by Dr. Marita Schauch, BSc. ND
As this month we celebrate Mother’s Day, I figured it was a good time to talk about an issue that plays a role in many women’s health. Hormone imbalance is something that affects the modern woman at staggering rates. It’s estimated that 80% of women will experience some form of hormone imbalance in her life.
This is due to our modern lifestyles. Exposure to toxins and endocrine disruptors, hormonal birth control, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles.
The good news is that diet plays a big role in our hormonal balance, and with a few simple changes you can support your body to function optimally.
Signs of Hormone Imbalance
Some signs that your hormones could be out of whack include mood swings, PMS, heavy and/or painful periods, low sex drive, poor quality sleep, unexplained weight gain, acne or dry skin, headaches, and digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea.
How to Eat for Balanced Hormones
- Maintain Regulated Blood Sugar
Maintaining stable blood sugar is a crucial need for women and our hormonal balance. Chronic spikes and drops in blood sugar leave the body in a state of fight or flight, and so the body prioritizes immediate survival needs over longer term needs like hormone production and regulation. The best way to stabilize blood sugar is to include protein, healthy fats and fiber with every meal, and limit refined carbohydrates and sugar, caffeine and alcohol. It’s also important to ensure you are eating enough calories to support your activity level.
- Eat Plenty of Protein and Healthy Fats with Some Carbohydrate
Both protein and fats are better at sustaining longer term blood sugar stability, and should be eaten alongside moderate carbohydrates for the perfect balance. Proteins and fats are also the building materials for our hormones, and getting enough of them allows the body to have adequate resources for all of its needs.
- Slow Down with Your Food
Stress is a big factor in hormonal imbalance, and this especially affects us when we are eating in a fight or flight state. Prioritize taking the time to sit and savor your meals to better digest and utilize the nutrients you’re eating.
- Take Care of Your Gut
Gut health plays a big role in hormone balancing due to the body's capacity to absorb nutrients effectively. Eating plenty of soluble fiber, and getting both pre and probiotics helps maintain good gut health. Fiber also helps clear out any excess estrogen and xenoestrogens, absorbed from plastics and environmental toxins.
- Go Organic
Avoiding endocrine disrupting pesticides by sourcing organic foods whenever possible goes a long way. If you can’t always afford to buy organic, consider always choosing organic for the ‘Dirty Dozen’ which are the most heavily sprayed produce: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery & potatoes.
- Eat Whole Foods
Steering clear of processed foods with a whole host of artificial ingredients and toxins that disrupt the body’s balance is key for good hormonal health. Stick to whole foods like grass fed meats, wild fish, whole grains, eggs, grass fed dairy, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruits.
- Love Your Liver
The health of your liver plays a big role in hormone balance, as the liver helps the body remove toxins and any excess harmful hormones. Take care of your liver by steering clear of cigarettes, limiting alcohol and pharmaceuticals, and choosing natural foods and products. The lighter the toxic load on your liver, the better it’s able to perform its crucial roles. Milk thistle, dandelion, and reishi can also be supportive allies in liver health.
Top Hormone Supporting Foods
Now that we’ve covered how best to eat to support hormone balance, let’s take a look at some of the top hormone supporting foods to incorporate into a balanced whole foods diet.
Wild Salmon - Salmon is high in vitamin D and omega 3’s, which our body uses to create sex hormones.
Flax Seeds - Flax seeds are a great source of fibre to help keep the gut balanced, and are also high in omega 3’s which are a starting point for hormone building.
Cruciferous Vegetables - This family of veggies includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kale. Cruciferous vegetables are high in fiber and essential nutrients to help to remove excess estrogen in the body.
Sweet Potato - Vitamin B6 is plentiful in sweet potatoes, and plays a big role in regulating estrogen and progesterone.
Avocado - Avocado is rich in healthy fats, which helps maintain blood sugar levels, it also contains Vitamin B5 which helps reduce stress, which is a big factor in hormone imbalance.
Eggs - Eggs are high in Vitamin D and B6, as well as healthy fats and Omega 3’s.
Oysters - Oysters are high in zinc, which plays a key role in hormone production.
Here’s to life in balance!