Recognised as a leader in his field with over 15 years of hands-on experience, Ben Warren is one of New Zealand’s most prominent nutritionists and holistic health experts.
The food we eat can either promote and support our hormones, or work against us – taking up more of your energy to digest and detox it from your body! This is why the foods we eat are essential when it comes to optimal health and hormone balance.
One of the best ways we can support our hormonal balance is by fueling ourselves with nourishing nutrient dense foods.
Everything we eat is broken down into macro and micronutrients. Micronutrients relate to the essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and nutrients within our food. Think of them as the nuts and bolts of how our bodies work. And macronutrients are your bigger building supplies, the timber frame, the roof and the exterior walls of your structure. You’ve probably heard of them already, they’re the big three – protein, fats and carbohydrates.
SO, HOW DOES NUTRIENT STATUS IMPACT OUR HORMONE BALANCE?
Some foods are incredibly energising and rich in the nutrients our bodies thrive on, while others are the opposite and completely rob us of energy and health. The foods that rob us of energy can also throw our hormones out of balance.
Vitamins and minerals act as cofactors for every single metabolic reaction in the body. For example, this means that every time our body creates a hormone or detoxifies a toxin in the liver, it also needs a certain mineral or vitamin to make this happen. To enable optimal function within the body, we need to provide it with plenty of nutrients.
There are just over fifty hormones in the human body delivering chemical messages all around our body telling it what to do. And nutrients are key to not only create our hormones, but also for our liver to clear them when they’re in excess, or when we no longer need them. Without nutrients, our body struggles to make hormones in sufficient quantity for optimal health and energy.
“Without nutrients, our body struggles to make hormones in sufficient quantity for optimal health and energy.”
BUT DON’T WE GET THESE NUTRIENTS IN OUR FOOD?
We can’t obtain everything we need from our modern day diet alone. I’m a massive proponent of eating whole, nutrient-dense foods, based largely on eating foods our ancestors would have eaten. I commonly refer to this as eating for your macronutrient profile type – this means prioritising a diet high in plant foods, including leafy greens, fresh seasonal produce, soaking and sprouting grains, eating all parts of the animal – including organ meat! And utilising saturated fats as a core part of our diet. But even then we are still missing precious nutrients… why?
There are several factors that contribute to the why; increased stress levels, modern day farming methods, convenience foods and environmental toxins.
Let’s take a closer look at the key nutrients when it comes to our hormones and how we can get these key nutrients back into our bodies to support our hormonal balance.
KEY NUTRIENTS NEEDED FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH AND HORMONAL BALANCE
The balance of our omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is very important for hormone balance. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and modulate hormone receptor site sensitivity. We need both Omega-3 and Omega-6 for optimal health but too much omega-6 within the body can increase inflammation (damage) and lead to altered hormone receptor function. For our hormones to do their job, be effective within our body and take action, we need sensitive hormone receptors.
“For our hormones to do their job, be effective within our body and take action, we need sensitive hormone receptors.”
Good sources of omega-3s are cold-water, fatty fish and shellfish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. In our modern day diet, we also get an abundance of omega-6. To bring these into balance we need to minimise our omega 6 intake as much as possible. Omega-6 can be found in industrially processed plant oils, and processed and packaged foods, which pretty much includes anything in a bag or a box.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that actually becomes a hormone itself in order to exert its’ action. Vitamin D has many roles in the body and one of them is in the production of sex hormones. It can stimulate the production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone which not only contribute to libido but also to mood. In New Zealand, especially in the winter, many Kiwi’s experience Vitamin D deficiency. To support your body, especially during the colder months,include foods that are high in vitamin D, such as tuna, mackerel, sardines, milk and eggs. Mushrooms are a great plant-based source.
Vitamin C is the most important vitamin when it comes to hormone production. It stimulates hormone production and may help boost progesterone production – our all important calming hormone. Vitamin C helps our body balance the stress hormone cortisol and is very important for our adrenal gland health. Unlike other animals, humans are unable to make vitamin C and as it’s water soluble we cannot store it. This means we need to give the body plenty of vitamin C every day! Fruit such as kiwifruit, oranges and lemons and vegetables such as capsicum and broccoli can all contribute to our daily vitamin C.
Magnesium is another mineral that has many roles in the body. Research has shown that this multitasking mineral can support PMS symptoms, such as anxiety and water retention and we use it a lot in the BePure clinic for all of our clients that experience cravings. Foods high in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, almonds, pumpkin seeds, fish and dark chocolate (Yes I did say dark chocolate!)
IODINE AND SELENIUM
Iodine and selenium are vital minerals for our thyroid gland to make hormones. Thyroid hormones are responsible for our body’s metabolism and our ability to break down energy. If your thyroid doesn’t have the minerals it requires, it’s likely to result in dysfunction. The best source of iodine is from seaweed – using a kelp mineral salt is a great idea to increase the iodine of all your meals. Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium and a tasty snack!
I’ve given examples of the foods that you can add to your diet to pump up these nutrients, but to ensure that you are getting what you need every day it may be worth considering nutritional support too. You can take the BePure Hormone Health Questionnaire to check your hormone levels and how they could be impacting your health.
If you want to learn more about how you can support your hormone health I recommend coming along to my latest tour, Women’s Wellness Essentials – learn how to find hormonal harmony, energy and body confidence. And to support you in getting there I’ve created a special discount code IAMCO for you to receive $10 off your seminar ticket – simply enter at checkout! Look forward to seeing you there.