There are many factors that contribute to hormone imbalance that interfere with the way these chemical messengers communicate or disrupt the body’s ability to produce them. These factors may include: genetics, age, lifestyle factors, environmental toxins, the food we eat, and our level of physical activity. The substances that we put into our bodies have a significant effect on how the endocrine system functions. Here is a list of six foods to avoid in order to help restore proper function of our endocrine system and ultimately restore balanced hormones.
Many processed foods (aka foods that have been made in a factory) contain chemicals that cause damage in our bodies at the cellular level. These chemicals such as food additives, synthetic hormones, artificial sweeteners, heavy metals, and flavor enhancers have been linked to hormonal changes in estrogen, thyroid hormone, cortisol and insulin production. These chemicals are used in foods in order to make them taste better, last longer or trick your brain into thinking you want more.
The best thing to do would be to avoid processed foods all together in order to reduce symptoms of hormonal imbalance. The next best thing would be to avoid common processed ingredients such as white flour, hydrogenated or trans-fats, refined vegetable oils and refined sugars.
Each year, the Environmental Working Group produces a list of a dozen or so different types of produce that have been found to have high levels of pesticide residues on them. This list is called the “Dirty Dozen” list. Many of these pesticides are endocrine disrupting chemicals that interfere with normal hormone production and function.
Chronic exposure to these chemicals can lead to food allergies, memory loss, negative effects on the reproductive system, and weight gain. Eating organic versions of those foods listed on the Dirty Dozen can help reduce our exposure to pesticides and reduce our risk of hormone imbalance.
When we consume a high dose of sugar, our body responds by releasing a spike of insulin, cortisol and adrenaline in order to help restore high blood sugar levels back to normal. In addition, sugar affects vitamin and mineral absorption and utilization. This can have a detrimental effect on hormones since they require specific vitamins and minerals to function properly.
The more sugar we eat, the more insulin that is secreted from the pancreas. Eating foods with a high amount of sugar over a long period of time eventually causes the body to become resistant to insulin. When this occurs, cells are unable to get the glucose from the blood that they need for energy thus resulting in Type II diabetes.
The endocrine system is heavily dependent on how the brain functions. The brain is responsible for regulating the release of hormones in various endocrine glands. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland which are located in the brain determine the amount and timing of hormone production. Alcohol not only impairs the way that the brain functions but it also raises blood sugar levels and impairs the body’s response to this excess glucose in the blood. In addition, alcohol increases cortisol production and may have negative effects on growth hormone production.
There is conflicting evidence on whether or not caffeine is good for us or now. Most research agrees that a little bit of caffeine might be good to give our brains a slight boost but drinking too much can wear out the adrenal glands, elevate cortisol and decrease thyroid hormone levels.
This excess consumption of caffeine, from coffee in particular, causes an acute stress response by the endocrine system. Add stress from daily life on top of that and it’s no wonder your hormones are out of whack. In order to avoid long-term negative effects on the endocrine system, cut back on your coffee consumption by switching to herbal or low-caffeine tea instead.
Our bodies need polyunsaturated fat in order to function but it turns out that the ratio of different types of polyunsaturated fat we consume matters more than we might think. Scientists at Pennsylvania State University found that we at need a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in order to rebuild cells and produce hormones.
Some cooking oils such as safflower, corn, cottonseed, vegetable, canola, soybean and peanut oil have a very high concentration of Omega-6s compared to Omega-3s. This unbalanced ratio contributes to hormone imbalance and diet-related diseases. Stick to cooking with oils that have a healthier balance of polyunsaturated fats such as olive, coconut, avocado and walnut oil. Supplementing with Omega-3 rich sources such as chia seeds, flax seeds, fish oil and grass-fed animal products is another way to ensure you’re consuming the proper ratio of polyunsaturated fats.