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Food Focus: Foods and Strategies for Hormonal Balance


hormone word cloudMy Blessed and Valued Health Seeker:

Hormones are chemical messengers secreted by various organs and glands including adrenals, thyroid, pituitary, pancreas, ovaries and testicles, and profoundly affect overall health. They play a role in essentially every process in our body. These organs and glands are part of the endocrine system which works to control hormone levels circulating throughout your body and keep them in proper balance. 

Hormone deficiencies and excesses can cause chronic symptoms and disorders, as well as increase disease risk. Estrogen, cortisol, testosterone, T3, T4, ghrelin, HGH, leptin and insulin are just a few of the hormones that influence so many aspects of your health, including stress level, when you feel awake and tired, how hungry you feel before, during and after eating, your muscle growth your reproductive capacity and so much more. 

For instance look at how an imbalance of just 2 hormones can wreak havoc in your body: 

When there’s an imbalance of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, responsible for long-term weight gain and short-term eating habits. When there is an imbalance of ghrelin your body doesn’t recognize when it is full and constantly triggers the signal to get you to eat more food, more often. When leptin, the starvation hormone is not regulated, you never feel full. So an imbalance of just these two would mean you’re always hungry and never feel full no matter how much you eat! 

Common signs and symptoms of hormone imbalances 

We are all unique and symptoms of hormonal imbalances can range dramatically depending on what type of disorder or illness they cause and your specific makeup. For example, high estrogen can contribute to problems that include endometriosis and reproductive issues, while symptoms of diabetes often include weight gain, changes in appetite, nerve damage and problems with eyesight. 

Some of the most common symptoms are: 

Infertility, endometriosis and irregular periods 
Weight gain or weight loss (that’s unexplained and not due to intentional changes in your diet) 
Depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, PMS 
Fatigue 
Insomnia 
Low libido
 Changes in appetite 
Digestive issues 
Hair loss and thinning 
Bloating 
Heart palpitations 
Brain fog 

Some specific problems associated with some of the most common hormonal imbalances include: 

Estrogen dominance: changes in sleep patterns, weight and appetite, higher perceived stress, slowed metabolism 
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): infertility, weight gain, higher risk for diabetes, acne, abnormal hair growth 
Low estrogen: low sex drive, reproductive problems, menstrual irregularity, changes in mood 
Low testosterone: erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, mood-related problems 
Hypothyroidism: slowed metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, digestive issues, irregular periods 
Hyperthyroidism & Grave’s disease: anxiety, thinning hair, weight loss, IBS, trouble sleeping, irregular heartbeats 
Diabetes: weight gain, nerve damage (neuropathy), higher risk for vision loss, fatigue, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin problems Adrenal fatigue: muscle aches and pains, anxiety and depression, fatigue, trouble sleeping, brain fog, reproductive problems

Risk Factors

hormones healthy fatsHormonal imbalances are caused by a combination of factors including diet, medical history, sleep patterns, genetics, stress levels and exposure to environmental toxins. 

Some of the most common contributors to hormonal imbalances include: 

Inflammation which can be caused by diet, stress, lifestyle and toxicity 
Stress – most people experiencing hormonal imbalance have been experiencing stress overload 
Inadequate restful, restorative sleep and rest 
Food allergies and digestive issues. Gut health plays a significant role in hormone regulation. Leaky gut syndrome or lack of beneficial probiotic bacteria lining your intestinal wall make you more susceptible to hormonal problems, including diabetes and obesity because inflammation stems from your gut, impacting just about every aspect of your health. 
Being overweight or obese 
Genetic susceptibility 
Toxic exposure. This includes pesticides, viruses, cigarettes, GMOs, excessive alcohol, harmful chemicals as well as toxic emotions, relationships and beliefs. 

Foods to Include and Why 

Healthy fat is number one because hormones are produced by cholesterol, which is found in fat. Just as important as including healthy fats is excluding unhealthy ones so that you balance intake of anti-inflammatory omega 3 to inflammatory omega 6. In this case eliminating processed vegetable oils and processed foods will go a long way in helping you achieve better balance here. 

