Hormones are specialist chemicals that help relay information to certain cells in the body. They are largely influenced by the foods we eat and the lifestyle we live, including the number of toxins we are exposed to from perfumes, deodorants, makeup and other personal care products. Any harmful or disrupting elements like these can be referred to as a “hormone disruptor”.
The western diet that’s filled with saturated fats, table salt, processed carbohydrates and an ever decreasing amount of fresh, whole foods is a significant contributor to hormonal imbalances. Disrupted hormones can lead to health issues such as PCOS, endometriosis, mood swings, depression, and hyper or hypothyroidism.
The health of our endocrine organs, such as those housed in the gut, ovaries, thyroid gland and adrenal glands, are largely influenced by the type of diet we eat. Specific vitamins and minerals are cofactors and necessities for these organs. For example, vitamin A which is found in foods such as leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, and liver is needed to support the production of thyroid hormones and B vitamins, which are necessary for nervous system and hormone health.
When we eat a diet that is made up of a lot of “empty calorie” foods (meaning, they are nutrient poor and unhealthy), we deprive our body from the essential vitamins and minerals that are needed to support hormonal health. Limiting the amount of white sugars, artificial sweeteners, “zero calorie” foods, or those that are filled with saturated fats such as fast foods, cakes and unhealthy sweets, will help to support our hormones. There are some "healthy" foods that have gone under scrutiny in recent years, such as soya for its potential ability to disrupt natural oestrogen production. This can potentially lead to early onset menopause, irregular periods, acne, or even PCOS. As always, it is recommended to have anything like this in moderation.
In order to support our hormones and bring them back into balance, our diet needs to be rich in a variety of nutrients. We can effectively achieve this by eating a variety of fresh foods with varying colors and textures each day. On top of this, there are specific foods and herbs that can be consumed to help support one's hormones. Fennel has been shown to support female hormonal health and one’s gut health and digestion, which is where many hormones in the body are produced. Fennel is known to be particularly helpful for women during menopause due to its oestrogenic qualities. Drinking it in tea form, roasting it, or using it in soups are all ways you can make use of its benefits.
Seeds and sprouts are also extremely beneficial for rebalancing hormones and supporting hormonal health. They are one of the most nutrient packed natural foods you can get, providing an abundance of healthy fats, which support the production and regulation of healthy hormones. Sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds and sprouts are great additions to add to salads, or even as a snack on their own.
Maca root, most commonly found in powder form, is an adaptogenic herb that supports healthy hormone balance and replenishes minerals. Maca is also commonly used to enhance one’s fertility and libido. Try adding it to smoothies or oats.
Ashwaganda is also said to be a very effective herb for restoring hormonal balance. Ashwaganda is commonly used for its powerful “calming” effects, which helps to support the adrenal glands so that they can do their job more efficiently. For best results, ashwaganda can be taken in powder form.
Overall, adding a variety of healthy, whole foods into your diet is going to be the best way to support and nourish your hormones, as well as adding in some superfoods or herbs, as described above. Aside from supporting your body through your diet, efficient rest is important and should be embraced on your journey towards happy, healthy hormones.