Have you been feeling off lately? Do you feel like you hit a certain age and everything just started falling apart? Most likely, it's your hormones.
We all feel the effects of hormone changes- be it moodiness, hot flashes, weird smells, digestive issues, or weight gain. What in the world do we do about it though?
As a clinical nutritionist, my goal is to always get to the root cause; and listen, sister, something is messin' with your 'mones! The place I ALWAYS start first is food (obviously I'm kind of bias in that way). The reason for this is...food, in one way or another, is the building blocks of every cell, neurotransmitter, hormone, etc in the body. It only makes sense to start there. That's not to say that environment and other toxins can't have a huge impact. They do. But for this blog post, we are focusing on food. When someone comes to me with messed up 'mones, we first start by taking a look at their diet history and current food choices. At the root of so many hormone issues is....wait for it....INFLAMMATION. Specifically inflammation that is a byproduct of their food choices. One thing I like to be super clear on is, unless you have a full blown allergy to a food, nothing is off limits. Whew. Glad we got that out of the way. Are we friends now? Sweeeet.
What I mean by this, when I look at someone's current symptoms and their current food logs, we start to connect the dots on what is possibly leading to some of their reactions. We can make some modifications, correct a few things, allow the body to calm down, and then incorporate some of those foods back in. Does this mean that you will then be able to eat nothing but sugar and fries every day, all day, forever? Nope. But you definitely don't need to cut those things out forever either. Balance...amiright?
Ok, so what are the top 3 foods that cause the most issues? There are so many but I decided to narrow it down to these three to start.
Food number 1: Gluten.
Now let me start by saying, it took me a long time to be a gluten hater. Even through my Master's program for Clinical Nutrition I thought for sure the whole "gluten-free" way of eating was just another fad. Sure the benefit made sense for those with Celiac disease, but for people without that auto-immune disorder, why would that have an impact? The more I saw studies on it though, the more I started to change my mind. For those who are non-celiac, you can still be gluten sensitive. 🤯 Yep. It's called Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). This has been linked to conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, mood disorders, IBS, and fibromyalgia just to name a few. And for the record, there is a little bit of gimmick involved with some gluten-free foods. So many of them are just chemical sh!t storms in a box.
What does that have to do with hormones? For many, gluten causes a sensitivity in the body. What that means is, your body doesn't jive with it. It causes inflammation as the body responds to it in the gut. It may not be a full blown allergy but it's enough to cause stress in the body as our system has to processes it. This stress disrupts hormones such as cortisol which can also lead to glucose and insulin being disrupted as well as thyroid and other adrenal imbalances. Yikes! Not to mention, if there is inflammation in the gut, you are at risk for developing leaky gut which can lead to even more negative effects. Blort.
Food number 2: Dairy.
I'm sorry to the cheese lovers out there, but dairy can mess with your hormones. Similar to gluten, many people have a sensitivity to dairy as well. In fact, around 65% of the human population lacks the ability to properly digest dairy. If you happen to be of east Asian decent, this increases to around 70-100% of the population who can't digest dairy. That's a WHOLE LOTTA people!
What does that have to do with hormones? Again, if your body can't process or digest something properly it can cause inflammation (read food #1). Something else to consider is the steroids given to the cows who make the milk. There is mounting evidence and more research needed on the impact of added steroid hormones and the effects on the dairy consumer. It has been concluded that 60-70% of animal derived estrogens that humans consume comes from dairy and dairy products. More research is needed on how that impacts our hormones.
Food #3: Sugar.
Sugar causes inflammation. Inflammation causes hormone imbalances. Sugar also impacts insulin which is one of the most powerful and important hormones in the body. When you eat or drink sugar or carbohydrates, your body breaks it down into glucose and transports it by way of the blood to every cell in the body. All body cells, most importantly the brain, need glucose for cellular energy and metabolism. Insulin then helps the glucose into the cell and out of the blood. When there is constantly too much glucose (like in those with highly processed and sugar-filled diets), the cells can actually become resistant to insulin which has a cascade of negative effects such as diabetes, weight gain, mood disorders, hormonal imbalances, etc.
What does this have to do with hormones? Too much sugar, as stated, can cause insulin and glucose imbalances. The body wasn't designed to have high insulin levels (or glucose levels for that matter) all the time. It's a stress on the body. When the body is under stress, it releases cortisol. Cortisol is one of the fight or flight hormones that is summoned when the body is faced with stress. It impacts other hormones and can cause symptoms such as: high blood pressure, skin issues, depression/anxiety, digestive issues, mood swings, and weight gain- specifically around the mid-section.
There are far more foods that can cause hormone disruptions but starting with these three major ones is a great start! If you'd like more info, make sure you join my free Facebook group where we talk about the important role that nutrition plays in all of your health concerns.
Also, check out my Healthy Hormone Jumpstart program. This 4-week program dives deeper into the impact that nutrition has on hormones and helps you swap out the foods that are causing issues and swap in the foods needed for balance. You are even given a weekly meal plan that takes the guess work out of what to make! We also focus on reducing stress, adding in metabolism-boosting exercise, and more!