Hormones impact us all – regardless of age, stage and gender. We all know about them, but what is it that they actually do?

Pretty much EVERYTHING!!!! Hormones are chemical messengers that help regulate nearly every function in the body. When our hormones are even a little off, it can have a huge impact on our every day.

Hormones are controlled by the endocrine system which is made up of the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid & adrenal glands as well as the pancreas and ovaries (women) or testicles (men).

We have plenty of hormones circulating in varying degrees in our body at any given time. Here are a few that you might have heard of as well as a brief description of their roles:

  • Cortisol – stress hormone: responsible for fight or flight/tend and befriend reactions; secreted to get us out of bed and keep us safe
  • Estrogen  – development and maintenance of female characteristics
  • Progesterone – stimulates the uterus to prepare for baby, helps with sleep
  • Testosterone – helps with bone mass, confidence & libido
  • Insulin – blood sugar regulation
  • Grehlin – hunger hormone and results in hunger pangs
  • Leptin – a hormone released when we’ve eaten enough

Each of these hormones, as well as the ones not mentioned, are important for our overall wellbeing. When one or more hormones become imbalanced, it has an impact on our health. Sometimes it is quite subtle, taking a long time before we notice anything and other times it can be quite abrupt affecting our mood, concentration, sleep and metabolism seemingly overnight.

For the next few weeks, we are going to unpack hormones a little at a time and view them through a holistic lens. What exactly is holistic? It means that we recognize that we are the sum of our parts.

Let’s imagine for a minute that someone tells me that they wish to lose weight. Sure, we can talk about food, portion sizes and such, but if we don’t address the other areas of their life such as quality of sleep, level of exercise and stress, we are missing an opportunity to support the whole body.

Hormones respond really well to a whole person or holistic approach.

Let’s begin our journey with food.

Foods that can hinder hormonal balance:

  • excessive caffeine can spike blood sugar levels even without any added sugar; additional stress on the endocrine system
  • alcohol is often used to wind down after a long & caffeinated day; can impact estrogen & testosterone levels; red wine is often implicated in sleep disruptions and hot flashes
  • refined carbs like white fluffy stuff & simple sugars can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and keep the cycle of cravings going strong; try a sugar swap & reduce
  • food sensitivities or allergies

Foods that help hormonal balance:

  • flax seeds – omega 3, fibre, help us excrete excess estrogen
  • pumpkin seeds – source of magnesium, fibre & zinc
  • avocado – healthy fat, fibre, vitamin B5 (stress fighting)
  • chia seeds – calcium, omega 3, fibre, protein
  • salmon – omega 3, vitamin D (hormone production, bone health & immunity)
  • Brazil nuts – source of selenium for thyroid function; 1 or 2 is all you need
  • seaweed – iodine for thyroid health
  • spinach – iron supports thyroid function, a good source of B vitamins
  • bell peppers & citrus – vitamin C which helps immune system & adrenal health
  • water – drinking enough water helps prevent dehydration and helps flush out toxins
  • herbal tea – holy basil, chamomile, peppermint
  • swap out your coffee or black tea for green tea – higher in antioxidants & lower in caffeine

As you can see, our food choices have an impact on our hormonal selves. While I will be the first to admit that changing your diet is not going to magically fix every little thing, it does have the power to make a big change with relatively little cost and effort.

Need help digging into your diet? I am here to support you and cheer you on. Contact me at amy@designedforyounutrition.com and let’s talk.