There Are 5 Hormones That Affect How You Age. Here's How To Eat To Support All Of Them
Taz Bhatia, M.D., is a functional medicine doctor, licensed acupuncturist, and the author of a number of books, including the newly released mega hit, Super Woman Rx. She’s also one of the lauded instructors in our first-of-its-kind Advanced Functional Nutrition Program, where we bring the best minds in nutrition together to dive deep into the healing power of food. You can find out more about Dr. Taz, the rest of the faculty (including groundbreaking doctors like Mark Hyman and Frank Lipman), and this revolutionary training here.
Aging is on a continuum, and no longer just an ever-declining slippery slope. Forty may be the new 30, while 60 now looks and feels like 40. Our capacity and understanding of how to slow the aging process and harness our chemistry has left us with an opportunity to live vital and active lives far past those of our ancestors.
For women, aging is compounded by the state of our hormones and the fluctuations that sometimes can dictate our mood, energy, and weight. Despite leaps in knowledge, many women today struggle with the simple inability to connect with themselves, to understand the issues of their bodies, and how to feed, sleep, and even exercise for themselves, let alone an understanding of hormones or hormone balance. I like to look at the importance of women staying connected to themselves and set out to help women connect back to themselves and their hormones through a concept called "power typing"—understanding what your body needs by knowing your power type, which I wrote about in my new book, Super Woman Rx.
After seeing more than 12,000 patients, I've come to the conclusion that there are five main hormones everyone needs to know to understand their own body clues. Each of these hormones then works together in a delicate symphony, balancing energy, mood, weight, and more.
The beauty hormone, estrogen make women, well, feel like women. From smooth skin to shiny hair, estrogen helps us feel feminine, alive, and vibrant. Too much estrogen, however, and we become prone to estrogen dominance, replete with migraines, tender breasts, and sometimes, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and fibroids. Too little estrogen, and then our hair falls out, our bones become weak, and our skin loses elasticity. Maintaining estrogen levels in balance is an anti-aging strategy that works.
What to eat to support estrogen: Eating foods high in healthy fats, including nut butters, avocados, or ghee, can help keep estrogen levels balanced but not too high.
The brain hormone, progesterone, in balance keeps our cognition sharp and our sleep sound. So many women suffer from restless sleep or trouble focusing without realizing that unbalanced progesterone may be at the root. Track your energy and moods against the cycle of progesterone—if you find yourself exhausted as you approach the last week of your cycle, you may be low in progesterone.
What to eat to balance progesterone: Eat more pumpkin seeds, black beans, and other foods high in magnesium, as that can help boost progesterone levels.
Maintaining balanced insulin levels prevents unnecessary weight gain and belly fat that is commonly associated with aging. As our metabolism slows, insulin gets more stubborn, requiring fewer calories and more help with the digestive process.
What to eat to balance insulin: Avoiding sugars, refined carbs, and excess salt all play a role in managing insulin, preventing belly fat and weight gain!
The stress hormone, cortisol, can accelerate aging faster than any of the hormones listed so far. A little cortisol spike can keep us moving, but large swings in cortisol are the result of chronic stress that propels the body toward an inflammatory mode. Inflammation then becomes the trigger for so many different diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune illnesses.
What to eat to balance cortisol: Use food to manage cortisol levels by remembering to eat every three to four hours and include protein and healthy fats in your meals. Remove excess caffeine and sugar to avoid taxing the adrenals too much. Also, add in two to three daily servings of leafy greens, rich in B vitamins and iron, to keep your energy balanced.
Your thyroid controls your metabolic rate, hair, skin, and mood (someone gave this hormone way too much power)! Slight shifts in this hormone can take any person from bright and lively to dull and exhausted. Monitoring thyroid levels a few times a year and finding the right level for you is key.
What to eat to balance your thyroid: Boost your thyroid by taking in a few Brazil nuts, which are high in selenium, a critical thyroid mineral. It's also good to add in some iron-rich red meat one to two times per week to help wake up a sleeping or underactive thyroid.
If you want to learn more about hormones and aging from Dr. Taz, be sure to check out mbg's new functional nutrition program!