If you’re feeling sluggish, you’re experiencing mood swings, or are losing weight without any good reason for it, you might be experiencing a problem with your hormones.
There are many different ways in which hormones in the body can give you unpleasant symptoms if they become disrupted.
What, exactly, are hormones? Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers because they travel through the blood to organs and tissues to regulate various bodily functions, such as reproduction, metabolism, growth, development, and mood.
With that in mind, let’s explore how you can balance your hormones to keep your body functioning at its best. We’ll also look at the important role that your diet has to play in regulating hormones.
What Causes A Hormonal Imbalance?
When your hormones are unbalanced, this basically means that there is too much or too little of them in your bloodstream.
Since hormones regulate a variety of functions in the body, such as your heart rate, sexual function, metabolism, and more, if you’re not getting enough of them or you’re getting too much of them this will produce various side effects.
These symptoms are basically like warning signs that you’re dealing with a hormonal imbalance.
You can experience a variety of symptoms with a hormonal imbalance, even if it’s just one hormone that’s not functioning properly, such as unexplained weight gain or loss, irregular periods, mood swings, insomnia, and a lower sex drive.
What Health Conditions Are Linked To Hormonal Imbalances?
There are many different medical conditions that can affect your body’s production of hormones. These include the following:
- Diabetes, whereby the body doesn’t produce enough of the insulin hormone.
- Hyperthyroidism (when the thyroid gland produces too many hormones) and hypothyroidism (when too little thyroid hormones are produced).
- Addison’s disease, which is when the adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones.
- Acromegaly, when growth hormones are overproduced.
- Cushing’s syndrome, when the adrenal glands produce too many corticosteroids.
- Endocrine gland tumors or cysts that can be benign or malignant.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which is when too little cortisol is produced in the body.
How Are Hormonal Imbalances Treated?
There are many different treatments for hormonal imbalances because there are so many types of them.
For example, birth control can be prescribed to women to balance their progesterone or estrogen levels, and medications to treat menopause that are known as hormone replacement drugs can be prescribed to reduce menopause-related symptoms. For men, testosterone medications can help reduce low levels of testosterone.
If you’re dealing with too few thyroid hormones, your doctor could prescribe a drug to increase it, such as levothyroxine. Treating the health condition that has caused your specific hormonal imbalance is also important.
Is A Hormonal Imbalance Dangerous If Left Untreated?
The problem with a hormonal imbalance is that it represents a larger condition, such as diabetes if your insulin hormone is unbalanced or a thyroid issue if your body’s getting too much or not enough thyroid hormones.
The underlying condition needs to be treated otherwise you could have unpleasant or even severe symptoms.
Sometimes, a hormonal imbalance can lead to potentially serious conditions such as cancer. For example, a hormonal imbalance in men could be a sign of a prostate cancer condition, while a hormonal imbalance in women could indicate ovarian cancer.
Therefore, it’s essential to consult with your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms that worry you.
It helps to track your symptoms, such as when they occur and how severe they are so that you give your doctor all the information they need to diagnose the right medication to treat your hormonal imbalance.
Foods That Regulate Your Hormones
The foods you eat can help you to regulate and balance hormones. What we eat has an effect on how hormones are produced and their signaling pathways.
Generally, healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil; and fiber that you can find in fruits and vegetables, are good for your hormones. By comparison, artificial sugars, alcohol, and even pesticides that are in food can all contribute to unhealthy hormones.
Foods To Eat For Healthy Hormones
- Healthy fats: These are highly beneficial to your body’s production of hormones. Examples include coconut oil, which contains MCT and lauric acid, both of which aid the body’s hormonal production; and olive oil, which is a building block of hormonal production. This healthy oil has been found to balance hormones that regulate appetite and stimulate the body’s digestion of protein and fat.
- Nuts: Unsalted Brazilian nuts, walnuts, and macadamia nuts contain high amounts of omega-3s. These have anti-inflammatory effects on the body which also help to balance the hormones.
- Rainbow foods: Rainbow foods are colorful vegetables and fruits that add different colors to your diet. They help you to get lots of nutrients and fiber, so add foods such as purple cabbage, yellow bell peppers, red apples, white mushrooms, blueberries, and green spinach or kale to your diet. This can also help you to keep your hormones healthy. For example, low glycemic fruits and veggies maintain a stable sugar level.
- Probiotic foods: Many hormones get secreted in the digestive system so you want to ensure you keep your gut healthy. Probiotic foods can help, so add bone broth, curd, and buttermilk to your diet. Since these are fermented, they keep your gut bacteria healthy.
- Protein: While this nutrient increases your insulin in the short term, it can lead to long-term reductions in insulin resistance because it helps you to reduce your belly fat.
