Do you suffer from weight loss resistance, insomnia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, headaches, infertility, or skin problems? If any of these symptoms describe you; you likely have some degree of hormone imbalance.What are hormones?
Hormones are your body’s messengers that provide the necessary signals for optimal cellular and organ function. Hormones affect many different processes such as metabolism, growth, development, and mood and reproduction.
Endocrine glands are a special group of organs that are responsible for the production of hormones.
Let’s discuss the hypothalamus and pituitary. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that plays a role in hormone production. Some of the hormones produced here are responsible for body temperature regulation, sleep, hunger, thirst, libido, and mood. This area of the brain also controls the pituitary gland, which stimulates hormones for the thyroid and adrenal glands.
How is your diet impacting hormones?
You have over 70 trillion cells in your body. Each cell is made up of lipid bi-layer that contains saturated fat and cholesterol. If your diet is lacking some of these healthy fats, the production of hormones and your cells ability to communicate will become negatively impacted.
Another large contributor to poor hormone production and communication is exposure to toxins. Exposure to toxins can come from our food supply, but also anything that comes in contact with our skin or that we breathe in. There are toxins that can mimic hormones themselves, which are extremely problematic. The body tries to utilize these fake substances as building blocks for hormone creation and it causes a toxic cell. This can then lead to cellular inflammation or mutation of more toxic cells.
One hormone that is notable is leptin. Toxins attach themselves to fat cells and continue to elevate the hormone leptin. Leptin is the hormone that tells your brain to burn fat for energy. Toxins can burn out leptin receptors in the brain leading to leptin resistance. As a result, you gain weight, and can become weight loss resistant. This is when diet and exercise stop working they way they used to for you.
What about Gut Health?Gut bacteria also work with hormone signaling and our immune system. 75%-80% of our immune system resides in our gut, so our overall health really does stem from the gut. Many of us have had our healthy bacteria destroyed by overuse of antibiotics, prescription medications, exposure to toxins, etc. Using a good quality probiotic, eating foods that are high in healthy bugs such as fermented foods, sauerkraut and even raw, fermented dairy products like kefir can help build your defense system.
There are some basic things that you can do to boost your body’s ability to create, balance and “hear” your hormones. The good news is there are steps you can begin right away, to decrease cellular inflammation and increase hormone communication.
Steps to Begin!
- Eat Healthy Fat—As we just talked about above, if you need cholesterol and fat to produce hormones, then why would you eliminate this from your diet? Healthy fat also starts to heal the gut lining, making it easier to get a healthy gut bacteria balance. A few of my favorite health fats include; organic, unrefined coconut oil, grass-fed ghee, organic grass-fed butter, avocado, flaxseed, hemp seed and raw nuts.
- Reduce Toxins—Toxins are difficult to completely avoid, but taking the time to educate yourself on the things you can control will be imperative to your health. Toxins can be found in your food supply, coming from things like GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics, food coloring, artificial flavors and sweeteners, etc. The main objective here is to eat whole, REAL food and stay away from packaged, processed foods. Also, try slowly switching to more natural beauty care products and cleaning products.
- Avoid Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fats and Trans Fats—These man-made fats are extremely detrimental to the body. They attach themselves to the cell membrane and create instability to the cell receptors. The cell receptors need to be able to hear the hormone in order to use it. Another contributing factor is that these man-made fats are extremely oxidized. These oxidized fats cause inflammation and mutation of the cells. Fats to avoid include: vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, shortening, margarine and anything with the word “hydrogenated” in it.
- Get Sleep—Sleep is vital in allowing your body to heal and rejuvenate. When you start skipping sleep, your body has to adapt and cellular function gets compromised. Now we are looking at sluggish cell to cell communication, along with poor ability to get signals and information into the cell. Getting more sleep can instantly have a positive impact on hormone function.
- Control Caffeine Intake—Caffeine can be beneficial, but not typically at the rate we consume it. Also, pay attention to the source. Is your coffee loaded with sugar, fake sweeteners and pesticides? If you’re getting a non-fat, sugar-free vanilla latte, you better bet you’re getting all of those things! When choosing your source aim for organic, fair-trade, shade grown coffee beans. Or even better, stick to organic tea!
Written by: Kimberly Andrulis RD, FDN-P