Food & Hormones
How our food effects our hormones
We may not see the interconnected nature of what we eat and the internal chemical processes. However within this post, I hope to raise awareness around how the food we eat has the power to send tangible messages into our cells which produce and regulate hormone production.
Food can affect the production and secretion of hormones through a few ways; firstly being its direct action on the gut by the nervous reflexes. This happens through changes in the concentration of various metabolites in the blood and changes in circulating gut hormone levels.
What you eat, when and how. These are all factors that play an important role. So what your feeding yourself is the first point of recognition but then its important to look at the foods texture, quantity and duration in the body. The hormones that are gastric inhibitory polypeptide (glucose dependant hormones) and insulin are used as examples of hormones whose production and secretion are diet dependent.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles and other tissues. They are produced in glands throughout our body and released from those glands. Which then are circulated to different organs. These signals tell your body what to do and when to do it.
What does it mean to balance hormones and why is it important?
An imbalance occurs when there is too much or too little of a hormone. Balanced hormone levels are when the levels of amounts of specific hormones in your body are at the optimal amount. This is important for our bodily systems to work and function to there best potential. Hormones can affect so many of the systems in our body at once, as they are the chemical messengers and can multitask to deliver multiple messages to different cells at one time. They influence all sorts of different functions such as bone growth, metabolism, and ovulation. They are important for regulating many different processes in the body including appetite, metabolism, sleep cycles, reproductive cycles, sexual function, body temperature and mood. The effect it has on the body depends on the hormone released and the cells it’s acting on. So when a hormone is imbalanced, the function is not as optimal. Too much or too little, even the slightest imbalance will have a noticeable effect on your overall health and wellbeing.
What hormones are effected by food?
Insulin and glucagon are the main hormones that are effected by food. Insulin may be one of the most well known hormones affected by your diet, with recent awareness around blood sugar activity.
So which foods hormone levels and how?
When you eat carbohydrates and sugars the glucose from these travels to and into your bloodstream. Depending on the type and amount, the reaction will differ. Insulin helps the cells absorb glucose, reducing blood sugar and providing the cells with glucose for energy. When blood sugar levels are too low, the pancreas releases glucagon. Glucagon instructs the liver to release stored glucose, which causes blood sugar to rise.
Processed foods and pre packed foods are usually high on preservatives, sodium, and sugar. Refined sugar is also known for stressing your adrenal glands which we know regulate hormones such as; cortisol (the stress hormone), aldosterone ( which controls your blood pressure) your thyroid (which secretes hormones responsible for maintaining your metabolism), your cognitive function, mood and body temperature. When the contents of processed foods enter the body, the dangerous combination increases inflammation and stresses the adrenal glands. Which can put yourself at risk of severe hormonal imbalance.
Hormone happy foods and how to start to support hormonal health
We can support the health of our hormones through diet and lifestyle changes. The following factors, create the perfect foundation for our hormones to settle into a balanced place.
- Lean into a plant-based diet. The more fibre and plant diversity, the better condition for the microbiome to work to its optimum function.
- Leafy greens. Crucifers such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussel sprouts have been shown to rid the body of harmful estrogen.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate adrenaline and dopamine production in the brain, as well as helping to protect from serotonin depletion. For this reason, low vitamin D levels increase an individual’s risk of depression significantly.
- Including Micronutrients. Dark leafy greens are rich in micronutrients, vitamins such as vitamin K, A, and B vitamins, and trace minerals. We need the micro nutrients in order to support different cells and functions.
- Flaxseed. Flax seeds have been linked to increases in oestrogen, this then improves hormone metabolism. Especially for fewer hot flashes, and better overall quality of life in menopausal and postmenopausal women.
- Prioritising seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Not enough sleep can affect your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones and lead to high blood pressure. Enough quality sleep is also crucial for maintaining healthy levels of hormones that control appetite and blood glucose levels.
- Incorporating some movement. Gentle regular exercise is critical for endocrine health, as it can help balance hormones like cortisol, insulin, thyroid hormones, and your sex hormones.
The quality of our own hormone health can be helped or hindered by our own decisions. How optimal the production of our hormones are can be maintained, balanced and regulated through our lifestyle and diet choices. Food is the most solid form of information we consume into our bodies, and if we use this as an opportunity to nourish our hormone health, we can receive the benefits from our systems functioning to their optimal.
This post was written by Amelia Crossley