Nutrition has a direct and indirect impact on our hormones, ranging from thyroid to reproductive hormones.1,3 Hormones are responsible for a laundry list of bodily functions from metabolism to mood.4 This will be a foundational overview of how diet affects our hormones and the strategies we can implement to support our hormonal health.
It is important to note that we will only be scratching the surface of the relationship between our diet and hormones. This is a multi-faceted, infinite topic that varies individual to individual and case by case. The most important takeaway is that our bodies are a system - with each piece working together and affecting one another. Hormones are a key piece to the complexity of our bodies and can help us gain control of our health and achieve our health goals.
There are dozens of identified hormones in the human body, with over 30 affecting our appetite.4,8 We will focus on the connection between thyroid, endocrine and adrenal hormones and our diet in this foundational post - but moving forward we will get more in-depth with each hormone and specific nutrients that impact our bodies.
How Does Diet Impact our Hormones?
Certain nutrients, such as vitamin D, magnesium and Vitamin B6, have a direct effect on our hormones, stress management and overall health.11 Dietary patterns are also extremely important to consider when discussing hormone health. Dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet or the western diet, can positively and negatively influence our hormones and their function in the body.
A western-patterned diet, which is higher in saturated fat, simple and processed carbohydrates and lower in fiber can poorly impact our hormones due to a variety of factors. These foods typically are higher in calories and lower in nutrients, which can lead to obesity in overconsumption. Further, they can increase our cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, negatively impact our insulin sensitivity and influence hormones such as leptin; which regulates hunger.1,2,8 Dietary patterns that are higher in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates are also linked to decreased mood and increased anxiety. 9,10
On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet or a diet that is rich in lean proteins, vegetables and healthy fats, has been found to positively affect our hormones, such as insulin, leptin and cortisol.1,9 In addition, these nutrients can support our gut health and reduce inflammation in the body - all important factors to our hormonal health.8
Our gut health is so important in the conversation of hormones. A poor gut microbiome has been shown to negatively affect our mood and emotions.9,10
Hormonal imbalance can be shown in a variety of ways from mood fluctuations, weight gain or weight loss, brain fog, fatigue, feeling depressed or anxious, etc.5,9-11 If you are experiencing symptoms and are struggling to determine the cause, speak with one of our dietitians to help get to the root of the problem.
Simple Steps to Support your Hormones
I. Protein, Quality Fat and Fiber
These nutrients are essential for balanced hormones and supporting your overall health. They provide slow-digesting, long-lasting energy that will power your day. These nutrients minimize our hunger and stabilize our blood sugar so we do not feel that crash and burn. It also promotes healthy digestion and gut health - which positively impacts our gut microbiome and hormone health.8 In addition, quality fats like Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s have a powerful role in anti-inflammation and heart health.7
When constructing your meals and snacks, try to incorporate each of these nutrients to your plate.
II. Sleep, sleep, sleep!
While this is not a diet-related tip, it is absolutely essential for our hormone health. When we do not get enough sleep, our bodies are thrown out of whack and our hormones follow.4,6 Poor sleep impacts our cortisol, insulin and hunger hormones. Ever have a rough night of sleep and you cannot seem to satisfy your hunger?? They are connected! Prioritizing sleep can make a huge difference for our energy and our mood throughout the day.5,6
Try turning off those devices before bed and create a bedtime routine that helps signal to your body it is time to “shut-off”.
III. Re-shape your Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates
am a huge advocate for addition > restriction, so instead of cutting out added sugars and those simple carbohydrates - let’s try to re-shape how we consume them in our day to day and think of satisfying ways to swap them out! If we choose to have a cookie, chips, whatever it may be - let’s make sure that we pair it with protein and quality fat to make it a more fulfilling meal and slow down the digestion. We process simple carbohydrates and sugars very quickly, but by pairing it with harder-to-digest nutrients, we slow down the process and reduce that blood sugar spike.
By focusing on addition > restriction, we can support a healthy relationship with food and reduce the stress and mental toll associated with restriction and food control. Food pairings are a great way to honor our craving but feel more satisfied after our meals.
This is just the beginning of the conversation between hormones and our health. These three simple tips are a great place to start at an achievable, maintainable level. It is important to remember that we are all unique with different health needs and goals, therefore we need to tackle it at an individual level as well. Here at Inc Nutrition, we are here to tailor a nutrition plan fit to you and your lifestyle, that matches your version of health. For more specific, guided hormone nutrition, schedule an appointment with one of our dietitians.
- Emily LaBombard, MPH, RDN, LDN
Nutrition and Impacts on Hormone Signaling. The Institute for Functional Medicine. https://www.ifm.org/news-insights/nutrition-impacts-hormone-signaling/
Endocrine Society. Thyroid and Parathyroid Hormones. www.endocrine.org. Published January 24, 2022. https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/hormones-and-endocrine-function/thyroid-and-parathyroid-hormones
Bancos I. Adrenal Hormones. www.endocrine.org. Published January 23, 2022. https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/hormones-and-endocrine-function/adrenal-hormones
Hormones: What They Are, Function & Types. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22464-hormones#:~:text=Scientists%20have%20identified%20over%2050
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE. 12 Natural Ways to Balance Your Hormones. Healthline. Published May 15, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/balance-hormones
Srivastava N, Gupta P, Gupta V, Tiwari S, Banerjee M. Association of sleep duration and sleep quality with body mass index among young adults. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. 2022;11(6):3251. doi:10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_21_21
Types of Fat. The Nutrition Source. Published June 9, 2014. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/#:~:text=Unsaturated%20fats%2C%20which%20are%20liquid
Lean MEJ, Malkova D. Altered gut and adipose tissue hormones in overweight and obese individuals: cause or consequence? International Journal of Obesity. 2015;40(4):622-632. doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.220
Firth J, Gangwisch JE, Borisini A, Wootton RE, Mayer EA. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? BMJ. 2020;369:m2382. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2382
López-Taboada I, González-Pardo H, Conejo NM. Western Diet: Implications for Brain Function and Behavior. Frontiers in Psychology. 2020;11. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.564413
Noah L, Dye L, Bois De Fer B, Mazur A, Pickering G, Pouteau E. Effect of magnesium and vitamin B6 supplementation on mental health and quality of life in stressed healthy adults: Post‐hoc analysis of a randomised controlled trial. Stress and Health. Published online May 6, 2021. doi:10.1002/smi.3051