Here’s how your diet affects your hormones
A change in diet can result in hormonal changes and affect your health. Dt Deepika, Consultant Nutritionist & Dietician, Motherhood Hospital, Chennai shared with us the importance of nutrition for women and the role it plays in hormonal change.
Hormonal changes can impact different parts of our lives. They can be induced by several factors like food, water, place, temperature etc., your body’s functioning depends on how well you balance your nutrition. Everything that you eat affects your body. Though hormonal imbalances are usually treated with medications and daily exercise routine, the right amount of nutrition provided via consuming healthy balanced food can play a crucial role in keeping our body in harmony.
Hormones can simply be called your body’s chemical messengers. Almost every physiological function, happening in the body such as metabolism, menstrual cycle, reproduction, moods/emotions, immune system, etc. is because of hormones. When there is a shift in the balance of the hormones, it affects the functioning of your body itself. So well, how do you keep it under control?
Healthy diet for balancing hormones
The simplest and most effective way to keep our hormones in check is by maintaining a stable, healthy nutritious diet. Although the word 'diet' sounds cliché and tasking, it is nothing but making sure you are eating the right thing. When one practices a healthy diet, it automatically makes you feel healthier and more energised. Contrary to popular belief, a balanced nutritious diet does not mean eating boring, bland food, nor does it mean banning all your favourite foods. With the right concept in mind, you can always enjoy some delicious food which is great for your body as well as enjoyable to consume.
I know a lot of us cringe at the word vegetables, but when prepared the right way they can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and nutrients. They are rich in nutrition and improve your hormones for the better. They induce better immunity encouraging regular menstruation, rehydrates and also provides your body with several other nutrients. Caffeine and alcohol tend to cause a mild increase in the secretion of Cortisol in our bodies. Cortisol is a hormone that is part of our flight-or-fight response and is also referred to as the stress hormone. If you are going through your menopause phase, it is important that you cut down on caffeine and alcohol. This will keep your cortisol levels in check.
On the other hand, certain kinds of food are forbidden, in case you are suffering from thyroid. Certain cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli cauliflower, soya are found to be goitrogens if consumed raw or in excess. Some foods like red meat are rich in saturated fat, which can escalate the production of estrogen and can create a hormonal imbalance. It’s advisable to switch to healthier versions of meat like fish or eggs that are rich in omega -3 fatty acids.
Similarly, some people consume soya in excess - though it is a good source of protein over consumption could alleviate hormonal symptoms, and the body may get confused on the estrogen levels.
We are well aware of the insulin hormone and how it affects our body. Insulin is one hormone closely associated with diabetes. If you have insulin resistance, your pancreas will continue secreting insulin. However, your muscles, fat and liver cells don’t respond to it properly inducing more secretion in the pancreas. This will shoot up your blood sugar levels resulting in diabetes. Another hormone which is completely opposite to insulin is Glucagon. It is another pancreatic hormone but has an opposite effect to that of Insulin. During extended periods of not eating, the pancreas secretes Glucagon to balance your body’s sugar levels. In order to keep both these hormones in control, we must eat a balanced diet. Too many calories will result in weight gain and too little will result in weakness and fatigue.
During menopause, the estrogen levels in a woman’s body start decreasing. During a woman’s menstrual cycle or pregnancy, estrogen is secreted. Estrogen cannot be obtained from any particular food, however phytoestrogens can be consumed to act as a weak estrogen in the body. The fluctuations in estrogen levels are the main cause of menstrual irregularity, mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats.
Eating food rich in dietary fibres will encourage a healthy balance in hormones. It also aids in improving your digestive system. Instead of forcing your body to digest heavy complex particles, consuming fibre rich food will help your body in breaking down the particles easily. This improves your digestion, making your body absorb the most of what you eat.
A simple change in diet can set a lot of things right. From solving years for infertility or struggling with endometriosis, PCOS, extreme period cramps, diabetes and even acne. Most of the time, the answer to the problem is quite simple. You just need to balance your hormones through a healthy diet.
Including an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates like whole-grain cereals and a moderate amount of high biological value protein with a good amount of healthy fats and focusing on essential vitamins and minerals will help in achieving hormonal balance.
Dt Deepika, Consultant Nutritionist & Dietician, Motherhood Hospital, Chennai.