Updated: Jun 7
Hormonal imbalances can have a major impact on your health. And while many things can alter the delicate balance of your hormones, what you eat plays a big role in how your body feels and functions.
If you've been experiencing symptoms such as unexplained weight gain, fatigue, thinning or brittle hair, increased sensitivity to heat or cold, sweating, greater hunger, or dry skin, these may be signs that your hormones aren’t as balanced as they could be.
And taking a closer look at your current food habits can be a simple yet powerful way to promote healthier hormone balance, improve your overall health and support a healthy weight.
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, which means 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 at each meal decreases levels of the "hunger hormone" (ghrelin) and stimulates the production of hormones that help you feel full and satisfied, regulate appetite, and support a healthy waistline. Some examples of lean proteins are eggs, chicken, seafood, greek yogurt, chickpeas, and lentils.
Eat carbs and healthy fats too
Along with getting enough protein, you want to include some complex carbs and healthy fats in your daily diet. Your hormones are regulated by three major glands: the hypothalamus (located in your brain), the pituitary gland (located in your brain), and the adrenals (located at the top of your kidneys). All three of these glands work to keep your hormones in balance. Collectively they're known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal or HPA axis. Studies show eating too few carbs or calories can disrupt the HPA axis, causing hormonal problems. And some research has found that consuming fatty fish can help reduce the levels of the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline.
Where to start? Some examples of complex carbs are whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa and barley, or starchy vegetables, such as chickpeas, corn, and squashes. And healthy fats are found in foods like fatty fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds as well as avocado, coconut, and olive oils.
Support your gut with probiotics
If you aren't already getting probiotics through your daily diet, you could be missing out on a simple way to support your gut and hormone health. Probiotics help reduce inflammation, support a healthy immune system, aid in digestion, and balance hormone production. Some foods that are naturally rich in probiotics are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
Eat plenty of dietary fiber
Eating foods rich in dietary isn’t just good for regulating blood sugar and digestive health, it can also help with hormonal balance. 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. The daily recommended amounts of dietary fiber are between 25 and 30 grams, best absorbed and put to work through food. Another great reason to load up on those fruits and veggies!
Avoid sugar and refined carbs
A diet high in processed foods and refined carbs can increase inflammation. Studies show minimizing processed foods that contain refined grains, trans fats, and added sugars, which are most commonly found in processed foods, are key to optimizing hormonal function and decreasing your risk of obesity, diabetes and other diseases. Minimize consumption of high sugar and processed foods such as donuts, cookies, candy, and chips and swap them for more nutrient dense options, such as veggie sticks and hummus, sliced fruit with nut butter, and lean on foods made with whole grains rather than white flours, such as whole wheat bread, multigrain chips or crackers.
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 alcohol consumption to one beverage per day (consuming no more than seven drinks per week), and for men to limit their consumption to two alcoholic beverages per day (no more than 14 drinks per week). As a general rule of thumb 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 throughout the day can increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain. Some studies also show that very low-calorie diets can also trigger insulin resistance. Not to mention, when you're consuming too few calories, you're challenged to obtain the nutrition your body needs to feel and function its best.
Bottom line: hormones are involved in every aspect of our health and imbalances can increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease as well as lead to other health problems. Despite the fact that aging and other genetic factors may be beyond your control, consuming a diet rich in nutrient dense foods along with getting regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle behaviors can make a big impact toward improving your hormonal health.
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