Hormones... they can be our greatest gift, supporting our ability to have children, making us feel sexy sexy when our partner gives us 'the eyes', guiding our bodies to function properly with intricate messages sent on a second-to-second basis.
They also can be the bane of our existence, wreaking havoc on our emotions, cursing us with cramps, and directing fat deposits to hold onto our hips for dear life.
Two episodes back we talked about the myriad of things we can do to support our hormone health, but then I got to thinking... there are a lot of things we can do to counteract those measures, creating an uphill battle for ourselves.
Which is why today we're going to dive into what NOT to do if hormone balance is on your health and wellness agenda.
These foods cause your body to produce more insulin, estrogen, and testosterone (which is why you often see an increase in acne with sugar consumption).
They can cause leptin resistance (basically making it harder for your body to tell when you're full AND potentially negatively impacting your libido).
And they give an artificial boost in dopamine which causes your brain to shut down dopamine receptors making it harder for you to experience joy from non-food sources.
Dairy contains 60+ growth hormones (not counting the growth hormones we add). One of these is insulin-like growth factor 1 which can increase androgen hormones like testosterone and potentially increase your risk for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer.
Think about it this way, the growth hormones in milk causes baby cows to turn into giant cows. So if weight is a concern, you might want to take dairy off the menu.
Dairy (like many things listed in this post) can also cause inflammation which always poses a threat to hormonal balance as it can damage tissues throughout the body and decrease our sensitivity to hormones and the messages they're trying to send.
Finally, most people are sensitive to dairy in some form or fashion whether they realize it or not (whether it's the lactose, whey, casein, or something else), and with continued consumption this will cause damage to the gut which is responsible for estrogen regulation, serotonin production, insulin sensitivity, and appetite regulation, just to name a few.
Gluten can stimulate zonulin in the gut, leading to the tight junctures of the cells to become loose which allows toxins to escape from the gut into the blood stream. These runaway toxins cause systemic inflammation and a disruption of hormones.
"Reproductive effects that have been associated with pesticide exposure in women are decreased fertility, spontaneous abortions, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, developmental abnormalities, ovarian disorders, and disruption of the hormonal function... [These endocrine disrupting chemicals] may interfere with synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body that are responsible for the maintenance of homeostasis, reproduction, development, and/or behavior." -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1524969/
Put it this way, if it's being sprayed on plants to KILL critters... do you want it hanging out in your body??
"Caffeine is able to enter the brain and directly increase blood pressure and stimulate the release of stress hormones. These hormones are known to affect insulin and blood sugar in the body." -Web MD
Don't worry, you don't need to skip your morning cup of jo, but limit it to 1-2 cups per day.
"Drinking alcohol can impair the functions of the glands that release hormones and the functions of the tissues targeted by the hormones. When alcohol impairs the hormone system's ability to work properly, it can disrupt these major bodily functions: growth and development, maintenance of blood pressure and bone mass, production/utilization/storage of energy, and reproduction.
Although many reproductive problems were found in women who were alcoholics, some problems were also found in women considered social drinkers. In premenopausal women, chronic heavy drinking contributes to reproductive disorders, including cessation of menstruation, early menopause, irregular menstrual cycles, menstrual cycles without ovulation, and risk of spontaneous abortions." - Very Well Mind
"Stress can lead to changes in the serum level of many hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone and prolactin. Some of these stressful responses can lead to endocrine disorders like Graves’ disease, gonadal dysfunction, psychosexual dwarfism, and obesity." -Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Stress stimulates the pituitary-adrenal axis leading to a spike in adrenaline and cortisol which can cause water retention, reduced intestinal motility, increased glucose, hyperglycemia, and a down-regulation of thyroid production.
Exercise has been shown to increase dopamine and serotonin, reduce stress (as long as intensity is managed), improve thyroid production, balance insulin, balance estrogen and progesterone, and stimulate testosterone and human growth hormone (fondly referred to as the fountain of youth due to it's beneficial effects on healing, metabolism, muscle mass, and fat oxidation). Without it we miss out on all of these benefits and more.
Human growth hormone is produced while you sleep. Leptin and ghrelin regulate while you sleep. Your sympathetic nervous system cools down while you sleep. And cortisol lowers while you sleep. So when you neglect those zzz's, you set yourself up for a slower metabolism, a bigger appetite, higher stress levels, and faster aging.
Diets that reduce your calories too low cause imbalances in hormones like leptin, ghrelin, and peptide YY, leading to more hunger and less satiety. This affect isn't short term either, studies have shown reduced leptin and increase ghrelin a year after dieting (which is one of the big culprits of post-diet weight re-gain).
Low calorie diets also register as stress to the body which leads to elevated cortisol, which leads to elevated insulin, which leads to a suppression of fat loss.
And that's just looking at low-calorie crash diets.
Diets that have you remove carbs? They can down-regulate thyroid production, suppress leptin levels, and also increase cortisol.
Diets that villainize fat? They can cause a decrease in estrogen and progesterone seeing as all hormones are made from protein and fat. Fat also makes you feel fuller, longer by stimulating the production of leptin, and it helps to slow the body's response to blood sugar.
As per usual: eat a diet of mainly whole, unprocessed foods, get your sleep, move your body, reduce your stress, and take a common sense approach to supporting your diet.
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