How Your Diet Impacts Hormone Levels
Learn how hormone levels can impact your health- and weight loss progress, and how to regulate your hormones through a healthy diet.
Your hormones play a big role in your overall health, since they are involved in just about every major function in the body. When it comes to hormone health, balance really is key. Sustained imbalances in hormone levels can increase your risk of developing life-changing health conditions such as diabetes, thyroid issues, and in some cases, even infertility. It can also cause minor symptoms such as muscle aches, fatigue, sleep disturbances and digestive problems.
Some of the things that influence our hormone levels include diet, stress levels, infections and certain medications. In this article, we focus on how food can affect hormone balances, and our aim is to provide a better understanding of why a healthy diet (one rich in a variety of nutrients) is essential for our bodies to function. While it may not seem like much to worry about, regaining balance in your hormone levels can completely alter your life by eliminating ailments that slow you down every day or prevent you from living the life you are truly capable of living.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are essentially chemical messengers that are sent between the brain and the rest of the body. They signal to our brain and other organs when to perform certain functions, produce feelings and motivations for survival, and induce physical responses from the body that help us live and function normally.
Our hormones are naturally regulated by the body through negative feedback (i.e. rising levels will signal to the body to stop producing more). That said, sometimes we can develop certain conditions or a resistance to certain hormones that throw off these signaling mechanisms. In addition, our conscious behaviours can also alter our hormone levels, such as what we choose to feed our body so that it can produce the right amounts of hormones to begin with.
Diet and Hormones
Our diet determines the presence of certain vitamins, minerals and fluids in our blood that are necessary for hormonal health. The body needs adequate levels of minerals and vitamins and enough water to support healthy organs and glands that are responsible for hormone production. In turn, these hormones help regulate our digestion, metabolism, sleep, respiration, sensory perception, growth and development, reproduction and our moods. As you can tell, these are important chemicals to have around and it is essential to have them in the right amounts so our bodies can function optimally. Often, we run into issues when not enough or too much of a certain hormone is produced, throwing our bodies out of balance.
Nutrients Necessary for Hormone Health
Below is a list of nutrients that our diet must include for optimal hormone function:
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for hormone health since it plays a vital role in many important functions within the body, such as immune responses and bone, teeth and muscle development. Unfortunately, many people are deficient in vitamin D since it is not found in many food sources and we must get it from the sun. Depending on where you live and how much time you spend outdoors, you may not be getting enough vitamin D year-round. Instead, you can take vitamin D supplements, which are typically inexpensive and easy to find. The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 4000 IUs – please speak to your doctor before taking any vitamin supplements.
Vitamin D is unique because it is technically a steroid-class hormone. The liver and kidneys convert it into calcitriol, its active hormone form. This activated form helps circulate other nutrients, such as calcium and phosphorus, through the bloodstream to other parts of the body including muscles, teeth and bones. It is especially important for children and adults to have enough vitamin D to support the growth of new, healthy cells in these areas. A deficiency in vitamin D won’t just cause poor bone development; it has also been linked to the development of diabetes, certain cancers, depression, heart disease and poor immunity.
Check out these Coffee Booster Liquid Supplements, which contain a number of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D, that can support hormone health. They are an easy way to kick-start your day with a boost of energy and nutrients!
Omega-3s are important to include in your diet for a number of reasons. They help fight inflammation and improve the skin, brain function and joint health. They also play a role in balancing hormone levels. Specifically, they help balance reproductive hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, which can help improve libido, manage PMS symptoms and fight against certain cancers. In addition, they can improve serotonin effectiveness, which aids in sleep quality and improves our moods. Also, due to their powerful inflammation-fighting properties, omega-3s can also reduce the effects of hormonal imbalances caused by excessive inflammation in the body – there is clearly good reason to include these in your diet!
Iodine in necessary for healthy maintenance of the thyroid gland, which produces a number of hormones involved in the body’s metabolism (conversion of food into energy) and other important functions. Bone and brain development are some of these other functions, which is why iodine is especially necessary during pregnancy and infancy.
The importance of thyroid health may be best demonstrated in the symptoms of an unhealthy thyroid gland. Some of the signs of hypothyroidism (the under-production of thyroid hormones) include constant fatigue, increased sensitivity to the cold, dry skin, puffiness and weight gain. In contrast, hyperthyroidism (the over-production of thyroid hormones) can cause unintentional weight loss, rapid heartbeat, increased appetite and increased nervousness, anxiety or irritability. Evidently, thyroid hormones are involved in a variety of important everyday functions.
