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.
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:
- Grass-Fed Butter
- Well-Raised Meat
Remember, fats are your friends!
Protein is necessary to make peptide hormones.
- Thyroid Hormones
- 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.
- 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.
- Weight Gain
- 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.
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.
Raw Nuts and Seeds (can be soaked overnight and dehydrated for easier digestion)
- Olive Oil and Olives
- Coconut Oil and Coconut
- Avocado oil and Avocados
- Wild Pacific Salmon
- Rainbow Trout (Not Farmed)
- Dark Chocolate
- 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)
- Root Veggies
- Ancient Grains
- Whole Grains
- Fruits & Veggies of all Colors
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.
Follow Us on Instagram
Legal Disclaimer: Before participating in any diet or exercise program or using any diet or fitness products or services that may be described and/or made accessible in or through our website, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician or other healthcare provider. Food Period and its staff are not licensed medical care providers, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, relationship counselors, life coaches, first responders or any other kind of professional care provider ("Professional Care Provider") and have no expertise in advising on, diagnosing, examining, or treating medical, psychological, emotional, relationship or personal growth conditions of any kind ("Conditions"), or in determining the effect of any specific action, activity, routine or program (e.g., exercise or diet) on a medical condition or any other Condition. While some of Food Period’s content providers may be Professional Care Providers, Food Period, its staff and its content providers are not rendering professional advice of any kind to you personally, including without limitation, medical, psychological, emotional, relationship or personal growth advice, counseling, therapy, treatment or coaching ("Professional Advice"), but are merely providing general education and information to you about wellness topics. You acknowledge and agree that when participating in any diet, exercise, yoga or exercise program or other activity or program described on our website, there is the possibility of physical injury, emotional distress and/or death, and you assume the risk and responsibility for any such results. Our website content is not meant to be a substitute for Professional Advice from Your Professional Care Provider and we make no warranties, express or implied, as to the completeness, accuracy, or appropriateness for any purpose of any information or content contained in our website. You are advised that health advice and other Professional Advice is often subject to updating and refining due to medical and other research and developments. We are committed to bringing you the most up to date information, however, we make no guarantee that the information herein is the most recent on any particular subject. You are encouraged to consult with your health care provider or other Professional Care Provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding any health condition or any other Condition that you may have before starting any exercise program, making changes to your diet or engaging in any other activity or program described in our website content. You should never disregard medical or other Professional Advice or delay seeking it because of a statement you have read and/or heard in our website content. Our website content should not be used in lieu of Professional Advice given by qualified medical professionals such as your doctor or registered dietitian or other Professional Care Provider. It is important that our website is used only in conjunction with qualified medical guidance and guidance provided by other applicable Professional Care Providers. If you know or suspect that you may be pregnant, have an eating disorder, have diabetes, or have any other physical, psychological, emotional or medical condition, it is imperative that you seek the advice of your doctor or other Professional Care Provider prior to using our website content. If you experience any discomfort or pain during an activity in our website content, such as a diet or exercise routine, you must immediately cease the activity and seek the assistance of a physician or other applicable Professional Care Provider.