Hormones transfer messages between different parts of the body. There are many different hormones in the body that are responsible for regulating metabolic rate, body temperature, growth and mood.
The thyroid hormone is a common hormone that can be out of balance that affects metabolism and energy levels (1).
Other hormones regulated by the pituitary, pancreas, fat cells and adrenals can cause health problems if these hormones are off balance.
While there are many hormones that regulate different processes in the body, what you eat and drink through the day may be helping or hampering their natural balance.
If you are taking any medication or have hormones that are off balance, speak with your medical team before changing your diet intake or altering medication.
Prebiotics and probiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics can have numerous health advantages including helping regulate healthy levels of hormones. Probiotics are considered helpful bacteria that line the digestive tract.
When there is an imbalance of unhealthy bacteria in the gut, nutrients are absorbed differently from the digestive tract.
Probiotics can affect the body’s way of estrogen getting reabsorbed into the body from the digestive tract. Having a healthy balance of probiotics can lower the amount of estrogen in the body which may be advantageous when estrogen levels are too high (2).
Sources of prebiotics, which are a type of fiber that fuel growth of probiotics, include oats, legumes, Jerusalem artichokes and asparagus (3). Probiotic sources can include yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables.
Inflammation in the body could play a role in having hormone levels off balance. Getting more anti-inflammatory foods, like those high in omega 3’s, could help lower inflammation in the body.
People with low thyroid levels are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and can have higher cholesterol levels. The thyroid is also responsible for regulating cholesterol levels, so if it is low then cholesterol levels could be elevated (4).
Selenium rich foods
Selenium and iodine are important for thyroid function. Therefore eating foods high in selenium can be beneficial for thyroid health (5).
Foods such as Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, mushrooms, whole grains and seafood are good sources of selenium (6).
Along with thyroid, selenium plays an important part for many other hormones and enzyme functions in the body. It is also important for immune system, cognitive function and fertility (7).
Iodine is the main nutrient associated with thyroid health, as it is a building block for the thyroid hormone. Iodine is fortified in most salt, but other foods such as seaweed, dairy products, meats and eggs.
Be cautious of taking large doses of iodine, as this can alter thyroid function (8). If you have low or high thyroid levels, consult your medical team before changing your iodine intake.
Vitamin D sources
Vitamin D intake is known to be important for bone health, but this nutrient is also important for balancing hormones.
There is an association between low vitamin D levels and low thyroid levels. Researchers are still trying to understand the role of vitamin D and hormone levels, as there is no evidence yet that low vitamin D causes low thyroid just that the two conditions are related somehow (9).
Interestingly, high levels of thyroid hormone are also associated with low levels of vitamin D.
Sources of vitamin D include dairy products, fatty fish, eggs, mushrooms and sunlight.
Watch the sugar intake
If you want to promote a healthy balance of all hormone levels in your body, watch your sugar intake. Eating a diet high in sugar and calories can promote weight gain which can increase the amount of fat cells.
Fat cells create their own set of hormones that can impact the body and interfere with other hormone signals being sent.
Cut out excess sugar by not drinking sugary beverages, sweets, sweetened cereals, chips, most packaged breads and commercially made sauces and condiments.
In general, to promote healthy levels of hormones, eat a balanced diet of sources of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates that are high in fiber.
Watch your fat intake
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (10), fatty foods can have a strong impact on the body’s hormone levels. High fat diets have been shown to promote levels of estrogen, and low fat diets can help lower high estrogen levels.
Estrogen is an important hormone, but when levels are too high it may promote the risk for breast cancer.
While there are many factors for balancing hormones, diet can have an impact on the levels of hormones in the body. Eating a balanced diet with healthy sources of fiber, protein and heart healthy fats is recommended.
Lower sugar intake and make sure to get adequate levels of vitamin D, selenium, omega 3’s, probiotics and prebiotics.
If you have questions about the levels of hormones in your body, speak with your medical team. If you are on medication or have altered levels of hormones, speak with your doctor about what diet plan is best for your body.