Diet Plan For Hormonal Imbalance – Diet plays an important role in hormonal balance, so it should be chosen wisely. As you can read in the content below, there are numerous points which affect digestive system, appetite and metabolism.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemicals produced by the body which send messages from one part to another to help regulate our growth and development, metabolism, body temperature, stress levels and mood.
They have a huge impact on our overall health and wellbeing and play a crucial role in our energy, vitality and how we feel on a daily basis, so it’s important to keep them balanced and in harmony rather like a well played orchestra.
Our hormones are affected not only by our genetic inheritance but also by our epigenetics (our environment) and our lifestyle (how we live).
There are a number of lifestyle factors that can upset the balance including poor diet, high levels of stress and too much as well as too little exercise. This can lead to hormone imbalances which are linked to a number of health issues including:
• Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) with a host of physiological & behavioural symptoms.
• Menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, insomnia and low mood
• Gut/digestive problems
• Weight Gain especially around the middle
• Disturbed sleep
Hormone imbalance in females
Are you experiencing mood swings and behavioural changes such as irritability, tension headaches, unexplained low mood, bloating, sugar cravings, breast tenderness, heavy painful periods, skin breakouts, low energy or weight gain?
As females our hormones affect us daily and at all stages of our lives, ie during our fertile and pre menopausal years, as well as our menopause and post menopausal years contributing to unwanted and seemingly unexplained symptoms.
You may have tried a number of things to improve your symptoms including supplements you have been recommended by a friend or relative that worked miracles for them, medications prescribed by your GP which have not had the panacea result and come with unwanted side effects.
You may just be at a loss as to what to do, knowing perhaps a little or too much information from researching on the internet and that is where a Functional Medicine Practitioner like myself can help show you how to balance your hormones.
Functional Medicine practitioners are trained to identify the functional imbalances that explain your current symptoms of hormone imbalances based on the latest research and then to develop a personalised nutrition and lifestyle programmes with hormone balancing foods and lifestyle tips recommendation to restore hormone balance.
Hormone imbalance in males
Hormone imbalances in males may not be as widely discussed, but if you are male and suffering from symptoms such as low libido, loss of interest in daily life, weight gain including “man boobs”, mood swings or depression, the chances are you have a hormone imbalance.
This could be caused by poor nutrition, stress, or other lifestyle factors (including over-exercising to get that six pack) and with help from an experienced health practitioner these symptoms could be improved.
A Functional Medicine Practitioner like myself is trained to evaluate what lies behind your symptoms and I have helped numerous male clients to understand their symptoms and shown them how to improve their quality of life and health by crossing that first barrier – discussing with and then showing them how through making simple dietary and lifestyle changes they can restore balance and regain their lives.
Using food / diet to balance hormones
The food we eat on a daily basis has a significant impact and our hormone production – for example a diet too high in stimulants such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol will increase insulin hormone production and insulin is our blood sugar regulating hormone which if out of balance causes symptoms such as sugar cravings, weight around the middle and mood swings.
So l typically help clients to work with some basic principles of a well balanced nutrition plan which include:
• Eating whole single ingredient natural foods.
• Consuming quality protein (animal or plant sources).
• Ensuring healthy fats are consumed at every meal (so important for hormone production).
• Eating as many fibrous foods as possible to support detoxification of unwanted/excess hormones.
• Reducing stimulants (caffeine, sugar, alcohol are the main culprits!).
Adapting your lifestyle to help balance hormones
How we live our lives will impact our hormone production, excess production and whether we are detoxifying unwanted hormones or allowing them to recirculate resulting in hormone imbalances of excess and insufficiency which will have an impact on our health.
For example over- exercising can lead to hormonal imbalance or changes, including testosterone and cortisol (our stress hormone), it can drive overeating and the body can also begin to burn muscle instead of fat and cause your body to hold onto or gain fat, particularly abdominal fat.
So I typically help clients by making lifestyle recommendations to balance their hormones which includes:
Drinking only filtered or bottled water (due to unwanted toxins including hormones such as oestrogen residues present in unfiltered water).
Encouraging them to reduce their exposure to xenoestrogens from plastics, chemical pesticide/fertilizers and chemical loaded lotions and potions (now so ubiquitous for females and increasingly for men!) which cause havoc with hormone balance as the body does not recognise, and causes hormone imbalances.
The Hormone Diet is a 6-week, three-step process designed to promote hormonal balance and an overall healthier body through diet, exercise, nutritional supplements, and detoxification. The diet regulates what you eat and also tells you the right time to eat to ensure maximum benefit to your hormones.
The book boasts of being the first diet book to emphasize the importance of hormonal balance among all the hormones that influence weight. It also claims to be the first to explain the lifestyle habits that can help boost hormones to burn fat. These include:
- managing stress
The diet aims for weight loss of up to 12 pounds, including water weight, in the first phase. It aims for about 2 pounds a week after that without calorie counting.