Thyroid health can be impacted by other medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders (i.e. type 1 diabetes or celiac disease) or taking certain medications, and genetics and age can also play a role. If you suspect you may have an over or under-active thyroid gland, you should consult a physician, who can provide proper instructions for treatment. That said, increasing or decreasing your intake of iodine, lowering caffeine, managing stress and staying on top of diet and exercise can all help maintain a healthy thyroid gland. Check out these Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles made from kelp, which is one of the richest natural sources of iodine (note that consuming too much iodine if you don’t need it could cause health issues).
Like iodine, selenium is also important for thyroid health. The thyroid gland contains higher amounts of selenium than any other organ in the body, which helps protect it from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage occurs when there are many free radicals (toxic waste particles) in the body, which can come from natural processes in the body or external environmental toxins, including pollution, fried and processed or other unhealthy foods. Since selenium is a powerful antioxidant, it helps fight against oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
A lack of selenium in the diet can cause muscle weakness, fatigue, mental fog, a poor immune system, and in severe cases – infertility in both men and women (similar to the symptoms of hypothyroidism).
One of the best natural food sources of selenium is brazil nuts. Eating just 2 or 3 of these a day can provide you with enough selenium. Check out KZ Clean Eating Breakfast Cereals for a breakfast blend that contains brazil nuts and other heart-healthy and fibre-rich ingredients. Fish, meat, eggs and whole grains are also good sources of selenium!
- Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is involved in over 100 different functions in the body, which is why it is very important to make sure you are getting enough in your diet! Many people with anemia or low energy levels may take B12 to help with the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to different parts of the body. Other than this, Vitamin B12 also plays a role in hormone regulation. This is because B12 is involved in sending messages to different parts of the body, providing instructions for how much of certain hormones to produce. A lack of vitamin B12 can interfere with these signals, causing an under or overproduction of several hormones, which can affect anything from mood & energy levels to some physical symptoms.
Although vitamin B12 deficiency is not very common, some groups that are at higher risk include people over the age of 60, mainly women, and people who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. Symptoms of deficiency can include unintentional weight loss, fatigue, muscle pain and weakness, walking and balance disturbances, tingling or odd sensations in your extremities (fingers, toes, etc.), depression and poor memory. If you suspect you may be deficient in vitamin B12, you can get your levels tested at a physician’s office to determine if you should start supplementing this important vitamin. Be sure to look for supplements containing methylcobalamin, the most effective form of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is also bio-available in food sources such as animal protein, seafood, eggs, tofu and tempeh (soy) and sea vegetables (blue/green algae, chlorella and seaweed).
Check out Farmaroot Natural Energy Drinks, fortified with B vitamins for extra energy and strength, as well as Chase Cocktail Mixers which contain B vitamins for healthy physical recovery from alcohol!
The Role of Carbohydrates
Eating a high carb diet can throw your hormones out of whack. This is because eating too many carbs, especially refined carbs (and sugar), causes blood sugar spikes and crashes. These frequently fluctuating blood sugar levels and chronically high insulin levels in the body can put our bodies under stress, which triggers the production of other hormones, such as cortisol. As you may understand, any imbalance in hormones in the body can have a number of negative physical and mental side effects, and this is especially true when there is too much cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone responsible for our fight-or-flight response, and high cortisol levels can result in anxiety, increased blood pressure, issues with libido and fertility, fatigue, irritability and digestive problems.
How Hormones Can Affect Weight Loss
Through our discussion above, you can see that certain hormonal imbalances can have direct impacts on weight gain and weight loss. This is why testing and diagnosing any hormonal imbalances is one of the keys to successful weight loss. Naturally, they should balance out if you maintain a healthy diet, get regular exercise and manage your stress. But there still could be underlying conditions that need to be assessed by a medical professional if you frequently experience any of the symptoms described in this article. If you think you may suffer from hormonal imbalances, speak to a physician before making drastic changes in your lifestyle so they can test and assess the right steps for you.
We hope that you learned something and enjoyed reading this article exploring hormone health and it’s impact on diet and weight loss. If you would like to share your thoughts or experiences, head over to our Facebook and Instagram pages. We also love to read our reviews on Google, so if you enjoyed an experience you had with The Low Carb Grocery, share with your fellow low carbers!
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