What are they?
Hormones are chemical messengers that have profound effects on your mental, physical, and emotional health. For instance, they play a major role in controlling your appetite, weight, and mood.
Typically, when in balance, your body produces the precise amount of each hormone needed for various processes to keep you healthy.
However, sedentary lifestyles and Western diets may affect your hormones. In addition, levels of certain hormones decline with age, and some well experience a more dramatic decrease than others.
However, keeping on eye on your hormone levels and having a nutritious diet and other healthy lifestyle habits may help improve your hormonal health and allow you to feel and perform your best.
Here are 10 natural ways to balance your hormones
1. Eat enough protein at every meal
Consuming adequate amounts of protein is extremely important.
Not only does protein provide essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own, but your body also needs it to produce protein-derived hormones — also known as peptide hormones.
Your endocrine glands make these hormones from amino acids. Peptide hormones play a crucial role in regulating many physiological processes, such as growth, energy metabolism, appetite, stress, and reproduction.
Eating sufficient protein triggers the production of peptide hormones, some of which suppress appetite and help you feel full. Aim for a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein per meal
2. Engage in regular exercise
Physical activity strongly influences hormonal health. Aside from improving blood flow to your muscles, exercise increases hormone receptor sensitivity, meaning that it enhances the delivery of nutrients and hormone signals.
A major benefit of exercise is its ability to reduce insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to take up sugar from your bloodstream to use for energy. However, if you have a condition called insulin resistance, your cells may not effectively react to insulin. This condition is a risk factor for diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Strength training, aerobics, walking, and other forms of exercise may modify hormone levels to reduce your risk of disease and prevent muscle mass decline as you age such as testosterone, IGF-1, DHEA, and human growth hormone (HGH).
For people who cannot perform vigorous exercise, even regular walking may increase these hormone levels, potentially improving strength and quality of life.
3. Maintain a moderate weight
Weight gain is directly associated with hormonal imbalances that may lead to complications in insulin sensitivity and reproductive health.
Obesity is strongly related to the development of insulin resistance, while losing excess weight is linked to improvements in insulin resistance and reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Maintaining a moderate weight is crucial for hormone health, as obesity is strongly related to hormonal imbalances that may impair insulin sensitivity and fertility.
Therefore, studies indicate that weight loss and eating within your own personal calorie range can help you maintain hormonal balance and a moderate weight.
4. Take care of your gut health
Your gut contains more than 100 trillion friendly bacteria, which produce numerous metabolites that may affect hormone health both positively and negatively.
A healthy gut microbiome may positively influence your hormones by regulating your appetite, and feelings of fullness, and reducing insulin resistance.
Studies show that obesity may change the composition of the gut microbiome to promote insulin resistance and inflammation.
5. Lower your sugar intake
Minimising added sugar intake may be instrumental in optimising hormone function and avoiding obesity, diabetes, and other diseases.
The simple sugar fructose is present in many types of sugar, comprising up to 43% of honey, 50% of refined table sugar, 55% of high fructose corn syrup, and 90% of agave.
In addition, sugar-sweetened beverages are the primary source of added sugars in the Western diet, and fructose is commonly used commercially in soft drinks, fruit juice, and sport and energy drinks.
Diets high in sugar have been shown to promote insulin resistance, disrupt your gut microbiome, and reduce leptin production. Thus, lowering your sugar intake may aid hormonal health.
Fructose intake has increased worldwide since 1980, and studies consistently show that eating added sugar promotes insulin resistance — regardless of total calorie intake or weight gain.
Also, fructose may fail to stimulate the production of the fullness hormone leptin, leading to decreased calorie burning and increased weight gain.
Therefore, reducing your intake of sugary drinks — and other sources of added sugar — may improve hormone health.
6. Try stress reduction techniques
Stress harms your hormones in several ways.
The hormone cortisol is known as the stress hormone because it helps your body cope with long-term stress.
Your body’s response to stress activates a cascade of events that leads to cortisol production. Once the stressor has passed, the response ends. However, chronic stress impairs the feedback mechanisms that return your hormonal systems to normal.
Therefore, chronic stress causes cortisol levels to remain elevated, which stimulates appetite and increases your intake of sugary and high fat foods. In turn, this may lead to excessive calorie intake and obesity.
In addition, high cortisol levels stimulate gluconeogenesis — the production of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources — which may cause insulin resistance.
Notably, research shows that you can lower your cortisol levels by engaging in stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, and listening to relaxing music.
Try to devote at least 10–15 minutes per day to these activities, even if you feel you don’t have time.
7. Consume healthy fats
Including high quality natural fats in your diet may help reduce insulin resistance and appetite.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are unique fats that are less likely to be stored in fat tissue and more likely to be taken up directly by your liver for immediate use as energy, promoting increased calorie burning and are also less likely to promote insulin resistance.
Furthermore, healthy fats such as omega-3’s help increase insulin sensitivity by reducing inflammation and pro-inflammatory markers.
These healthy fats are found in avocados, almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, fatty fish, and olive and coconut oils.
8. Get consistent, high quality sleep
No matter how nutritious your diet or how consistent your exercise routine, getting enough restorative sleep is crucial for optimal health.
Poor sleep is linked to imbalances in many hormones and has been shown to decrease fullness hormones, increase hunger and stress hormones, and increase insulin resistance.
For instance, not only does sleep deprivation impair insulin sensitivity, but poor sleep is associated with a 24-hour increase in cortisol levels, which may lead to insulin resistance.
Plus, your brain needs uninterrupted sleep to go through all five stages of each sleep cycle. This is especially important for the release of growth hormone, which occurs mainly at night during deep sleep.
To maintain optimal hormonal balance, aim for at least 7 hours of high quality sleep per night.
9. Follow a high fibre diet
Fibre is essential to a healthy diet.
Studies have found that it increases insulin sensitivity and stimulates the production of hormones that make you feel full.
Although soluble fibre tends to produce the strongest effects on appetite by increasing fullness hormones, insoluble fibre may also play a role so try to eat several high fibre foods each day.
10. Consider following the Mediterranean diet
Ostrogen is a hormone involved in female reproductive health, as well as blood sugar balance, bone and heart health, and immune and brain function.
However, oestrogen levels that are either too low or too high have been linked to acute and chronic health conditions, including obesity, metabolic disorders, and various cancers.
However, dietary choices may contribute to changes in your oestrogen levels.
Research shows that the Western diet — primarily composed of refined sugars and animal products — is linked to higher oestrogen levels, which are a risk factor for breast and ovarian cancers.
But following a Mediterranean-style diet rich in whole grains, seeds, fish, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower may help reduce oestrogen levels and, thus, cancer risk.
Your hormones are involved in every aspect of your health. You need them in very specific amounts for your body to function optimally.
Hormone imbalances may increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions.
Although aging and other factors that affect hormones are beyond your control, you can take several steps to help manage your hormone levels.
Checking you have optimal hormone balance, and no symptoms of oestrogen dominance, as well as consuming nutritious foods, exercising regularly, reducing stress and getting enough sleep may go a long way toward improving your hormonal health.
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