Hormones play a huge impact on our lives and are often hard at work, affecting the growth and development of our body. The endocrine system is a chemical messenger system that is both a highly influenced and influential bodily system. This system is comprised of various hormone-secreting glands affecting a wide range of bodily functions, including sexual development and reproduction, metabolism and appetite, sleep and wake cycles, movement, growth, respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and sensory perception. Obviously, both male and female endocrine systems play some of the same roles, but differ when it comes to sex hormones. It is in these differences that we find similar-yet-different nutritional needs to nourish our bodies throughout our lifetimes.
It is no secret that today’s world is increasingly toxic and we are negatively impacted every day. It is the endocrine system in particular where we can see this toxic load accumulate quickly. Chemicals, both natural and man-made, may mimic or interfere with the various processes the endocrine system controls. Called endocrine disruptors, these chemicals are linked to developmental, reproductive, brain, immune, and other problems. Therefore, making a conscious effort to avoid known endocrine disruptors properly fueling and nourishing this system is of utmost importance.
Women have been blessed with the ability to bring new life into the world. I have brought four amazing children into this world but with this blessing we find complexity. Throughout each month, a woman’s hormones greatly fluctuate and leave her with different nutritional needs. If these ever-changing needs are not met, a woman can quickly find herself in a place of hormone imbalance. There are some particular areas to focus on to help restore balance to this system:
-Aim for optimal blood sugar levels with a diet well balanced in protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Women in particular need plenty of healthy fats to produce and utilize sex hormones. Essential fatty acids, like Omegas, and medium-chain triglycerides are going to be most beneficial. The best sources of these are avocado, coconut, and fatty fish like Salmon.
-Support the adrenals. Dysfunction in the adrenal glands causes a cascade of dysfunction throughout the entire endocrine system, robbing the sex hormones of the necessary precursors for production. Supporting optimal adrenal function starts with staying hydrated, decreasing caffeine and alcohol intake, and eating a diet rich in adaptogenic herbs and micronutrients, particularly Vitamin C.
-An optimally functioning gastrointestinal system is paramount as intestinal epithelial cells metabolize sex hormones, notably estrogen. GI dysfunction, gut inflammation, constipation, or diarrhea always come with the added side effect of imbalanced hormones because of this. A diet with fiber-rich and anti-inflammatory foods like berries, ginger, and turmeric. Supplementing with probiotics to ensure a diverse microbiome is essential, and if not digesting food well then the addition of digestive enzymes is very helpful.
In men, the signs and symptoms of imbalanced hormones can be more gradual. Or rather, it should be. But again, in today’s toxic world, there are increasing rates of hormone dysfunction. The average testosterone levels have been decreasing for decades, while male levels of estrogens have been increasing. This spells disaster for the male endocrine system, leading to complications in cardiovascular, bone, brain, and prostate health. Luckily, the endocrine system of men is a bit less complex and typically more reactionary to positive changes.
-Avoid xenoestrogens. These foreign estrogen-mimicking compounds are taken up by estrogen receptors in the body, which then blocks the ability to synthesize the real hormones present. Making a concerted effort to avoid plastics, food dyes, and parabens in body care products is a great place to start.
-Avoiding excess carbohydrates and making sure to consume adequate protein. Part of today’s toxic world is the overconsumption of empty calories in the form of useless carbohydrates. These lead to insulin resistance, which then leads to chronic inflammation. Because insulin plays an important role in converting estrogen to other usable sex hormones for men, insulin resistance also means hormone resistance.
-Support liver function through supplementing adaptogens and decreasing inflammation. The liver is the detox center for the body and is how the body clears used and excess hormones from the body. If this ability is impaired, toxins begin to build up and are recirculated into the bloodstream. Milk Thistle, NAC, and Glutathione are of utmost importance for the optimal function of this organ.
Across the board, both men and women can benefit from making a concerted effort to eat clean whole foods, be regularly active, decrease stress levels, and get adequate sleep. These simple steps alone can positively alter inflammation levels. In addition, making a point to supplement certain vitamins and minerals can yield advantageous returns. In particular, Vitamin D3, methylcobalamin B12, Selenium, Magnesium, and Zinc are all known to be extremely nourishing to the overall endocrine system.
Regardless of your age or sex, hormones are involved in every aspect of your health. Specific amounts working in harmony with one another is key to optimal health and wellbeing. Making endocrine system optimization a focus will positively impact every area of your life.