one’s found in all plant foods, including those listed above — and it provides a major benefit for everyone, whether you’re fighting cancer or trying to prevent it. For every 10 grams of fiber you eat each day, you’ll reduce your risk of breast cancer by 4%. All fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed whole grains provide fiber, so be sure to eat these foods with each meal and snack: apples, oats, bran, berries, beans, peas, and avocado.
How much?The recommendation is 30 grams per day. Each serving (about 1 cup or a generous handful) provides about 4-5 grams of fiber, but if you increase the amount of plants you eat each day, you can easily reach that goal.
In addition to their ability to combat estrogen-driven cancers, the above foods also happen to be the top sources of cancer-fighting phytochemicals, which means they’ll also benefit anyone with estrogen-negative cancer. Eat more of these powerful, anti-estrogenic foods to maximize your efforts at preventing a cancer diagnosis — or a cancer recurrence. Someone go get me a 100% whole grain pasta bowl filled with broccoli, peas, sauteed mushrooms, and tamari-soaked tofu!
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1. Soy and cancer survivorship. American Institute for Cancer Research. Accessed September 4, 2018.
3. Othman R. Immunostimulatory and Anti-inflammatory Effect of Ganoderma Lucidum on Breast Cancer Patients. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Biology. 2018 May 29;3(2).
4. Mohr SB, Gorham ED, Kim J, Hofflich H, Garland CF. Meta-analysis of vitamin D sufficiency for improving survival of patients with breast cancer. Anticancer research. 2014 Mar 1;34(3):1163-6.
5. Grube BJ, Eng ET, Kao YC, Kwon A, Chen S. White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. The Journal of nutrition. 2001 Dec 1;131(12):3288-93.
6. Royston KJ, Tollefsbol TO. The epigenetic impact of cruciferous vegetables on cancer prevention. Current pharmacology reports. 2015 Feb 1;1(1):46-51.
7. Singhal SS, Chikara S, Nagaprashantha L, Singhal J, Horne D, Awasthi S. Abstract 3269A: 2-Hydroxyflavanone: A novel estrogen receptor alpha down regulator with potent antitumor effect in breast cancer.
8. Calado A, Neves PM, Santos T, Ravasco P. The Effect of Flaxseed in Breast Cancer: A Literature Review. Frontiers in nutrition. 2018 Feb 7;5:4.
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I’m glad you asked this question because it gives me a chance to set the record straight on use of hormones in commercially raised animals. This is a legitimate concern because hormone residues in food can increase the risk of breast cancer and other reproductive system cancers among women and may promote development of prostate cancer in men.
Some people think that all commercially raised animals – cattle, hogs, sheep, and poultry – are fed hormones as growth promoters. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not permit the use of hormones in raising hogs or chickens, turkeys and other fowl. That is why the USDA does not allow the use of the term “no hormones added” on labels of pork or poultry products unless it is followed by a statement explaining that “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
Hormones are still used as growth promoters in cattle and sheep. It’s estimated that two-thirds of the cattle raised in the U.S. are given hormones (usually testosterone or estrogens) to boost growth. Producers of beef and lamb may use the term “no hormones administered” on labels after satisfying the USDA that hormones were not used in raising the animals. If you eat beef or lamb, I urge you to look for such products.
Buying hormone-free meat and dairy products can be expensive. As a less costly option, try to minimize your family’s consumption of the conventional products, substituting other meats (pork or venison for example) and meat alternatives such as soy foods.
The USDA does allow farmers to use antibiotics to prevent or treat diseases in all farmed animals, although the drugs must be withheld for a period of time prior to slaughter so that any residues fall below federal limits. Even so, I believe that this practice is ill-advised since it contributes to the escalating problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria throughout the world. The words “no antibiotics added” on meat or poultry products indicate that the producer has satisfied the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service that the animals were raised without antibiotics.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
How A Hormone Balancing Diet and Lifestyle Gave Me A New Life
This is a very personal article and although it is specific to me, I have a feeling many of you find yourselves here, too.
I’ve come to accept the fact that the management of my health will always be a journey and not a destination. If you are familiar with the Buddhist way of life, you are probably smiling. And, if not – in short, it just means embracing life as it unfolds, treating it with appreciation, kindness, and forgiveness rather than be solely focused on a specific goal. Because the reality is — we tend to lose ourselves in the pursuit of goals, never live in the present, never appreciate what we have – and once we reach the destination/goal, we are still not happy and we want more.
This is a very personal blog post that details the challenges and steps I have taken in the past year on my continuous journey of healing. It might be specific to me but I have a feeling that many of you will find yourselves in my tales, too.
Hyperthyroidism (Graves’) and hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s)
I think I had hormonal drama going on since my early twenties; I just had no idea why I was feeling this way. I wrote about my thyroid battles and what I did to reverse and manage them, which you can read about here.
Both of the thyroid conditions were autoimmune-related. It means my immune system was launching an attack on the thyroid gland. You might be wondering about the connection between an autoimmune condition and a hormonal imbalance. Let me assure you, there is a big one, even though in Western (allopathic) medicine, they like to dissect us to “systems” – as if the brain, digestive and nervous system were not connected to each other.
What I have learned is that the digestive system houses 70% of the immune system and that when it is in distress, not only does it trigger the immune system to misfire (this is why I had two autoimmune conditions) but it also puts us it a state of stress which stimulates cortisol overproduction. So there you have it: cortisol. The king of steroid hormones that gets us through crisis moments (we can’t live without it) and gets us in trouble when it is too much, for too long or too little of it.
In spite of my thyroid doing great, I started experiencing hair loss in 2010.
