Why Hormones Rule Everything
Hormones in the body are a bit like traffic controllers. They are chemical messengers produced by endocrine glands in different organs. Well-known hormones are insulin, produced by the pancreas which regulates blood sugar. Others include thyroid hormones, T3 and T4 which regulate energy metabolism among other things. Most people know about cortisol and adrenaline which are involved with stress adaptation and resilience. And of course, the reproductive hormones progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone.
Women tend to experience different hormonal issues at various stages in life, purely because we have a more complex hormonal architecture. However, it’s not uncommon for men to have mood, energy, sleep or digestive complaints that could be linked to disrupted hormones.
Our hormones are responsible for essential metabolic processes, from fertility to hunger to pleasure. There are constant feedback loops (positive and negative) that activate within the brain, to tissues and cells and back again.
Your internal and external environment are constantly interfacing with different information which then tells your body what to do when and why.
For instance, if you’re being chased by a predator, your body will prioritise running, breathing and vision over digestion. There are limited resources that need to be allocated and your hormones are the master gatekeepers of these biological events.
In short, it makes sense to look after them.
Common Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
- Major fatigue
- Sleep issues
- Bloating, digestive discomfort
- Rapid weight loss or weight gain
- Extreme hot or cold feelings
- Brittle hair, nails
- Low libido
- Brain fog
- Oestrogen dominance
- Insulin resistance
- Thyroid dysfunction
Fortunately, there are a few foods that support the healthy function and metabolism of different hormones.
7 Foods For Healthy Hormones
One of the easiest, most sustainable ways to help your hormones is to eat whole, nutrient-dense foods every day. Here’s some of the very best to include in your diet.
Eggs could well be my favourite food. They’re inexpensive, versatile, vegetarian-friendly and pack a massive nutrient punch. They’re one of the top foods to boost reproductive function due to their nutrients. Nat Kringoudis aptly describes eggs as the ‘ace of spades’ when it comes to fertility. Eggs are naturally high in protein which supports hormone metabolism in the liver. They’re also rich in choline, which is one of the most underrated nutrients for brain and hormone health.
Observational studies support the consumption of eggs for optimal hormone health. The essential fatty acid, folate and mineral content make them pretty much a complete food. The cholesterol component of eggs also supports hormone synthesis. Did you know cholesterol is necessary to make hormones?
Wild Caught Salmon
Salmon is famously high in omega-3 fats, which are required for making hormones that protect the heart, and blood vessels. The consumption of wild salmon, which is rich in healthy fats has also been associated with improving insulin function and ameliorating diabetes symptoms.
In fact, A 2019 meta-analysis involving 36,542 participants in total (pretty compelling numbers there!) showed some incredible results for metabolic syndrome. This condition is characterised largely by diabetics, obesity and hypertension.
Collectively, these studies all revealed that higher concentrations of omega-3 in blood and adipose (fat) tissue and corresponding high omega-3 intake were associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome. Salmon also has iron, B12 and protein. All of these nutrients help support thyroid and reproductive hormone function.
Consuming good quality protein sources, from plants and animals is crucial to staying healthy. Grass-fed and naturally raised beef is a superb source of some key nutrients that are essential for hormone health. Notably, B12, tyrosine, iodine, selenium, zinc and iron are all required to make different hormones. Some of these include T3, T4, dopamine and testosterone. Without adequate levels of these nutrients, our hormones and health will suffer.
Another important nutrient that’s found in beef is L-carnitine. This protein is made in the body from the amino acids lysine and methionine. It’s a vital compound required for cellular energy production, usually associated with skeletal and heart muscle function. A recent study published in the International journal of fertility and women's medicine found that L-carnitine is beneficial to male fertility. This research showed that L-carnitine improved sperm motility, morphology and function, and is important to sperm synthesis.
Other current research shows that L-carnitine found in grass-fed beef can help improve diabetic symptoms. A meta-analysis of 5 different trials showed that L-carnitine was effective in improving insulin resistance compared to a placebo.
While you can certainly obtain iron from many foods, we know that the iron in red meat is readily bioavailable. If you want to really up the ante, organic beef liver is also very nutritious and can easily be added to all kinds of meals.
