Updated: Feb 6
Hormonal imbalances can have a major impact on your health, for men and women. And while many things can alter the delicate balance of hormones, diet is definitely a big influencer.
If you have been experiencing symptoms such as unexplained weight gain, fatigue, thinning or brittle hair, increased sensitivity to cold or heat, sweating, increased hunger, or dry skin, these could be signs that your hormones aren’t as balanced as they could be.
And taking a closer look at your diet can be one of the simplest ways to start promoting healthy hormonal balance and improve your overall health.
Load up on protein
Protein is key when it comes to balancing hormones, especially in cases of insulin and estrogen. Dietary protein provides essential amino acids that your body is not able to produce on its own, and as such, it must be consumed daily in order to maintain muscle, bone, and skin health. Protein also influences the release of hormones that control appetite. In fact, research shows that eating protein decreases levels of the "hunger hormone" (ghrelin) and stimulates the production of hormones that help you feel full and satisfied, helping regulate appetite and support a healthy waistline. Some examples of quality proteins are eggs, chicken, seafood, greek yogurt, chickpeas, edamame, and lentils.
Eat carbs and healthy fats too
Along with protein, you’ll want to include some complex carbs and healthy fats in your diet. Some examples of complex carbs are whole grains such as brown rice, oats, quinoa and barley, or starchy vegetables such as chickpeas, corn, and squashes. A few examples of healthy fat foods are fatty fish, nuts, and seeds as well as oils such as avocado, coconut, and olive. Some research has shown consuming fatty fish can help reduce the levels of the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline.
Support your gut with probiotics
If you aren't already get probiotics through your daily diet, you could be missing out on a simple way to support your hormone health. Probiotics can help reduce inflammation, support a healthy immune system, aid in digestion, and balance hormone production. Some examples of foods rich in probiotics are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
Eat plenty of fiber
Eating lots of fiber isn’t just great for blood sugar and digestive health, it can also help with hormonal balance as well. Studies show a diet high in fiber increases insulin sensitivity and stimulates the production of the hormones that make you feel full and satisfied, helping to control hunger. Daily recommendations for dietary fiber are between 25 and 30 grams. Just a another great reason to load up on those fruits and veggies!
Avoid sugar and refined carbs
A diet high in processed and refined foods can increase inflammation. Studies show minimizing processed foods that contain refined grains, trans fats, and added sugars, commonly found in processed foods, are key to optimizing hormonal function and decreasing the risk of obesity, diabetes and other diseases. Swap the pizza, donuts, cookies, and chips for whole and nutrient dense foods such as fresh vegetables with hummus or fresh fruit with nut butter, and rely on whole grains (vs. white flours) and you'll be better able to keep those insulin levels low and hormones in healthy balance.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol can both effect hormone production. Drinking a lot of caffeine may raise cortisol levels and have an impact on the adrenal glands. This can impact many areas of your health, from sleep to digestion. The recommendation is to limit caffeine consumption to one to two single servings daily.
Alcohol has been linked to “estrogen dominance” and can potentially increase insulin resistance and lower testosterone levels. The latter can also be a factor in low libido, vaginal dryness, and even impotence. For women, the recommendation is to limit consumption to just one alcoholic beverage per day (with no more than seven per week), and for men to limit consumption to just two alcoholic beverages per day (no more than 14 per week), but less is better.
Don’t skip meals
Eating too much or too little can create hormonal shifts and lead to weight gain. Skipping meals and consuming too few calories can increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can lead to weight gain. Some studies have also shown that very low-calorie diets can even trigger insulin resistance as well. Bottom line, severe calorie restriction and skipping meals all together is just not worth the risk to your health (or happiness!).
Take away - hormones are involved in every aspect of your health and imbalances can increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease as well as other health problems. Despite the fact that aging and other genetic factors may be beyond your control, embracing a diet rich in nutrient dense foods along with obtaining regular exercise and incorporating other healthy lifestyle behaviors can make a big impact toward improving your hormonal health.
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