How to support your hormones to work harmoniously together

By March 28, 2019 The Body Space

The other week Nicky, one of our founders shared her story about her hormones and what she was doing to get them back in balance. After a huge response from you all we thought we would ask our nutritionist Catherine Lippe how our diet influences hormones. Over to Catherine…

Our hormones are constantly changing. From week-to-week, day-to-day and hour-to-hour there will be frequent changes in your hormones which will be influenced by a whole host of factors including:

  • Sleep
  • stress
  • environmental factors
  • food
  • menstrual cycle
  • age 
  • other physiological processes taking place in your body

Your hormones work together and influence one another, meaning a change to one hormone results in changes to others. For example, in individuals who are more resistant to the hormone insulin, the body must produce larger amounts of insulin in order to convert energy (glucose) from food into fuel for the body. This increase in insulin production can cause oestrogen in the ovaries to be converted into testosterone, which can offset your hormonal balance.

There are several ways you can support your hormones to work harmoniously together for optimum health and mood, such as:

  • eating well
  • sleeping well
  • staying hydrated
  • reducing stress
  • staying physically active

As always, eating a healthy balanced diet can support and enhance this harmonious equilibrium and below are a few of the key nutrients which can support your hormones in their unique roles.

Fats:

Hormones are made from cholesterol and whilst cholesterol can be made by your body in the liver, eating foods rich in healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocados and olive oil will also support your body’s hormone production and overall health.

Low Glycaemic Index (GI) foods

As explained above, the hormone insulin helps our body convert food to energy. When our body produces lots of insulin, such as in the case of insulin resistance, the body converts oestrogen into testosterone and this can upset the balance of hormones in the body. A low GI diet can help to avoid excessive production of insulin.  Here’s a list of high and low GI foods:

High GI:

  • refined carbohydrates such as sugary foods and drinks
  • white bread,
  • white rice
  • white pasta

Low GI:

  • wholegrain carbohydrates
  • high fibre foods
  • wholegrain bread
  • brown rice
  • whole wheat pasta
  • buckwheat
  • quinoa
  • beans, pulses, lentils
  • oats.

Another useful benefit to a high fibre diet (and there are many!) is that the body excretes excess oestrogen through our stools. Therefore, if you are not getting enough fibre your body’s ability to excrete excess oestrogen is reduced and this again can lead to increased testosterone levels.

Iodine rich foods:

Iodine is needed for the production of thyroxine, the hormone used by the thyroid gland to regulate metabolism, growth and development. Sufficient Iodine intake during pregnancy is also vital to support brain development in the foetus. Iodine is found in dairy foods, sea fish and shellfish and most individuals who consume dairy and fish will be able to achieve the recommendation iodine intake through a balanced diet.

How much iodine do I need?

Adults

150 micrograms (mcg) per day

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

200 micrograms (mcg) per day

Iodine containing foods:

Food Type

Food

Portion

Average Iodine per portion mcg. Content will vary depending on season

Dairy Foods

Cow’s milk

200ml

50-100

Organic cow’s milk

200ml

30-60

Yoghurt

150g

50-100

Cheese

40g

15

Fish and shellfish

Haddock

120g

390

Cod

120g

230

Plaice

130g

30

Prawns

100g

10

Other

Eggs

1 egg (50g)

25

If you follow a vegan diet or don’t regularly consume fish, shellfish or dairy may be worth considering a supplement.

Vitamin D:

For overall health and in particular musculoskeletal health (joints, bones and muscles) we should all be taking a vitamin D supplement of 10mcg per day during the winter months (October -April) however there is some emerging evidence that vitamin D can support hormone balance and reduce insulin insensitivity. Pregnant, breastfeeding and women over the age of 50 should take a supplement of 10mcg per day throughout the year, not just in the winter months.

Plenty of fruit and veg:

Fruit and vegetables contain a plethora of vitamin and minerals which have many useful functions within the body including the function and transportation of hormones as well as conversion metabolism and energy conversion. Aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily. Opting for different coloured fruits and vegetables will ensure you achieve a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

In addition to foods it’s important to stay hydrated, limit alcohol and caffeine intake and stay physically active. Taking some time out for rest, relaxation and ensuring you have a good sleep routine will also help to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol and improve overall health. Just as your hormone system is intricate and requires a holistic approach, the same principle should be applied to your diet and lifestyle. As with most things, there is no quick fix or magic answer (if only!) but adopting a healthy lifestyle and making time for self-care will certainly be of benefit. 

Catherine x

Sarah

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