You are what you eat; 8 steps to better hormonal health

7 September 2016.

Balancing your hormone levels can reduce menstrual cycle-related symptoms, and alleviate the effects of many hormone-related chronic health issues[1];

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Migraine
  • PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

And this isn’t just ‘pie in the sky’ thinking… There’s substantial clinical research behind these 8 steps:

1. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables


Fresh fruits and vegetables provide a range of essential nutrients, especially the minerals zinc and magnesium, and vitamins A, C, & E (see step 8), as well as being a great source of fibre (see step 2).


2.Eat lots of fibre

640px-fruit-and-fibreEating a high fibre diet has been proven to help excrete excess oestrogen, reducing various hormone-related health issues[2]. Fibre basically prevents excreted oestrogen from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream in the gut. It also prevents food from decomposing too much in transit, reducing bloating and flatulence[3].


 3. Eat oily foods

fishA range of essential fatty acids are required to balance the sex hormones (which are all made from cholesterol), and maintain circulatory health. Note: These essential fats are unsaturated, as opposed to the saturated fats found in meat and dairy products (see step 4):

– Omega 6 oils are found in nuts and seeds and help reduce hormone-related joint pain, and inflammation[4].

– Omega 3 oils are found in oily fish (mackerel, tuna, sardines, herrings etc.) and linseed oils, walnuts, kale and green cabbage. These oils can improve hormone balance by reducing the level of androgens (e.g. testosterone) in the blood[5].

 4. Eat less meat and dairy products

moo-cows-moo-problemsMeat and dairy products are high in saturated fats, which can lead to weight gain, and may affect hormone balance[6]. Research also shows that a vegetarian diet reduces menstrual cycle-related symptoms[7], due to its higher fibre content (see step 2).  So it can be beneficial to eat less meat and dairy products and increase the proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed.

Note: If cutting out meat and/or dairy altogether, or to a large extent, it is important to also ensure that you are getting enough of the nutrients that are more easily sourced from animal products, particularly calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D (see step 8).

5. Avoid sugary foods and drinks


Consuming sugary foods and drinks can result in sharp changes in blood sugar levels that can cause a variety of hormone-related symptoms, such as anxiety, low mood, fatigue, headache, and irritability [8].

So, eat more complex carbohydrate foods, instead (e.g. wholegrain wheat, rye, oats, corn, brown rice, lentils, beans, or fresh vegetables).  Also, try to eat small amounts, more often (less than 3 hours apart), rather than just two or three large meals a day. This will keep your blood sugar levels at a more consistent level, and stop you from craving snacks.

6. Avoid caffeine

Normal web v caffeinated web

Caffeine should be avoided because it stimulates the production of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, which aggravate anxiety and nausea symptoms, as well as interacting with progesterone, insulin and blood sugar levels[9].

Note: Individuals taking oral contraceptive medications are less able to process and eliminate caffeine through their livers[10] (it can take up to ten hours to process just one cup of coffee!).


  7. Avoid alcohol

boozeAlcohol is full of sugars, so results in weight gain and hormone imbalance (see step 5), it acts as a depressant, and also affects liver function (needed for hormone processing and elimination). So, if you are experiencing any hormone-related symptoms, it is probably best to avoid alcohol, at least while you are trying to balance your hormonal health.


8. Take supplements, if needed

If you are unsure that your diet is providing all of the nutritional elements required for good hormonal balance, it can be a good idea to take regular nutritional supplements.

Note: Multivitamins contain most of these elements in one tablet, but do not take those containing vitamin A if pregnant, or trying for a baby;




4 Replies

  1. Years ago (at least 20!) there was research from Keele University on tomatoes and how they helped reduce pre-menstrual stress reactions. I was living in Stoke on Trent at the time and had always suffered serious stress reactions prior to my period. I ate at least one tomato a day (on toast or ryvita at breakfast.) It had a significant impact on my mood and stress levels prior to my period. This aspect of my diet was a simple thing to change but had a huge impact on my feeling of well-being.

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