We are only barely starting to scratch the surface of how important our hormone balance is to staying fit and healthy. But we can already see how vital healthy hormones are to maintaining a healthy body… as well as how unbalanced many people’s hormones are. Men with excess body fat, women with apple shaped bodies, premenopausal women with lots of body hair and receding hairlines, men without body hair, men with breast tissue, women with very painful and irregular periods, post-menopausal women with obesity issues, men with premature greying, etc, are all related to our hormones being out of balance.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only possible for men to have too much estrogen and women to have too much testosterone. All sorts of imbalances exist on that spectrum, and there are many more hormones in our bodies which may also be out of balance. For instance, premature greying in men is caused by an excess of testosterone relative to the other hormones in his body. And painful and irregular periods in women can be caused by excess of estrogen relative to the other hormones in her body.
A root cause of all hormone imbalances is actually related to our dietary fat intakes. When we don’t eat enough fats, we can find our hormones becoming imbalanced. This is for two main reasons. Firstly cholesterol is used to make our hormones. This means that if some of our hormones, or all of them, are low, we might just need to eat more dietary cholesterol. Most people with hormone deficiencies focus too much on individual hormones. If your hormones are in balance, but all of them are low, eating more cholesterol will help. Secondly because fat is how our body carries vitamin D to the cells. Vitamin D is an essential hormone when it comes to regulating hormone balance, from sex hormones, to muscle-retaining hormones, to appetite hormones.
If we eat too many carbs, our hormones can be unbalanced as well. Just as fats help us regulate, produce, and balance our hormones, carbs act on three main fronts to make us hormonally unstable. Firstly, carbs trigger the release of insulin, which lessens our sensation of satiety and increases water retention and fat storage. This means our appetite hormones are completely out of balance. What is more, that extra stored fat can cause an excess of estrogen. This is because our fat is an endocrine organ, and the easiest to replicate fatty tissue in our body makes estrogen by converting testosterone to estrogen. This causes a severe imbalance which leads to breast tissue forming on men, and amenorrhea in women. It can also cause male infertility and excess of fat around the midriff in women.
Eating the wrong sort of fats is detrimental to us too, though. Quality must always come before quantity. Omega oils are powerful antioxidants, and therefore great at keeping our body’s cells young and strong. Likewise, natural, unprocessed cholesterol is great for creating hormones, improving satiety, and reducing our volume of estrogenic fats. However trans fats and other highly processed are very bad for our bodies. They promote fat storage, can decrease progesterone and myostatin relative to estrogen and testosterone, and cause our immune systems to become overloaded. This leads to muscle loss, lethargy, and weakness. They can also coat our intestines, reducing the number of nutrients we get from food and increasing hunger hormones.
Likewise, we must focus on ensuring we eat high quality carbohydrates. The simplest sugars we eat are the worst for us. These increase hunger and body fat retention the most, by raising our blood sugar too fast and promoting the release of insulin. They also feed the yeasts in our bodies, which makes our immune systems vulnerable. On the other hand, fiber feeds our gut bacteria and ensures a healthy balance, as do resistant starches (simple starches served cold, like sushi rice). Eating these improves gut health, which improves nutrient absorption, which leads to better hormone production and increased satiety. Be sure to eat mostly fiber, but even on your low carb diet try and eat some resistant starches to improve gut health and satiety. This will help rebalance your hormones in the long term.