What does a bad period, even worse moods, and acne have in common? They're all symptoms of a hormone imbalance, and they can be signs telling you that your diet needs some attention. This is a foundation and starting point if you want to build amazing hormones. In this article, I'm going to show you how to address five common hormonal imbalances with diet.
When in balance, your hormones can make you feel on top of your game, invincible, and ridiculously happy. Your hormones influence your mood, your libido, how your period is, your energy, your blood sugar, and more. So I'd say they're kind of a big deal.
And they're very sensitive, especially when you're eating the wrong foods, getting poor sleep, exposing yourself to toxins, and all the things that go with being a human. When it comes to restoring hormonal balance, you cannot skip the lifestyle and diet recommendations. These are the foundation of building amazing hormones. If you're not doing this, there's only so far supplements can take you (although supplements are often an essential part of restoring hormonal health).
Let's break down five major hormones and how we can best support them using diet and lifestyle intervention.
How to Fix a Hormone Imbalance With Diet
Too Much Cortisol
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, and it's your number one hormone when stress is high. And when it goes high, so does your blood sugar, which can create all kinds of disruption with your hormone system.
What does it look like to have high cortisol?
When cortisol is chronically elevated, we find ourselves with belly fat and feeling like we're getting older than we should.
Women with high cortisol can have cravings for salty or sugary foods. They may find themselves being quick to anger or going into a rage easily. Mood swings, depression, and low libido may also be a sign.
Feeling like you're constantly at the mercy of stress, have attention deficit or difficulty with memory? This can also be a sign of elevated cortisol.
High blood pressure and high blood sugar can also point towards too much cortisol. If you are feeling these effects and thinking, “I have high cortisol,” this is what you need to do.
What to do if your cortisol is too high:
- First, slow your roll, especially when it comes to eating. Try to eat in a quiet, relaxed environment. This will allow time to digest your food and will serve as an act of mindfulness.
- Regular meals are a must. Make sure that you're eating regular meals and not kicking off your day with a cup (or four) of black coffee. You need to kick off your day with some protein and leafy greens. That way your blood sugar stays on point and you can feel full and calm throughout your day.
Speaking of feeling full and calm and blood sugar, let's talk about insulin. Insulin regulates how much glucose or blood sugar actually gets into your cells. But when we are having poor eating habits or binging on tons of sugar, there's a problem. Insulin goes high but your cells eventually stop listening. This can also happen in states of inflammation. Even if your diet is perfect, inflammation can still occur and cause issues with insulin, which is especially a problem if you're totally bananas stressed out.
Here's the deal. If your cells don't care what insulin has to say, they don't take in sugar, they don't function correctly, and your blood sugar goes high, leading to a whole lot of hormonal issues, not to mention diabetes.
What does it look like to have too much insulin?
If you have insulin issues, here's what you might notice. You're feeling shaky or anxious or irritable between meals. You have a fasting blood sugar level greater than 85 mg/dL. You have difficulty avoiding things like chocolate, ice cream, potato chips or french fries.
Are you craving sugar all the time? This might be a sign of blood sugar issues.
If you already know you have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), your fasting insulin is greater than six, or you’re holding onto way more body fat than you should be then getting a complete metabolic blood test may be in order.
In the meantime, here are some things to try.
What to do if your insulin is too high:
- Try including cinnamon in your diet. Eating more cinnamon can help optimize your blood sugar.
- Include turmeric in your diet. Curcumin, found in turmeric, can reduce inflammation and make it a lot easier for your cells to use that insulin.
- Cut the sugar. Let's not forget you have got to cut the sugar, cut the alcohol, and bring on the fibrous vegetables and high-quality proteins and fat.
- Eat high quality protein with your meals. Protein is essential to blood sugar balance. If you're struggling to get enough, try a physician grade protein powder.
Sure, you may be thinking, “Hey, that doesn't sound like any kind of fun,” but when your energy's up and you have a clear head, all the brain fog is gone, you're going to be a whole lot happier you took this step.
