One of the underlying factors that effects our health in almost every way are our hormones. They dictate not only how we feel, but also how we look, sleep and perform. Unfortunately, they are very sensitive, and can easily become out of balance. The food we eat, the way we exercise and sleep, the products we use on our bodies, our level of stress, the medications we take, and even the way we think about things effects them.
The good news is that we can control them to a great degree with the food and herbs that we choose eat. As a person who has dealt with her own hormone issues (PCOS, low blood sugar and coming off BC), making the right food choices has become a necessity. As much as I resisted it, in the end, I have realized through my own personal journey and those of the people I work with, what you eat matters. And it matters a lot. Even if you are doing all of the other things right, if you are missing the food component it is highly likely that you are not going to be seeing the results you desire. That is why I have put together this food and herb diet so that you can take control of balancing your hormones naturally.
If you are currently coming off of birth control, are managing Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or another hormone disorder such as endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, low libido or PMS, or if you are a man suffering from signs of low testosterone and high estrogen (abdominal weight gain, gynecomastia – breast tissue growth, erectile dysfunction) then this diet can help. This diet is also a good baseline to support the nourishment of the body, which can improve fertility and a healthy pregnancy as well.
* Note: If you have Hashimotos, or issues with low estrogen, some items on this list are not for you.
The Hormone Balancing Food Tenants
1. Eliminate Conventional (non-organic) Meat and Dairy
- Meat products include all pork, beef, lamb, goat, veal, duck, chicken, and turkey that are not organically raised
- Dairy products include all yogurt, cheese, sour cream, cream, milk, ice cream, ghee, butter, custard, whipped cream, pudding, paneer, and any other dairy beverage or dessert
Why: Conventionally raised meat and dairy contain hormones. Hormones are used on the animals while they are raised to promote growth. These hormones interrupt our hormone balance. Conventionally raised animals are also exposed to pesticides and herbicides which act as xenoestrogens in the body. Xenoestrogens raise estrogen levels unnaturally. Learn more about xenoestrogens here.
2. Drastically Reduce Soy Products
- Soy products include all tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt, soy ice cream, edamame, imitation meat products, soy protein powder, textured soy protein, soy burgers
- The only soy that is acceptable in small amounts is organic, fermented soy which includes miso, tempeh and nama shoyu. This should only be consumed sparingly, about once a week.
Why: Soy contains isoflavones— a plant compound that mimics estrogen in the body. The consumption of estrogen-like foods cause an imbalance in the hormones. If you have consumed high amounts of soy in the past, I would highly recommend using a DIM supplement to clear xenoestrogens from soy consumption. I personally use DIM Detox by Pure Encapsulations.
3. Eat Organic Produce As Much as Possible
- This includes all fruits and vegetables whether fresh, frozen, prepared or canned
- If cost is an issue, use this GUIDE to learn about which fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of pesticides. Focus on purchasing those products organic.
Why: Non-organic produce is sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals are known to interfere with the estrogen and/or androgen receptors in the body, which leads to hormone imbalance. Research has also shown that exposure to pesticides has been associated with menstrual cycle disturbances, reduced fertility, prolonged time-to-pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, and developmental defects.
4. Eat Lots of Cruciferous Vegetables (at least 5 times a week)
- This includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, and Chinese cabbage
Why: Cruciferous vegetables contain a compound called DIM (diindolylmethane). DIM helps to detoxify harmful estrogens (like the xenoestrogens) in the body promoting healthy estrogen metabolism in both men and women. DIM has also shown to help prevent both breast and prostate cancer. Cruciferous vegetables also contain Calcium d Glucarate. This compound has shown in research to aid in the excretion of metabolized estrogens as well as other carcinogens from the body.
5. Dramatically decrease Bourbon, Beer, and Wine Consumption
- If you are going to drink, only consume organic beer and wine, and sparingly. Non-organic contains pesticides since the crops used to make alcohol are highly pesticided (grapes, wheat, corn, barley).
Why: Bourbon, beer and wine contain high levels of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens act as estrogen in the body, disrupting normal hormone balance. Alcohol also can damage the liver, inhibiting its ability to properly metabolize and excrete (detoxify) estrogens. Read more here. In addition, pesticides interfere with normal estrogen and androgen functioning.
* To start, I would suggest eliminating all alcohol completely to get the hormones back on track. Once they are on their way to being back in balance (symptoms are subsiding), I would then only consume one drink a week. Organic only.
6. Eat Healthy Fats Every Day
- This includes coconut oil/butter/meat, avocado, raw nuts/seeds, olives, wild salmon, organic ghee, and the following oils (in dark bottles to prevent the fats from becoming rancid); extra virgin olive, sesame, grapeseed, walnut, and avocado
Why: Hormones (steroid hormones) are made from sterols, or cholesterol. Although your body can make cholesterol if there is not enough consumed through foods, eating healthy fats is an important part of hormone production. They are used to make estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone… just to name a few.
