We all have our moments; we feel irritable, we feel lethargic; we feel under par; we feel clogged up…the list goes on…
Whether we like it or not, our hormones play an integral role in the overall workings of our body. Hormones control our mood, our digestion, our metabolism, our appearance, our energy levels and so much more.
The body does a good job on its own making the hormones we need, but this process is further enhanced if we nourish our bodies in the right way.
The body needs macronutrient balance in order to work efficiently. This means that we need protein, we need carbohydrates and we especially need fat. All three macronutrients work in good harmony to ensure efficient hormone production.
Fat is especially important as it provides fundamental building blocks for hormone production. Healthy fat consumption also helps to curb inflammation, assist metabolism and aid weight loss. Healthy sources of fat include oily fish, avocado, nuts/seeds, coconut oil and natural coconut products, egg yolks and grass fed butter.
Protein is also important in that it assists with neurotransmitter synthesis and overall hormonal balance, especially when it comes to keeping our blood glucose levels balanced and our satiety levels up. Incorporating a source with each meal will help achieve this. Examples include; egg, oats, legumes, tinned fish, lean meat and poultry, nuts/seeds.
Carbohydrates are also important in their own right. Restricting carbohydrate consumption can lead to a host of issues such as thyroid disruption, muscle catabolism, impaired mood, reduced resistance to stress and supressed immunity. The key is the most people do well with some carbohydrates. We are all unique specimens, figure out what it best for you but remember, without carbohydrates, your body will struggle.
Love your liver!
The liver itself has over 500 roles within the body! Thus, the role the liver plays in hormone balance is extraordinary. The liver takes everything that we put into our body and sorts it in to a ‘keep’ or ‘dispose of’ pile. In the ‘keep’ pile, you’ll find things that the body uses for all its important functions and in the ‘dispose of’ pile you’ll find toxins, metabolic waste, chemicals and/or substances in excess that the body does not need.
A sluggish liver function results in inefficient detoxification, poor bile production, hormonal imbalance, elevated LDL (aka bad) cholesterol, weight gain, digestive issues, skin issues, blood glucose fluctuations and more.
Incorporating more liver cleansing foods will help restore optimal liver function and therefore, hormone balance. These include: garlic, beets, carrot, dark leafy veg, olive oil, apples, cabbage, broccoli and avocados.
Turn down the stress!
Incorporating foods rich in B vitamins will assist with our stress response, our resistance to illness, our energy production and the metabolism of important hormones e.g. oestrogen. These include our grains, dark leafy greens and fish and seafood.
Chronic stress can exacerbate hormonal imbalance. Find what works for you and implement it in to your routine. This may mean busting out a groove to your favourite song, meditating quietly, yoga stretches, reading a book, drawing, painting etc.
Fill with fibre!
Fibre plays an important role in the body’s prevention to re-absorb recycled hormonal chemicals, e.g. plastics and pesticides, that can play havoc on our endocrine system. Fibre also encourages swift elimination which helps keep the body in a clean environment. Incorporating whole grains (such as psyllium, brown rice, spelt, oats, chia seeds, oats, buckwheat, quinoa) as well as fresh fruit and vegetables will give keep your fibre levels in check. If you are increasing your fibre intake, be sure to increase your water too, to avoid getting bunged up!
Antioxidant-rich vegetables are your mates when it comes to hormonal balance. These include anything of the dark green and leafy variety e.g. broccoli, silverbeet, kale, spinach and rocket as well as anything of the brightly coloured red-yellow-orange variety e.g. tomatoes, capsicum, carrots and cabbage.
Starchy vegetables also play their own role in hormonal balance too so don’t pass up on veggies like pumpkin, sweet potato, beets, turnips or swedes.
Magnesium is my favourite mineral. It is needed for the function over 300 enzymes and plays an important role in hormone production and regulation. Incorporating foods such pumpkin seeds, dark leafy greens, amaranth, dark chocolate, quinoa, oats and brown rice will give your magnesium levels a boost and help keep your hormones in check.
Gear the gut.
The link between the gut and the brain is much bigger than what we think it is. So much so that any imbalance in the gut will likely cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. A fun fact: serotonin (an important sleep and stress hormone) is more concentrated in the gut than the brain! Another fun fact: 70% of the immune system is also found in the gut. You’re starting to get the picture…!
An impaired gut function can cause hormone imbalance by way of inflammation due to leaked undigested particles, such as gluten, into the bloodstream. This, of course, has a systemic effect, impacting the entire body (the thyroid gland is particularly susceptible to pro-inflammatory states). Focusing on incorporating gut loving foods such as fermented food and drinks, bone broth and fresh high-fibre foods like vegetables make a difference.
Probiotics are our ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria (aka live bacteria), which are important to a well functioning GI tract and therefore our optimal health and vitality. They also work to improve the production and regulation of important hormones such as ghrelin, leptin and insulin. Prebiotics act like a fertiliser for our probiotics and they also play a role in hormonal balance too. They are traditionally the non-digestible components of our food and they enable the growth and survival of our good bacteria. Examples include onion, raw garlic, leek, asparagus, greenish bananas, oats, dark leafy greens.
Watch the stimulants.
As much as l love coffee, I do know that too much does have a negative effect on my body, namely my endocrine system. Alcohol too. For this reason, I limit myself to mostly 1 coffee daily and in the morning. If I follow this rule, this is when I feel my best.
Try incorporating more herbal tea and increasing your water intake in lieu of more caffeine and alcohol.
Exercise with care.
Exercising in an already stressed state does little wonders for the body. In fact, it can further raise cortisol levels and further contribute to weight gain! Plan wisely and balance your exercise so that you’ve got high intensity, medium intensity and low intensity levels featured.