Issues and Challenges

How to Balance Hormones with Balanced Diet

We are what we eat. Ever wondered why we experience mood swings, have difficulty falling asleep or are low on energy sometimes. Hormones affect our mental, physical and emotional health and they play a major role in controlling our appetite, weight and mood, among other things. Hormonal imbalance in women has become prevalent in today’s fast-paced world because of lifestyle choices that often prove unhealthy. This leads to women facing various problems in dealing with challenges of everyday life, whether physical or mental.

What are Hormones?
They are chemical messengers, which control bodily functions. An imbalance that might occur can cause problems ranging from infertility to diabetes, but certain foods can help keep our hormones balanced. Some very common symptoms of hormonal imbalance are weight gain, uncontrollable cravings, indigestion, depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, sleep disturbances, increased sweating, acne, chills and hot flashes. 
Important Hormones
•    Adrenaline, known as “fight or flight” hormone, allows a person to have more energy.
•    Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH), known as the stress hormone stimulates production of cortisol.
•    Angiotensin maintains blood pressure.
•    Calcitonin controls calcium and potassium.
•    Erythropoietin produces red blood cells.
•    Estrogen is linked with female puberty and pregnancy.
•    Ghrelin controls appetite.
•    Growth Hormone or somatotropin controls body growth.
•    Insulin controls the amount of glucose in our bloodstream.
•    Leptin is linked to weight management.
•    Melatonin is associated with control of the sleep/wake cycle.
•    Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) regulates serum calcium concentration through its effects on bone, kidney, and intestine.
•    Progesterone regulates menstrual cycle and gestation.
•    Serotonin is concerned with mood, emotions and happiness.
•    Thyroid hormone is concerned with weight, metabolism, internal temperature, hair growth and energy.

Comon Conditions of Hormonal Imbalance
Everyone experiences phases of hormonal imbalance or fluctuations at particular points in their life especially during puberty, pregnancy, postpartum, lactation, menopause, stress and trauma. However, hormonal imbalances can also occur when the endocrine glands are not functioning properly. Endocrine glands are specialized cells that produce, store and release hormones into the blood. Several medical conditions are known to influence some, or several, of the endocrine glands. Certain lifestyle choices, habits and environmental factors may also play a role in hormonal imbalance.
For instance, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) occurs in some women of childbearing age due to abnormal hormone levels, characterized by cysts in ovaries infertility, irregular periods, increased hair growth on face and body, pattern baldness, acne and weight gain. High amounts of thyroid hormone results in hyperthyroidism whereas low hypothyroidism. In hyperthyroidism a person encounters anxiety, excessive sweating, palpitations, unintentional weight loss and frequent bowel movements. On the contrary, hypothyroidism causes depression, weight gain, fatigue, sensitivity to cold and constipation. 
It is hard to check hormone levels in blood as they change from day to day and hour to hour, so we need to make sure that we protect ourselves against this by making healthy choices concerning lifestyle and diet.
Importance of Adequate Diet
To avoid hormonal variance, it is important that we consume a balanced diet; it is a natural and permanent solution. To optimize hormone health, experts recommend consuming a minimum of 20–30 grams of proteins per meal as it provides you with essential amino acids, which your body cannot make on its own. Eggs, meat, beans and lentils are great sources of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Quinoa is another item packed with protein, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Fat cells create hormones. Consume healthy fats containing Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids that decrease the level of stress hormones and insulin resistance in gestational diabetes. Fatty fish is loaded with Omega-3. Nuts, in particular almonds, walnuts and peanuts, balance insulin and vitamin B6 levels. Flaxseeds are known as a superfood along with chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Healthy fats increase hormones that make you feel full. Replace refined oils with desi ghee made at home or olive oil for cooking.
Probiotics in yoghurt and pickles enhance function of digestive hormones. Drinks in form of desi kanji, lassi and chaas (dahi-based drink)possess probiotics and are much better than sugary beverages available in the market.
Herbs such as basil, mushroom, parsley, thyme and rosemary boost thyroid function and stabilize hormones. They reduce anxiety and depression as well. Fiber triggers the hormone that keeps us satisfied. Try to consume bread cooked in whole wheat flour or barley. Avoid white bread and white sugar as much as possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Spinach aids production of thyroid hormone. Sweet potatoes help in liver detoxification and hence help in getting rid of surplus hormones. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts, are superstars at helping our livers metabolize estrogen in an efficient and healthy way. Cauliflower, kale and cabbage also help fight off cancer cells. Avoid consuming processed foods as they carry additives and preservatives, which are neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors. Processed meat and confectionery items contain saturated and unsaturated fats, which pave the way for hormonal imbalance.
Replace your morning coffee with herbal tea. Coffee has substantial amounts of caffeine that stay in your body for up to 6 hours and affect your nervous system causing anxiety. It increases the hormones associated with stress and fight or flight response. Green tea balances insulin, stress hormone, and female androgens. Stevia is a natural sweetener but if you are pregnant or have a pre-existing hormonal disturbance, refrain from it. Too much of it can affect fertility.
Along with a balanced diet, incorporate some form of physical activity in your daily lives and sleep for at least 7 hours. Lack of sleep, stress and processed foods can also throw off hormones directly or indirectly by influencing the gut microbiome, which keeps hormones balanced. Avoid overeating or excessive dieting and aim to eat at least 1200 calories per day. Food plays a major role in many bodily functions and disruption of food can result in health conditions, which lowers the quality of life. Not eating enough total calories, healthy fats or fiber can disrupt hormones and may lead to conditions like obesity, diabetes, infertility and cancer. So opt for healthier food options to balance hormones because hormones influence growth and development, metabolism, digestion, fertility, stress, mood, energy, appetite, weight and more. Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and proteins keeps hormones balanced. HH

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“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. when diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”   

— Anonymous

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