5 Foods That Can Mess With Your Hormones & 5 That Can Help, According To A Functional Medicine Expert
If you are feeling a little bloated, crampy, fatigued, sweaty, or just off, chances are it has something to do with your hormones. Our hormones fluctuate and cycle constantly. And their levels can undergo dramatic changes during puberty, pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause, and menopause. Sometimes our hormones are like a beautifully synchronized symphony, and others like a chaotic festival.
Hormones are so important that they can influence nearly every aspect of your life—from your mental clarity, your body composition, the texture, thickness and quality of your skin, and even your mood.
Most women have no idea their food choices can have such a huge impact on hormonal balance. The good news is that eating for hormone health doesn't have to be complicated or restrictive to make a difference. You just need to know what foods to choose and which ones might be messing with your hormones.
5 foods that can mess with our hormones.
While I never like to label foods as "good" or "bad," in my experience, there are some choices that may damper your efforts to balance your hormones. I would recommend limiting or minimizing these foods, replacing them them with hormone-helping foods instead.
It's hard to believe that just 200 years ago, Americans consumed only two pounds of sugar per year. Today, according to the USDA, the average American eats over 100 pounds of sugar every year. This may not seem like a lot, but when it comes to your hormones, even small changes can have big consequences.
When you eat a lot of sugar, your pancreas releases insulin to help control your blood sugar levels. The more sugar you eat, the more insulin is released and the more your blood sugar levels can drop. This can cause fatigue and mood swings. This can even lead to insulin resistance.
It's important for your body to have low levels of cortisol when you are sleeping because it can interfere with deep sleep cycles and make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. This can lead to more daytime fatigue and more trouble staying focused during the day as well as nighttime insomnia. And when you don't get enough sleep, the levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) rise while leptin (the satiety hormone) drops—which means you're more likely to eat more than your body needs.
Like sugar, caffeine may also increase insulin resistance.
Artificial sweeteners are often marketed as being a healthier alternative to sugar, but they can actually mess with your hormones.
When you ingest artificial sweeteners, they're broken down in your digestive system and then absorbed into your bloodstream. Once there, they trick the pancreas into thinking there's too much glucose in your blood—which causes it to release insulin6. But because there's no real sugar for the insulin to break down, the hormone doesn't have anything to do—and so it stays in your bloodstream for longer than normal.
Alcohol is a hormone disruptor, but some alcoholic beverages cause more harm than others. Drinking organic, properly sourced red wine in moderation could be good for your health, but cocktails every evening or multiple glasses of wine may come with hormonal consequences.
Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.
They are actually part of a classification of chemical known as EDCs: endocrine-disrupting compounds. This is because the chemicals can disrupt our hormones in several different ways including mimicking our hormones such as estrogen, binding to hormone receptors, impairing thyroid conversion, and reducing androgen production.
They impact our gut flora, which further influences our hormone metabolism, hormone production, and hormone conversions. These toxins also create inflammation and additional burden on our liver.
The good news is that there are ways you can avoid these harmful chemicals in the foods you eat by choosing organic whenever possible. If you don't have access to organic produce near you, consider growing your own or seeking out a community garden.
5 foods to support your hormones.
We're not talking about those super-expensive "superfoods" that are available only at specialized health food stores. These are foods you probably already have in your kitchen right now but didn't realize their full benefits. By choosing the right foods, you can help your body stay balanced and feel better than ever!
Broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and bok choy are all known as cruciferous vegetables—and they're some of the best things you can eat if you want to support healthy hormone levels.
Cruciferous vegetables are packed with Indole-3-carbinol (an indole) and sulforaphane (an isothiocyanate) that help balance out the effects of estrogen in your body and can even help alleviate symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats. In addition, these veggies contain fiber, which helps digestion, energy levels, blood sugar control, and reduces constipation.
They contain micronutrients, phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins K and C, and folate, which are all great for reducing inflammation in your body. They also contain antioxidants, which help prevent free radical damage from occurring in your body and protect against cancer growth. Cruciferous veggies are also packed with B vitamins, which help with stress management and mood stabilization.
Avocados are a staple in many people's diets—they're full of healthy fiber and fats and are perfect in sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and more.
Avocados are specifically a great source of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat14, which may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and heart disease. This type of fat helps lower (LDL) cholesterol while raising (HDL) cholesterol levels in your body14—and that's a good thing! Avocados are one of the best sources of potassium—a mineral that helps balance out sodium levels in the body and helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
The healthy fats in avocados also support healthy hormone levels when consumed on a regular basis. They're full of vitamins A through E that help fight inflammation—a major cause of hormone imbalance!
Salmon and tuna
The plant-derived omega-3 ALA is essential, which means the body cannot make its own, so you need to get it from food. Eating wild salmon or tuna at least twice per week can help support these healthy levels in the body.
High-fiber carbohydrates are high in fiber and low in sugar—such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, and nuts. Carbs are not your enemy, and in fact, in the quest to balance your hormones, high-fiber carbs can be your best friend.
High-fiber carbohydrates19 are a great way to help your hormones because they keep your blood sugar levels steady by slowing down how quickly food moves through your digestive tract. This is important for your hormone health, because when your blood sugar levels are too high or too low, it can lead to hormone imbalances.
Probiotic and prebiotic foods.
Researchers have also found that the gut microbiome houses a collection of microbes called the estrobolome, which maintains estrogen balance in the body.
The foods you eat can have a major impact on your hormones and quality of life—especially if you struggle with PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, perimenopause, or menopause. It may not be necessary to completely overhaul your diet to get results. Simply focusing on eating more of the hormone-helping foods, and less of the hormone-hurting foods, can make a big difference in your energy levels, hormone balance, and quality of life.
Get the Full 21-Day Hormone Harmony Meal Plan, Hormone Imbalance Quiz, and a free digital copy of Sands' internationally bestselling book: Hormone Harmony Over 35–A New, Natural, Whole-Body Approach to Female Health.
Michelle Sands, ND is the co-founder of GLOW Natural Wellness, a board-certified naturopathic physician (ND) and the #1 international best-selling author of Hormone Harmony Over 35: A New, Natural, Whole-Body Approach to Limitless Female Health. She was the producer of The Perimenopause Summit and is a featured contributor to EndocrineWeb. A highly sought-after female hormone and metabolism expert, Dr. Michelle has been featured on ABC, CBS, Outside Magazine, The Boston Herald, NBC, Fox News, and USA Today.
It wasn’t long ago that Michelle struggled with autoimmunity, digestive issues, chronic pain, acne, and anxiety. To top it off, she was diagnosed with primary ovarian failure at the age of 20, thrusting her into premature menopause way too early in life. She experienced hot flashes, weight gain, anxiety and so many of the symptoms you’d expect for a woman 3x her age. Doctors explained that she would never have children of her own. Michelle was devastated. She was given a handful of prescriptions but no solutions. After decades of research, trial and error, medical school, testing, and prayers–she was finally able to understand what her body was trying to tell her, and give it what it needed to overcome these chronic conditions. And on April 5th, 2015, she gave birth to her miracle baby, Paxton Emerson Sands, naturally.
Michelle believes that nature provides us with everything we need to heal our bodies and live optimally. And while science holds the keys to understanding our innate healing potential, in today’s modern world our bodies and minds are exposed to a lot of unnatural things that take away from that optimal level of health. Dr. Michelle is passionate about helping women to harness the power of nature, so they can ditch their d