In this 5-part series I’ll share the incredible link between the foods you eat and your hormones. I see so many patients whose hormones are off balance, and often the key to shifting them back is sitting right on the shelf of the grocery store. Of course targeted herbal medicine and homeopathy can support powerful transformation, but food and nutrition is the foundation of change, and lifelong health.
The five hormones I will cover in this series are insulin, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and thyroid hormones. They are all interrelated and most of the time an imbalance in one tells me I need to look into the whole picture. For each hormone, I’ll quickly cover its main function, some key symptoms that might indicate imbalance, and how the foods you eat influence it. At the end of each section you’ll learn simple tips you can begin incorporating right away to get yourself back on track and feeling amazing.
Why did I start with insulin, and not with estrogen, progesterone or thyroid? Because if you balance your insulin levels, you actually make a huge positive shift in ALL of your hormones, which makes everything else much easier.
Insulin is the hormone that helps balance your blood sugars. Blood sugar imbalance is one of THE single biggest causes behind diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. This means that once you nail the concepts I outline here, you’ll reduce your risk of the big three AND set the stage for lifelong hormonal health. Now that’s solid!
Your pancreas, an organ right near your stomach, just below the center of your ribcage, secretes insulin. It does this in response to sugar you eat, in order to get it out of your blood stream and into the cells where it can be used for energy. The simple equation to remember here is sugar ingestion = insulin secretion.
How does insulin relate to your hormone balance? One of the main ways is in regulating your free testosterone and estrogen levels. High levels of insulin in the blood from eating a lot of sugar reduce the production of a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG attaches to testosterone estrogen and transports them safely in inactive forms. Less SHBG means more free, active testosterone and estrogen floating through your bloodstream. This can wreak havoc on your fertility and female hormone balance.
Do you have any of the following symptoms?
- Obesity or difficulty losing weight
- Fatigue after meals
- Cravings for sweets
- Belly fat
- Tiredness and brain fog that improves after you have something to eat
If so, you may have high insulin levels and/or blood sugar imbalances.
How can you balance insulin levels with food?
1) Reduce the total amount of sugar you bring INTO your body
The easiest way to do this is to avoid sugary drinks, candies and sweets. I have yet to meet anyone who finds this a fun thing to do, so rather than quit cold turkey, replace any sweets with healthy options. Here are some quick tips:
- Replace pop with seltzer water. Seltzer water with a ¼ cup of fruit juice is fizzy and has a nice taste, but not nearly the amount of sugar or chemical sweeteners as pop.
- Replace sweets with a moderate amount of dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa). You can find small bars, or if you’re able to have it sitting around, treat yourself to a square or two here and there.
- Switch from white to whole-wheat options for breads and baked goods, and look for bread products where you can actually see bits of nuts, seeds and grains.
If you’ve already managed to move out the most obvious culprits, like white bread, baked goods, pop and candy, your next step is to pay attention to the overall amount of carbs in your diet.
- Divide your carbs in half – choose to make open-faced sandwiches, skip the bread basket, and fill no more than 1/3 of your plate with the starch in your meal (rice, pasta, etc). Some patients find it easier to think about filling HALF of the plate with veggies first, which usually only leaves 1/3 for other carbs once you add the protein.
2) Eat foods that absorb from your gut into your bloodstream SLOWLY
- Always combine protein and carbohydrates in meals and snacks. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats all absorb into your blood stream at different rates. A handful of jelly beans only takes a few minutes to form a tidal wave of sugar in your blood stream, whereas a piece of whole grain bread might take 20 minutes. The grains and ground bits of fiber slow down absorption. Proteins take about two hours to absorb, which helps even out blood sugars between meals. Some examples of snacks that include protein and complex carbohydrates include
– Apple with almond butter
– Veggies with bean dip
– Fruit with nuts & seeds
– Turkey breast and collard green roll with mustard
Balancing your blood sugar and reducing insulin levels is absolutely the most important thing you can do to lay the foundation for optimal hormonal health.
If you think your blood sugar levels are out of balance, or you have health concerns like PCOS, infertility, abdominal weight gain, missed periods or other hormone-related issues, I encourage you to take the next step in taking care of yourself and contact me. The best first step is to book a free 20 minute breakout session, where we’ll explore your biggest needs, and the realm of possibilities for you. Click here to book online.
In the next newsletter, I’ll cover the essential topic of stress hormones. I’ll share how what you eat can increase stress, lead to burnout and off-set your estrogen and progesterone levels. And as always, I’ll cover a few key things you can start doing right away to feel incredible.