Hormone imbalance is a sneaky one. It may be disguised under many signs and symptoms that seem related to something else. Some common experiences may include:
- Sleep issues
- Mood swings
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Weight gain
- Belly fat gain
- Increased body hair
- Thinning hair
- Puffy eyes
- Feelings of nervousness
These are just a few of the many signs that may indicate an underlying hormonal imbalance. Suffering from these symptoms or other conditions related to hormone imbalance can be frustrating, and even painful or debilitating in some cases.
So, how do you proactively maintain happy, healthy hormonal balance? One of the most important ways to support this delicate system is through eating a nutritious diet, high in fibrous foods. We'll get back to this - but first, let's define hormones.
What are Hormones?
To maintain health and vitality, the body closely monitors the production of different hormones. Hormones are incredibly important messengers, produced in glands, which travel through the blood to distant locations to regulate healthy physiology.
They regulate hunger, sleep cycles, emotions, thirst, normal sex drive, body temperature, healthy blood sugar levels, efficient metabolism, stress, and so much more.
Hormonal levels constantly fluctuate in the body, adjusting to optimal ratios to maintain these healthy everyday processes. This balance of hormones can be disrupted, however, by environmental influences and diet, resulting in hormonal imbalance.
Hormone imbalances can occur for many reasons:
- Excessive stress
- A poor diet high in sugar
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Exposure to environmental chemicals or pollutants.
One type of environmental exposure is xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are synthetic or natural hormones that mimic the chemical structure of the body’s naturally produced estrogen.
The problem with xenoestrogens is that they can take the place of estrogens in the cell receptors, causing the cells to not work correctly, ultimately leading to hormonal and physiological disruptions. A few common xenoestrogens are parabens, found in many commercial beauty products, soaps, and shampoos, artificial food additives, found in artificial sugars, and phthalates, found in soft plastics (yikes!)
Get Back to Balance
Not surprising, hormone imbalances are the most common issues to address for good hormonal health.
One method to help balance hormones is through the use of fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that forms the structural part of plants, and is found in all plant foods. Fiber is probably best known for its use in adding bulk to bowel movements, aiding in proper elimination, a.k.a. healthy poops.
The beneficial properties of fiber doesn't stop with just improving bowel movements! This versatile nutrient assists in balancing hormonal health. Fiber contains lignans, phytoestrogens, and isoflavonoids. These plant properties stimulate production of a hormone binding globulins. Once released, hormone binding globulins bind to extra estrogen and xenoestrogens, and carry them out in the stool. By doing this, they keep harmful xenoestrogens from getting back into the bloodstream, which in turn balances hormones.
Fiber is your Friend
Dietary fiber intake should be about 25-30 grams per day,but the average American adult’s diet only consists of a measly 15 grams of fiber daily!
One of the best ways to increase dietary fiber is through intentional daily vegetable and fruit consumption.
- One cup of avocado = 10.5 g of fiber
- One medium artichoke has 10.3 g of fiber
- One cup of delicious raspberries = 8 grams of fiber!
Other fibrous plant foods are acorn squash, brussels sprouts, turnips, peas, and coconut meat.
Another way to increase daily fiber requirements is to add in a regular fiber supplement, such as ground flaxseeds or psyllium husks. Start intake with a teaspoon a day, and slowly increase to a tablespoon daily. Flaxseeds and psyllium husk can cause digestive upset in some people, such as increased gas, so you may need to adjust the amount you take slowly and stop when you are at bowel comfort/tolerance.
Whole Husk Psyllium is the seed husk of the herb Plantago ovata. Whole Husk Psyllium is a natural, bulk-forming dietary fiber that contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Psyllium husk can be used as a flour in baked goods, and also makes an excellent egg-substitute because of its sticky quality when added to water.
When adding to food, psyllium adds a subtle nutty flavor and a boost of resilient fiber! One of the simplest ways to incorporate psyllium husk is in a smoothie, and it's also great to sprinkle over any yogurt bowl! For extra crunch and texture, try sprinkling psyllium onto a salad of leafy greens, topped with artichoke, berries, avocado, and a drizzle of olive oil vinaigrette.Yum!
It is so important to consume an organic source of fiber! If you're looking for a fool-proof source of organic psyllium, try ORGANIC INDIA's Whole Husk Psyllium. It's organic, Non-GMO, and contains simply one ingredient!
All in all, a simple way to characterize fiber is a friendly metaphor:
Fiber is the garbage collector. Fiber acts as the garbage collector of your local neighborhood (the intestines), catching extra hormones and other toxins from the gut and shuttling them out (to the dump!) through your bowel movement. If you don’t provide the garbage collector the adequate amount, then the garbage starts to pile-up, and no-one, not you or your friendly neighbors, wants that!
Don't know where to start? Check out this Psyllium Summer Smoothie!
About the Author
Andrea is a food justice activist, feminist, alternative health media producer, community organizer, certified nutrition therapy practitioner, and “moments embosser” (those who make regular moments pop). She was home schooled until high school, of which she attributes her insatiable curiosity, out-of-the-box-approach, and general poor taste in clothes. She loves meeting new people, especially the unapologetic beautiful weirdos, and has decided that her next professional calling is to write a sexual health rock opera, coming to a stage near you. Andrea currently works too many jobs, but they share one common mission: bringing people she knows, and those she still has yet to meet, dignity, joy, and love through food and community.