5 ways your diet can help balance your hormones

Did you know your diet can affect how your hormones work?

From disrupted sleep to infertility – having a hormone imbalance could be the cause of many symptoms, but is there an easy at-home fix for balancing hormones and ultimately feeling better?  

Hormones are chemical messengers that help regulate many bodily functions, and the production isn’t something we can directly control - but we can control the lifestyle choices we make.

The relationship between diet and hormones is well-researched, and there are extensive guidelines on what foods can affect hormone balance [1]. Knowing that food can affect hormones, is there a way to use food to improve hormone function? Ultimately – yes.  

Here are our top five ways diet can help balance your hormones. 

Five ways to use food to improve hormone function 

1. Eat a healthy balanced diet  

Eating a healthy balanced diet is often the first step in bettering both physical and mental health. For hormone function, macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fats) are extremely important.  

You should aim to include a variety of sources of macronutrients in your diet, without entering a calorie surplus (having above your recommended allowance of calories).  

This should ensure that you maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) but also meet your nutrient goals. 

Alongside macronutrients, you should also include in your diet: 

  • Vegetables  
  • Fruits 
  • Wholegrains 
  • Lean sources of protein  

The perfect mix of these foods provides your body with the optimal balance of nutrient-dense and energy-dense foods. 

An example of a healthy balanced meal following these guidelines could include: 

  • One serving of oily fish or chicken (protein) 
  • Two servings of vegetables 
  • A serving of wholegrain rice, pasta, or quinoa (carbohydrate) 

Some medical professionals may recommend following the Mediterranean diet, as this naturally follows the above guidelines.  

Eat a healthy balanced diet, including a variety of macronutrients to ensure optimal hormone function.

2. Reduce foods that may cause inflammation 

Ultra-processed foods, such as cakes, sweets, and ice cream can cause inflammation within the body [2]. By reducing your intake of processed foods, you can reduce gut inflammation, which may improve hormone regulation [3].  

Some people may need to reduce or eliminate certain food groups, such as gluten or dairy. In the case of coeliac disease, eating gluten causes your body to attack itself and cause inflammation, which in turn can affect hormone regulation. Therefore, cutting out gluten is a necessary decision.  

Others may experience symptoms of inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is often triggered by stress or certain foods, such as onions or garlic. Knowing your triggers and which foods to eliminate is a personal journey and something you should do with the help of a medical professional – try to avoid cutting out whole food groups without talking to someone first.  

Reduce your intake of processed foods or any food groups that trigger negative digestive symptoms. This can reduce your inflammation and improve hormone regulation.

3. Increase your daily fibre intake 

Fibre helps to maintain blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as improve gut health (by providing the body with probiotic bacteria). All of which are important in keeping your hormones regulated.  

Some research has also shown a link between high fibre and lower concentrations of oestrogen [3], though this is rare.  

The daily recommended fibre intake is approximately 25 – 30g and it can be found in a variety of foods.  

Good sources of fibre include: 

  • Wholemeal bread  
  • Brown pasta and rice  
  • Vegetables  
  • Beans  
  • Nuts and seeds 

As with many things, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing – too much fibre can sometimes play havoc on your digestive system. So, if you currently eat a low-fibre diet, increase the fibre in your diet slowly. 

Having the right amount of fibre in your diet is important for hormone regulation, so try and eat approximately 25 – 30g of fibre a day from a variety of sources.

4. Eat enough friendly fats

Although fats can sometimes have a bad reputation, they are essential for many bodily functions, including hormone production [4]. 

When consumed in moderation and as part of a healthy diet, fats can [5]: 

  • Provide the body with a major source of energy  
  • Aid in vitamin and mineral absorption 
  • Keep you feeling fuller for longer  
  • Help to regulate hormones 
     

Friendly fats (unsaturated fats) can be found in foods such as: 

  • Olive oils (omega-6 fats) 
  • Avocadoes  
  • Nuts  
  • Flaxseed  
  • Chia seeds 
  • Oily fish (omega-3 fats) 

Increasing your omega-3 fats but decreasing your omega-6 fats has been shown to aid: 

  • Brain function  
  • Reduction of inflammation in the body [6] 
  • Production of male and female hormones [7]   

Unsaturated fats are an important part of your diet and should not be excluded. These friendly fats are vital in the production of male and female hormones.

5. Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine 

Aside from the fact that alcohol has a high-calorie concentration with low nutritional value, it is also a toxin. 

High alcohol consumption has been linked with: 

  • High levels of oestrogen in males 
  • Low levels of oestrogen and testosterone in females [8] 
  • Increased levels of cortisol 

Alcohol isn’t the only substance to affect cortisol levels. High cortisol levels have also been linked to high caffeine consumption.  

To combat the effects of caffeine and alcohol on your endocrine system (the system that controls your hormones), it is best to limit yourself to:  

  • 14 units of alcohol a week  
  • Two cups of coffee a day 

Keep your caffeine and alcohol intake to the recommended allowances to keep your cortisol levels low and your endocrine system at optimal performance.

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How can I monitor my hormones? 

Sometimes, monitoring your nutrition and ensuring that you are not deficient in any key nutrients and minerals is enough to help indicate your overall hormone health.  

Blood testing can also be a great way to monitor and track any health and lifestyle changes and see the effect they have on your hormone levels.  

We have a range of blood tests that can help, from our Advanced Diet and Lifestyle Blood Test to our Advanced Well Woman and Advanced Well Man Blood Tests.  

Not sure which is the right blood test for you? Try our test finder.  

If you do have any concerning symptoms or you are not seeing improvements despite a healthy diet and lifestyle, then it’s best to seek advice from your doctor. 


References 

  1. Kohlstadt, I. (2009). Food and Nutrients in Disease Management. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group. 
  2. Katherine D. McManus, M.S. (2020) What are ultra-processed foods and are they bad for our health?, Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-are-ultra-processed-foods-and-are-they-bad-for-our-health-2020010918605 (Accessed: October 31, 2022).
  3. Zinöcker, M. and Lindseth, I. (2018) “The Western Diet–microbiome-host interaction and its role in metabolic disease,” Nutrients, 10(3), p. 365. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10030365.
  4. Saldeen, P. and Saldeen, T. (2004) “Women and omega-3 fatty acids,” Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, 59(10), pp. 722–730. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1097/01.ogx.0000140038.70473.96. 
  5. Know the facts about Fats (2021) Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/know-the-facts-about-fats (Accessed: October 31, 2022). 
  6. Gaskins, A.J. et al. (2009) “Effect of daily fiber intake on reproductive function: The biocycle study,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(4), pp. 1061–1069. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.27990. 
  7. Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. et al. (2011) “Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial,” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 25(8), pp. 1725–1734. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.229
  8. Rachdaoui, N. and Sarkar, D.K. (2013) “Effects of alcohol on the endocrine system,” Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America, 42(3), pp. 593–615. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecl.2013.05.008.   

 

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