Eating for Hormone Balance (With Nutrition Consultant, Ellie Thomas!)
I am so excited to share my first ever guest blog post, by holistic nutrition consultant, Ellie Thomas. I met Ellie through Instagram, (go figure, haha!), and she has been such an amazing help as I continue on my path towards becoming a health coach. I can't wait for you all to learn from her too. Check it out below -- enjoy!!
The topic of hormone balance often feels so vast: relatable yet complicated, and let’s be real, it feels like we shouldn’t be dealing with these issues at such a young age (isn’t hormone imbalance for old people?!)!
I used to be so clueless when it came to my hormones. Even though my mom had trouble conceiving after I was born, and was later diagnosed with estrogen-positive breast cancer, I was still oblivious and no one urged me to be otherwise. Until had my own period problems and needed major help figuring them out.
At this point I had just started a new job, and my stress levels shot through the roof. I went from having a 28-day, pain free cycle and loving the way my body looked, to 40+ day cycles, exhaustion, puffiness, insatiable hunger, and cramps that kept me home in bed for 2 days each month.
My fruit and vegetable heavy, gluten free, and almost vegetarian diet all of a sudden had me feeling like sh*t. And my coffee habits had turned loco; the only way I could stay awake in the afternoon was by pumping myself with caffeine!
Thankfully this whole experience was the catalyst for discovery around my own body and the role every part of life plays in hormone balance. I finally committed to picking up the books and re-kindling my passion for nutrition and healthy living again, with the mission of teaching other women about their bodies and that natural hormone balance is possible.
We are often told that hormonal birth control is the only way to balance hormones at a young age. But I beg to differ!
Whether a woman has been diagnosed with PCOS, endometriosis, PMDD, infertility, fibroids, thyroid imbalances, or struggles monthly with PMS symptoms, painful cramps, or acne, there are many ways to support the natural balance through diet and lifestyle shifts.
So, what can you do right now to be supporting natural hormone production and balance?
The Nutritional Pillars of Hormonal Health:
I like to break the food and lifestyle stuff into 3 categories that are easy to understand and work on one by one, or simultaneously. You’ll find the first two explained here, for the third, head over to my blog.
Pillar #1: Blood sugar balance
Blood sugar balance is essential for feeling balanced, as well as beating inflammation, reducing stress on the body, and getting your cells the nourishment they need. Furthermore, when blood sugar is imbalanced, our hormones are directly affected due to constant high levels of insulin in our systems, causing insulin receptors on the ovaries to throw off the proper production of estrogen and testosterone (creating more testosterone than normal and less estrogen than normal).
High insulin or insulin resistance from blood sugar imbalance also contributes to estrogen dominance by increasing the activity of an enzyme call aromatase, which is linked to the production of estrogen
If you have ever experienced hangriness, unexplained sugar cravings, hunger soon after eating, mid-afternoon energy crashes, or woken up in the middle of the night hungry or unable to fall back asleep, it is time to focus on balancing blood sugar at each meal.
Want to know my number one tip to start balancing blood sugar: Make breakfast a building meal!
Breakfast is not the time to skip a meal or skimp on ingredients. Over and over again, I have seen women adjust or add in breakfast and see changes from one week to another. A building breakfast helps us ditch the hunger ups and downs, sugar cravings after meals, and the 3pm slump, and so much more!
If you need some hormone balancing breakfast inspiration or guidance, check out my free hormone balancing breakfast template.
Pillar #2: Macro and Micronutrient Density
You have probably heard the chatter around choosing nutrient dense foods over processed, nutrient poor foods. Well hormone balance is yet another reason to do so!
Nutrient poor foods affect our blood sugar and strip our body’s nutrients in order to digest them and regain balance afterwards. This means by eating sugar, flour based products, soda, unhealthy fats, and packaged foods, we are actually taxing our bodies of the nutrients it needs to produce hormones at the right levels and detox old hormones from the body.
When eating a variety of whole foods however, we contribute vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fuel that our body recognizes! These foods also help us build up our nutrient reserves and provide the co-factors needed for hormone production and balance.
In today’s world, it is very common for women to be deficient in absorbable B vitamins (especially after being on the birth control pill), vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and Omega 3 fatty acids, among others!
Each of these nutrients plays a key role in the production of hormones and the proper functioning of your reproductive system, so prioritizing foods that are dense in vitamins and minerals, and reducing foods that strip our body of these nutrients, is essential. Often, high quality supplementation of these nutrients is necessary as well to correct existing nutrient deficiencies!
I also want to include an important note about macronutrient density. Many women are simply not getting enough whole food carbs, protein, and fat to fuel their body! This can definitely exacerbate, if not cause, hormonal imbalance!
When are aren’t eating enough, the body perceives stress, and our thyroid down regulates our metabolism to make sure we have reserves and fuel to keep us alive and well throughout any further stressors that may come our way. Changes in thyroid signaling mean changes in estrogen production, adrenal health, and all sorts of other hormonal shits throughout the body.
Eating more can feel scary sometimes, as we often worry we will gain weight, or maybe we just don’t feel hungry! If you are constantly thinking about food, or unable to control your snacking when you get home from work or after dinner, you likely aren’t eating enough.
If this resonates with you, or you know deep down you may not be eating enough, try tracking your food intake for just a few days to make sure you are getting enough calories and nutrition, or set up an appointment with a nutritionist or coach, especially if you aren’t getting your period or are an active woman! Your fertility and hormone wellbeing may depend on it!
It can feel overwhelming to all of a sudden swap out foods that aren’t supporting your body, so start by identifying five nutrient poor foods in your current diet that you can replace with one or more of the nutrient rich foods listed above! Love cookies? Find a low-sugar, whole food based cookie recipe and make some at home! Love chocolate shakes or ice cream? Try a smoothie recipe with a little banana and some chocolate protein powder, and nut butter as a decadent yet balancing treat. Slowly but surely, kick those processed foods to the curb!
Ok, these two are a lot to chew on and great places to start, but pillar 3 can’t be missed either! If you have questions or comments, poste them below, otherwise read Pillar #3: Gut Health & Detoxification now!
Ellie Thomas is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant that specializes in women’s hormone balance and all-around women’s wellness. She works with client in 1-1 consultations and her Deeply Nourished Detox group program, and writes all about women’s health and wellness from a holistic perspective on her website. Visit her website now for more info and to download Ellie’s free hormone balancing breakfast template! Or follow her on Instagram and Facebook.