How Inflammatory Foods Affect Your Hormones And What You Can Eat Instead

How Inflammatory Foods Affect Your Hormones And What You Can Eat Instead

This guest blog post was written by naturopathic doctor Dr. Meghan McNaughton, ND.

Disclaimer: the information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not designed to replace individualized recommendations from a practitioner. Always check with your doctor before adding supplements or making changes to your treatment plan.

When it comes to women’s health, the food we eat plays an important role in balancing hormones.

Food is the fuel that gives our body the vitamins, minerals, protein, and fats it needs to function. It also contributes to how well the body is able to make and use hormones, which can easily become imbalanced when we eat too much of the wrong foods.

In this blog post, I want to highlight how different foods help or hinder hormone balance and lead to PCOS, painful periods, acne, and weight gain.

"You can nourish your hormones, enjoy your meals, and indulge every now and then."

The Building Blocks

Although these are only a few examples, they will hopefully give you an idea of why nutrient-dense food is so important for hormonal health.

Healthy Fats

Since sex-hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol) are made from cholesterol, we need to consume healthy fats to make healthy hormones.

No more of this "low fat" business, ladies. Please!

Adding plenty of healthy fats, including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and certain saturated fats to your diet reduces inflammation and ensures you can make enough of these hormones.

Fats to Incorporate:

      • Nuts
      • Grass-Fed Butter
      • Well-Raised Meat

Remember, fats are your friends!

Protein

Protein is necessary to make peptide hormones.

Examples of Peptide Hormones:
      • Thyroid Hormones
      • FSH
      • LH
      • Digestive Hormones

Getting adequate protein helps to balance blood sugar levels, while also supporting thyroid, digestive, and menstrual function.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are cofactors for all functions within the body. They are the “helpers” in keeping your entire system running well.

Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals are more common than you might think.

For example:

      • Low Iron leads to fatigue and heavy periods (leading to more iron loss).
      • Low Vitamin D levels are associated with low mood, a compromised immune system, and autoimmunity issues.
      • Low Magnesium can cause fatigue, weakness, numbness and tingling, as well as muscle cramps and spasms.

In fact, supplementing magnesium and active B vitamins balances hormones and reduces PMS.

Inflammation 101

Intro to Inflammation
 
You have likely heard that certain foods can be inflammatory.
 
These tend to include fried and processed food, sugar, alcohol, as well as conventionally-raised meat and dairy.
 
Inflammation translates to many unwanted symptoms, but from a women’s health perspective, we are talking about:
      • Acne
      • Weight Gain
      • PMS
      • Painful Periods.

Have you ever noticed that Advil, Ibuprofen, or Aleve reduce your menstrual pain and cramps more than Tylenol? That’s because they’re anti-inflammatory medications, while Tylenol is not.

When it comes to balancing hormones and reducing inflammation, focus on antioxidants and omega-3 rich foods. These include berries, colourful veggies, hemp and flax seeds, along with wild pacific salmon or rainbow trout.

Inflammatory Foods

Top 3 Foods That Contribute to Inflammation:
      • Sugar
      • Gluten
      • Dairy

When consumed too often (or at all for some women), these foods can increase cortisol (a stress hormone), decrease thyroid hormones, contribute to weight gain, and disrupt the estrogen/progesterone balance.

Insulin & Blood Sugar

Why Insulin Resistance Matters

When you eat simple carbohydrates and sugar, your body releases more insulin to prevent your blood sugar from getting too high.

Eating a carbohydrate-focused diet and frequently indulging in desserts increases insulin and can lead to insulin resistance.

As a result of insulin resistance, androgens (testosterone, DHEA) become high, which can cause irregular periods, cysts on the ovaries, acne, and unwanted hair growth. These are all symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), affecting 1-in-10 women.

Even if you aren’t diabetic, pre-diabetic, or overweight, you could have insulin resistance.

The best way to know is to test fasting glucose and fasting insulin levels. You may also want to test your hormone levels of LH, FSH, estradiol, free and total testosterone, DHEA, and progesterone with the guidance of a naturopathic doctor if you suspect you have a hormone imbalance.

Incorporating healthy fats, protein, veggies, and high-fibre foods will go a long way to balancing blood sugar levels and reducing insulin resistance.

Healthy Food, Happy Hormones

Below are some examples of hormone balancing foods.

Healthy Fats:
      • Raw Nuts and Seeds (can be soaked overnight and dehydrated for easier digestion)
      • Nut Butters
      • Olive Oil and Olives
      • Coconut Oil and Coconut
      • Avocado oil and Avocados
      • Wild Pacific Salmon
      • Rainbow Trout (Not Farmed)
      • Dark Chocolate

Clean Protein:

      • Legumes
      • Nuts and Seeds
      • Grass-Fed Collagen
      • Wild-Caught Fish
      • Well-Raised Meat & Eggs (antibiotic and hormone free, no GMO feed)
              • Includes Grass-Fed Beef, Free-Range Chicken, Pastured Pork, Organ Meat (especially rich in Iron and nutrients)
Complex Carbs:
      • Fruit
      • Root Veggies
      • Squash
      • Legumes
      • Ancient Grains
      • Whole Grains
Fresh Produce: 
      • Fruits & Veggies of all Colors

Final Thoughts

While nourishing your body for healthy hormones and decreasing inflammation will go a long way to having happy periods, clear skin, and less bloating, the idea is to eat more whole foods and less processed food.

It is not about being restrictive or perfect. You can nourish your hormones, enjoy your meals, and indulge every now and then. My go-to is dark chocolate.

If you suspect you have imbalanced hormones or experience painful periods, PMS, irregular periods, or fertility challenges, it is important to test your levels and work with your healthcare provider to find solutions that work for you. A naturopathic doctor can run testing, make a diagnosis, and help you to balance hormones with a combination of diet, lifestyle, and supplementation.

Wishing you balanced hormones and happy periods!


Dr. Meghan McNaughton (ND) is a naturopathic doctor at Legacy Health and Performance and she is passionate about getting you beyond feeling “fine”. ​

She was studying biomedical sciences, when Naturopathic care swooped in and changed her life. She knows how scary it is to ride that health roller-coaster. Having overcome two life-threatening bouts of an autoimmune condition, followed by years of digestive troubles and hormone imbalance, Naturopathic care was the only thing that made a difference in making her feel well. She redirected her path to become a Naturopathic Doctor because it’s what made the difference for her and now she wants to make that difference for you.


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