Hormones have profound effects on the body. They help regulate metabolism and appetite, steer our energy levels, make fertility possible, manage body temperature and control the body’s ability to lose weight or even gain muscle.
Effects of hormone imbalance on the body
When someone is experiencing hormonal imbalances, it can feel as if the world is crashing down on you. Many people go through unintentional weight gain despite following a healthy diet. Others feel sluggish all day and still have difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. These symptoms, among many others, can wreak havoc on emotions and temperament. Hormonal imbalances can be caused by excessive stress and poor lifestyle choices but can also occur naturally with age, including when women reach menopause.
As women age, production of two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, declines. It may seem like you have absolutely no control over this, but there are ways to continue to keep these levels balanced, even though overall hormone production is lower.
Bring balance back to hormones through healthy eating
Eating healthfully is important throughout a person’s life, and it’s no different for women going through menopause. Many women experience weight gain—especially around the belly—mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats, loss of libido and vaginal dryness. They are also more at risk for developing osteoporosis.
You don’t have to be a slave to your changing hormones. Try to bring them back into balance with these dietary tweaks.
What to eat more of:
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage (Try to have at least one serving of these hormone-balancing veggies every day.)
- Dietary fiber: oats, berries, avocados, beans, lentils, broccoli, apples, pears, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, sweet potatoes, squash (Dietary fiber helps with liver clearance of estrogen.)
- Healthy fats: avocados, olives, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, eggs, all nuts and seeds including chia seeds and flaxseed, grass-fed beef, salmon, quinoa
Also increase sleep and exercise. Both help reduce stress. Weight training can also have further benefits on improving metabolism.
What to eat less of:
- Processed foods: boxed meals, pre-packaged shelf-stable or frozen entrees, frozen pizza, premade breads and bread products, pre-packaged meats such as sausage, bacon and hotdogs, artificial sweeteners, fake cheese, excessive condiment use, Pop-Tarts®, snack mixes such as pretzels, crackers, chips
- Added sugars: cereals, packaged sweets like Twinkies and Cinna-Buns, regular and some Greek yogurt varieties, sweetened milks, soda, juice, sweetened tea, granola bars
- Drive-thru meals: Processed meats, refined grains and fried menu items can cause inflammation in the gut. They also are poor nutrient sources of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Alcohol: One alcoholic beverage is processed as 29 grams of sugar or one serving of M&Ms.
- Caffeine: For some, caffeine can be a source of inflammation.
- Foods associated with inflammation such as gluten and lactose. Foods made from or using ingredients with wheat, barley and rye contain gluten. Milk and ice cream are two high-lactose containing dairy products.
Remember, you don’t have to make drastic changes to your diet all at once. But by increasing the good and decreasing the bad, even slowly, you can bring balance to your hormones and improve your quality of life.