Your hormones are fundamental to all the systems in your body. From reproduction to mood to energy levels, having balanced hormones optimizes your health. Your hormones shift constantly throughout the day and when your hormones aren’t balanced properly, it can lead to symptoms like mood swings, irritability, irregular periods and even infertility. The food you eat directly affects your hormones, so if you have signs of a hormone imbalance, you’re going to want to know about the worst foods for your hormones and why exactly they’re so harmful.
An Introduction to Female Hormones
Hormones allow your body to work more efficiently. They structure your metabolism, sleep regulation, sexual health and overall well being. Estrogen and progesterone are the two primary female sex hormones. They’re both important for the sexual and reproductive development in women, and play a key role in menstruation and pregnancy. However, these hormones also serve other functions. Estrogen ensures proper bone growth and health, optimizes brain function and regulates mood, while progesterone is necessary for functions such as maintaining fat tissue, stimulating weight gain and appetite, regulating immune, cardiovascular and respiratory systems and optimizing the central nervous system and kidney function.
The Link Between Nutrition and Your Hormones
You may not realize it, but what you eat directly affects your hormones, in both good and bad ways. Proper hormone balance is essential for all your systems to function properly and certain foods can restore or throw off the balance of your hormones. When your hormones are unbalanced, it can cause unpleasant symptoms, make it nearly impossible to lose weight and lead to diseases like type 2 diabetes and thyroid conditions. This is why eating a healthy, well-balanced diet it essential, especially if you’re going through a period of hormonal change, such as menopause.
13 Signs Your Hormones Are Imbalanced
1. Acne on your face, chest and/or upper back
2. Hair loss
3. Heavy or painful periods
4. Hot flashes
6. Irregular periods
7. Low libido
8. Mood swings
9. Poor quality sleep
11. Weak bones
12. Vaginal dryness
13. Constipation or diarrhea
8 Worst Foods for Your Hormones
1. Refined Grains
Refined grains, including white bread, pasta and rice, crackers, cereals, desserts and pastries are horrible for your hormones and overall health. The combination of gluten and sugar increases inflammation and stress on the adrenal glands, and increases the risk of autoimmune diseases. Refined grains contribute to weight gain, which triggers hormone imbalance, and reduces testosterone levels.
2. Dairy Products
Dairy products can wreak havoc on your hormones. They can irritate the gut, cause inflammation and trigger acne. Dairy causes your skin to produce more sebum or excess oil, leading to increased breakouts. Milk contains a good amount of IGF-1, which is a growth hormone. Too much of this hormone causes inflammation and leads to a spike in insulin, which causes the liver to make more of the growth hormone. Excess IGF-1 can lead to increased risk of diabetes and increased triglycerides.
Caffeine increases cortisol– the main stress hormone- in the body. Cortisol is naturally highest in the mornings and lowest in the evenings. Caffeine boosts cortisol levels whenever it’s produced, bringing the body into a state of high alert and affecting your body’s ability to regulate inflammation. Caffeine can also increase blood sugar levels, heighten anxiety and mood fluctuations, contributes to acid reflux and worsens PMS symptoms.
4. Soy Products
Soy can affect estrogen levels as it mimics estrogen and ends up blocking normal estrogen from binding to receptors. It makes your body think it has enough estrogen when it doesn’t and disrupts other hormones, such as decreasing testosterone and inhibiting thyroid function. Although soy products are okay in small quantities, when consumed in large amounts over a long period, they can have detrimental affects. Estrogen also acts as a growth hormone and can increase your risk of various diseases, such as breast cancer.
5. Red Meat
Red meat increases the production of estrogen in your body and can worsen hormone imbalance. It’s high in saturated and hydrogenated fats, which should be avoided as much as possible. Meat-heavy diets are linked to higher body mass index and saturated fats can increase your risk of serious conditions like breast cancer and heart disease. If you’re looking for healthy sources of protein, eggs and fatty fish are great and full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for your health.
Along with caffeine, alcohol is another beverage that is not good for your hormones. It disrupts the production of insulin and hurts the sex hormones, particularly testosterone in the body, which leads to lower energy levels and can disrupt the menstrual cycle. Regular alcohol use can also increase cortisol levels, leading to more belly fat storage and an inability to deal with everyday stressors. It also affects the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, the most important hormone production areas of the brain.
7. Processed Foods
Processed foods are super high in preservatives, sodium and sugar. This combination increases inflammation and puts stress on the adrenal glands, which can lead to weight gain and hormonal imbalance. Sausages, ready to eat meals, and instant food options can cause an electrolyte imbalance in the body, wreaking havoc on hormonal health.
Foods high in sugar cause our insulin levels to spike, and following a high sugar diet can cause our cells to eventually become insulin resistant. This leaves excess glucose in our system, which is stored as fat, increasing our risk for weight gain and type 2 diabetes. When insulin spikes, this can lead to lower levels of an important protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds excess estrogen and testosterone in the blood, but when it’s low, these hormone levels increase, leading to skewed estrogen and progesterone levels. Since progesterone helps keep us calm, elevated estrogen can cause irritability, insomnia, anxiety and more.
If you feel like your hormones may be unbalanced, take note of the foods you eat and make sure to limit the above foods as much as possible.