Ladies… This One's for You!
The Importance of Balancing Insulin, Cortisol, and Estrogen with the Power of Food
Ladies, when it comes to your hormone health, what you eat matters! Food is one of the most important factors to consider when working toward balancing hormones.
Insulin is one of the most important hormones in the body, it governs all the other hormones, especially estrogen, and cortisol. If insulin, cortisol, and estrogen are elevated, increased body fat and estrogen dominance will likely occur and that can create many symptoms and conditions that impact women’s health and well-being.
When women consume an excess of refined grains, sugar, and alcohol and are deficient in protein, essential fats, fruit, and vegetable fiber, insulin levels can rise and stay permanently elevated which can contribute to insulin dysregulation and insulin resistance. As insulin levels spike, estrogen is secreted in higher amounts contributing to overall hormonal havoc.
Insulin resistance is a significant contributor to most of the estrogen-dominant conditions women experience: PMS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), infertility, heavy periods, fibroids, hormonal acne, uterine cancer, and breast cancer. To prevent and in some cases reverse these conditions women must pay very close attention to what they are eating.
The following are some of the most important nutritional practices to cultivate to support healthy hormones.
Practices to Support Healthy Hormones
1. Be a whole foodist!
Only eat whole-natural foods that grow and subsist in nature. Make no room for processed, packaged, refined, and manufactured foods!
2. Balance insulin by being a rhythmic eater.
Intermittent fasting may help improve insulin resistance, burn body fat, turn on healing genes, and rejuvenate stem cells. This is especially helpful for women in perimenopause and menopause.
- Wake up, and brush your teeth and tongue to remove bacteria
- Drink 1 liter of alkaline water throughout the morning with (lemon, lime, or grapefruit)
- Workout — sweat and move your body
- First meal (15–16 hours after last meal) — Salad with protein and olive oil or superfood smoothie or egg and vegetable omelet. Do not start your day with refined carbohydrates (toast, bagels, pastries, cereal, instant oatmeal) and sugar in coffee
- Snack (2–3 pm): bone broth and 3 Tbsp Brazil nuts (high in selenium to support your thyroid)
- Dinner (6–7 pm): lots of veggies, especially cruciferous, with some essential fat and lean high-quality protein
- Practice self-care and stress reduction in the evening
- Avoid eating 3 hours before sleep
3. Focus on what you eat at each meal.
Eat protein, essential fats, and fruit or vegetable fiber at each main meal = the trifecta for insulin and hormone regulation.
- Lean quality protein, free from hormones and antibiotics, such as free-range pasture-raised eggs, poultry, grass-fed beef, lamb, wild game meat, organ meats, wild-caught fish, seafood, and occasional legumes and lentils
- Essential fats produce every hormone in the body, balance insulin, and nourish the brain, skin, hair, nails, and joints. We call them essential for a reason! A deficiency in essential fats causes sugar cravings, and elevates insulin which worsens PMS. Eat 4 small servings a day from a variety of sources such as avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, ground flaxseed (pulls excess estrogen from the body), hemp seeds, chia seeds, extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, butter, ghee, fish and fish oil. Borage and Evening Primrose Oils through supplementation may also be very beneficial for hormone balancing.
- Choose your fiber from a wide variety of seasonal and organic fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are where your magnetic energy, antioxidants, and fiber must come from — key for healthy bowel movements and to eliminating toxins and excess estrogen. Fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids (anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants) AND phytoestrogens — naturally occurring plant estrogens that block estrogens or reduce or detoxify estrogens, especially Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels Sprouts, Swiss Chard, kohlrabi)
4. Add adaptogens to your diet.
Adding adaptogens to your diet daily helps you be more resilient and adaptive to stress. This is essential to support your adrenal glands which will help regulate your cortisol. Add Maca, ashwagandha, and medicinal mushrooms to smoothies and elixirs.
5. Switch your coffee.
Switching your coffee to hormone-balancing teas such as raspberry leaf tea, tulsi, moringa, and matcha
6. Reduce or avoid estrogen-dominant foods.
These foods look like the following:
- Conventional dairy
- Soy (especially processed soy such as plant-based meats, soy milk, and soybean oil)
- Alcohol (limit to 1–2 drinks per week, maximum)
7. Avoid the following foods.
Avoid trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and vegetable oils (margarine, peanut, soybean, canola, corn*, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed). *These oils are genetically modified and/or have the highest glyphosate used on crops. These are also inflammatory oils and they are highly refined, making them unstable oils. These fats disrupt the proper balance of omega 3:6 fats which can trigger silent inflammation (precursor to rapid aging and chronic disease). They are toxic to the body, especially the liver, and create free radical damage.
