Hormones are chemical messengers that play a vital role in our overall health. But in an age where hormone-disrupting chemicals lurk in everything from air fresheners to fast food, it’s no surprise that our hormones can get thrown out of kilter. Whether you’re suffering from irritability and mood swings brought on by PMT, or the tiredness and weight gain associated with hypothyroidism, out-of-whack hormones can seriously affect your wellbeing.
So why not do something about it? While it may feel like you’re at the mercy of your hormones, there are in fact steps you can take to bring them into balance. And they start with your diet.
Hormones and Diet: What’s the Link?
Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. Created in the endocrine glands, these messengers control most major bodily functions, from the regulation of hunger to the management of the reproductive system. So when these hormones are out of balance, your body knows about it.
To understand how food affects hormones, we’ve first got to appreciate the vital role played by beneficial fats, carbohydrates and protein in hormone production and regulation. By balancing these macronutrients, as well as avoiding toxins, we supplement our body with the cholesterol and fatty acids it needs to maintain hormone production.
How Food Can Help to Balance Your Hormones
1. Eat Hormone-Balancing Fats
For years now, fat has been battling against its bad reputation, and it finally seems to be winning. While too much of the wrong types of fat is never a good thing, dieticians are now waking up to the fact that fat plays an essential role in health. As the building blocks of hormones, fatty acids and cholesterol are vital for healthy hormone regulation – you just need to eat the right type.
Coconut oil is in vogue, and for good reason. Packed with lauric acid, this hormone-friendly fat is antimicrobial, easy to digest and perfect for a quick boost of energy.
Boasting plenty of magnesium, folic acid, fiber and B-vitamins, avocados aren’t just tasty, they’re great for hormone production too.
Nuts and Seeds
Ever heard of seed cycling? Research suggests that adding different types of seeds to your diet at certain times of the month can gently regulate hormones, helping ease the symptoms of conditions including PMS, PCOS and acne.
2. Avoid Toxic Kitchen Products
Balancing hormones isn’t just about eating the right food, but also the environment in which you prepare it. Modern kitchen products often contain harmful chemicals like parabens, propylene glycol and DEA, which could potentially cause havoc with your hormones. So to create a healthier environment, try swapping these chemical-packed products for natural alternatives.
The good news is that there are plenty of organic cleaning and storage options on the market that are far kinder to your health and the environment.
3. Eat Your Greens
Antioxidant-rich vegetables are really important for healthy hormone functions. Dark leafy vegetables like kale and spinach provide the body with a boost of natural magnesium – an essential mineral for countless enzymatic processes including hormone synthesis.
4. Add Adaptogenic Herbs to Your Diet
Adaptogens do exactly what they say on the tin – they help your body adapt, most notably to stress. As well as boosting immunity and reducing stress, studies suggest that adaptogenic herbs including ashwagandha and rhodiola, can help reduce and regulate the effect of stress hormones.
5. Consider Supplements
In an ideal world, we would get all the vitamins and nutrients we need from a healthy, organic diet and an active lifestyle. Yet in reality, this is rarely the case. That’s where supplements come in. Taken wisely, this nutritional boost can help keep our hormones in balance.
Magnesium helps balance hormones in a number of ways. To start, it helps to regulate excess cortisol – the stress hormone that can be extremely damaging to the body. Magnesium is also essential for the production of the thyroid hormone, making it a useful supplement to help regulate thyroid conditions.
Research shows that boosting your Omega-3 fatty acid intake may help rein in excess cortisol. Sara Gottfried, M.D., the author of The Hormone Cure, recommends aiming for “2,000 milligrams a day from a supplement containing both EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, along with foods that are rich in the nutrient, like walnuts, flaxseed, tofu, and grass-fed beef.”