Lifestyle

You Are What Eat: Diet & Hormone Imbalance

What we eat determines not only how we feel, our longevity and overall health, but also our hormonal levels.

Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Nayan Patel

It isn’t news that with age, metabolism slows and the body can’t digest certain foods like it used to. These imbalances are often a side effect of not only aging, but also our diet choices. Of course, that greasy pizza you once guzzled down at 2AM with no problem in college probably leaves you feeling gross, bloated and sluggish today. But hidden nutrients in unassuming - and sometimes “healthy” foods - can have a great impact on the levels of key bodily hormones, too.

How Your Diet Impacts Estrogen

Estrogen is involved in human reproduction, immune response, skeletal health, heart health, and more. It exists in a balance with other sex hormones, like progesterone and testosterone, and plays a major role in quality of life, from energy levels, libido, stress response, metabolism and more.

Studies show that Western diets high in ultra-processed foods, added sugar, and cholesterol-heavy foods like red meat and eggs are associated with high estrogen levels. Choosing to consume these foods in excess may be an underlying cause of estrogen dominance in the body, leading to the unwanted symptoms. Taking notice of how you feel in relation to the foods you eat will help in gaining a better understanding of your body on a hormonal level.

Diet & Menopause

Eating a well-balanced diet is essential if you’re experiencing menopause. During this transitional period of a woman’s life, estrogen levels deplete significantly, leading to the characteristic symptoms of menopause like mood changes, hot flashes, night sweats, and menstrual irregularity. Although menopause is inevitable, there are ways to naturally increase estrogen levels in the body and alleviate these symptoms through hormonal supplementation and lifestyle changes, including the foods you eat. 

There is substantial evidence that soy foods may help address the conditions associated with menopause. You can’t directly consume estrogen, however various plant foods contain phytoestrogens. These groups of chemicals bind to estrogen receptors in the body and weakly mimic the hormone. Soy is the richest dietary source of phytoestrogens, and particularly rich in a type of phytoestrogen called isoflavones. For women who are not experiencing menopause and men, it is important to be conscious of too much soy consumption for the same reason - if estrogen levels are naturally balanced, consuming soy may actually cause estrogen dominance and lead to an entirely different subset of conditions, including thyroid disorders.

Weight Gain From Hormone Imbalances

It’s obvious that weight gain can be directly correlated to poor diet; but abs aren’t the only thing made in the kitchen. Foods with a higher glycemic load, and foods that are naturally high in estrogen (like soy) are known to make hormones fluctuate irregularly in both men and women. And while putting on some weight may not seem life threatening, even small amounts can raise risk of disease. Fat tissue produces estrogen and can contribute to elevated estrogen in the body, so maintaining moderate body fat levels is essential to maintaining healthy levels of estrogen. In addition, the higher levels of estrogen as a result of increased fat stores can contribute to prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. 

Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the best ways to consciously combat estrogenic effects and regulate hormone balance, however these foods have been shown to support as well: turmeric, green tea, ground flax seeds, and chia seeds. 

We encourage you to schedule a consultation and speak to a doctor to find out what estrogen supplementation or lifestyle changes may be right for you. 

References

Reclaim Your Hormone Balance