Top tip: grate frozen beef liver into pasta sauces, soups or stocks for a nutrient boost your hormones will love.
There are some fantastic nutrients in cruciferous vegetables that help hormones, like folate and iron. Yet, they have some unique plant compounds that help protect your hormones and how they behave.
Veggies like kale, cauliflower, broccoli and bok choy are all part of the cruciferous vegetable family. When you eat these veggies, healthy plant compounds are activated, which can benefit oestrogen clearance in the liver. The fibre content also aids in healthy hormone metabolism. A Harvard University study from 2020 found that high-fibre diets assist in oestrogen clearance in the liver and bowels.
Clearing excess oestrogen is important to protect against oestrogen-dominant cancers like ovarian and breast cancer. Research has found a significant inverse association between cruciferous vegetable consumption and the risk of ovarian cancer onset. This means that according to the research if you eat more of these veggies, your ovarian cancer risk also declines.
Speaking of oestrogen, flaxseeds or linseeds are uniquely important to oestrogen metabolism. The polyphenol compounds found in flaxseeds are lignans. Lignans also assist in the healthy metabolism of oestrogen via liver pathways. Flaxseeds have additional protective effects against breast cancer.
Flaxseeds, like hops, chasteberry and soy are often characterised in natural medicine as oestrogenic. This means they have a special ability to mimic oestrogen, which is great for postmenopausal women to protect against osteoporosis. Like all nuts and seeds, flaxseeds are also a great source of dietary fibre, which helps with bowel health. Maintaining good bowel function by ‘keeping regular’ helps your body eliminate excess hormones.
Okay, green tea may not be food. But, it should be, considering how healthy it is! Green tea provides a natural dose of antioxidants, which reduces inflammation in the body. This can be beneficial in supporting stress responses and associated inflammation. Green tea is also a source of dietary folate and vitamin C which helps cortisol and reproductive hormone function.
Perhaps the most well-researched polyphenol in green tea is L-theanine. This compound has a myriad of health benefits, including promoting relaxation and reducing cancer risk. Yet, recently L-theanine has been shown to influence reproductive hormones in men. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that L-theanine, along with several other tea compounds affects the metabolic function of sperm cells. This lab study showed that L-theanine enhanced their proliferation and healthy development.
Healthy fats, protein and micronutrients galore. Nuts have it all. And really, seeds aren’t far behind when it comes to supporting hormones either. Nuts are rich in essential fats, which help regulate insulin levels, and satiety and promotes hormone production. All nuts are healthy, but there’s a couple of standouts for hormone health. Brazil nuts, loaded with selenium, are brilliant for thyroid health. Walnuts have polyunsaturated fats that are neuroprotective and support growth. Almonds are high in vitamin E which is great for fertility and skin health.
One of the most robust areas of nut research as it relates to health is weight loss and diabetes. A meta-analysis of several randomised controlled dietary trials found nuts to categorically improve glycaemic control in diabetic individuals. This pooled analysis involving 450 participants showed that nuts displace high-GI foods in the diet. Nuts also support insulin function, which makes them a beneficial food for metabolic hormone health.
How Else Can You Support Your Hormones?
There’s value in taking a holistic approach to your body and hormones. Sure, choosing the right foods can go a long way to supporting your body’s overall processes. Outside of this, there’s some other ways to help improve hormone issues.
Look after your gut
Eat a variety of foods to promote microbial diversity in the digestive tract. This has an upstream effect on hormones, immunity and nervous system health.
Prioritise daylight exposure and movement
Try to exercise, preferably outside. Experiment with both cardiovascular exercise and restorative forms of movement like yoga. The combination of each will improve hormone sensitivity and overall health.
Get high-quality sleep
It’s a vital part of your health that gets overlooked. Yet, sleep helps regulate and reset your hormones, every day. Have a read here for more on how to make great quality sleep a part of your life.
Recruit Professional Help
There’s so many simple, free things you can do to support your health and hormones. But if you’re struggling and need extra support, it’s best to consult a trusted health provider who can help.
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