Foods To Avoid
- Processed foods: Many of these foods have artificial ingredients to improve how they taste and look, but these types of colorings, preservatives, and artificial flavors can mimic or disrupt hormones in the body. An example is phthalates that have been associated with hormone disruption.
- Artificial sweeteners: These change your gut bacteria, which has a negative influence on your leptin and ghrelin, two hormones linked to feelings of hunger and satiety. Sugar disrupts insulin, which can lead to other hormonal imbalances, like estrogen.
- Refined carbs: Consuming too much sugar in your diet can cause too much insulin in your body, leading to a hormonal imbalance, but you might not realize that refined carbs also cause your blood sugar levels to spike. You should therefore reduce how much of them you consume in your regular eating plan.
- Alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol interferes with hormonal processes in the body, such as blood sugar. It’s important to note that alcohol usually contains a lot of sugar and calories.
- Caffeine: This boosts the body’s production of the cortisol or “stress” hormone. This is bad for you because it makes your body enter a state of being on high alert. Too much of the stress hormone can impact other hormones.
- Soy: When you eat too much soy in your diet, this is bad for you because soy is similar to estrogen, which can lead to unlimited cell growth and breast cancer.
- Dairy: While animal-based dairy products are filled with protein that’s good for you, dairy can disrupt your body’s hormones. Milk also stimulates insulin production in the body.
- Cruciferous Vegetables: While it’s always good to add more vegetables to your diet, you need to limit your consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. These can affect your thyroid hormones if you have an iodine deficiency.
Lifestyle Changes That Maintain Hormone Health
Besides making healthy changes to your diet, there are some important lifestyle changes that will maintain the wellbeing of your body’s hormones. These include the following:
- Stick to healthy body weight: By eating a nutritious diet that includes foods like the ones we outlined earlier, you can keep your hormones healthy. Plus, staying at a healthy weight can help you to avoid hormonal imbalances. For example, a study has found that obesity is linked to various endocrine conditions, such as Cushing’s disease.
- Lower your stress: When your body experiences a stress response in your body, this releases various stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. If you’re battling with chronic stress, this can cause too much cortisol in your blood, which affects all other hormones in the body, such as your thyroid hormones.
- Get enough exercise: Make sure you exercise regularly as moderate activity improves your leptin sensitivity. This hormone is important because it tells your brain not to overeat, therefore keeping you at a healthy weight and preventing the disruption of hormones.
Can Plastic Disrupt Your Hormones?
Plastics contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals disrupt your hormones and some examples of them include Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, dioxin, toxic metals like lead, and UV-stabilizers.
Many different plastic items you handle and encounter can contain these chemicals, such as food storage materials.
These chemicals can cause a variety of health problems, such as fertility issues, immune function problems, nervous system function problems, breathing problems, cancer, heart health, metabolic issues, neurological problems, and disabilities.
How these chemicals disrupt hormones in the body is that they either interfere with how they function or they mimic them. When a chemical mimics a hormone, it makes the hormone receptor think that the EDC is itself a hormone. This triggers hormonal imbalances.
Based on this, it’s important to prevent your food from coming into contact with EDCs in plastic. So, avoid putting foods in plastic when microwaving them, replace non-stick pans with ceramic-coated ones, and avoid drinking from plastic bottles that contain BPA.
Other things to do include the following:
- Eat less fast food: Its packaging has been linked to harmful chemicals such as phthalates. A study found that the more takeaway food that people eat, the more phthalates they have in their bodies.
- Avoid plastic around your food: When storing food, avoid using plastic food wrap or packaging that contains greaseproof lining.
- Don’t eat too many canned foods: Canned foods should also be avoided because they sometimes contain BPA that comes into contact with the food.
Is acne a symptom of a hormonal imbalance?
While acne is known for being linked to pubescent hormonal changes, it can be linked to hormonal imbalances later on in life. For example, some women experience acne during their menstrual cycles because of the change in hormonal levels.
Are hormonal imbalances associated with hair loss?
Most types of hair loss are hereditary, but some hormonal changes can cause one to experience hair loss, such as during pregnancy and the onset of menopause. Similarly, thyroid glands that are either underproducing or overproducing hormones can result in hair loss.
If you think you might have a hormonal imbalance, you need to pay attention to your diet to ensure you’re avoiding foods that can disrupt them. In this article, we’ve featured information about hormonal imbalances and how to regulate them with your food choices.
We’ve also looked at some important lifestyle changes to make to keep your hormones healthy, such as by avoiding plastic food containers that can disrupt your hormones with their toxic chemicals and taking up exercise.