As the primary carriers of information throughout the body, hormones have significant influence of major areas of health including weight management, energy, sleep quality, cognitive function, libido, growth and development and many more.
Unfortunately, hormone depletion and imbalance are becoming an increasingly prominent issue resulting in multiple conditions such as autoimmune disorders, chronic disease, and thyroid dysfunction. One contributor to hormone dysfunction is poor nutrition – our nutritional coach discusses hormones and nutrition here. Hormones are too important to ignore and should be protected and supported as best as possible through proper nutrition and diet.
Why are Hormones and Hormone Balance Important?
Hormones traverse the body by utilizing the bloodstream to interact with specific tissues and organs. For example, reduced thyroid hormone production or dysfunction can result in metabolic malfunction subsequently inducing sudden weight gain or loss, mood swings and significant fluctuations in energy level.
Hormone levels naturally decrease as you get older, which can cause a range of symptoms to develop. Other lifestyle factors can contribute to significant shifts in hormone function, production and availability. Notable contributors of hormone imbalance and deficiency include:
- Drug abuse
- Elevated stress levels
- Excessive alcohol use
- Exposure to toxins and endocrine disruptors
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive exercise
- Poor gut health
- Poor sleep
- Vitamin D deficiency
There are many symptoms associated with poor hormone balance that present themselves differently in men and women. Estrogen and progesterone are particularly relevant for hormone balance among women. Improper balance of these hormones frequently causes significant issues.
Women experiencing hormone imbalance may suffer from the following conditions and symptoms:
- Brain fog
- Dry skin
- Hot flashes
- Lack of energy
- Loss of sex drive
- Memory lapses
- Mood swings
- Sagging breasts
- Tender breasts
- Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
Men suffering from poor hormone levels have their own issues to deal with. Decreased levels of various hormones, especially testosterone, can cause men to experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Being less assertive
- Belly fat
- Difficulty building muscle
- Erectile dysfunction
- Insulin resistance
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of muscle definition
- Low energy
- Malaise or depression
- Reduced sex drive
- Sleep apnea
- Unexplained weight gain
The Impact of Diet on Hormones
Foods and the nutrients they contain play a critical role in the production and regulation of hormones. Without a regular supply of hormone-building nutrients, the body is unable to produce the substances it needs to function properly. For example, fat is an essential component of hormone balance. Fatty acids and cholesterol are necessary pieces for the construction of hormones. Without fat and its various components, the body cannot build hormones.
Combatting hormone deficiency by following a nutrient-dense diet is one way to ensure the body has the material it needs to maintain healthy hormone activity.
7 Foods that Help Hormones
The following seven foods provide a bounty of beneficial nutrients that support various aspects of hormone health. Many of these foods can be easily acquired and incorporated into your existing diet plan.
In addition to being delicious, avocados are rich in healthy fats and assist in nutrient absorption. They also contain high levels of fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, B vitamins and folate. These components all play a role in regulating hormone function. High fiber foods such as avocados can reduce concentrations of estrogen in the blood stream. For those with estrogen dominance this is a positive. However, if your estrogen is already low it may be best avoid consuming extra fiber.
These bulky seeds are an excellent source of selenium, which is a crucial component of thyroid hormone production. Inadequate levels of selenium can result in thyroid dysfunction and deficiency. Fortunately, brazil nuts contain abundant selenium so that just three a day is enough to reach the recommended daily dosage of 200mg.
Selenium is also used in the formation of selenoproteins, which protect thyroid cells from oxidative damage. This protective quality helps reduce TPO antibodies, which is a major contributor to autoimmune thyroid dysfunction.
Estrogen dominance is associated with multiple conditions including PMS, endometriosis and infertility. Elevated levels of estrogen may also contribute to the development of nodules and lumps, thyroid cancer and breast cancer. Estrone is the carcinogenic form of estrogen and is closely associated with various forms of cancer. Broccoli sprouts contain di-indolyl-methane (DIM), which helps eliminate excess estradiol from the body. This action may limit the risk of developing different forms of cancer and resolve estrogen dominance.
Nearly all coconut products contain lauric acid, which is well known for its skin-healing attributes. However, coconut oil is also an incredibly powerful hormone production trigger. As a healthy fat, coconut oil supports hormone production by providing the materials needed to construct them. Coconut oil may also help regulate sex hormones in both men and women. It is suggested that coconut oil stems the release of estrogen, thereby combating estrogen dominance, and helps balance testosterone.
Dark chocolate is not only tasty and full of antioxidants but it also helps regulate cortisol levels. Cortisol is a primary component of the body’s stress response and those who experience regular or constant stress can experience significantly inhibited hormone production, regulation, and balance. It is best not to overdo dark chocolate intake but adding a couple small pieces multiple times a week into your diet can support hormone balance.
Eggs house a significant amount of vitamin D. This hormone benefits various aspects of health including: bone building, heart disease and cancer prevention, blood sugar regulation and immunity. Eggs also contain B vitamins and can help regulate cortisol also known as the stress hormone.
Iodine and choline, which are necessary components for constructing thyroid hormones, can be found in eggs as well. Without these building blocks, thyroid hormones cannot be effectively produced.
Egg yolks specifically contain a bevy of helpful vitamins and minerals including: vitamins A, E, B2, B6, B9 and minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorous and potassium.
Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for stimulating sensations of hunger. Elevated or erratic levels of this hormone can cause you to experience intense hunger even if you have already consumed the appropriate number of calories. Quinoa has been shown to stem the release of ghrelin and reduce its prevalence. Additionally, quinoa contains a high amount of fiber and protein, both of which help curb hunger and regulate hormone activity.
Dieting to Achieve Better Hormone Health
Hormone balance is a delicate process and any attempts to alter hormone production or function should be discussed with a trusted hormone expert. Typically, hormone balance is treated with natural or synthetic hormone replacement drugs – find out which is better here. However, diet can provide many benefits that help reestablish and maintain hormone balance.
By following a healthy diet filled with nutrient-rich foods such as the ones mentioned in this article, you can further support hormone health.