By 2010, after two years of dietary and lifestyle changes which I talk about here, my thyroid started doing much better. By “better” I mean: my TPO antibodies dropped, I was no longer fatigued, had no more heart palpitations and terrifying anxiety attacks. My mood improved and I felt like being social and kind to people again. I say “again”, as this was not the case when I lived in Shanghai, China when my health was at its worst.
But, now my hair started falling out – a symptom I did not experience earlier. So it felt like managing my thyroid was a moving goal and a rather mysterious one as all lab work proved to be OK. An integrated doctor in Seattle (where I lived in 2010) told me that I was the “healthiest person he had seen in a long time”. That was not helpful.
I then moved to NYC and one of the first things I tasked myself with was to find a good physician who was willing to run the tests I requested and who understood the peripheral body systems that impact the thyroid and cause hair loss.
Hair loss is just a sign that there is an imbalance going on in the body.
The easiest thing to look at first were vitamin and mineral deficiencies so I went down that path – zinc, calcium, more meat proteins, biotin, iron, and silica. Yup, did them all and still had no results. Out of desperation, I even went on Cytomel (a synthetic T3 thyroid hormone) for three months. It temporarily helped but it stopped working after two months and the hair loss came back.
Finally, I found a doctor who ran a battery of tests, including DHT (dihydrotestosterone), cortisol, heavy metal panels and estrogen levels.
Verdict: heavy metal toxicity, estrogen dominance and adrenal fatigue Stage 2.
I had high levels of mercury and lead both in my urine (indicator for past exposure) and blood (indicator for current exposure). This was hardly surprising as I had a mouth full of old amalgam fillings and lived in China for over four years where I fearlessly ate seafood and fish – partly in denial and partly in ignorance.
It’s the second diagnosis, estrogen dominance, that threw me off. Me? Estrogen dominance? I’ve not been on birth control pills for years, I eat clean food, I don’t use plastics at home, I select clean skin care products and I exercise regularly. How can it be?
I still remember watching one of the great health/alternative medicine documentaries on Netflix that featured a woman diagnosed with breast cancer who said “I was the annoyingly healthy person. I never ate crap. I never fell sick. I never had a weight problem. Breast cancer was the worse thing God could ever punish me with.” I heard and felt every word she uttered.
In case you do not know this, estrogen dominance is the leading cause of breast cancers and osteoporosis in women. It can also contribute to autoimmune diseases and both Graves’ and Hashimoto’s fall into this group.
My estrogen dominance was diagnosed based on a simple blood test called the 2:16 Hydroxyestrone Ratio (more details below). You can also get it tested through saliva and get a better view of the different estrogens, progesterone and their relationship to each other. I share more about saliva hormone panel testing here.
What does it mean to have estrogen dominance?
I am going to borrow the explanation from Dr.Dan Lukaczer, N.D., who is director of clinical research at the Functional Medicine Research Center. He explains it so eloquently:
“In premenopausal women, the ovaries produce the estrogen estradiol (E2), which converts into estrone (E1), both of which must eventually be broken down and excreted from the body. This breakdown occurs primarily in the liver, and the excreted metabolites flow out in the bile or urine. Estradiol and estrone undergo this breakdown through a process called hydroxylation. (…)
What makes an estrogen good or bad? That has to do with the biological activity, or potency, of that estrogen. Estrogens are important in a host of cellular activities that affect growth and differentiation in various target cells. This is normal and beneficial, but too much estrogenic stimulation can have a negative effect.
Therefore, properly metabolizing and excreting estrogens is crucial.. If these estrogens are metabolized into the 2-hydroxylated estrone and estradiol, they lose much of their cell proliferative and estrogenic activity and are termed “good” estrogen metabolites. Studies show that when 2-hydroxylation increases, the body resists cancer, and that when 2-hydroxylation decreases, cancer risk increases.”
This was a humbling experience. After all, I teach people how to live clean, yet, I’m a perfect candidate for breast cancer now? Losing hair was just the onset of the bigger storm that was yet to come.
Can you see yourself in this? You eat well, you exercise, you don’t drink diet Coke.
So many of you write to me and say “I’m eating so well, I exercise, I try not to be stressed and I’m still not 100%. What is going on?”
And this is what I mean by my own health and healing being a journey. It’s not about the thyroid anymore, at least not for me. My thyroid numbers are and were perfect (apart from the TPO antibodies). It often can be about the peripheral body systems that are impacting you.
You know what I love about it? Every crisis makes me dive deep into understanding what is going on and WHY is it happening.
Of course, the next step for anybody with a Type A personality is to dive into action. Yup, that’s me. Embrace it and battle it. Head on.
And so I did.
How do I reverse adrenal fatigue, estrogen dominance and heavy metal toxicity?
First stop: the internet.
A bad idea. A very bad idea.
Do you remember when you first got diagnosed and Googled your own hormonal condition and got thousands or millions (literally) of pages coming up? You suddenly found yourself in a jungle of information; overwhelmed and confused with all the contradictory information. Not to mention the supplements and magic pills each website promises to heal you with. And forget online forums, they make you feel like you should be dead by now.
This was my path, too. Google “heavy metal detoxification” or “estrogen dominance” and see what you get. I wanted to cry and my heart started pounding as I didn’t know where to start and who to trust. And believe me, I’ve learned over the years about my credible go-to sources.
My action plan to healing.
I took a deep breath and slowly, over the next few weeks, I came up with an action plan. Which read:
- Get rid of the heavy metals
- Remove all my amalgam fillings.
- Support my liver.
- Have a solid liver detox in place supporting the Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification process.
