Whatever you eat is either helping hormonal production and maintaining healthy hormonal balance or causing imbalances and wreaking havoc on your body.
What are hormones and why do they matter?
Eating the right nutrient dense whole foods can help get your hormones back in balance. Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers produced by your endocrine system. You might not know it but they control practically all the major processes in your body. Key processes which hormones control include:
- Energy levels
- Bone and muscle strength
- That time of the month (for women)
- Maintaining nutrient, water and electrolyte balance of the blood
- Mobilising body defences against stressors
Your body produces, stores and releases hormones. And when all is good, your body functions properly and you operate at your maximum. When your hormones are unbalanced, things can get ugly:
- Weight gain
- Irregular periods
- Belly fat and loss of muscle mass
- Low libido
- Bloating, gas
- Anxiety and depression
- Can’t sleep
While the endocrine system is complex, there are some simple things you can do to help out your body to create and balance your hormones. Read on to find out how you can eat your way to more balanced hormones.
1. Coconut oil
Coconuts are superfoods for a reason. It contains lauric acid which is healing to the skin and also hugely beneficial to hormone production. Coconut oil, although not an omega-3 or omega-6 fat, is an extremely beneficial dietary fat, thanks to its special MCFAs (medium-chain fatty acids). While many foods have a negative effect on the thyroid, the medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are small enough to enter the mitochondria, which are your cells’ energy burning powerhouses, where they are converted to energy.
Findings published in the Journal of Nutrition by researchers at McGill University concluded that coconut oil may increase energy expenditure, which may result in faster weight loss and help with weight control when consumed daily as part of a balanced diet and with the removal of processed foods.
Eating a varied diet including short, medium and long chain fatty acids are important for balanced hormone levels. Hormones are produced using good fats, so a lack of these good fats can cause hormone problems because the body doesn’t have the building blocks to make them.
Rich in monounsaturated fats that help your body absorb and use nutrients, avocados are also loaded with fibre, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, B vitamins and folic acid which are all critical for maintaining hormonal balance. We cannot have proper hormonal balance without adequate amounts of saturated fats.
3. Flaxseeds, chia and walnuts
Hormone balance is also about omega 3 and 6 balance. Omega 6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, while omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. By avoiding pro inflammatory fats (like processed vegetable oils and processed foods containing them) and increasing your omega 3 intake, you can get enough EPA and DHA which are the building blocks for hormones. Getting more omega 3 fats in your body is one of the easiest ways you can naturally balance your hormones.
4. Raw carrots
Estrogen dominance is an underlying cause of PMS, hormonal acne, fertility issues, man boobs and erectile dysfunction, to name a few. Carrots actually contain unique undigestible fibres to help detox excess estrogen from the body.
Raw carrots have been found to help by preventing the reabsorption of estrogen from the intestine, meaning the liver can more effectively regulate metabolism. Foods like carrots and coconut oil, that protect the bowel and can improve the hormonal environment, can have a huge impact on hormones and immunity. This salad recipe is pretty easy to put together, you will need:
- ½ to 1 medium carrot
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- pinch of salt
Just grate your carrot, full size, not baby carrots as they don’t contain those special fibres and add the other ingredients, mix and eat your way to healthier estrogen levels!
5. Eat your water
According to Dr. Murad, drinking too much water can deplete electrolytes and cause dehydration; so you don’t really need to go overboard with the 8 glasses of water. Instead, practice metabolic hydration which optimises cellular hydration. This is important for many people trying to balance hormones because it supports thyroid and adrenal glands.
Despite being told to drink 8 glasses of water a day, it would appear we were doing it wrong. Dr. Murad recommends eating your water! Juicing nutrient rich organic fresh fruits and vegetables is important for optimising cellular hydration. Metabolic hydration supports the thyroid and adrenal glands, helping to balance hormones naturally.
6. Increase your leptin levels
Leptin is a satiety hormone produced by fat cells that regulates hunger and metabolism. We can create a deficiency in our leptin levels by consuming too much sugar or processed foods, or by not getting enough sleep. The result is seriously dangerous food cravings, a slower metabolism, and weight gain. For more in-depth information on leptin resistance and how to fix it, this article is a good read.
Maca root is a tuber in the radish family that has a history of boosting hormone production and libido. Many women notice fewer PMS symptoms, increased fertility and improved skin; while some studies show increased sperm production, libido and better sleep. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones.
We’ve all heard of the dirty dozen list, but did you know pesticides used in conventional agriculture contain hormone altering endocrine inhibitors? Endocrine disruptors increase the production of some hormones and decrease the production of others, which can throw things out of balance.
Pesticides contain xenoestrogens, a sub-group of endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen. When xenoestrogens enter the body they increase the total amount of estrogen resulting in estrogen dominance. Build-up of xenoestrogens have been indicated in many conditions including: breast, prostate and testicular cancer, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, early onset puberty, miscarriages and diabetes.
Organophosphate pesticides, the neurotoxins originally created for chemical warfare are, YES!, used to spray crops. The best thing you can do is buy organic when you can, or use the most current dirty dozen list to avoid the produce with the highest pesticide levels.
9. Olive oil
Healthier fats, like the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, can help create more responsive and healthy cell membranes that allow hormones to more easily adhere to the cell membrane.
Although this process is not fully understood, a paper by Dr. Michael Aziz explains it like this – when people eat unhealthy trans fats, “they incorporate in our cells, and the cells cannot communicate or talk to one another. In turn, hormones are disturbed and weight gain follows.” So eat good fats that help keep hormone communication happening!
10. Evening primrose oil for GLA
Evening primrose oil is very high in essential fatty acids and is particularly indicated for hormonal imbalance related to PMS symptoms. GLA is anti-inflammatory and may promote healthy hormone production, in particular regulating estrogen dominance.
Hormones still messing with your body? Consider seeing a certified health professional who can work with you to develop a plan to naturally bring them back into a state of chi.