Most people are unaware of the power of their hormones. I must admit that I had no idea growing up and in my early twenties. These powerful chemical messengers are fundamental to your overall health and vitality. They are involved in metabolism, growth, fertility, brain development, the immune system and so many other critical processes throughout the body. Many clients come to us when they start to feel the symptoms like hot flashes, brain fog, weight gain, poor sleep, behavioral issues, low libido, infertility, anxiety, depression, lack of energy, etc. They can range from wanting to lose a few pounds to as serious as cancer and we have everyone in between as well. They are very real and affect every part of your day. Trust me when I say I see this when we review their symptoms and their lab results. We have a specific lab we run that will tell us exactly how your hormones are functioning and where you need to improve. With that being said, once we know your numbers, we can then build a specific protocol which will include many of the following foods depending on your data. For the purpose of this article, we will only look at the main three including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
The first hormone I would like to discuss is estrogen. It is the hormone responsible for puberty, menstrual cycles, preparing the body to carry a baby and so much more. As I describe to my clients, estrogen is the get up and go hormone that wants to replicate very quickly and keep the body developing where progesterone is the relaxation hormone that wants you to slow down and relax. There needs to be a delicate balance between the two. Estrogen can then be broken down into estradiol, estriol and estrone. They all have a specific role to play. It all depends if you need to lower or increase your estrogen levels with nutrition. If you want to lower estrogen, I recommend removing the foods that are high in sugar, processed foods, alcohol, dairy, gluten containing foods like bagels, pizza, breads, etc. Some foods that have been shown to increase estrogen are dried fruits like apricots and prunes. Some other foods are flaxseeds, sesame seeds, beans, peas, broccoli and sprouts. We routinely do 30 day seeding cycles with our female clients to regulate their menstrual cycle and bring their bodies back into balance. Please note that this is a major issue for men as well and we see this in their lab results and also physically in the chest region. Many male clients I see need to lower their estrogen levels.
Progesterone is the second prominent sex hormone that we encounter and I equate this to your anti-anxiety or relaxation hormone. Sufficient levels of progesterone bring calm and ease to your day. Too many people burn through their progesterone when they are stressed or under pressure. Some stress is good for you but the chronic kind I see in my practice leads to long term health consequences. Again, it will depend on how you present and clinical correlation but there are specific foods that can increase your progesterone. The foods that elevate progesterone are high in the B vitamins like lean red meat, poultry, seafood, beans, bananas and vitamin C like your citrus fruits, spinach and tomatoes. Shellfish, crabs, dark chocolate, chickpeas, pumpkin and watermelon are also very helpful. There are naturally producing supplements we can provide as well as lifestyle techniques but try these foods so you can bring your progesterone levels back to normal.
The final hormone is testosterone. This is not exclusive to males as both men and women can benefit from having healthy levels in their system. Many women come to our practice and don’t really pay too much attention to it but I try and change this mindset as it is involved with puberty, increasing bone density, sexual function, muscle growth, etc. It also plays a role in pregnancy and even though women make a fraction of testosterone compared to men, it is equally important for both genders. Here are some foods that can naturally increase testosterone: Pomegranate, garlic, honey, olive oil, oysters, wild caught salmon and coconut oil. Seafood is great at increasing testosterone levels and always seek quality first. Many people that have a difficult time raising testosterone levels usually indulge in poor quality foods that we have already mentioned. I recommend cutting back on the fast food, sugar laden drinks, alcohol, cookies, etc. That should go without saying but many people do not know this. As always, I see this clinically and in the literature. There are research papers that will support this but always seek the guidance of your primary care provider first. We provide this to help you along and improve your quality of life with real food that your body was designed to eat. Every person is different but in reviewing hundreds of labs each year, we see trends and patterns emerge.