- Re-balance my estrogen levels:
a. Internally: again, support my liver and especially the methylation and sulphication pathways of the liver as they excrete metabolized (or “used up”) estrogens.
b. Externally: diligently get rid of any xenoestrogens (sythetic version of estrogens) found in my house cleaning products, skin care, cosmetics and perfumes.
4. Address my elevated cortisol level.
So I got to work.
Step #1. Removed the biggest source of mercury: my amalgam fillings.
First stop: in January 2013, I had all my six amalgam fillings removed by a holistic dentist who specializes in mercury removal. It was expensive ($4,000 for six fillings) and in spite of all the precautions she took and the amino acid protocol I was on, I felt terrible for three days and slept 14 hours each day. But, I recovered from this fatigue soon after that.
Step #2. Started juicing daily.
I dusted off my juicer (well, not really, but actually started using it every day) and started juicing vegetables that are known to cleanse the liver. No raw cruciferous veggies here, as they can be detrimental to the thyroid when in raw form.
Step #3. Upped the cruciferous vegetables.
In case you don’t know what they are, it’s the brassica (or cabbage) family of goodness like kale, broccoli, chards, spinach, cauliflower, etc. In their raw form, they are known to slow down the thyroid and this is why, if you are a thyroid patient, you should consume them in a cooked form. Many websites and writers have an obsessive tendency to view nutrition in black and white and recommend for people with thyroid conditions to cut them out completely. I don’t agree with this approach – most of my clients eat cooked cruciferous veggies in moderation and heal well.
Why I like cruciferous vegetables? They are the superstars of the vegetables; there are no other veggies that are as rich in Vitamin A carotenoids; Vitamin C; folic acid; Vitamin K (which regulate our inflammatory responses – very common in people with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions) and fiber. As it is, most people are nutritionally depleted and rely heavily on supplements which they don’t even absorb properly – so why deprive your body of these wonderful nutrients?
In my own journey since January 2013 till today, I’ve added at least 1-2 servings of cooked cruciferous vegetables per day. In fact, if you see my result below, my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) dropped from 1.02 to 0.82 which is most certainly not a sign of going hypo.
In the liver detoxification protocol, I used the cruciferous vegetables because they are key in the Phase 2 process and specifically the glutathione pathway which gets rid of heavy metals, PCBs (endocrine disruptors) and pathogenic bacteria in the liver.
Step #4. Did a major liver detox
Knowing that the liver is largely responsible for the neutralization and elimination of mutated and excess hormones like thyroid and estrogen, I embarked on a highly tailor-made liver detoxification protocol. Even though I’ve lived a very clean life for the past seven years, it appeared that there are still residual burdens that inhibit the liver from detoxing our body properly.
If you wonder about the symptoms of a sluggish liver, read this post. It’s key to your healing to understand the Phase 1 and Phase 2 part as well as the different detoxification pathways that will help you get back on your feet.
Step #5. Added an amino-acid protocol.
I got on a strict protocol of a combination of amino acids that help the liver pathways in detoxifying the mutated hormones, including thyroid and estrogen hormones, and ridding the body of heavy metals. I refused to do chelation therapy which might produce quick results but feels invasive to me. Instead, I chose to go slower but do it organically.
Step #6. Minimal supplements.
If you know me well, you know I’m not a fan of these, for many reasons. So I limited them to only two things: passionflower extract and a DIM supplement that blocks the receptors for the E2 (estradiol), the aggressive estrogen.
Step #7. De-stressing to reduce my cortisol levels.
I was pretty aware that a romantic relationship I was in was going south and it had a big impact on my stress levels. I also took on too many work projects which were depleting me.
Solution? I walked away from the relationship (very hard at first but it felt so much lighter later) and went back to doing a 20-minute meditation every morning to start the day on the right foot. I also frequently make some time to sit in silence and just breathe deeply into my lower abdomen whenever I find myself overwhelmed, annoyed or just having a racing mind.
I also cut out my habitual morning espresso and switched to matcha green tea. Adrenals hate coffee and sugar.
I did not go for any adaptogens many practitioners prescribe to patients with adrenal fatigue or overactive adrenals.
In April 2013 I got back from my doctor’s office who is totally on board with the madness of tests I wanted him to run (I love this kind of doctor – works with you in partnership and does not get intimidated by you knowing a bit about your own body) and he said to me: “How did you do it?”
“What did I do?” – me, confused.
“Your numbers look really good,” – him, smiling.
We all like to see a person smile and this smile was different.
I kind of knew that something had shifted in my own body over the past few months.
- My hair loss stopped and I started having lots of baby hair growing back.
- My PMS is totally gone – even on my good days I always had a bit of a mood dip not noticeable to others but me. Now I feel n.o.t.h.i.n.g.
- My periods are painless and I do not get bloated at all. ( Yes, this is yet another symptom of estrogen dominance that we’ve grown to accept it as a “norm” of every woman’s menstrual reality.
- Those darn seven strands of hair under my chin and rather dark hair above my lips stopped growing. Facial growth (under your chin and above your lips) could be a sign of estrogen dominance but also of high androgens (testosterone and/or DHEA).
All of it is not surprising, as my lab work has significantly improved, namely:
- My TPO antibodies dropped from 138 to 66 (more on that below).
- The marker for estrogen dominance (ED), 2:16 a-Hydroxyestrogen improved from 0.35 to 0.54 which means I no longer have ED.
- My mercury and lead levels dropped to “normal” levels.
- My cortisol levels are mostly in “normal” range, too with a slight elevation at 12.30pm – something to work on.