According to the author, following the entire protocol may help you optimize the levels of inflammation in your body as well as these hormones:
- dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
- gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA)
- growth hormone
- thyroid hormone
This part of the diet involves a 2-week “detoxification” process. You avoid eating:
- gluten-containing grains
- dairy products made from cow’s milk
- many oils
- artificial sweeteners
- red meat
- citrus fruits
Foods you can eat during this phase include:
- naturally gluten-free grains and starches
- most vegetables
- most fruits
- nuts and seeds other than peanuts
- plant milk
- dairy from sheep or goats
- certain oils
This phase also involves taking nutritional supplements. These include probiotics and anti-inflammatory products, like turmeric and fish oil.
In this phase, you incorporate some foods back into your diet while paying attention to how your body responds to them.
However, the diet recommends an ongoing avoidance of “hormone-hindering” foods. These include:
- high fructose corn syrup
- fish with high mercury levels
- non-organic meats
- non-organic coffee
The full list is in the book “The Hormone Diet.”
The second phase also involves ridding your diet of human-made foods, which include:
- processed foods
- artificial sweeteners
- refined grains
- foods that contain nitrates, such as cured meats
The author explains in the book that her diet approach is a “Glyci-Med” approach. This means she takes some aspects of a glycemic index diet (which is based on foods that don’t spike your blood sugar quickly) and the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy diet modeled after the traditional, olive oil-rich diet eaten in the Mediterranean.
The third phase focuses on entire physical and mental wellness through cardiovascular exercise and strength training. The diet plan of the second phase continues on into the third phase.
Both Phase 2 and Phase 3 allow some wiggle room for foods that don’t strictly adhere to the program, but the book details that you should be making Hormone Diet-approved choices at least 80% of the time.
Top 10 food sources to restore hormone balance
Hormones have a huge impact on our overall health and well being as they affect everything from our menstrual cycles to health issues such as PCOS, Thyroid, PMT and Endometriosis. Nutrition can be a powerful tool when addressing hormone imbalances as when hormones are in harmony you reclaim your life back! Here are my top 10 foods to eat to help restore hormone balance.
These are part of the brassica family and when cut, chewed or cooked a phytochemical known as Indole-3-carbinol is produced. Indole-3-carbinol promotes liver function which is important for hormone balance where our waste products and “spent” hormones are cleared out.
Cruciferous vegetables should be eaten daily to as part of your hormone detoxification and balancing system. Examples include:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
Eat good fats daily
Eating good fats is essential for hormone production as it is these fats that build our hormones as well as reduce inflammation. So always include a portion of fat in each meal which can come from olive oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, raw unsalted nuts or seeds, nut butter and avocados.
Eat a rainbow of vegetables
By eating a rainbow of vegetables with a wide variety of colours we can be sure we are getting different nutrients and a wide variety of different vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat 7-8 portions daily (a portion is roughly a fist size).
Eat quality protein at every meal
Protein fills us up and keeps us fuller for longer thus keeping our blood sugar levels balanced. Whether this is animal or plant protein is a personal choice, I would normally recommend a mix of both and with animal protein to be sure that this is hormone free by choosing organic grass fed meat.
Eat 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds daily
Flaxseeds are the richest dietary source of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen which help balance oestrogen levels by promoting oestrogen but also getting rid of “spent” oestrogen. Add to your breakfast, to smoothies, soups.
Eat whole fruit in moderation
Eating 1 or 2 low sugar fruits daily, ideally raw, with their skin on helps keep our blood sugar levels in check and includes all berries, citrus, apples, pears Dried fruit and fruit juices may spike our blood sugar levels so should be avoided.
Include herbs and spices in your foods
Including an array of fresh (or dried) herbs and spices especially those that have anti-inflammatory properties such as ginger, turmeric, sumac, paprika, garlic will promote hormone harmony as well as ensuring we are adding an array of different nutrients to our meals.
Eat wholegrain fibrous carbohydrates
Including a fist size portion of wholegrain slow release carbohydrates such as brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa with 1 or 2 of your meals will ensure that we are getting much needed fibre and all important B vitamins which support hormone balance and healthy elimination of spent hormones (especially with period related problems such as PMS).
Magnesium food sources
Magnesium improves our insulin sensitivity meaning that our bodies are better able to use insulin and to regulate our blood sugar levels as well as regulating our nervous system (especially helpful with PMS symptoms and with PCOS). Magnesium food sources include and so are easy to incorporate into your daily foods!
- Dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, watercress, kale)
- Legumes – chickpeas, lentil, beans, soy beans
- Nuts (especially almonds, brazil, cashew and pine nuts)
- Seeds (especially pumpkin and sunflower)
- Wholegrains – quinoa
For hormone production and balance we need to ensure our gut bacteria are flourishing so eating fermented foods daily (kefir, olives, fermented vegetables), prebiotic foods and probiotic yoghurts etc as well as eating as many different foods as possible in a week will help maintain the diversity you need.