Examples of foods containing healthy fats: 
Avocados - they contain plant sterols, such as beta-sitosterol, which have anti-estrogenic properties that can block the estrogen receptors in our cells and reduce estrogen absorption rates to avoid estrogen dominance 
Flaxseeds - high in lignans which have a phytoestrogenic effect. They are phytoestrogens, or “plant-estrogens” which can help lower the estrogenic effect when you have too much or raise it when you have too little. 
Flax seed oil 
Chia seeds 
Fatty fish - wild caught salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel Coconut Oil - provides the necessary building blocks for hormone production, can assist weight loss, reduce inflammation, and even has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. 
Vitamin D3 - Vitamin D deficiency can cause low estrogen in women and low testosterone in men. Testosterone and estrogen levels don’t just affect sex drive; they also have huge impacts on your mood. Low testosterone can cause depression, anxiety, and irritability; low estrogen causes feelings of sadness, listlessness, anxiety and a sense of low self-esteem. 

Protein is next because almost every process in the body depends on proteins. The brain requires a certain level of amino acids to create neurotransmitters. Too little tyrosine and tryptophan, for example, leads to decreased levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenalin, which can result in symptoms like nervousness, anxiety, sleeping problems, and brain fog. Feeling stressed causes an imbalance of female hormones. 

Examples of healthy protein foods: 

Organic, grass fed and finished, hormone-free meat, pasture raised chicken, eggs Wild caught fish, particularly fatty fish (see above) Lentils 
Seaweed 
Quinoa 
Chickpeas 
Hemp seeds

More Foods to Include

hormones leafy greensMinerals, particularly magnesium, zinc, selenium, and iron are important in the production of neurotransmitters and hormones. Magnesium is the second most common deficiency in the Western diet, second to vitamin D deficiency. Magnesium, often called the "anti-stress mineral," has a calming effect on the body as it relaxes nerves and muscles, improves sleep, and diminishes the effects of stress, promoting hormonal balance. 

Examples of magnesium-rich foods are: 

Leafy greens (think organic spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard) 
Beans 
Nuts and seeds 
Organic Cacao 
vitamins are important for both mental and emotional well-being. Since they can’t be stored in the body, you must take B vitamins daily through your diet. Stress depletes B vitamins and alcohol, birth control pills, sugar, nicotine, and caffeine hinder their absorption as well. Common symptoms of vitamin-B deficiency are depression, anxiety, irritability, and heightened PMS. 

Good sources of B vitamins are: 

Organic, grass-fed meat 
Shellfish 
Pastured milk, cheese, and eggs 
Organic liver 

While inflammation is a major contributor to chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, and diabetes, it can also cause imbalances in your hormones and neurotransmitters. Common causes of inflammation are sugar, genetically modified foods, food allergies and sensitivities, parasites, and toxicity. Focusing your meals on anti-inflammatory foods is critical. 

Examples of anti-inflammatory foods are: 

Salmon and other fatty fish like herring, sardines and mackerel 
Nuts 
Vegetables – green and otherwise! Think all plant foods. 
Garlic, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and ginger 

High fiber, “slow carbs” that digest slowly and do not cause blood sugar spikes keep the pancreas from excreting excess insulin. Insulin blocks estrogen receptors, making it more difficult for estrogen to enter your cells and you can end up with low estrogen causing mood changes, night sweats, and hot flashes. 

Replacing fast-acting carbs with high fiber, complex carbs will keep blood sugar balanced. 

Examples of blood-sugar-balancing foods are: 

Nuts (organic and preferably soaked to deactivate phytates) 
Oats (organic and soaked for the same reason as above) 
Beans 
Fiber-rich vegetables (including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, peas, artichokes) 

Probiotics - According to Dr Josh Axe: “Leaky gut is a condition that not only affects your digestive tract, but also causes hormone issues and can more specifically target your thyroid. When undigested food particles like gluten leak through your gut into your bloodstream, it causes disease-causing inflammation of the entire body and more specific organs like the thyroid. Also, most people with leaky gut have a deficiency of probiotics in their guts. Probiotics actually help your body produce certain vitamins that affect hormone levels like insulin.” 

