How does your diet impact your hormones?
Did you know that the human body is almost entirely made up of microbes – in fact the average human is home to over 100 trillion microbes meaning that we’re around 90% microbes and only 10% human!1 These microbes are spread everywhere throughout your body but today one group in particular should take centre stage – your gut microbes.
Now, you’ve probably heard me speak about your gut microbes or ‘gut flora’ before. This collection of friendly bacteria helps to support a number of functions throughout your body, from supporting your metabolism to maintaining your immune system – remember, over 70% of your immune cells are found in your gut!
As research is starting to realise, your gut bacteria also plays a valuable, more direct role when it comes to your hormones. Certain types of microbes, such as estrobolome, can assist with the metabolism of hormones such as oestrogen, which can prevent excess oestrogen from circulating in your system, causing issues such as oestrogen dominant PMS symptoms.2
Your population of friendly bacteria is extremely dependant on what you eat – eat the right foods and create the right gut environment and your friendly bacteria will flourish but if you eat a diet that’s rich in refined sugars, processed meats and unhealthy fats then your friendly bacteria will quickly become dominated by unfriendly bacteria which can lead to all sorts of nasty symptoms and possibly even a hormonal imbalance!
Foods to help support your hormones!
Looking to support your hormones generally? Start with pre and probiotics!
If you don’t suffer from any real hormonal imbalances but are just looking for a bit of general support, I’d start by nourishing your friendly gut bacteria. The best way to do this is by taking a pre and probiotic combination. Prebiotics help to feed your friendly bacteria, providing an environment that they can thrive in while probiotics contain billions of strains of different friendly bacteria, helping to populate your gut.
You can do this by firstly including more pre and probiotic foods in your diet. Prebiotic foods often include plant-based foods such as:
These are readily available on your supermarket shelf and can be incorporated into a variety of recipes, such as my Fermented Tomato Ketchup! Fermented foods, which are really rising in popularity at the moment, are an excellent source of probiotics! You can learn more about these in our Digestion Advisor Ali’s blog, ‘My guide to fermented foods for a flatter tum!’
However, if you feed you do need a bit of extra help, you could try taking Molkosan, our gut-friendly prebiotic, in conjunction a high-quality probiotic such as Optibac Probiotics, which boast an incredible range including child-friendly probiotics and probiotics for those just off antibiotics!
Suffering from low levels of oestrogen? Get more seeds and soy beans!
Oestrogen is an extremely important female hormone – it helps to maintain your menstrual cycle and boosts your production of collagen, a structural protein that’s essential for healthy, youthful-looking skin! However, as you age your production of oestrogen will gradually start to decline, culminating in menopause.
Low levels of oestrogen are responsible for the majority of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, mood swings and bloating. That’s why it’s important to try and make sure your levels gently decline rather than abruptly plummeting. Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that can help to support healthy oestrogen levels, such as:
Seeds such as flaxseeds and sesame seeds naturally contain phytoestrogens as well as being rich in other nutrients such as fibre, B vitamins and iron which can help to gradually regulate your oestrogen levels. To really reap the benefits of flaxseeds, you will need to make sure they have been grounded before eating them.
Pumpkin seeds are another brilliant seed for the menopause as they’re incredibly rich in zinc and magnesium, meaning they can help to support your production of sex hormones such as oestrogen as our Menopause Expert Eileen discusses in her weekly video, ‘Why pumpkin seeds are great for menopause.’
However, the main staple when it comes to low oestrogen is soy beans. Soy beans are extremely rich in phytoestrogen, which is why we’ve included soy isoflavones in our Menopause Support remedy. Try to moderate your intake though – too much soy can bring about its own problems! Instead, perhaps consider supplementing your dairy milk with a soy milk alternative or incorporate more tofu into your meals. One of my favourite soy-based recipes is Rachel’s Marinated Tofu Stir Fry.
Trying to support your thyroid? Get more iodine!
Your thyroid is an endocrine gland located in your neck. It works to store and produce hormones such as T3 (Triidothyronine) which work to regulate your metabolism and energy levels. Having a thyroid imbalance is extremely common, especially as you approach menopause, and can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue, dry skin, elevated heart rate etc.
However, there’s one nutrient that often gets overlooked that may help to maintain a healthy thyroid – iodine! I go into a bit more depth in my blog ‘Are you getting enough iodine?’ but as a nation, iodine deficiency is extremely common and the problem may just be getting worse! You can find iodine in commonplace foods such as:
Kelp is one of the richest dietary sources of iodine which is why, if you feel you need an extra hand, I’d recommend trying our Sea Kelp Tablets. These are made using Pacific sea kelp and are completely vegan-friendly. You can take Sea Kelp to help support your metabolism and maintain a normal thyroid function, however, if you do suffer from a thyroid imbalance, please speak to your doctor before taking these!
Struggling to sleep? Boost your melatonin!
There are two main hormones that regulate your sleep pattern – cortisol, a stress hormone, and melatonin, known as the sleep hormone. These two hormones exist in a delicate balance, with melatonin being secreted at night to make you feel more relaxed and encourage sleep while cortisol is released before you wake up, making you feel more awake and alert.
However, these days, you may notice that you feel more restless at night and unable to sleep. This could be because an underlying problem, like stress or fluctuating blood sugar levels, could be causing you to produce too much cortisol, which will then inhibit your production of melatonin.
Fortunately, as our Sleep Advisor Marianna discusses in her blog, ‘Top 5 foods to help you get a good night’s sleep’ it is possible to find sources of melatonin within your diet. Sour cherry juice, bananas and kiwis fruits are just a few of the foods that she mentions but it’s also worth noting that magnesium, a vital mineral for your mood and muscles and joints, has recently been shown to decrease your cortisol so try and include more of this important mineral in your diet too!3
You can find magnesium in food such as green leafy vegetables, bananas, avocados and pumpkinseeds!
What you should be watching out for…
If you’re looking to avoid a hormonal imbalance then there are some key foods you may want to watch out for. Now, I’m not saying you have to completely jettison these foods from your diet - we all need the occasional treat now and then! It’s just important to bear them in mind and to make sure that if these are included in your diet, that it is in moderation.
Too much dairy: Dairy can be a controversial topic, with some arguing that we need dairy products like milk and yoghurt to increase our intake of protein and calcium. However, others find that consuming dairy is often linked to skin problems like acne and can upset your digestion too. While I think a small amount of dairy in your diet is nothing to worry about, getting too much dairy can definitely upset your hormones. As our Skin Advisor Mandy Ward discusses in her blog, ‘Do dairy products really cause acne?’ most forms of cow’s milk contain a hormone known as IGF-1, a growth hormone which is often linked to acne.
Refined sugar: Refined sugar is a real problem when it comes to your gut health as it helps to feed the unfriendly bacteria in your gut, it can upset your blood sugar levels and can even contribute to unhealthy sleep patterns. I speak a bit more about the detrimental effects of sugar on your hormones in my blog, ‘How does sugar affect your hormones.’
Alcohol: There’s nothing wrong with the odd glass of wine or fancy cocktail but if you’re drinking alcohol on a daily basis or regularly bingeing at the weekend, you’re going to feel the aftermath. Not only can excessive alcohol consumption damage your liver and upset your skin, it can also interfere with your cognitive function, specifically your hypothalamus and pituitary gland. These areas of your brain are responsible for secreting several different hormones, including dopamine, the human growth hormone, oxytocin and TSH, the thyroid stimulating hormones.