Hormones play an important role in your life every day.
They are your body’s chemical messengers, traveling in your bloodstream to tissues and organs. They play a role in your growth, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and mood. If you doubt the power of hormones and their ability to affect everything from mood, to weight, to bowel health – ask the nearest pregnant woman if she’s noticed any difference in these areas. Or, just for fun, ask the nearest 13 year old girl!
Endocrine glands, which are special groups of cells, make hormones. The major endocrine glands are the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands, and pancreas. In addition, men produce hormones in their testes and women produce them in their ovaries.
Hormones are produced using good fats and cholesterol, so lack of these important dietary factors can cause hormone problems simply because the body doesn’t have the building blocks to make them. Toxins containing chemicals that mimic these building blocks or that mimic the hormones themselves are also problematic.
If you have symptoms like fatigue, skin issues, infertility, weight gain, weight around the middle, trouble sleeping, always sleeping, PMS, endometriosis, hair loss or thinning, PCOS or other issues, chances are you have a hormonal imbalance.
In a perfect world we would be resting and rising with the sun, getting enough sleep, getting our Vitamin D from the sun and our magnesium from the ocean, not sitting at a desk or in a car all day and definitely not having a hundred cortisol rushes throughout the day. But, life is busy, (not perfect!) so even incorporating a few of these suggestions will support your body in a healthy way.
Here are some basic things you can do to boost your body’s ability to create and balance hormones:
- Maca: Has a history of boosting hormone production and libido. Many women notice less PMS, increased fertility, and improved skin while men notice increased sperm production, libido, and better sleep. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones.
- Magnesium: Supports hundreds of reactions in the body and often contributes to better sleep (which is great for hormones!) Modern diets, with refined and processed foods are virtually devoid of this powerful, calming mineral. In fact, 80% of the population is deficient in magnesium.
- Vitamin D: A pre-hormone is supportive of hormone function. Best obtained directly from the sun, if possible, or from a quality Vitamin D3, or Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
- Gelatin: A great source of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. It supports hormone production and digestive health and helps sooth inflammation, especially in joints. I love Great Lakes Gelatin because I am able to verify that this company sources from grass-fed, humanely raised cows, and as such is higher in nutrients.
Eat a Diet Low in Refined Fat and High in Fruits and Vegetables
Eliminating or reducing polyunsaturated refined and saturated fats (which have been linked to cell mutation and the slowing of metabolic processes) while emphasizing a diet heavy in whole plants has been shown to have a positive effect on hormonal balance. Studies have shown that our hormones react negatively to rapid weight loss by holding onto fat and slowing down our metabolism. So avoid crash diets and don’t eat fats like vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine, shortening, or other chemically altered fats. Choose fats like coconut oil, real butter, olive oil and animal fats from healthy sources instead and eat lots of high omega-3 fish.
Avoid Toxins and Endocrine Disruptors
These chemicals can mimic the body’s hormones causing interference with our natural hormonal system. Some of the most common endocrine disruptors include BPA, a #7 plastic found in canned foods, water bottles and plastic storage containers; Dioxin, commonly a part of our food supply that can be minimized by eating fewer animal products and more organic produce; Atrazine, an herbicide used for corn crops has even been found in drinking water; And Phthalates, a #3 plastic found in body care products hidden in the ‘fragrance’. Unfortunately, there are many others and further research may be needed when all other lifestyle, nutritional and herbal aspects have been addressed and hormonal imbalance continues.
Balance 3-6 Omega Ratio
Since the early 20th century, the use of vegetable oil in our diets has increased rapidly. Research from Pennsylvania State University suggests that jumping from the 1:1 omega-3/6 ratio our hunter-gather ancestors enjoyed to the ridiculous 20:1 ratio most people take in today is the primary dietary factor of most diseases in America.
Rule of thumb: Be sure to steer clear from oils high in omega-6s (safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, canola, soybean and peanut), and load up on rich sources of natural omega-3’s (wild fish, flax seed, chia seed, walnuts and grass-fed animal products).
If you have hormone imbalance, extreme exercise can actually make the problem worse. Sleep is actually more important, at least during the balancing phase. Focus on relaxing exercises like walking or swimming and avoid the extended running, cardio, and exercise videos, for now at least. You want to move your body at least 30 minutes a day for 3-5 days per week. Aerobic and strength training stimulate Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which helps with your development when you are young and continues to help in building muscle mass, strengthening bones and metabolizing fat.
Don’t shoot the messenger! Drinking too much caffeine is just as bad as not getting enough sleep. It elevates your cortisol levels and lowers your thyroid hormone levels wreaking havoc on your endocrine system.
Add Coconut Oil
Eating a variety of foods high in short, medium and long chain fatty acid is key to keeping your hormones in check. Not only are these essential fats fundamental building blocks for hormone production, but they speed up your metabolism and promote weight loss..Coconut oil is amazing for hormone health and reduces inflammation and has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
Brooke Mader CHHC, is a certified holistic health coach and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health. Working at NIHA, Brooke is gaining an understanding of the complex role of food and nutrition on our health. She loves to share health tips and natural and integrative medicine news via the NIHA facebook page and her website, www.naturalwildandfree.com.