Hormones are the messengers of the body, communicating between organs and tissues controlling bodily functions such as growth, metabolism, appetite, mood and behaviour.
Hormonal imbalances can be caused by many factors including genetics, medical history, diet and of course - stress levels. Symptoms of an imbalance can vary depending on which glands and hormones are affected but common symptoms include unexplained weight loss or gain, disrupted sleep, fatigue, reduced sex drive and skin conditions such as adult acne.
Hormones constantly battle to maintain balance or homeostasis. For example during times of high physiological stress, (e.g. low calorie intake, disrupted sleep or illness) the body will suppress the production of reproductive and thyroid hormones causing the related symptoms. Unfortunately, hormone production isn’t something we can control directly but we CAN control the food we fuel our bodies with. Eating a well-balanced diet and making positive lifestyle choices can help significantly in avoiding the negative effects of hormone imbalance and increase our health and longevity.
This relationship between diet and hormones is well-researched and there are extensive guidelines on what foods can affect hormone balance (1). Eating a whole and nutritious diet will provide your body with the energy and nutrients needed for healthy hormone production.
Read below for my 5 easily implementable steps that you can use to improve your hormone function and health in general.
- Eat a balanced diet
The 3 core macronutrients (made up of carbohydrates, protein and fats) are vital for hormone production as well as digestion, absorption and metabolic function. Aim to include healthy sources of all of these macronutrients in a way that ensures you are not in a calorie surplus, thereby maintaining an ideal body composition. Including vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean sources of protein with each meal will allow you to focus on providing your body with nutrient-dense as opposed to energy-dense foods. Step away from the croissant!
Highly processed foods can cause inflammation within the body. By reducing your intake of these processed foods including hydrogenated oils, trans-fats, added sugar and refined grain products you can reduce gut inflammation and improve your hormone regulation (2). Some individuals find it beneficial to reduce or eliminate intake of foods such as gluten, dairy or eggs, however it is important to note that everyone tolerates food groups differently
3. Increase your daily fibre intake
Eating a balanced diet that includes a large variety of vegetables has many benefits but is also a great place to start when looking to increase your daily fibre intake. Fibre aids in maintaining blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as improving gut health by providing the body with probiotic bacteria. The daily recommended fibre intake is approximately 25 – 30g and it is sensible to start by slowing increasing your vegetable intake and build up from there. Aim to consume at least two servings of vegetables including occasional fruit with each meal. Some research has shown that too much fibre has been linked with lower concentrations of blood oestrogen (3) though this is not usually an issue and for most people including more vegetables is a great way to start improving your diet and health.
4. Eat enough friendly fats
Fats are absolutely essential for hormone production. Although fats have had a bad reputation in the past, when consumed in moderation and as part of a healthy diet they provide us with a major source of energy, help with vitamin and mineral absorption, keep us fuller for longer and fundamentally help us to regulate hormones. Aiming to increase your omega-3 fats (oily fish, nuts, flaxseed and chia seeds) and decreasing your omega-6 fats (vegetable oils, peanut oil, margarine) will aid in brain function, reducing inflammation (4) and the production of male and female hormones (5). Our CBD Miracle drops contain omega-3 rich hemp oil which can be used to make delicious salad dressings or coffee.
5. Introduce CBD
When we ingest cannabinoids like CBD, they interact with our body’s natural endocannabinoid system, or ECS. This is a complex system involved in managing bodily processes, including appetite, mood, and many more. Studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system is also involved in managing endocrine processes. It does so by activating receptors in the brain and body, which directly influence activity in endocrine glands like the thyroid, pineal, and pituitary glands.
Hence, by stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD and other cannabinoids can directly affect hormone levels in the body. One of the major roles of the endocrine system is to manage our response to stress. It does so via hormones like epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and cortisol.
Cortisol is one of the main hormones involved in managing stress response. It is also involved in managing metabolism, memory, and even the healing of wounds. The human body naturally produces cortisol in the adrenal gland.
Cortisol is vital to human survival and is responsible for mediating our natural “fight or flight” response. However, increased levels of cortisol are problematic, producing symptoms that can range from weight gain and mood swings to increased anxiety.
Numerous studies have already argued that CBD can directly affect hormone levels. This is extremely important in managing the balance of healthy cortisol levels and reducing symptoms of stress.
CBD should be used as a dietary supplement as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, it should not be used a substitute for a varied diet.
(1) Kohlstadt, I. (2009). Food and Nutrients in Disease Management. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group.
(2) Zinöcker, M. K. & Lindseth, I. A. (2018). The Western Diet-Microbiome-Host Interaction and Its Role in Metabolic Disease. Nutrients, 10(3), 365.
(3) Gaskins, A. J., et al (2009). Effect of daily fibre intake on reproductive function: the BioCycle Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(4), 1061-9.
(4) Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Belury, M. A., Andridge, R., Malarkey, W. B., & Glaser, R. (2011). Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, 25(8), 1725-34.
(5) Saldeen, P. & Saldeen, T. (2004). Women and Omega-3 Fatty acids. Obstetrical and Gynecological Surve, 59(10), 745-6.