Hormones are chemical messengers that tell other systems throughout the body what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. There are over 50 known hormones that are responsible for thousands of bodily processes. We should never underestimate the importance of hormones and the powerful influence they have on our body, especially when we talk about metabolism, fat and muscle distribution.
Hormones work together and if you change one hormone the rest get influenced – similar to a domino effect. Hormones are made in organs, such as pancreas and ovaries, glands, such as pituitary or thyroid gland, and cells. Hormones are made out of cholesterol, protein (amino acids) and components of fat, for that reason it is vital to consume healthy fats and protein in order to be able to produce hormones.
One of the most important organ for hormone health is liver. Liver cleans the excess hormones, manufactures cholesterol, converts certain hormones to other hormones. Healthy liver is the key, which is important to keep in mind when balancing hormones.
Can You Balance Hormones with Diet?
There are eight main hormones or hormone types that are most important to know: cortisol, insulin, thyroid hormones, DHEA, estrogen, testosterone, ghrelin and leptin. Here we will talk about the two most important ones that can easily be managed by your diet and lifestyle and will affect the rest of the hormones – cortisol and insulin.
Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by adrenals when we are under stress, lack sleep or have poor diet. Cortisol regulates glucose metabolism, immune system hormones, cardiovascular functions, use of proteins, fats and carbs. Cortisol make your fat cells more resistant to fat loss, which means that when your body is under stress it becomes much harder to lose body fat. In our society we often have chronically elevated cortisol levels which leads to blood sugar problems, fat accumulation, compromised immune function, infertility, exhaustion, fatigue, bone loss, heart diseases and depression. You must have heard how stress is bad for you in a long term, so that is why. One of the most important steps you can take to manage cortisol is to relax and sleep well, but that is not enough. Poor diet can cause your body to experience stress without you even knowing it.
The second important hormone that can easily be controlled by your diet is insulin. Insulin is secreted by pancreas to decrease blood sugar, which increases most often because of the consumption of sugar, refined carbs and dairy products. Insulin binds to the sugar molecules and stores them as energy, aka fat, in the cells. Constant high levels of insulin causes insulin resistance, and overworks pancreas which leads to diabetes type II. Insulin and cortisol are closely interconnected.
Hormone Balancing Diet
Drinking plenty of water, eating nutrient dense foods and avoiding junk food is absolutely necessary but often not enough. You must also stabilize your blood sugar level and avoid foods that cause stress in your body – foods that your body is either allergic to or sensitive to.
In order to stabilize your blood sugar level, and balance hormones, you must eat breakfast that is high in protein such as eggs or a protein shake. Throughout the day, especially in the morning, you must avoid sugar and refined foods including breads, breakfast cereal, bagels, muffins, and concentrated carbohydrates such as instant oatmeal and fruit juices. Protein and absence of simple carbohydrates will help you stabilize blood sugar level, which in effect will stabilize insulin and cortisol as well as the rest of the hormones. Pretty easy, isn’t it?
To help balance cortisol levels one should eliminate foods that cause stress in the body, such as sugar and refined carbs and well as caffeine. Often we don’t know when our bodies are sensitive or allergic to certain foods – for example, the recently popular gluten, which 8% of the population is sensitive to and should not consume. Other common allergens are dairy, chemicals in food and peanuts. If you think that you are sensitive to a certain food, then you should eliminate it from your diet for at least 3 weeks, then re-introduce it and see how your body reacts – it can be anything from digestive issues to moodiness and lack of energy.
Lacking nutrients can further put stress on your body and cause hormonal imbalances, so it is very important that you eat enough vegetables, fruits, fish and nuts and seed
For you to balance hormones, it shouldn’t be complicated, avoid sugar and refined carbs, as well as food that you are sensitive to, add fresh vegetables, drinks plenty of water – those are a few easy steps towards balance hormones and happier healthier you.
Certified Nutritionist, BCom