You can supplement with probiotics as well as eating naturally fermented and cultured foods like sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, miso, Amasai, and kombucha.  

Foods to Avoid 

Processed, packaged foods – because they contain added sugar, chemical preservatives, inflammatory omega 6 vegetable oils, sodium, toxins and synthetic additives. They are typically high in simple carbs and may contain toxic, genetically modified ingredients. Conventional meat: CAFO meats contain added hormones and antibiotics that can cause problems, including increased inflammation. Always choose hormone-free, grass-fed, cage-free or pasture-raised animal proteins whenever possible. 
Sugar: High intake of sugar can cause weight gain, digestive issues, worsened hormone imbalances and candida, increasing hot flashes and other symptoms. Sugar causes insulin resistance. 
Refined oils and fried foods: Foods cooked in highly-processed vegetable oils (sunflower, corn, safflower, soybean or canola oil) are high in omega-6 fats that cause inflammation and other health problems. Fried foods and transfats are also tied to heart problems, weight gain, diabetes and cognitive impairments. 
Carbonated drinks: Carbonated soda or energy drinks deplete the body of calcium and contribute to osteoporosis, bone loss and dental problems. 
Alcohol: More than “moderate” amounts of alcohol can aggravate hot flashes and contribute to weight gain. 
Coffee and caffeine: too much caffeine stimulation stresses adrenals. This causes the adrenals to release catabolic hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which break down your energy reserves for immediate use, resulting in adrenal fatigue. This causes less hormonal output making you unable to cope with even minor stresses on a daily basis.

Sleep and Stress

hormones sleepSleep: Adequate (between 7 and 9 hours a night), restful sleep is critical for hormone balance. For example, cortisol is regulated at midnight. Therefore, people who go to bed late never truly get a break from the sympathetic flight/fight stress response as their body doesn’t get this chance to replenish. 

Sleep deprivation also takes a toll on the adrenals, causing a decline in the production of DHEA, a precursor to male and female sex hormones. Sleep deprivation lowers appetite-suppressing leptin, which is normally produced in abundance at night and increases hunger stimulating ghrelin, which is also secreted at night, impairing glucose tolerance and increasing feelings of hunger. All your organs and glands have specific times when they are replenished and restored during the night. When you don’t get enough sleep, they miss their replenishing times. 

Stress management: Stress of all kinds depletes the adrenals. Neuropeptide Y, a chemical released when the body is in a stressed state, causes fat cells to open and store fat rather than burn it. Another study found that higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol leads to weight gain around the waist, even in otherwise slender women. 

Stress shortens telomeres in cells at a faster rate, leading to premature aging and increased risk of disease. Stress can impact hormones and fertility as well. Of course this doesn’t just relate to emotional and mental stress, but also to environmental toxins which stress the body as well. Even over-training causes stress in the body. 

Finding ways to manage emotional stress is critically important. Christian EFT is one simple and easy method I use personally and highly recommend. Prayer, worship, meditation and even coloring are all excellent stress management techniques. 

Resources and Products:
 






NO-NONSENSE NUTRITION NUGGET: Hormones can be made from almost anywhere in the body. The intestines make a hormone called gastrin which is important in digestion. Fat cells make leptin which sends signals to the brain about hunger. Even bones can make hormones. When a person looks back on their memories, those that stand out are usually the most traumatic, fearful, or exciting because in those moments, the human brain releases hormones that temporarily increase memory function.
Until next week, I wish you overflowing, abundant health, peace and joy and I call you BLESSED (empowered to prosper and succeed). 

Ann 

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Your fork is the most powerful tool you have to transform your health. 

THIS WEEK’S BLOG POST: 


Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body. 

As always, all information offered in these reports is provided for informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. 

“You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a nutritional deficiency.” Dr. Linus Pauling



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