- My reverse T3 (rT3) dropped significantly – this is another great marker to observe as it’s often elevated due to estrogen dominance and adrenal issues. rT3 acts like T3 but instead of powering you up, it parks itself in the T3 receptors, does nothing and worse still, it blocks the real T3 from coming in and doing its job. T3 is what gives you healthy hair, good skin, energy, clarity of mind, etc.
I scanned my results and highlighted the changes – before and after.
==> Estrogen dominance reduction (click below to see in full)
===> Cortisol (stress hormone) reduction (click below to see full size)
==> Heavy metal (mercury and lead) reduction (click below to see full size)
==> Reverse T3 reduction (click below to see full size)
But, there is more work to be done.
Is it perfect yet? No.
It’s the journey, remember?
I still have to work on what I suspect is my gut absorbability.
In spite of eating meat 3-4 times per week and taking vitamin B complex, my B12 is only 348 and I would like it to be in the 800 range as that’s what is recommended by functional medicine for people with autoimmune conditions.
The same thing goes with my Vitamin D levels – in spite of taking perhaps not a high enough dose of fermented cod liver oil (I like this one), I would like it to go up higher. I suspect it’s the same issue with my gut’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals.
Furthermore, even though my TPO antibodies are lower than ever now at 66, I want to get them down to below 30. This will classify me being free of Hashimoto’s. Even though I have no symptoms of hypothyroiditis (remember that the hair loss was due to either ED and/or heavy metals and not the thyroid), I still want to get them below 30. Because this is my work.
Here is what my next action plan is: test for gluten cross-reactivity. There are foods that may not contain gluten but our body’s immune system labels them as antigens if you have a gluten sensitivity (which I obviously do). The list is a little scary: chocolate, quinoa, rice and hemp seeds are on this list, too. Ouch. They all happen to be a part of my regular diet. It does not mean that I (or you) have a sensitivity to all of them but even eating one of them can be causing digestive dysbiosis and hence the absorbability issue.
If you want a more scientific explanation on gluten cross-reactivity, go to this good source.
What can you do?
1. Find out which hormones are out of balance.
There are several things that you can and should do as a foundation of your overall health – digestive health restoration and liver detoxification are on the top of the list.
Once you get these done but still feel “off” I encourage you then to dive deeper. You can do it easily online by taking our Hormones Balance Quiz or order saliva hormonal panel test from us. The advantage of ordering it here is that you do not have to pay doctor fees.
2. Take action.
One of the first steps I take with my clients is to restore their digestive health. There can be no hormonal balance with a digestion that is stressed. Here I mean experiencing chronic constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach ache, burping and acid reflux. These need to resolve first.
One of the most powerful ways I found to get someone started is to do an Elimination Diet to identify the food intolerances you might be experiencing. Functional medicine believes that 70% of today’s population suffer from some food sensitivity or another. Remember these elevated cortisol levels? Well, a stable digestion will help lower them, too.
After that, it’s your liver that needs support. I talk more extensively on the role of the liver in this article.
Be well, have hope and take action to heal.
When your reproductive hormones are out of whack, the signs are glaringly obvious. Breakouts, irregular periods, mood swings, weight gain—these are just a few of the many loud-and-clear signs that something’s off in the endocrine department. What’s not so straightforward? How to get things back into harmony. After all, there are almost as many culprits for hormone imbalance as there are symptoms, including your exercise routine, your birth control pills, stress, and—this is a big one—your diet.
Photo: Harper Collins
Fortunately, changing up the contents of your fridge is a simple task that can make a big difference in your hormonal health, says Magdalena Wszelaki, author of the forthcoming book Cooking for Hormone Balance. (She should know: As a certified holistic health coach, she’s healed herself from multiple maladies, including two autoimmune disorders, adrenal fatigue, and estrogen dominance.)
The first step, she believes, is to clear your kitchen of inflammatory processed foods and high-sugar snacks, plus meat and dairy from conventionally raised animals that have been injected with antibiotics and growth hormones. “I see women getting best results when they adopt an anti-inflammatory diet that is free of gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and is low in sugar,” she says.
From there, it’s all about adding in foods that help support healthy reproductive hormone levels. There’s not a one size fits all plan—everyone’s hormonal makeup is different—but Wszelaki says these five ingredients are a good place to start, no matter what kind of imbalance you’re dealing with. (And, as always, you should always seek out your doctor’s advice if diet alone doesn’t start to soothe your symptoms.) Who knows—soon, your PMS woes may be as obsolete as putting Splenda in your Starbucks.
5 Best Foods to Balance Your Hormones Naturally
June 4th, 2019
• Free eBook: 35 Gut Recovery Recipes
Are you struggling with thyroid dysfunction, weight issues, chronic fatigue, or mood imbalances? If so, your hormones could be to blame.
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by your endocrine glands that control nearly every process in your body, from metabolism to reproduction to mood. The endocrine system is comprised of a wide range of hormone-secreting glands that serve a variety of functions including your hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries (if you’re a woman), and testes (if you’re a man).1 If you’ve ever dealt with imbalanced hormones, you know how critical these chemical messengers are to your health and wellbeing. Hormone imbalance can mess with your sleep, mood, and libido, and contribute to weight gain, adrenal fatigue, brain fog, and a myriad of chronic illnesses.
Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
- Thyroid dysfunction (hypo- or hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s, Graves’)
- Bloating, constipation, and diarrhea
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Insulin resistance
- Chronic fatigue
- Estrogen dominance
- Mood swings, anxiety, or depression
- Low libido
- Brain fog
- Adrenal fatigue
- Hot flashes/night sweats
- Thinning, brittle hair
Fortunately, by making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle you can balance your hormones and prevent or reverse many of these health issues. One of the easiest ways to restore proper hormone balance is to fill your plate with real, whole, nutrient-dense foods.
