When it comes to our hormones, what we consume matters. However, there is not one diet that works for every single person. Food is neither bad nor good-rather, bio-individuality predicts that we all react to what we consume differently. When we begin to assign morality to what we consume, we can develop perfectionist attitudes and an unhealthy cycle of shame around our food choices. This behavior can cause an immense amount of stress that cannot only be dangerous but will have a detrimental impact on our hormones.
In my own work, before even exploring different foods that may help or hinder happy hormones, I work with my clients to cultivate intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is the skill of making decisions about what we consume based upon a place of listening to our own authentic needs rather than ascribing to pressure from outside ourselves to eat a certain way. We begin with the understanding that our nutrition has a unique effect on our mental, physical and emotional state. From there, my client identifies exactly how they want to feel in their mind, body and spirit and begin to make nutritional choices based on their own intrinsic desires and motivations.
Our physiology, goals, health history, and struggles are all so vastly different. With some basic understandings about what we need to nourish our bodies on a daily basis, we can determine what is right for us. Below I share the essentials to maintaining hormonal health from a nutritional perspective.
Stabilize your blood sugar.
Do you ever wake up, drink a cup of coffee on an empty stomach, run out the door with a muffin in your hand and an hour later feel shaky and hungry? What about an intense craving for caffeine or something sweet around 3PM? Do you find yourself consistently hangry or moody when a few hours ago you felt great? This is dysregulated blood sugar.
When our blood sugar spikes, our pancreas releases insulin in an effort to convert the sugar in our bloodstream into energy for our cells. Our bodies are designed to deal with this chain reaction sporadically. However, our modern lives are filled with sneaky sugar and pre-packaged, nutrient deprived foods to eat on ‘the go,’ causing us to experience these effects constantly.
When our insulin levels rise so do our cortisol levels. Refer to my previous post on how high cortisol can impact our sex hormones. There are also insulin receptors on our ovaries and when we have high levels of insulin production, our ovaries can respond by overproducing testosterone instead of estrogen. This can cause us to ovulate infrequently or not at all.
What are some culprits of dysregulated blood sugar?
- simple carbohydrates/refined grains found in pasta, white bread, baked goods
- refined sugar found in sauces, sodas, candy, nut butters-read your labels!
- even high glycemic fruit like pineapple, mango and banana
Do your best to limit your consumption of these foods and beverages, especially if you notice symptoms of dysregulated blood sugar (low energy, headache, insatiable appetite). In addition, when sitting down for a meal or reaching for a snack, make sure that there are good sources of healthy fats and/or proteins present. By implementing these macronutrients, our bodies are better equipped to maintain stabilized blood sugar allowing you to experience sustained energy, moods and happier, more balanced hormones.
Be aware of how you react to inflammatory foods.
Dairy, caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol, gluten, eggs, soy and peanuts are some of the biggest culprits of inflammation. Inflammation in our bodies is responsible for most chronic conditions and can contribute to painful periods, skin issues like acne, anxiety and chronic fatigue. We are not all reactive to these items but when trying to identify the root cause of a symptom, a good place to start is examining your experience with these common culprits. Cutting these foods out in a way that aligns with your life and goals may give you more answers as to what your system can handle and what it cannot.
Many of us are in a chronic state of dehydration, which has a direct effect on our body’s ability to function optimally. Aim to consume at least half your body weight in ounces daily or more if you are very active.
Consume mainly whole foods from clean sources.
At the end of the day, our body’s function optimally when we nourish ourselves with the nutrients that come from the abundance of food our planet provides. The plants and animals with the greatest nutrients are ones that have lived in an environment that is free from toxic chemicals. Do your best to consume organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, free-range and wild caught. You really are what you eat. Here are some examples of nutrient packed foods that support happy hormones and optimal reproductive functioning:
- cruciferous vegetables: kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts
- seaweed and kelp
- healthy fats: olive oil, avocado, seeds and nuts
- omega-3 rich foods: sardines, flax seeds, walnuts and salmon
- organ meats… I know, I know, but they are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! Organ meats are especially beneficial for women preparing for pregnancy.
If you are currently experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance, I urge you to experiment with what you consume from a place of curiosity. Take note of how you feel as you make subtle changes and let your findings guide your decision making on how best to nourish yourself moving forward.
If implementing diet and lifestyle changes seems overwhelming or you feel as though you need support on your journey, please contact Lizzy at firstname.lastname@example.org! You don’t have to walk this path alone.
Want to have a deeper understanding of your menstrual cycle? Check out Lizzy’s first blog post in the series.
Curious about the keys to happy hormones? Check out Lizzy’s second blog post in the series.