The Impact of Hormonal Imbalance
If your hormones are out of balance, you could have symptoms without even realizing the cause. Headaches, mood swings, acne, PMS, irregular periods, and cramps are all signs of a hormonal imbalance, as are unintentional weight gain, night sweats, high blood pressure, and excessive hair growth or hair loss. A disruption in your hormonal balance can affect your appearance, your weight, and even your fertility. It is important to note that what you eat can either be beneficial or detrimental to your hormonal balance, and by changing your diet, you can greatly improve your overall health. Here, Advanced Functional Medicine discusses how to detox the body and balance hormones by watching what you eat.
What is hormonal imbalance?
Our hormones, produced by our endocrine glands, play a major role in regulating the processes of the body, including metabolism, appetite, reproduction, growth, body temperature, and mood. In fact, there are about 200 different hormones in the body, and they impact a number of systems, like the immune system, the reproductive system, and our metabolism. Even slight changes, with hormone levels above or below the normal levels, can cause dramatic changed in the body’s function. Hormonal imbalances affect both men and women, and when they’re left untreated, they can keep the body from working properly.
How is diet connected to hormones?
Diet is not the only thing that affects our hormones. Hormone balance can be thrown off by a stage of life, like puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. Stress, genetics, illness, medication, and blood sugar levels can all play a significant role, as well. Diet impacts our hormone levels in a couple of ways. First, fasting or overeating can impact the levels of your hormones, as can eating food with a high glycemic load. For example, the regulation of the thyroid hormone is influenced by how much food is consumed, and whether there is adequate intake of selenium, iodine, and iron. Additionally, cortisol, a steroid hormone, has an appetite stimulating effect, but extremes in food intake can impact cortisol levels. However, just as nutrition has an impact on hormone levels, it also affects hormone sensitivity, the sensitivity of cells to hormone signaling. Eating the right food, then, doesn’t just help our bodies to maintain healthy hormone levels, it actually makes our them more sensitive to hormones, which can help our bodily systems to function more effectively.
Hormone Balancing Foods
Eating a diverse, balanced diet can provide your body with the nutrition it needs to maintain a healthy endocrine system, so that your hormones will function optimally, and you can maintain a healthy body weight. A good place to start is by picturing your diet as a plate, and imagining yourself filling that plate with 40 percent vegetables, 10 percent fats, 20 percent lean proteins, and 30 percent whole grains. You might not be able to strike that perfect balance at every meal, but you should try to maintain those percentages in your daily diet. Specific foods to work into your diet include:
- Organic Fruits and Vegetables: The reason to choose organic is simple. Non-organic produce can contain pesticides that disrupt hormone function. If you can’t afford to only eat organic produce, at least choose organic when purchasing one of the foods on the “dirty dozen” list. Be careful not to by foods wrapped in plastic, because the bisphenols in hard plastics and the phthalates in soft plastics disrupt the function of the endocrine system. Store your food in glass, paper, or other natural materials, and avoid microwaveable meals, or microwaving food in plastic.
- Prebiotics and Probiotics: The gut produces some hormones and detoxifies others, like estrogen. It’s important, then, to consume prebiotic and probiotic foods, to regulate the gut microbiome. Probiotics found in fermented foods like yogurt, miso, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi. Prebiotics, which probiotics consume to grow and remain active, include garlic, asparagus, bananas, leeks, tomatoes, and oats.
- Phytoestrogens: These are dietary estrogens, found in plants like flaxseed, chia seed, fennel, lentils, alfalfa sprouts, and licorice root. Phytoestrogens can modulate estrogen, so they can be useful for people in an estrogen dominant or deficient state.
- Healthy Fats: Our bodies require healthy fats for hormone balance. Omega-3 fatty acids are a vital component of a nutritious diet, because they cannot be produced by our bodies. Fatty fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados are all good sources of omega-3s. Omega-6 is also important for the proper function of our cells, but in a diet that is high in fried or processed foods, the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 can be thrown out of balance. Processed and fried foods should be replaced with foods like nuts, chicken, eggs, and seeds. You may have heard that peanut butter has a positive impact on hormonal balance, but is it true? Does peanut butter lower cortisol? Yes! In addition to containing beneficial nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, and monounsaturated and unsaturated fats, peanut butter is also a good source of beta-sitosterol, which lowers cortisol production.
- Cruciferous Vegetables: When you eat cruciferous vegetables, estrogen metabolism benefits. Cruciferous vegetables combat estrogen dominance, as well as protecting your body from free radicals with their high antioxidant content. Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale, but the compound sulforaphane, which encourages estrogen detoxification, is found in the highest levels in broccoli sprouts.
- Foods High in Progesterone: Many of the foods on this list have something in common: progesterone. Progesterone is an important hormone, and serves many functions, including maintaining health brain function, promoting healthy bone development, improving bladder function and regulating fluid balance, protecting against endometrial and prostate cancer, helping maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails, keeping the thyroid and weight in check, and regulating blood sugar and insulin levels. Progesterone rich foods include those with omega 3 and 6, vitamins C and B, healthy fats, magnesium, and zinc. Zinc is found in shellfish, red meat, whole grains, dairy, dark chocolate, and legumes, while spinach, nuts, whole grains, black beans, and fish are good sources of magnesium.
Hormonal Imbalance: Foods to Avoid
Certain foods can throw off your hormonal balance, like sugar, caffeine, and processed or refined foods. Too much red meat can cause an imbalance in estrogen levels, as can too much soy. Dairy products are a good source of calcium, but too much dairy can lead to gut inflammation and irritation. Remember, part of making healthy dietary decisions is moderation.
Functional Medicine Can Help with Hormonal Imbalance
Successfully and naturally treating hormonal imbalance is something that requires a holistic approach to health. At Advanced Functional Medicine, an integrated medical clinic, we exclusively practice functional medicine. A full functional medicine approach to healing uses a comprehensive diagnostic screening to get to the root of a patient’s issues. Our whole body approach to medicine utilizes all-natural, researched-based nutritional approaches to optimize the body’s natural healing abilities, rather than just using medication to treat symptoms. Each individual receives unique and customized care, formulated based on the latest scientific resource, and we have a 96 percent success rate in patient outcomes. As a medically driven, patient-focused health clinic, we support our patients’ individual health goals, providing natural relief for symptoms of chronic factors and expert guidance about the decisions affecting a patient’s long-term health. It is our goal to help reverse chronic disease without resorting to dangerous or unnecessary drugs or surgical interventions, promoting healing from the inside out, in its truest, healthiest form. To schedule an appointment or learn more about how we can help restore your health and strengthen your body’s unique physiological functions, call 858-500-5572 or contact us through our website.