There are a few foods in particular I would recommend for their superstar ability to regulate your hunger, sex, thyroid, sleep, and stress hormones. Let’s take a look at why these are some of the best foods to balance your hormones naturally!
1. Wild Salmon
The protein found in wild-caught salmon can balance your hunger hormones and increase feelings of satiety.2 In addition, salmon provides a hefty dose of healthy fats in the form of Omega-3s, which are called essential fatty acids because your body cannot make them–you have to get them from your diet. Omega-3s are needed for synthesizing hormones that regulate blood clotting, arterial function, and inflammation.3 Salmon is known for being heart-healthy, and its ability to tame your body’s inflammatory response can also help control autoimmune diseases including lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and may even protect against cancer and other chronic illness.
Salmon is a source of cholesterol, which has gotten a bad rap in the nutrition world. However, cholesterol is necessary for building sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone that tend to decline in middle-age, as well as the “sunshine hormone” vitamin D, which you need to maintain strong bones.4
Supplementing with fish oil has been shown to reduce the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline during stressful situations.5 Since stress is one of the top sources of inflammation, it’s no wonder salmon has been dubbed an anti-inflammatory rockstar!
For a hormone-balancing dinner, try my Wild-Caught Salmon Salad with Apple and Red Onion recipe!
The darling of the foodies everywhere, what’s not to love about kale? Kale is an excellent source of fiber, which feeds your good gut bacteria. Research shows that friendly gut flora may play an important part in clearing estrogen from your system and encouraging hormone balance.6 Fiber also helps to increase insulin sensitivity and feelings of fullness.7
Kale offers the best of both worlds as a leafy green AND a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Dark, leafy greens such as kale are rich in magnesium, which supports healthy levels of estrogen and testosterone. Low hormone levels in both women and men have been linked with an increased risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.8 On the flipside, cruciferous veggies help your body process and eliminate excess estrogen so you can avoid estrogen dominance and reduce your risk of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.9
I am often asked whether cruciferous vegetables are harmful to your thyroid gland because they contain goitrogens (substances that interfere with iodine uptake). However, in working with thousands of thyroid patients, I’ve found that the benefits of cruciferous veggies far outweigh any risks. As long as you get plenty of iodine from foods or supplements, you can enjoy as many kale salads as you’d like!
Think kale is too rough and bitter? Don’t underestimate the power of a kale massage to soften the leaves for a salad, or better yet, get your kale in the form of an organic greens powder and drink your way to healthy hormones!
3. Grass-fed Beef
As someone who suffered from thyroid dysfunction after being a vegetarian for over 20 years, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to include a high-quality source of animal protein in your diet. Grass-fed, pasture-raised beef is an excellent source of the four nutrients that are essential to thyroid health: iodine, selenium, zinc, and iron.
Iodine is one of the major building blocks of thyroid hormone (along with tyrosine, which is also found in grass-fed beef). Without enough iodine, your thyroid simply can’t produce its hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of thyroid enlargement, goiter, and hypothyroidism worldwide.10
Selenium helps convert inactive T4 hormone into active T3. Insufficient amounts of selenium means your thyroid hormones are stuck in their inactive state, leading to hypothyroidism symptoms including brain fog, weight gain, low libido, fatigue, and depression. Eating high-quality food sources of selenium can even help reverse autoimmune thyroid conditions by lowering the levels of thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb) in your system.11
Zinc and iron also play a role in the conversion of T4 to T3. In addition, zinc triggers your hypothalamus to increase thyroid hormone production when levels are low, and iron helps the enzyme that converts iodide (the form of iodine you eat) into iodine so it can combine with tyrosine to build thyroid hormones.
In my practice I’ve found that most women I treat are iron deficient, especially those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. For this reason, I recommend eating animal protein such as grass-fed, pasture-raised beef to supply your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive. My Paleo Protein powder is a fast and simple way to meet your protein needs, and is made with 100% grass-fed, hormone-free beef.
Another great option is beef liver, which is an extremely concentrated source of these four thyroid-loving nutrients, and is surprisingly easy to prepare! Just be sure you always choose organic meats to minimize toxin exposure.
If you suffer from insomnia, snacking on cherries before bed could help. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin–the “sleep hormone” released by your pineal gland. As you age, you produce less and less melatonin, which is why so many older adults struggle with insomnia and other sleep issues. Studies have found that cherries have the ability to increase melatonin levels, total sleep time, and quality of sleep (including fewer instances of waking up in the middle of the night).12
Cherries also contain other hormone-balancing nutrients including magnesium and vitamin C. Like melatonin, magnesium improves sleep by supporting optimal levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes restful sleep.13 Magnesium also helps calm the body’s stress response by preventing the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.14
Vitamin C is essential for creating and regulating hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Vitamin C can enhance the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and work with estrogen to promote bone growth, which is particularly important for postmenopausal women who are at an increased risk of osteoporosis due to low estrogen.15
My Cherry Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe combines cherries with the power of cruciferous vegetables for a double-dose of hormone-balancing potential!
5. Maca Root
Let’s talk about stress. We all have it, and many of us are dealing with chronic stress on a daily basis. Chronic stress is the type that never lets up, and keeps pumping out cortisol and adrenaline nonstop until your adrenals are shot. Stress hormones elevate blood pressure and blood glucose levels, and interfere with your digestion, sleep, and mood.16 Over the long term, heightened levels of cortisol and other stress hormones can wreak havoc on your health, leading to heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and autoimmune conditions.
Maca root is an adaptogen, meaning it helps your body “adapt” to ongoing stressors by mediating the body’s stress response. When used over time, maca nourishes and enhances the function of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which restores balance to your overworked adrenal glands.