Too Much Estrogen (aka Estrogen Dominance)
Too much estrogen is a real deal and it's a common struggle for a lot of women. Now estrogen isn't all bad. It's why you have your butt, hips, thighs, and breasts. But these days you are exposed to so many environmental toxins that mimic your estrogen, it makes it really hard not to have estrogen dominance.
What does it look like to have too much estrogen?
When your estrogen is too high, you may notice that you have migraines or other headaches coming on, especially before your period. You may have a heavier period and experience more mood swings, PMS, weepiness (or total emotional breakdowns) and irritability or anxiety before your period comes.
Women with estrogen dominance can also experience gallbladder issues and they often feel bloated or puffy or complain of retaining excess water before their period.
If you've noticed your breasts are enlarging, you need to size up on your bra or marked breast tenderness before your period, you may be estrogen dominant. Some ways to support your body if you feel you are experiencing the symptoms of estrogen dominance.
What to do if your estrogen is too high:
- Eat more broccoli. Eating foods from the cruciferous family like broccoli, kale, bok choy, can help you not only process your estrogen through your liver, but also eliminate it through your bowels. It does this because these foods help block estrogen from going down the wrong pathway.
- Eat more fiber. Fiber feeds the good gut bugs and helps you move that estrogen out of your body. Try adding chia seeds, fresh ground flax seeds, psyllium, or Paleo Fiber to your diet.
Too Much Testosterone
Testosterone is a hormone that both the ovaries and the adrenal glands help produce. When testosterone is just right, we feel confident, our bones and muscles are strong, and we have a great libido.
What does it look like to have too much testosterone?
When testosterone goes too high, we can have issues with our periods, we can find ourselves growing excess hair on our chin, chest, and abdomen. We can start losing hair on our head and experiencing more acne. High testosterone can also lead to infertility.
Women also experience greasy hair, depression, anxiety, lack of motivation when this hormone is imbalanced. And we might also have issues with unstable blood sugar or feeling really enraged.
High testosterone is common in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
What to do if your testosterone is too high:
- Eat more zinc. Eating foods that are rich in zinc like oysters or green beans can help with balancing out testosterone levels.
- Seed Cycle. Including regular seed cycling and pumpkin seeds in your diet can also provide you with an ample amount of zinc. Low zinc is also associated with an elevation of testosterone and other androgens.
- Balance blood sugar. Go back to high insulin recommendations above.
Too Little Thyroid
This is your mood, metabolism, and how your period operates. Your thyroid is in charge of how fast you run the biochemical reactions within your body and burn calories. Your thyroid's job is to take iodine and tyrosine, and convert it into a hormone known as thyroxin or T4. The rest of your body is responsible for activating that thyroid and converting it to a form known as triiodothyronine or T3.
What does it look like to have too little thyroid hormone?
Low thyroid hormone, or hypothyroidism, is common and can cause many issues with your period, including irregular periods, painful periods, or super-long periods.
If you're hypothyroid, you may notice many symptoms because every single cell in your body need thyroid hormone. Constipated, having difficulty losing weight, experiencing dry skin, brittle nails, or hair loss? These point towards hypothyroid.
Your hair may become tangled easily and may even feel a bit straw-like. You may be noticing that you're losing the outside of your eyebrows. Sometimes women with hypothyroidism also feel extremely cold. They'll have tingling in their hands or feet, and brain fog is pronounced. Depression and heavy periods and infertility are other signs of low thyroid hormone.
What to do if your thyroid is too low:
- Eat selenium. Including foods rich in selenium, like Brazil nuts. Note, the selenium content varries from each nut so supplementation may be necessary.
- Eat seafood. Seafood contains selenium and iodine and can help support your thyroid. Iodine alone is too much for most hypothyroid women, which is why I recommend selenium first and eating foods that combine selenium and iodine. You can read more about hypothyroidism and iodine here. For more of a specific thyroid supportive diet, check up the top 10 foods of thyroid health.
Fix Your Hormone Imbalance With Diet
What you put at the end of your fork has a lot of power to shape your hormones. If you're looking to get started eating a hormone friendly diet but not quite sure how, download my free hormone meal plan + recipe guide and start enjoying amazing hormones today!