When your hormones are out of whack, your body follows suit. Here are the 10 best foods you can eat to balance yourself out.
Have you been feeling especially stressed lately, with odd symptoms like acne, fatigue, and unexplained weight gain? Chances are, your hormones are out of balance. Hormones are the chemical messengers of our endocrine system. And too much or too little of a certain hormone can cause your body to act out.
Read on to see if you might be suffering from an hormonal imbalance, and discover the healing foods that can get you back on track.
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What is a Hormonal Imbalance?
A hormone imbalance happens when there is either too much or not enough of a certain hormone in our bloodstream.
Considering that hormones communicate with all of the organs in our bodies, too much of any hormone can send the wrong messages and cause all kinds of problems.
6 Signs of a Hormonal Imbalance
Ever find yourself feeling unusually tired or run down during the day, even though you’re getting enough rest? Your hormones – specifically your thyroid hormones – may be to blame.
Skin changes are common when hormones are unbalanced. This is why teenagers often experience intense breakouts during puberty, when hormones are developing.
Studies show that androgen hormones like dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and DHEA play a huge role in production of sebum in the skin, which can cause acne and breakouts. On the flip side, estrogen has the ability to suppress sebum production. When these two hormones are in balance, sebum production is steady and breakouts are less common. (2)
Unexplained Weight Changes
If you find yourself gaining or losing weight suddenly without changing your diet, you may have either high or low levels of thyroid hormones.
Thyroid hormones play a huge role in body weight regulation, most likely due to their influence on metabolism. (3)
If you’re experiencing symptoms like increased anxiety and irritability, an estrogen imbalance may be to blame.
Studies show that estrogen interacts with certain neurotransmitters in your brain that affect cognition and mood. Levels that are too high or too low can impair cognition and result in mood swings, while even levels can support healthy mood regulation. (4)
It turns out hormone imbalances can also keep you awake at night.
Women in particular are likely to experience insomnia and loss of sleep during their menstrual cycles and pregnancy – times when hormone levels are prone to frequent changes. (5)
The regularity of your menstrual cycle is a huge indicator of your hormonal balance.
This is because the hormones estrogen and progesterone directly influence the start and completion of your cycle. (6) If your cycle is irregular or the duration of your period is different than usual, you probably have an imbalance.
7 Causes of Hormonal Imbalance
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you might be wondering what caused your hormones to fall out of balance. Read on to discover the common reasons for a hormonal imbalance.
A sugary diet can easily cause your hormones to fluctuate like a seesaw.
In fact, consuming a lot of pre-packaged or fried foods can cause a change in reproductive hormones, resulting in reproductive dysfunction and ovarian cysts. (7)
Too much stress can do a number on several of your hormones. High levels of stress can directly influence hormones that are released as part of the “fight or flight” response your body goes into when you’re stressed out. When stress levels stay high, your body will go overboard releasing these hormones, leading to an imbalance. (8)
Taking Birth Control
Birth control pills are hormones themselves – mostly a combination of estrogen and progestin. According to studies, birth control hormones can alter secretion of hypothalamic, ovarian, and other hormones and can affect all kinds of bodily processes. (9)
Since birth control is made of synthetic hormones, they can easily cause your own hormones to fluctuate.
Diabetes could play a role in affecting your estrogen or testosterone levels.
Studies show that diabetes and other blood sugar issues are associated with hormonal imbalance, particularly estradiol, a version of estrogen. (10)
You thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate metabolism and other essential functions of your body. When your thyroid is producing too little or too much of these hormones, it can easily cause an imbalance, leading to problems like infertility and metabolic syndrome. (11)
The mineral iodine is needed in order to produce thyroid hormones. When you don’t get enough iodine, the resulting hormonal imbalance puts you at risk for developing metabolic and cognitive problems. (12)
While you shouldn’t panic until you‘ve seen your doctor, a hormone imbalance can also be caused by certain tumors. Studies show that neuroendocrine tumors secrete many different hormones, and an excess of a single hormone is one of the most common signs in neuroendocrine tumor patients. (13) Be sure to rule out other reasons for an imbalance before assuming the worst, however.
10 Hormone-Balancing Foods
Regardless of which of the issues above you suffer from, the following foods can help ease symptoms related to hormonal imbalance. Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these!
Cruciferous veggies contain a sulfur compound called diindolylmethane, or DIM, which helps support normal and healthy levels of estrogen in your body. (15) Add a cup of broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts to your diet every day.
Try serving a handful of sautéed kale or dandelions as a side dish for every meal.
Broccoli sprouts contain a compound called sulforaphane, which can help reduce the risk of tumors and hormone-related cancers. (17)
Add a cup of broccoli sprouts to your Paleo-friendly sandwiches or salads.
Seaweed is rich in iodine, one of the most important minerals needed to help synthesize hormones in your thyroid gland. (18) Add a dash of kelp flakes to your soups, or snack on seaweed salad dressed in a light vinaigrette.
Sauerkraut contains probiotics, or “good” bacteria, that help improve gut health. Research shows that probiotics can also affect hormones and even lower the stress hormone cortisol. (19) Top your meals with ¼ cup of sauerkraut every day to reap those benefits.
If you’re a savory breakfast kind of person, we have some good news: studies show that eating a high-protein meal in the morning reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin, and can help keep you feeling fuller for longer (20). If you find you’re constantly craving carbs, you hormones could be to blame, so try eating eggs for breakfast instead of starchy carbs.
Dietary fat plays a large role in hormonal balance, and if your testosterone levels are low, eating more fat can give your levels a boost. (21) Coconut oil is one of the best sources of fats you can eat due to its high medium-chain fatty acid content, which can improve brain health and aid in fat loss (22, 23). Eat a little coconut oil every day by stirring some into your coffee, or using it to sauté your veggies.
Chronic inflammation can switch on multiple hormones in our bodies that can lead to a damaging imbalance. Turmeric is highly anti-inflammatory and can help tame this problem. (24) Season your meals liberally with turmeric, add some to a smoothie, or reach for a supplement to get an extra dose of anti-inflammatory action. Just be sure to pair turmeric recipes with black pepper for maximum absorption!
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish, can help prevent disease and can help women, in particular, keep their hormones balanced. (25)
Aim to eat fatty fish like salmon at least three times per week.
The Bottom Line
Your hormones are largely influenced by your diet. Making simple changes in the foods you consume every day could radically alter your hormones for the positive, so try and incorporate most of the foods on this list into your weekly regime.
(Read This Next: Intermittent Fasting for Women: Will It Help or Hurt Your Hormones?)