Maca is also ideal for supporting hormone balance during menopause. In a study on early postmenopausal women, maca root significantly improved symptoms related to hormone imbalance, including hot flashes, night sweating, depression, irritability, and insomnia. In fact, maca was found to be just as effective for these symptoms as HRT–without the negative side effects. What’s more, maca supports healthy thyroid function and bone density, making it an all-around superfood for women struggling with imbalanced hormones during menopause.
You can find maca root along with an assortment of other potent plant foods to balance your hormones in my Organic Greens Superfood Juice Powder! Just stir a scoop into a glass of water or blend into a smoothie for the ultimate hormone-balancing pick-me-up!
For more ideas on how to use foods to balance your hormones naturally, check out The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook! In there, you’ll find over 150 recipes specially designed to prevent and reverse chronic illness, including my Honey-Ginger Glazed Salmon, Winter Salad with Maple Vinaigrette, Dark Chocolate–Cherry Smoothie, and much, much more!
What does a bad period, even worse moods, and acne have in common? They’re all symptoms of a hormone imbalance, and they can be signs telling you that your diet needs some attention. This is a foundation and starting point if you want to build amazing hormones. In this article, I’m going to show you how to address five common hormonal imbalances with diet.
When in balance, your hormones can make you feel on top of your game, invincible, and ridiculously happy. Your hormones influence your mood, your libido, how your period is, your energy, your blood sugar, and more. So I’d say they’re kind of a big deal.
And they’re very sensitive, especially when you’re eating the wrong foods, getting poor sleep, exposing yourself to toxins, and all the things that go with being a human. When it comes to restoring hormonal balance, you cannot skip the lifestyle and diet recommendations. These are the foundation of building amazing hormones. If you’re not doing this, there’s only so far supplements can take you (although supplements are often an essential part of restoring hormonal health).
Let’s break down five major hormones and how we can best support them using diet and lifestyle intervention.
How to Fix a Hormone Imbalance With Diet
Too Much Cortisol
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, and it’s your number one hormone when stress is high. And when it goes high, so does your blood sugar, which can create all kinds of disruption with your hormone system.
What does it look like to have high cortisol?
When cortisol is chronically elevated, we find ourselves with belly fat and feeling like we’re getting older than we should.
Women with high cortisol can have cravings for salty or sugary foods. They may find themselves being quick to anger or going into a rage easily. Mood swings, depression, and low libido may also be a sign.
Feeling like you’re constantly at the mercy of stress, have attention deficit or difficulty with memory? This can also be a sign of elevated cortisol.
High blood pressure and high blood sugar can also point towards too much cortisol. If you are feeling these effects and thinking, “I have high cortisol,” this is what you need to do.
What to do if your cortisol is too high:
- First, slow your roll, especially when it comes to eating. Try to eat in a quiet, relaxed environment. This will allow time to digest your food and will serve as an act of mindfulness.
- Regular meals are a must. Make sure that you’re eating regular meals and not kicking off your day with a cup (or four) of black coffee. You need to kick off your day with some protein and leafy greens. That way your blood sugar stays on point and you can feel full and calm throughout your day.
Speaking of feeling full and calm and blood sugar, let’s talk about insulin. Insulin regulates how much glucose or blood sugar actually gets into your cells. But when we are having poor eating habits or binging on tons of sugar, there’s a problem. Insulin goes high but your cells eventually stop listening. This can also happen in states of inflammation. Even if your diet is perfect, inflammation can still occur and cause issues with insulin, which is especially a problem if you’re totally bananas stressed out.
Here’s the deal. If your cells don’t care what insulin has to say, they don’t take in sugar, they don’t function correctly, and your blood sugar goes high, leading to a whole lot of hormonal issues, not to mention diabetes.
What does it look like to have too much insulin?
If you have insulin issues, here’s what you might notice. You’re feeling shaky or anxious or irritable between meals. You have a fasting blood sugar level greater than 85 mg/dL. You have difficulty avoiding things like chocolate, ice cream, potato chips or french fries.
Are you craving sugar all the time? This might be a sign of blood sugar issues.
If you already know you have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), your fasting insulin is greater than six, or you’re holding onto way more body fat than you should be then getting a complete metabolic blood test may be in order.
In the meantime, here are some things to try.
What to do if your insulin is too high:
- Try including cinnamon in your diet. Eating more cinnamon can help optimize your blood sugar.
- Include turmeric in your diet. Curcumin, found in turmeric, can reduce inflammation and make it a lot easier for your cells to use that insulin.
- Cut the sugar. Let’s not forget you have got to cut the sugar, cut the alcohol, and bring on the fibrous vegetables and high-quality proteins and fat.
- Eat high quality protein with your meals. Protein is essential to blood sugar balance. If you’re struggling to get enough, try a physician grade protein powder.
Sure, you may be thinking, “Hey, that doesn’t sound like any kind of fun,” but when your energy’s up and you have a clear head, all the brain fog is gone, you’re going to be a whole lot happier you took this step.
Too Much Estrogen (aka Estrogen Dominance)
Too much estrogen is a real deal and it’s a common struggle for a lot of women. Now estrogen isn’t all bad. It’s why you have your butt, hips, thighs, and breasts. But these days you are exposed to so many environmental toxins that mimic your estrogen, it makes it really hard not to have estrogen dominance.
What does it look like to have too much estrogen?
When your estrogen is too high, you may notice that you have migraines or other headaches coming on, especially before your period. You may have a heavier period and experience more mood swings, PMS, weepiness (or total emotional breakdowns) and irritability or anxiety before your period comes.
