It’s a rare person these days who doesn’t experience symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
From mood swings to fatigue, skin issues to insomnia, the plight of hormones run wild seems nearly inescapable…especially for women.
But, how can you tell if you’re suffering from a true hormonal imbalance versus a normal monthly flux?
For women, monthly hormonal fluctuations—which often result in mild symptoms like temporary fatigue, skin breakouts, a heightened sense of emotion, bloating, and/or food cravings—are a normal (albeit annoying) part of life.
Even men can experience mild hormone fluctuations as they move through different stages in their lives.
However, if those monthly fluctuations become more-than-mild and start interfering with your life and happiness, it’s highly likely a hormonal imbalance is to blame.
Hormonal imbalance is extremely common, and has increased in prevalence over the last three decades.
It can also take on many obvious and not-so-obvious forms in men and women, such as:
- Andropause symptoms
- Bone-loss disorders
- Digestive issues
- Hot flashes (at any age)
- Low libido
- Painful periods
- Peri-menopause and menopausal symptoms
- Postpartum issues
- Sensitivity to cold
- Skin disorders
- Thinning hair
- Thyroid imbalances
- Weight-gain/inability to lose weight
What’s Causing this Modern Epidemic of Hormonal Imbalance?
While there much speculation over the cause behind the modern surge in hormonal health issues, based on the research and my clinical experience it is my belief that toxic exposures—from our foods, personal care products and environment—and chronic stress play primary roles in this new epidemic.
I discuss the research and implications of these insidious hormone-mimicking toxins found in plastics, pesticides, herbicides, cleaning and personal care products at length in my book: Bloom.
The good news is, protecting your body and balancing your hormones doesn’t have to be complicated.
In fact, there are incredibly powerful hormone balancing superfoods you can eat every day to protect your body’s endocrine system, support detoxification and create better hormonal balance and overall health.
Hormone Balancing Superfood #1: Healthy Fats
Fats provide the building blocks for proper hormone production, metabolism, and balance; and certain fats can help quell your stress hormones too.
The problem is, most of us are eating too much of the wrong fats…and/or not enough of the right fats.
The wrong type of fats typically come from highly-processed seed oils.
These popular oils, like canola oil for example, have been touted as heart-healthy. But the truth is, their high-content of omega-6 fatty acids can cause chronic inflammation, which fuels the flames of hormonal imbalance.
The best tried and true healthy fats to support hormonal balance include:
- Fats rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids such as:
- Fish oil
- Chia seeds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Coconut Oil
- Organic, pastured butter (if you’re not sensitive to dairy products)
Hormone Balancing Superfood #2: Leafy greens and colorful vegetables
When it comes to eating for hormonal health and detoxification, colorful vegetables are one of your greatest allies.
The reason is that colorful vegetables contain specific nutrients, antioxidants, enzymes, and other substances that help your liver metabolize excess hormones like estrogen(1).
Many people don’t realize that liver function and hormonal balance are intimately connected.
In fact, in addition to its hundreds of other jobs, your liver is responsible for storing, conjugating, metabolizing, breaking down, and excreting hormones.
It also plays a vital role in blood sugar balance, which we’ll discuss a bit more coming up.
Therefore, upping your plant consumption is one of the most effective, inexpensive, and delicious ways to help support hormonal balance.
- Beets contain the amino acid, betaine, which helps increase bile production(1)
- Kale, contains antioxidants and a type of resin that helps unburden the liver by lowering cholesterol(1)
- And cabbages contain glucosinolates, which help negate the effects of alcohol on the liver(1)
Women will also benefit from increasing their intake of dark leafy green vegetables around their monthly cycle.
This helps support the liver and gives you an extra shot of iron when you need it most.
Aim for 3-4 servings a day around that time of month (green smoothies work great for this).
These are just a few examples of how nutrient-dense vegetables help nourish and protect your liver. For best results, aim for 7-10 servings of a variety of colorful vegetables daily.
Hormone Balancing Superfood #3: High-Quality Proteins
Proteins play a significant role in a variety of hormonal processes: from helping keep your blood sugar stable which affects the hormone insulin, to providing the amino acids necessary for essential hormone production.
Protein also helps your body’s organs and systems repair themselves so they can function optimally.
How much protein do you need daily?
To keep things simple, aim to include about a palm-sized portion of protein with every meal and a small handful of protein-rich foods at every snack.
If you want to get down-to-grams technical, then take your body’s weight in pounds and divide by 0.75. That’s the number, in grams, to consume daily for optimal hormonal health.
You can choose animal or plant-based proteins, but a combination of both is typically beneficial to ensure you consume enough essential amino acids.
I do recommend avoiding soy products, because their high phyto-estrogen content can quickly negate your hormone-balancing efforts.
Hormone Balancing Superfood #4: Lemons, limes and bitters
Pucker up buttercup!
I recommend all my patients with hormonal imbalance drink at least one glass of lemon or lime water per day.
The reason is, lemons and limes contain the antioxidant: d-limonene, which has been shown to activate liver enzymes that help facilitate the two phases of detoxification.
You can drink your lemon or lime water straight-up, as a warming tonic first thing in the morning or before bed or add a few drops of liquid stevia for a refreshing and healthy lemonade.
For an even more hormonal-balancing, liver-supporting pick-me-up, try adding lemon or lime juice to a cup of antioxidant-rich green tea.
Or if you prefer, liquid bitters can be taken after a meal to both stimulate digestion and encourage liver detoxification.
Hormone Balancing Superfood #5: Magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium is one of the most powerful and underestimated minerals for improving a variety of hormonal imbalances and symptoms.
It’s also a mineral Americans are widely deficient in, and the research has been pouring in about the effects of magnesium deficiency over the last decade.
When it comes to hormonal health, magnesium has been shown to play a variety of roles such as:
- Reducing stress hormones which help regulate cortisol and quell adrenal issues(2)
- Helps reduce anxiety(3)
- Helps control blood sugar by regulating insulin(4)
- Plays a key role in the production of thyroid hormones(5)
- Helps combat symptoms of PMS, when paired with Vitamin B6(6)
- Helps reduce sleep issues by helping both your body and your brain relax(7)
Your best food-based sources of magnesium are:
- Dark, leafy greens
- Dark chocolate (yay!)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Black beans
In addition, if you’re suffering from any of the symptoms listed above it is wise to consider magnesium supplementation in addition to upping your food sources.
Generally, I recommend patients take between 300-500 mg of magnesium glycinate per day before bed.
I recommend the glycinate form specifically, because of its proven superior absorbability and gentleness on the stomach(8).
As I said above, balancing your hormones doesn’t have to be complicated.
Often, a simple shift in diet—like cutting back on processed foods and enjoying some (or all) of these hormone balancing superfoods, coupled with stress management techniques, can go a long way in restoring balance.
Want to take it a step further?
A certified functional medicine physician can help you pin-point specific hormonal imbalances, and create a targeted protocol that addresses the root cause.
My hope is this information will help empower you to choose the very best foods that support your very best hormonal—and whole body—health.
For more inspiration and recipes, be sure to check out the Food is Medicine section of the blog and download the first three Chapters of my best-selling book, Bloom for free here.