Hormonal imbalances can have a major impact on your health. A lot of things can alter the delicate balance of your hormones and diet is definitely one these. Unexplained weight gain, tiredness, bad skin, sleep problems and PMS can all be subtle signs that your hormones aren’t as balanced as they could be. Looking at your diet can be one of the simplest ways to start to balance your hormones and improve hormone health.
Pack in the protein
Protein is a really underrated way to balance your hormones, especially insulin and oestrogen. Lean meats, fish, eggs and beans are all great examples of ways to up your protein intake. Fatty fish such as salmon are smart protein choices as they contain anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.
Red meats and processed meats are more of a grey area as they can increase inflammation, and this can raise the risk of hormone imbalances that are linked to inflammation.
Eat carbs and healthy fats too
Alongside protein, you’ll also want to include some carbs and healthy fats. These three macronutrients are important for balancing your hormones. Ideally, try to include protein, carbs and healthy fats every mealtime. For fats, choose olive oil over vegetable oils. Vegetables oils and margarine are full of inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids. Don’t forget to pack your plate with veggies too!
Support your gut with probiotics
If you’re not already eating probiotics, you’re missing out on an easy way to support hormone health. Most probiotics are naturally found in your gut and can ensure you have a strong diverse micro-biome. They can aid in healthy digestion, support the integrity of your gut lining and help counteract the effects of bad bacteria (which we all have, but it needs to be kept in balance). A diverse micro-biome will also aid in hormone balance as well as reducing inflammation. There is a variety of bacteria in the gut that help regulate the circulation of oestrogen.
Eat plenty of fibre
Eating lots of fibre isn’t just great for your digestive health, it can also bind to oestrogen and help to reduce some of the effects of excess oestrogen. Fibre is also a pre-biotic meaning it provides food for probiotics to grow and innoculate the gut with beneficial bacterial. One interesting study involving 62 premenopausal women and the effect of dietary fibre on serum oestrogen concentration, showed after 2 months on a high fibre diet (15g to 30g wheat, oat or corn bran), the wheat bran supplemented group showed significant reductions in serum estrone (P less than 0.002) and estradiol (P less than 0.02) but no change in serum progesterone or sex-hormone-binding globulin concentrations. The serum oestrogens were unaffected by dietary-fibre supplementation with oat or corn brans.
High glycemic foods raise insulin levels
Foods that rank highly on the Glycemic Index increase insulin levels and alter the way that your body uses oestrogen. They are also inflammatory and can raise your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Refined carbs such as white flours are a big culprit for hormone imbalances, partly due to their inflammatory nature. Eating more low GI foods helps to balance hormones.
Soy can be a problem
If you already have an excess of oestrogen, soy can be an issue. It contains some natural oestrogens so it stands to raise your levels of this hormone even more. This is good news if you have low oestrogen levels but it can be a big problem if your levels are already on the high side due to factors such as the contraceptive pills and hormone mimicking toxins from your lifestyle.
Soy contains iso-flavones, which can increase the effects of hormones such as oestrogen.You can end up with much higher oestrogen levels than you realise, and this can present itself in problems such as heavy periods, bloating, acne, chronic headaches and mood swings.
There’s another problem with non-organic, GMO soy products too. They can often contain a chemical called glyphosate which is a known hormone disruptor. Fermented soy products avoid this, as do non GMO, organic options.
You might find soy to be an issue if you’re a vegan, as many vegan friendly foods are packed with soy and you can easily find yourself eating a lot of it.
If you suspect that your levels are already high, soy may be something you decide to stay clear of completely.
Processed foods can raise oestrogen levels
Processed foods are another one to avoid as they can significantly raise oestrogen levels. Experts suggest eating a diet rich in processed foods can lead to oestrogen levels that are as much as double the “normal”, healthy levels. If you’re worried that your oestrogen levels are on the high side, cutting back on processed and sugary foods is super important, along with “bad” fats and alcohol. Eating more fibre, especially from fruits and vegetables, and following a low GI diet can also help to bring oestrogen levels back in balance again. A recent review found for every 10% increase in energy per day eaten from ultra-processed foods, there was a 15% increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Ditch caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol can both affect hormone production. Drinking a lot of caffeine can raise cortisol levels and can also have an impact on the adrenal glands. This can have a knock on effect for lots of areas of your health, from sleep to digestion. Alcohol has been linked to “oestrogen dominance” and can potentially increase insulin resistance and lower testosterone levels. The latter can be a factor in low libido, vaginal dryness and impotence.
Moradi S, Hojjati Kermani Ma, Bagheri R, Mohammadi H, Jayedi A, Lane MM, Asbaghi O, Mehrabani S, Suzuki K. Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and Adult Diabetes Risk: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2021; 13(12):4410. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124410