Women with estrogen dominance can also experience gallbladder issues and they often feel bloated or puffy or complain of retaining excess water before their period.
If you’ve noticed your breasts are enlarging, you need to size up on your bra or marked breast tenderness before your period, you may be estrogen dominant. Some ways to support your body if you feel you are experiencing the symptoms of estrogen dominance.
What to do if your estrogen is too high:
- Eat more broccoli. Eating foods from the cruciferous family like broccoli, kale, bok choy, can help you not only process your estrogen through your liver, but also eliminate it through your bowels. It does this because these foods help block estrogen from going down the wrong pathway.
- Eat more fiber. Fiber feeds the good gut bugs and helps you move that estrogen out of your body. Try adding chia seeds, fresh ground flax seeds, psyllium, or Paleo Fiber to your diet.
Too Much Testosterone
Testosterone is a hormone that both the ovaries and the adrenal glands help produce. When testosterone is just right, we feel confident, our bones and muscles are strong, and we have a great libido.
What does it look like to have too much testosterone?
When testosterone goes too high, we can have issues with our periods, we can find ourselves growing excess hair on our chin, chest, and abdomen. We can start losing hair on our head and experiencing more acne. High testosterone can also lead to infertility.
Women also experience greasy hair, depression, anxiety, lack of motivation when this hormone is imbalanced. And we might also have issues with unstable blood sugar or feeling really enraged.
High testosterone is common in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
What to do if your testosterone is too high:
- Eat more zinc. Eating foods that are rich in zinc like oysters or green beans can help with balancing out testosterone levels.
- Seed Cycle. Including regular seed cycling and pumpkin seeds in your diet can also provide you with an ample amount of zinc. Low zinc is also associated with an elevation of testosterone and other androgens.
- Balance blood sugar. Go back to high insulin recommendations above.
Give your body the nutrients it needs to create amazing hormones. .
Too Little Thyroid
This is your mood, metabolism, and how your period operates. Your thyroid is in charge of how fast you run the biochemical reactions within your body and burn calories. Your thyroid’s job is to take iodine and tyrosine, and convert it into a hormone known as thyroxin or T4. The rest of your body is responsible for activating that thyroid and converting it to a form known as triiodothyronine or T3.
What does it look like to have too little thyroid hormone?
Low thyroid hormone, or hypothyroidism, is common and can cause many issues with your period, including irregular periods, painful periods, or super-long periods.
If you’re hypothyroid, you may notice many symptoms because every single cell in your body need thyroid hormone. Constipated, having difficulty losing weight, experiencing dry skin, brittle nails, or hair loss? These point towards hypothyroid.
Your hair may become tangled easily and may even feel a bit straw-like. You may be noticing that you’re losing the outside of your eyebrows. Sometimes women with hypothyroidism also feel extremely cold. They’ll have tingling in their hands or feet, and brain fog is pronounced. Depression and heavy periods and infertility are other signs of low thyroid hormone.
What to do if your thyroid is too low:
- Eat selenium. Including foods rich in selenium, like Brazil nuts. Note, the selenium content varries from each nut so supplementation may be necessary.
- Eat seafood. Seafood contains selenium and iodine and can help support your thyroid. Iodine alone is too much for most hypothyroid women, which is why I recommend selenium first and eating foods that combine selenium and iodine. You can read more about hypothyroidism and iodine here. For more of a specific thyroid supportive diet, check up the top 10 foods of thyroid health.
Fix Your Hormone Imbalance With Diet
What you put at the end of your fork has a lot of power to shape your hormones. If you’re looking to get started eating a hormone friendly diet but not quite sure how, download my free hormone meal plan + recipe guide and start enjoying amazing hormones today!
About The Author
Dr. Jolene Brighten
Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.
The Importance of Nutrition on Hormone Balance
Hormones can be like the devil, when someone mentions the word “hormones” do you picture angry, nagging menopausal women? Hormonal changes affect everyone throughout every stage of life and affect everyone differently, yet we all seem to have this negative image on the word. Hormones usually cause havoc with middle aged women affecting their mood, weight, hunger, sleeping patterns, the list goes on. However, nowadays hormonal symptoms are affecting women earlier in life, which may be due to your lifestyle and diet, but also the pollution, toxins and xenoestrogens that we’re exposed to every day.
So, to make sure we are all clear, what are hormones? Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They help control every physiological process in your body, including metabolism, immune system, menstrual cycle and reproduction. A precise hormone balance is vital to proper body functioning. Specific foods can aid and negatively affect your hormone balance, so eating a well-balanced diet is essential, especially during menopause. During this transitional period of a woman’s life, hormonal imbalances can cause uncomfortable symptoms.
Feeling bloated, irritable, tried or just not yourself? A hormone imbalance could be to blame. Hormonal imbalances are multi-factorial disorders, meaning they are caused by a combination of factors such as your diet, medical history, genetics, stress levels and exposure to toxins from your environment. Common symptoms of a hormone imbalance include:
- Infertility and irregular periods
- Unexpected weight gain or loss
- Poor mental wellbeing, such as depression and anxiety
- Low libido
- Changes in appetite
- Digestive issues
- Hair loss and hair thinning
Risk Factors & Causes of Hormonal Imbalances
Some of the major contributors to hormonal imbalances include:
- Food allergies and gut issues
- Being overweight or obese
- High levels of inflammation caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle
- Genetic susceptibility
- Toxicity (exposure to pesticides, toxins, viruses, cigarettes, excessive alcohol and harmful chemicals)
- High amounts of stress
- Not enough sleep
Important hormones during menopause and how your diet affects them:
Estrogen is the main female sex hormone, which regulates your menstrual cycle and prepares your uterus for pregnancy. Estrogen levels significantly drop when you reach menopause, leading to symptoms including, hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and irregular periods.
