Hormones are part of our Endocrine system and function in a network together in symphony ( like an Orchestra) sending messages to nearly every cell, organ and system in our bodies including our nervous system, our gut and reproductive system . It is not surprising therefore that hormones and hormone balance have a huge impact on our overall health and wellbeing and for women when our hormones are imbalanced this can trigger common conditions including
- Mood Disorders ( anxiety, sleep disturbances, mood swings)
- Resistant Weight Loss/Unexplained Fatigue.
Our daily habits – following the popularity of my article top-10-foods-to-restore-hormone-balance I thought I would write about how, what we eat, how we move, our level of toxin exposure all contribute to our hormone balance. So if you are looking for dietary and lifestyle changes to help you restore and maintain hormone balance here are my top 10 tips:
How Do I Improve My Hormone Balance?
1. Eat Half a plate of vegetables at Lunch and Dinner from a combination of
- leafy greens ( e.g kale, rocket, dark green lettuce, spinach)
- coloured vegetables – eat 3 different colours
- sulphur rich vegetables ( includes onion family, mushrooms and cabbage family)
Vegetables are anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants which help improve hormone function.
2. Eat Sufficient Protein ( around ¼ of your plate) from either or both animal and plant sources but preferably organic, grass fed animals, wild caught fish and a variety of vegetable proteins from all beans, lentils, whole grains and nuts and seeds.
Protein contain the building blocks for our bodies to function and are essential for hormone function and balance.
3. Eat a source of fat at every meal such as olive oil, nuts (flaked almonds, crushed walnuts) or Omega 3 seed mix, nut butter or avocado.
Fats are essential for hormone production and play a key role in regulating hormone levels and resolving hormone symptoms which occur in PCOS and Endometriosis.
4. Feed your Gut with combination of:
- Fibre – from vegetables, fruit especially the skin, beans and wholegrains.
- Prebiotic foods from leeks, onions, garlic, oats, rye, beans, lentils, chickpeas, bananas, asparagus, sweet potato, chicory
- Probiotic foods from yoghurt, kefir, miso, organic tofu, fermented cabbage, olives
Our gut health is connected to our endocrine system so maintaining a healthy gut is integral to hormone production – for example 70% of our serotonin “our happy hormone” is produced in the gut.
5. Maintain Optimal Weight as this will keep your hormones in balance. Excess weight will play havoc with all of our hormones especially sex hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone and worsen conditions and symptoms associated with Oestrogen Dominance- link to other article.
6. Avoid processed foods as by the very nature of their processing, they will have a lower nutrient value, ingredients will have been added which are higher in sugar, saturated fat together with other chemicals that the body does not recognise. Rule of thumb – avoid foods which contain names you don’t recognise, can’t pronounce or better still shop from the perimeter of the supermarket focusing on fresh whole foods and avoid the central aisles and the plethora of packaged foods.
7. Avoid foods that contain hormones especially non- organic dairy, farm raised fish which are fed unnatural diets and factory farmed animals. Additional hormones used in food production (including growth hormones), confuse the body and interfere with normal hormone production especially oestrogen levels.
8. Reduce/Avoid Toxins in Household and Beauty Products as these interfere with the function of female sex hormones thus affecting hormone balance and health. You can do this gradually by switching your household products over to parabens free brands such as Ecover or Method and similarly each time you finish one of your beauty products such as deodorant, foundation, body lotion replace it with a brand that is free from endocrine disrupting chemical including parabens, aluminium, fragrances and phthalates. Your body will thank you for it!
9. Move your body!
Exercise helps to regulate a number of hormones including oestrogen and cortisol, adiponectin (which helps with glucose and fat breakdown) as well as improving insulin sensitivity and stimulating the production of testosterone. In addition when we exercise mood boosting hormones are released ( notably dopamine and serotonin) so for hormone balance daily movement is a must.
Listen to your body and adjust your workout/movement ( for cycling women this may be rigorous in the first half of the month and more moderate intensity after mid cycle ovulation) but my recommendation is to ensure you are moving your body daily in some form whether it’s walking, stretching, Pilates, yoga or more intense HIIT, strength and resistance training exercise as appropriate.
Note: exercise in the mornings if possible if you have low thyroid function as this boosts thyroid metabolism.
10. Sleep affects many hormones in the body especially those related to stress and hunger. Inadequate sleep ( research shows for most people the optimum is around 7 hours each night) or poor quality sleep will cause hormones to spike as well as drop, altering hormone production especially our sex hormones like oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Adopting the same daily night time routine i.e going to bed at roughly the same time each night, relaxing before bed by reading a book, listening to music, stretching, taking an Epsom Salt Bath, or doing a Gratitude practice will help promote a restful night’s sleep and remember
“ A great day and hormone balance begins with a great night’s sleep.