Hormonal balance can be a tricky thing. The human endocrine system produces more than 70 different hormones with complex functions and intricate patterns of interaction. Hormones’ purpose is, essentially, to tell the body how to function. Hormones are responsible for triggering sleep, ovulation in women, sperm production in men, energy, the fight-or-flight response, weight loss and gain, and all other manner of important functions and procedures.
This intricate system is an easy one to throw out of whack. When the hormonal system is tampered with endlessly, as is the case in an environment rich in toxins and artificial biological cues, hormonal imbalance can start to impact our health
We already know that there are a lot of elements in our environment that interfere with our hormones. Even something as simple as light pollution can throw them out of whack. Heck, we even electively choose to alter our natural hormonal clocks with medications.
With all these assailants present in our environment, you may be interested in eliminating hormonal impactors wherever possible. A great place to start? Your food. Steer clear of these five foods that are known to impact hormonal balance:
Dairy is a persona non grata when it comes to hormonal health. Think about it: Dairy is made from the milk of non-human animals. Any mammal that’s producing milk, human or not, has a complex cocktail of hormones flowing through her body. Adding a product so rich in hormones is bound to mess with your own endocrine system if you’re even the least bit sensitive to dairy.
Sugar is next up on our list of most wanted hormonal offenders. Sugar’s biggest impact has to do with the hormone insulin. When you consume sugar (including glucose, which is present in even the healthiest of carbohydrates), your body must produce insulin in order to convert it to energy. Too much insulin production can lead to insulin resistance over time, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes.
But that’s not the only problem with sugar in regard to hormonal health.
“When insulin spikes, typically after a meal high in sugar, this can lead to lower levels of an important protein known as sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG),” states the Women’s Health Network. “SHBG binds excess estrogen and testosterone in the blood, but when it’s low, these hormone levels increase. Insulin also increases the production of testosterone, which is then converted into even more estrogen by fat tissue in the belly.”
Stevia is often considered a healthy replacement for sugar, and it may very well be a healthier alternative—but more research is still needed on its effects on the endocrine system. In fact, according to Mindbodygreen, stevia was historically used to help prevent pregnancy in women. We’re not banking on it being a particularly effective method of contraception, but it’s good to know that there’s a chance it could impact your hormonal system.
Soy is another infamous disruption of hormonal balance. Soy (even the organic, all-natural kind) is an endocrine mimicker, meaning that it maintains a similar chemical structure to estrogen in the body. This can lead to an array of reproductive and hormonal issues, including uncontrolled cell growth and breast cancer.
Even if you believe the links to breast cancer to be alarmist, there’s reason to believe soy can impact your reproductive cycle in other ways.
“But even though it mimics your natural hormone, soy isn’t identical to your body’s estrogen, and eating too much of it confuses your body into thinking it has enough real estrogen in supply,” writes Alisa Vitti for Mindbodygreen. “This signals your endocrine system to slow down estrogen production, subsequently slowing the production of luteinizing hormone (LH), and effectively shutting down ovulation.”
And finally, we get to one of the most obvious sources of hormonal imbalance of all: red meat.
Eating too much red meat can be problematic, particularly for women who are already experiencing hormonal issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). A study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that eating red meat can decrease the body’s production of SHBG, which regulates testosterone levels in both women and men.