I was recently talking with one of my clients about the topic of how food impacts our hormone health – which foods can do wonders for balancing hormones, and which foods are the WORST for hormone balance. As much as I don’t like classifying foods as “good” or “bad”, there are certainly some foods that are toxic to your hormones and that I absolutely advise women to stay away from completely. It’s important to be aware of the foods that are particularly disruptive to your hormonal balance and that are most likely to trigger hormonal symptoms like acne, missing periods, irregular cycles, PMS, cramps and heavy bleeding. These are also the foods that can worsen the symptoms of conditions like fibroids, cysts, PCOS, and endometriosis. These foods can not only make us feel bad after eating them, they can also contribute to a more symptomatic cycle and period every month.
Remember that this is not about feeling guilty, or feeling like you’re depriving yourself of some of your favorite foods. This is about redirecting your relationship with food and how you nourish your body so you can feel good, and make sure your hormones are working for you!
It’s important to know which foods are more likely to contribute to hormonal imbalance and exacerbate symptoms such as acne, PMS, or irregular periods. When we know more, we can do better. Whether you’re trying to get your hormones on track, are trying to get pregnant, or you’re already pregnant, making an effort to get the following foods OUT of your daily diet can do wonders for your hormones!
While your morning coffee might make your workday feel more productive, it’s actually throwing off your whole endocrine system, increasing cortisol levels, (i.e. stress hormones) and messing with your blood sugar levels. Sadly, caffeine has an even greater damaging effect on women than it does on men. Coffee depletes essential micronutrients and minerals and increases the body’s propensity to produce cysts, so it’s especially bad news for women with PCOS, functional ovarian cysts, endometriosis, fibroids and fibrocystic breasts. Drop the caffeine and your hormones will thank you almost immediately! Getting off coffee can have a rapid, positive impact on your hormonal health.
The phytoestrogens in soy can exacerbate estrogen dominant symptoms and conditions like PMS, PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, infertility, and low libido. Soy is also one of the most genetically modified crops (in addition to corn). Even if you’re not drinking soy milk and eating tofu, soy is hidden in many foods. Watch out for soybean oil, soy protein, and other soy derivatives found in processed, packaged foods.
In the US, dairy cows are typically kept pregnant to maximize dairy output. This results in high levels of estrogen residue in our dairy products, which disrupts our body’s endocrine function. Recent studies found that there are 20 different chemicals and medications in our milk supply: 5 different types of steroids and growth hormones, 6 different types of antibiotics and 4 types of painkillers. If you are going to consume dairy, ALWAYS make sure it’s organic, grass-fed, full fat and preferably raw (or at least low temperature pasteurized and non-homogenized).
One of the most harmful effects on our hormones from eating refined, sugary foods is imbalanced blood sugar levels throughout the day. Sugar, or foods that turn into sugar (like refined carbohydrates), leads to blood sugar spikes and crashes, resulting in adrenal fatigue, insulin resistance, disrupted ovulation patterns and irregular menstrual cycles. Eating excessive sugar is especially harmful if you suffer from hormonal imbalance, as insulin and your reproductive hormones are closely tied, and can reduce the quality of your follicles (and interestingly a man’s sperm as well). Eating refined sugar products can also cause acidification of the cervical mucus, making it a hostile environment for sperm.
Once you’re pregnant, a diet high in sugar during pregnancy can result in yeast issues before, during, and after the birth, including but not limited to: positive test for group b strep, classic yeast infections, thrush, mastitis, and yeasty, painful diaper rashes. Sugar also feeds yeasts in the digestive system, including Candida. This causes everything from lowered immunity and general fatigue to eczema and even depression. It’s important to note here that this includes artificial sweeteners. Many women are aware of the dangers of sugar, but fewer are aware that artificial sweeteners are no better and hold a host of other potential problems, such as increased miscarriage risk and neurological damage. So stay away from anything listed sugar-free, including sugar-free gum which is a big one for many women!
While most women know that alcohol is unhealthy for a growing fetus, many women might not know how deeply alcohol impacts our hormones, whether or not we’re pregnant! Alcohol is a potent form of sugar, therefore drinking alcohol disrupts blood sugar balance just like eating sugar and refined carbs! Alcohol also severely limits the action of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, the two areas of your brain that control hormonal output for our entire endocrine system. Regular alcohol intake also reduces testosterone production, increases cortisol levels, and wreaks havoc on our insulin levels. If you absolutely must drink alcohol, stick to organic dry wines or high quality clear liquor mixed with club soda and fresh lemon.
One question I’m asked all the time is “Do I really need to buy organic?!” And my answer is always a resounding YES! I encourage women to aim to purchase ALL of your food organic. Especially any food items coming from an animal. Many of the pesticides, chemicals, and hormones used in conventional farming contain synthetic estrogen-like substances that wreak havoc on your hormones. Nearly 40% of the pesticides used in commercial agriculture are suspected hormone disrupters, so it’s really important to choose organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, non-GMO whenever possible.
I’d love to use this space as a forum of sorts, providing inspiration and community among my readers, so … I want to hear from you!
Do you suffer from any diagnosed hormone condition? If so, have you used dietary changes to support your hormonal health?
Do any of these worst foods surprise you?!
Spread some hormone balancing lovin’! Sharing is caring, and I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about how to naturally support optimal hormone balance? Schedule a consultation with me!