There is one more very important factor to consider to help our hormone health … The liver!
Love thy Liver!
The liver is your body’s Queen! A healthy liver is key to hormone balance. It is the key organ for clearing excess hormones and toxins. The liver also manufactures cholesterol — “the mother hormone” — the producer of all the steroid hormones (estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and DHEA). Note, essential fats help produce cholesterol therefore low, or no-fat diets have a negative effect on hormone balance. As mentioned above, we must eat our essential fats to help the body produce hormones!
A congested liver is at the root of many symptoms women experience during perimenopause and menopause (brain fog, poor concentration, weight gain and the inability to lose it, headaches, migraines, poor sleep, fatigue, sluggishness, mood swings, and irritability). A congested liver also contributes to excess belly fat (“estrogen belly”) — too much estrogen due to poor excretion of excess estrogens. If we have difficulty losing weight, often the liver needs to be supported.
When the liver is sluggish, it is normal to crave chocolate, caffeine, heavy meat, alcohol, and fried food — these foods further overwork the liver and can trigger excess heat (hot flashes, inflammation), anger, and irritability.
Your liver is so powerful, it decides if your estrogen is going to stay in the healthy form or be converted into cancer-promoting estrogens. According to Lorna Vanderhaeghe in Sexy Hormones,
“Estrogens can stay in their original form, convert to other estrogens, or convert to cancer-preventative or cancer–promoting estrogen metabolites (breakdown products). When liver health is compromised by drugs, toxins, xenoestrogens found in plastics, cosmetics, pesticides, overuse of alcohol, and a poor diet, that is when estriol can be metabolized to 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone. High levels of 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone can be breast cancer-promoting, whereas having high levels of 2-hydroxyestrone is cancer protective.”
Note: Xenoestrogens are substances that are man-made and similar in structure to the body’s own estrogen. They are called “estrogen mimickers.” These estrogenic compounds are stored in fat cells and contribute to hormone havoc. They create an “estrogen stew” in the body. They can be found in plastics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics with phthalates and parabens, bleaching chemicals (found in feminine hygiene products), and cleaning chemicals. Choosing natural and organic food, skin, and cleaning products whenever possible is very important for women’s health.
As you can see you must love thy liver and nourish her and take care of her daily, so she does not become unruly!
Top Daily Liver Supporting Practices
- Add lemon, lime, and grapefruit to your food and water — they are high in Vitamin C, and they help to stimulate glutathione which supports daily liver detoxification
- Eat bitter leafy greens –spinach, beet greens, dandelion greens, arugula, radicchio, kale, and Swiss Chard. Bitter foods are detoxifying
- Enjoy 1–2 cruciferous vegetables a day (broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi Swiss chard, watercress) to support phase II liver detoxification
- Add microgreens, pea shoots, and broccoli sprouts to your salads daily as they are loaded with polyphenols and are bitter, astringent, and pungent which help to detox the liver
- Drink dandelion, nettle, or milk thistle tea in the evening to support gentle liver cleansing
- Eat roots like turmeric root and ginger root, and drink teas with chicory and burdock roots to help strengthen the liver
- Add a liver cleansing juice a few times a week: organic celery, spinach, fennel, ginger, apple, and lemon
There is so much we can do with the power of food to balance hormones, support our ever-changing cycles throughout our lives, and be preventative. The key is to be knowledgeable and proactive. Our hormones drive our health, metabolism, mood, energy, vitality, and longevity. If you would love some support in this area so you can have amazing hormonal health, you can book a virtual consultation with me. I would love to help you empower your health!
Yours in health & vitality,
Amy Bondar is a leading Nutrition expert and Certified Eating Psychology Coach who is passionate about helping her clients achieve maximum health and vitality through personalized nutrition and lifestyle coaching.
Amy Bondar’s comprehensive skill-set, two decades of experience and compassionate approach have allowed hundreds of people to achieve the vitality we all desire, and deserve.
The days of generic meal plans, fad diets, yo-yo dieting and simple advice about calories and carbs are long gone. When you work with Amy you will have strategies and learn nutrition principles that are nourishing, doable, sustainable, personalized and that yield results.