Hormones help control every physiological process in your body, from metabolism and your menstrual cycle to reproductive health, your immune response, and mental health. Precise hormone balance is vital for feeling good and being healthy.
Foods can help or hinder hormone balance, so eating a well-balanced diet is key. Let's explore seven foods to avoid. You may be surprised by what makes the list.
Sugar can wreck your health and hormone balance. It raises insulin, which puts stress on the pancreas and can lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes if left untreated in the long term. According to Floliving.com, “insulin spike(s) disrupts ovulation – preventing your hormones from triggering ovulation and the creation of progesterone as a result of ovulation. Disrupted ovulation causes hormonal imbalance – without ovulation, you cannot produce progesterone, which leads to estrogen dominance. Your fat cells in your body secrete estrogen. The more sugar you eat, the more fat cells you create, the more estrogen they secrete. This estrogen adds to the estrogen your endocrine system produces. Add in xenoestrogens in our environment. You’re set up for estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency, and hormonal imbalance. This hormonal imbalance is a root cause of common issues like PMS, cramps, irregular cycles, acne, along with PCOS and infertility issues.
If you have insulin-resistant PCOS then having excess glucose in your bloodstream will cause inflammation, which leads to many chronic health issues.”
Organic foods start from non-genetically modified seeds and grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They are typically more nutritious than conventional counterparts and don’t add to the toxic burden on the body. Pesticides and chemicals used in agriculture are known endocrine disruptors. They mess up your hormones and the way your body uses and metabolizes hormones. Not good. Not good at all.
A great resource for where to spend your money on organics is the Environmental Working Group Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists --- they are updated yearly and can help you decide which produce items to buy as organics.
According to glutenfreesociety.com, “Gluten is a known hormone disruptor. Grain seeds are sprayed with hormone to enhance growth. These hormones interfere with your hormones. The pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide chemicals used on grains are also hormone disruptors.”
Gluten is known to increase intestinal permeability (leaky gut), inhibit thyroid function, stress the adrenal glands, and also affect immunity. Those factors lead to a massive decrease in the production of some seriously important hormones, i.e., thyroid and adrenals. Add the innate hormone inhibition to the added factors from pesticides and chemicals used on gluten-containing grains, and the problem is huge.
For those with Celiac disease, gluten is a life-long no-no. Even if you don’t have Celiac though, your body may be reactive to gluten. Removing it from your diet for 4-6 weeks can be an easy way to see how your body responds.
Mass-Produced/Factory Farmed Animal protein
Animals raised in factory farms are unfit for human consumption. There are a host of problems ranging from improper sanitation to use of antibiotics (an attempt to prevent overcrowded animals from getting too sick to be harvested) and hormones (designed to make animals bigger for more meat yield or to produce more milk for the dairy industry).
If you feel better on a diet that includes animal protein, look for animals raised locally and those that have access to pastures for free-range living as well as quality, hormone, and antibiotic-free feed and health protocols. Get to know your local farmer. Get to know your local butcher. If meats make you feel good, make sure you are investing in quality.
High-quality fats from meat, fish, and healthy plant-based options are VERY healthy and are necessary, in fact, for steroid hormone production!
The jury is mixed when it comes to dairy and hormones, but it looks like we should err on the side of caution.
Researchers studied hormones in cows’ milk express concern over the amount of estrone, estrogen sulfate, and progesterone found in dairy milk and milk products. The hormone content of whole-fat milk, butter, and cheese seems particularly troubling, as estrogen and progesterone are fat-soluble and cholesterol-based, and these foods are higher in cholesterol than lower-fat dairy products.
Preliminary studies found that the human body absorbs and is affected by these bovine hormones. After consuming 600 mL of cows’ milk, participants plasma E1 and P4 levels increased while FSH, LH, and testosterone levels dropped significantly. In other words, the body absorbed the sex hormones from the cows’ milk, and they threw participants hormones off balance. The decrease in testosterone suggests that milk could negatively impact male fertility.
Digging deeper, the researchers looked at the impact of cows’ milk on fertility; they cited another cross-sectional study which analyzed the impact that full-fat dairy had on sperm production and sperm shape. In the US, Iran, and Spain, participants’ sperm was found to be negatively impacted by the consumption of dairy and dairy seems to increase the risk of prostate and testicular cancer.
If you are trying to balance your hormones, cut out the alcohol. Alcohol can impair the functions of the hormone-releasing glands and impair the way that various organs can interact with hormones they need. Serious consequences result. Blood sugar calcium metabolism and reproductive function are all impacted by alcohol consumption.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Alcohol is directly toxic to the testes, causing reduced testosterone levels in men. In a study of normal healthy men who received alcohol for four weeks, testosterone levels declined after only five days and continued to fall throughout the study period. Prolonged testosterone deficiency may contribute to a "femininization" of male sexual characteristics, for example, breast enlargement.”
The NIAAA also notes, “drinking can contribute to a multitude of reproductive disorders (in women). These include cessation of menstruation, irregular menstrual cycles, menstrual cycles without ovulation, early menopause, and increased risk of spontaneous abortions (6,21,22). These dysfunctions can be caused by alcohol interfering directly with the hormonal regulation of the reproductive system or indirectly through other disorders associated with alcohol abuse, such as liver disease, pancreatic disease, malnutrition, or fetal abnormalities (6).”
Estradiol naturally decreases in postmenopausal years, and this increases women’s risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Interestingly, because alcohol increases the conversion of testosterone into estradiol, postmenopausal women who drink 3-6 alcoholic beverages a week may have a REDUCED risk of cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, and certain cancers. Bone integrity may be impacted, however, so those with osteoporosis or osteopenia should be mindful.
While most veggies are a perfect pick for your healthy lifestyle, there are a few that may be troublemakers! Nightshades (peppers, white potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes) are naturally rich in several compounds known to trigger inflammation. In some people, these compounds trigger an autoimmune response in the thyroid and joints. Neither inflammation nor autoimmune imbalance is supportive of hormone balance. In general, avoid nightshades when the body is out of balance.
Sweet potatoes are a great substitute for white potatoes; Peaches and beets instead of tomatoes; cauliflower or zucchini for eggplant and radishes (black or red ones) for that peppery bite!
So, what do you think? Are any of these foods still in your diet rotation? How hard do you think it would be to cut them out… even if it’s for 7-days?
Post in the comments and let me know about your experience with dietary changes and how they’ve helped your health. Or, post your questions, and let’s dig a little deeper into the things that interest you!