Hormones play a huge role in regulating the majority of your body’s physical and mental functions. They impact your appetite, sleep patterns, and how you respond to stress, libido, and anxiety, to name a few. Hormonal imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream.
Because of the essential role that hormones play in the body, even the smallest hormonal imbalance may result in side effects throughout the body. Luckily, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make that help restore healthy levels of hormones.
What Role Do Hormones Play?
Hormones travel throughout your bloodstream and organs to regulate important functions. These functions include growth and development, fertility, metabolism, mood and stress, and body temperature. The hormones that usually become imbalanced first are cortisol and insulin. These hormones imbalances in insulin, steroids, growth hormones, and adrenaline can affect both males and females. However, females may notice imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels, while males may notice imbalances in testosterone.
The Negative Effects of a Western DIet
Loaded with processed, starchy carbohydrates, sugar, trans fats, and artificial colors and flavors, the Western diet is a top catalyst for early hormone imbalance. An unhealthy diet usually consists of foods with high-calorie content and very little nutritional value. Regularly consuming this processed and fast food can lead to obesity, changing your body’s hormone levels. A high body fat percentage influences many important processes in the body, specifically insulin, cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone. When these hormones are thrown out of whack, symptoms may occur, such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, numbness in hands, constipation, and tachycardia.
How to Balance Your Hormones
Thankfully, it’s possible to reestablish harmony in our hormones and alleviate the symptoms by doing one simple thing: tweak our diet. Having a diet generally low in cholesterol, sugar, salt, and caffeine has been linked to a lower incidence of hormonal imbalance. On the flip side, following a typical Western diet has been shown to augment your hormone levels.
Although it’s important to first consult with a doctor about balancing your hormones and to see what changes are best for you, proper nutrition does play a huge role. A nutritious diet and other healthy lifestyle habits may improve your hormonal health and allow you to feel and perform at your best. If dietary changes do not help address symptoms, you should see your primary care provider to discuss your thyroid, hormones, and cortisol levels.
3 Hormone-Balancing Foods
Source: Berry Parfait with Coconut Yogurt & Granola
Not only are berries packed with antioxidants that benefit your brain and immune system, but they’re a powerful ally to combat the symptoms of PMS because they help our bodies get rid of excess harmful estrogen. As a bonus, the phytochemicals contained in berries such as quercetin, ellagic acid, and resveratrol also protect you against estrogen-induced breast cancer because of their ability to balance hormones.
Source: Mediterranean Lentil Salad
Lentils are one of the cheapest and most nutritious foods out there, and it turns out that they are also great for preventing PMS symptoms from occurring. How? Well, pulses such as lentils contain a high amount of vitamin B6, which is a co-factor in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood and appetite regulation. Lentils are also a good source of iron whose consumption is linked with a lowered risk of developing PMS because of its theorized effect on serotonin and GABA in the brain.
3. Sunflower Seeds
Source: Sunflower ‘Cheddar’ Spread
Sunflower seeds are good to keep at hand whenever a salt craving hits. These tiny seeds are delicious and pack a ton of nutritional benefits that will help you alleviate PMS symptoms. They’re rich in vitamin E, B vitamins, copper, selenium, and magnesium. Their content in B vitamins, copper, and magnesium is of special significance when it comes to fighting PMS, as a high intake of these micronutrients has been linked with a decreased risk of experiencing PMS. This is likely due to their effect on the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA involved in our hormonal cycles.
In sum, as you can see, fast food is far from the best choice for your health, animals, or the planet. So instead, opt for a home-prepared meal of locally-grown foods for maximum resource reduction and the best health benefits!
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