7. Balance Blood Sugar (insulin levels)
- Eat a Low Glycemic Diet (foods are included in diet plan)
- Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day (3 small meals, 3 snacks) – don’t eat too much, or infrequently
- Always travel with healthy snacks (raw nuts/seeds, low sugar food bars, hard boiled eggs)
- Eliminate white sugar completely
- Only eat 1 serving of natural sugar a day (low-glycemic fruit, raw honey, yacon, molasses) – eat with a protein, or healthy fat
- Eliminate all white flour and refined, processed carbohydrates (cereal, crackers, chips, pastries, breads, cakes)
- Avoid any sugar-laden beverage (coffee drinks, soda, tea, energy drink etc.)
- Eat balanced meals and snacks – ones rich in protein
- Incorporate herbs/spices to balance blood sugar (cinnamon, bitter melon, fenugreek, broccoli)
- Be careful with caffeine (this can spike blood sugar) – best to pair with a healthy fat ex) coffee and organic ghee or coconut oil – this slows the release of caffeine
Why: Research has shown that excess insulin appears to increase production of androgen (which includes testosterone). Androgen is the hormone that causes acne, excessive hair growth, weight gain and problems with ovulation. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies because they have problems using it, which leads to an overproduction of androgen. Therefore, in order to manage insulin levels, it is necessary to eat a diet that balances the blood sugar. I would also recommend using supplements to help balance glucose levels. This is especially important if you have been diagnosed with a blood sugar disorder. I personally use Glucose Support, Chromium Picolinate and/or Cinnamon WS from Pure Encapsulations.
**If you are suffering from an insulin related hormone issue such as PCOS, then this is going to be extremely important**
The Hormone Balancing Food and Herb Diet Overview
The chart found below is the detailed food and herb diet for balancing hormones, but here is a quick overview of what the diet entails. This diet is a great one to follow even if you are not experiencing hormone challenges, so it can easily be followed by all members of a household. This diet can help clear up other issues, even those that are not hormone related, so continuing on the diet even after the hormones are balanced is a good practice.
I would suggest following this diet as strictly as possible until hormones have balanced and symptoms have disappeared for at least 3 months. I would then follow the diet 75% of the time from then on. If you have a condition such as PCOS, this diet may be a life-long practice in that it helps manage the condition. Every body is different though, so don’t see this as a death sentence. Even if you have PCOS or another condition that must be permanently managed with food, you can still eat the foods on the Not to Eat list from time to time once the condition is managed.
One final note. The last part that must be addressed is the exposure to xeno estrogens from plastics and personal/household care items. The chemicals found in plastics and these items act as xeno estrogens in the body. First off, switch to glass bottles and Tupperware. Then, NEVER EVER EVER drink from plastic bottles that have been exposed to heat (yes, those bottles that are sitting in your car), eat from Tupperware that has been microwaved, or eat hot food from plastic containers. Next, switch to non-toxic personal and household care products. Now don’t be overwhelmed by the process. This does not have to happen over night. Do it one by one. You can refer to my Personal Care Products Favorites Page and the Cosmetic Database to help you get started with which products to use.
Foods to Eat:
- Fresh Produce – low glycemic fruits and vegetables, seaweed
- Raw Nuts/Seeds
- Fermented Foods
- Organic Meat, Eggs and Poultry, Wild Fish, Vegan Proteins
- Whole Grains (sprouted is best), possibly gluten-free
- Healthy Fats and Oils
- Legumes (soaked and sprouted is best)
- Herbs and Spices
- Natural Sweeteners and Desserts (sparingly)
- Low-sugar beverages
Foods to Reduce or Eliminate:
- Conventional (pesticided), processed produce – i.e. canned fruit w added sugar
- High glycemic fruit and vegetables
- Non-organic meat, poultry, eggs, Farm-raised fish
- Dairy (raw, organic and fermented is ok in small amounts)
- Processed Grains – white flour, crackers, pastries, breads, chips etc.
- Unhealthy Fats and Oils – trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), soy, peanut, or vegetable oil, fried foods, Crisco, shortening, non-organic butter
- Soy products (especially non-organic, unfermented soy)
- White Sugar (cane sugar/juice, refined sugar, sucrose, fruit juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, glucose, fructose) – all conventional desserts and candy
- Sugar beverages – soda, coffee drinks, sweetened tea
- All “Diet” drinks and foods (anything that uses sucralose, aspartame, Splenda, Sweet ‘N Low, Acesulfame K, Equal, saccharin)
- All Fast Food
- Flax – eat sparingly, this is an estrogenic food
- Peanuts and Peanut Butters – high in aflatoxins which cause liver damage and thus poor hormone metabolism
- Alcohol high in Estrogen – wine, beer and bourbon, and Non-organic alcohol