While it’s quite possible that hormones see-saw from time to time, a drastic fluctuation can pose serious health hazards. Read on to know how diet impacts hormones and the foods to include to help balance them!

How diet affects hormones

Hormones released from various glands act as signalling molecules and allow for the intercommunication of various cells and organs, thus ensuring the normal functioning of the body. Communication inside the body is essential for enabling the organism to appropriately respond to any changes in internal and external environments.

The fuel for our body is derived from food, and our diet is responsible for influencing every aspect that aids in achieving a well-functioning system. Likewise, a hormone balancing diet is also important because the energy and nutrients derived from food can help the body synthesise certain hormones and influence their functionality.

  • There are several factors related to diet that may cause hormonal imbalance and, thus, lead to adverse conditions such as food allergies, change in body weight, inflammation caused by poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, sleeping patterns, digestive issues, etc.
  • Substances derived from diet may activate certain molecules and provide fuel and micronutrients. That’s why food may be considered a cocktail of “hormones”.
  • High-fat diets cause weight gain by modifying the actions of hormones such as ghrelin, which can increase food intake and result in weight gain.
  • All steroid hormones involved in growth and reproduction are derived from cholesterol, which may be obtained from one’s diet but is also endogenously produced within our body, and thus need not be consumed in excess.
  • A plant-based diet intake rich in functional compounds called polyphenols may help against hormonal imbalance.

How to know if hormones are imbalanced

The following list briefly describes the symptoms by which one can recognise their hormones could be imbalanced. However, if you suspect a hormonal imbalance, it’s always better to seek the advice of a medical professional.

  1. Anxiety and disturbed sleep: Any fluctuation or decrease in the hormone oestrogen from physical stress such as over-exercising and low fat or low carbohydrate diets may lead to anxiety, restlessness and sleep disturbance.
  2. Urinary infection: Excessive intake of sugar, saturated fat, and deficiencies of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, or Zinc can reduce progesterone levels, due to which women may experience vaginal dryness, urinary infection, joint pain, and weight gain.
  3. Early puberty: Puberty is when a child reaches adult reproductive ability. Environmental oestrogens arising from toxins in the air, have been reported to cause hormonal imbalance in the body, leading to early puberty by the age of 8-9 years.
  4. Weight loss or gain: Thyroid hormones regulate how much energy our body utilises. A decrease in their secretion may cause weight gain, depression, hair loss, low energy, constipation, dry skin, and cold intolerance. Conversely, an increase in this hormone leads to weight loss, a warm body all the time from increased metabolism, high energy, and diarrhoea. An imbalance in cortisol levels also leads to weight gain.

Other symptoms of hormonal imbalance

  • Weak memory
  • Insulin resistance
  • Depression
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hirsutism - Excessive hair on the body in females in a male-like distribution pattern.

Food for hormonal imbalance

A hormone-balancing diet offers many benefits and maintains a good internal environment. Some foods can be consumed to regulate hormones to ensure the optimum working of all our organ systems. Though we’d like to mention that these foods may not be considered remedial measures for hormonal imbalance, they may offer overall nourishment that may stabilise the working of the hormones.

The following are a few examples of food for hormonal balance:

  • Whole grains and green leafy vegetables: Whole grains such as barley and wheat, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and fenugreek contain a wealth of dietary fibre. It is that part of the plant that cannot be digested by our stomach and intestines given the complexity of its structure and the lack of enzymes to break it down. Fibre instead acts as food for our gut microbiota and is fermented to short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). These fatty acids can bind to other molecules and regulate hormones such as leptin, a weight-reducing hormone.
  • Yoghurt: When listing food for hormonal balance, yoghurt, which contains live microorganisms, must also be considered. It's the live culture flourishing in our gut that helps break down dietary fibre and achieve the benefits mentioned above.
  • Chicken, egg, and fish: Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) contained in foods such as chicken and egg regulate the secretion of hormones as well as play a role in cellular signalling, while stimulating protein synthesis and preventing protein breakdown in skeletal muscle and liver. Besides, protein-rich sources may be considered foods that increase growth hormones as they can influence insulin-like growth factor (IGF) levels in our body, which is related to height. Fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids—bioactive lipids that positively impact signalling pathways. They can improve cardiovascular function and show positive results for people with PCOS by increasing the important follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels.
  • Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables contain sulphur-containing compounds that can help reverse the changes caused by oestrogen hormones and play the role of an effective chemopreventive agent. They may thus be considered important foods to be included in a diet for hormonal imbalance issues.
  • Soy and flax seeds: Soy contains dietary phytoestrogens, which are bioactive compounds with oestrogen-like activity. Evidence from some preclinical studies suggests that these compounds may affect hormones and health, such as improved blood sugar regulation and cardiovascular risk markers in postmenopausal women. Due to their touted benefits in premenopausal and postmenopausal stages, they may be considered among the foods that balance hormones in females. Flax seeds are also a good source of phytoestrogens. Walnuts: They contain several nerve-protective compounds such as vitamin E, folate, and melatonin, along with several antioxidative plant components. The micronutrients and functional components may be attributed to walnuts’ potential to improve mood considerably. Besides walnuts, other seeds and nuts containing the hormone melatonin can also address disrupted sleep patterns.
  • Dark chocolate: People with higher anxiety traits can benefit from consuming dark chocolate as it has a soothing effect on the stress hormone cortisol and catecholamines. It can thus be used as food for hormonal imbalance, if it is consumed in controlled portion size.
  • Conclusion

    Hormones act as tiny messengers and the right balance is essential for a healthy mind and body. Hormones can fluctuate under normal conditions or during the onset of puberty, pre-menopause, menopause stages, and other environmental factors that may lead to serious diseases and disorders. However, a careful and healthy selection of foods in a diet for hormonal imbalance issues in line with professional medical advice can help restore hormone levels to maintain a nourishing lifestyle.