Last post I talked about natural supplementation of phytoestrogens to help with hormone balance. There are dietary factors in hormone balance too, so we’ll talk about those today. In fact, many hormone issues can be naturally managed, or at the very least improved, through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies. Next post I’ll go over some of the lifestyle factors to consider.
The key with diet is to eat a wide variety of foods to make sure you get all your vitamins and minerals. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium are crucial, but really all vitamins and minerals are co-factors for biochemical pathways. Every biochemical reaction and every pathway requires co-factors and enzymes in order to operate – just like a car engine needs both water and oil to operate. Most of those co-factors are vitamins and minerals. So if your diet is not providing adequate vitamins and minerals, the cofactors and enzymes will be compromised and pathways will not operate efficiently.
Another important factor with diet is to minimize your intake of xenoestrogens – these are estrogens that come from outside of the body, and are foreign to our bodies. Drinking water out of soft plastic bottles could be one source of phthalates, a major xenoestrogen, same goes for plastic wrap on food especially when it’s being heated; eating non-organic poultry that has been given hormones to influence its growth would be another. Tap water contains petroleum derivatives which are a source of xenoestrogens. Any non-organic food with traces of pesticides and fertilizers would contain xenoestrogens. This is thought to be one of the biggest causes of estrogen dominance.
Eating for a healthy liver also helps hormone balance, since the liver detoxifies most of our hormones. Liver friendly foods include onions, garlic, beets, artichokes, dandelion, kale and other leafy greens, broccoli and lemons. Eating organic food and organic/ free-range/ grass-fed poultry and meats reduces the stress on the liver by minimizing the chemicals it has to detoxify. Avoiding excess alcohol and caffeine all helps too.
Cruciferous veggies such as arugula, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, radish, turnip and watercress are great for hormone balance, as they contain sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinates that support the healthy metabolism of estrogen and reduce cancer risk. Some people are concerned that cruciferous veggies will create problems for their thyroid, but studies show that it would take a LOT of cruciferous veggies to interfere with thyroid function, and even then it would effect those with low iodine levels primarily. One study in humans found that the consumption of 5oz a day of cooked Brussel’s sprouts for four weeks had no adverse effects on thyroid function. So it would seem that 1-2 servings per day would be safe for the majority of people, and could confer great benefits for their health.
Eating adequate protein is important as it puts less stress on the adrenals. Small amounts of food eaten frequently, with some lean protein in each meal, is the best pattern for adrenal health as it prevents the bouncing around of blood sugar which puts added demands on cortisol to help regulate it. Given that 35% of our reproductive hormones are produced by the adrenals before menopause, and 50% after menopause, it’s worth keeping our adrenals happy so that that output doesn’t suffer. In my next post I’ll talk about the role of stress on the adrenals and how that can impact our reproductive hormones so keep an eye out for that.