Estrogen isn’t available from your diet. However various plant foods contain phytoestrogens, which are a group of chemicals that act similar to estrogen in your body. Foods high in phytoestrogens may help relieve some of your menopause symptoms. It may also help lower your risk of some conditions associated with menopause. Both soy and flaxseed are significant sources of phytoestrogens. Soy is particularly rich in specific phytoestrogen, “isoflavones” which binds to the estrogen receptors in your body, helping your risk of ischemic heart disease, improve your blood cholesterol levels, and relieve hot flashes. Whereas, flaxseed is rich in another specific phytoestrogen, “lignans” similarly relieving several symptoms of menopause.
- Insulin and Glucagon
Insulin and glucagon, are both pancreatic hormones however they are completely opposite. Firstly, what is insulin? Insulin is one of the most known hormones, which is affected by your diet, when you eat carbohydrates, glucose is released into the bloodstream which triggers your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin attaches to the glucose molecules and carries them to your cells, where they’re used for energy. Whereas, glucagon is the opposite, but why? Your pancreas only releases glucagon when you go without eating it for an extended period of time. This signals your liver to convert stored glycogen into glucose. The sugar is then secreted into your bloodstream, where it serves as an energy source until your body receives more food. This physiological feedback system is designed to keep your blood sugar levels steady.
If you are insulin resistance, your pancreas produces insulin normally, but your muscles, fat, and liver cells don’t agree to it properly causing your pancreas to produce more insulin in an effort to help glucose travel into your cells. If your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin, excess blood sugar builds up in your bloodstream, leading to diabetes over time. Through menopause, it is thought that many women have a higher accumulation of belly fat increasing the risk of insulin resistance maybe further leading to diabetes.
Keeping a week-balanced diet and maintaining your calories to avoid weight gain and minimize insulin resistance and diabetes. Choose complex carbohydrates, such as oats, bran, wholegrain breads, beans, lentils and vegetables instead of refined carbohydrates including white bread, crackers, biscuits and white sugar.
Cortisol is released by your adrenal glands, often known as the stress hormone. Cortisol is vital to your survival as its part of your body’s fight-or-flight response. However, high levels of cortisol in your body can raise your stress levels, blood pressure, and visceral fat. High levels of cortisol during menopause is quite worrying, since menopause already causes a change in your body fat composition.
Throughout menopause, both caffeine and alcohol consumption should be limited to avoid increase in cortisol secretion.
Why you want balanced hormones?
Hormones are critical to the function of virtually every system in the body; here are a few reasons why:
- Both, estrogen and progesterone are neuroprotective, helping brain function, reducing brain inflammation and helping with cognitive function, maybe preventing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- There is a strong relationship between hormones and neurotransmitters, which will cause an improvement mood, will power and motivation.
- There is a strong correlation between hormone and bone metabolism.
- The metabolism hormone (thyroid), works better when progesterone is functioning optimally.
- Estrogen is cardio protective in women
- Progesterone helps regulate your body’s immune response.
Most importantly, the beneficial effects of hormones occur when they are in balance. Hormones in excess or in deficiency, can have negative consequences.
Importance of food on hormones:
Fat for hormone balance:
Fat is one of the most crucial elements for hormonal balance, healthy fats including omega 3 & 6 are essential for hormone production and maintenance of proper hormone function. Our body needs certain fats for rebuilding cells and stabilising hormones, which is especially important for the female reproductive system.
To maintain a well-balanced healthy diet, each meal should be based on clean protein, hormone-balancing healthy fats, antioxidant-rich vegetables, and healing herbs will help your body thrive.
Clean protein: beans, seeds, quinoa, lentils, lean meat (chicken, turkey, beef), fish and eggs
Healthy fats: avocados, egg yolks, nuts and seeds
Building your diet around your foods will ensure your body has these essential nutrients, and will makes sure it’s in hormone balance. You’ll experience glowing skin, good mood, fertility, and constant high energy. Our bodies have an incredible ability to heal and be in balance, when given the nutrients they need to flourish.
Take home messages
- The importance of a well-balanced diet
Eating a well-balanced diet is important for good health. Avoid a calories surplus, which leads to weight gain. Enjoy a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products, low-fat dairy products, and lean sources of protein. Limit “junk foods” that are energy-dense rather than nutrient-dense, and those that contain processed sugar, saturated and Tran’s fats, and sodium.
- Get enough sleep and reduce stress
Get at least 7-8 hours a night! Sleep helps keep stress hormones balanced, builds energy and allows the body to recover properly. Excessive stress and poor sleep are linked with higher levels of cortisol, decreased immunity, poor performance, and a higher susceptibility to anxiety, weight gain and depression.
- Be careful using medications and birth control
Many medications can cause side effects, including fatigue, appetite changes, altered sleeping patterns, low libido and poor mood. These medications include corticosteroids, stimulants, statins, dopamine agonists, rexinoids and glucocorticoids. Make sure you know what you are taking and their effects on your body.
In regards to “the pill”, it raises estrogen levels to such dangerous levels that it can cause many complications. Birth control pills may cause side effects, such as, increased risk of: breast cancer, uterine bleeding, blood clotting, heart attack and stroke, migraines, high blood pressure, weight gain, back pain, mood changes, and nausea.
Like most of our advice on Nutrition, balance is key. Getting a whole wide range of nutrients and energy from whole food sources is the secret to maintaining a good balance in terms of hormones. These are probably the most powerful drivers of body composition, mood and energy levels we have, so it is critical to keep them in check. For more advice, follow us on Instagram My Nutrition Ireland.