Feeling a little hormonal? It’s not surprising when you consider how our environment and lifestyle pose such a challenge to the optimal balance of hormones. Chronic stress and blood sugar issues, coupled with the pollution of our environment and food supply by estrogenic chemicals is driving many of the health issues we suffer from today, however, you are not powerless in this situation. There are many habits you can implement on a daily basis to protect yourself from hormonal imbalances and the disease risks associated with them.
Eating Fitter Food with some daily movement, structured exercise, sound sleep and stress management provides the foundation for optimal hormone health. You might be getting bored of this lot by now but if you haven’t nailed these aspects of health no supplement or superfood is likely to make a difference.
You may be surprised to know there are even some simple ingredients you can add to your morning smoothie that will help to improve your hormone profile by supporting the detox pathways in the liver and improving the balance of bacteria in your gut, both of which are key to the detoxification of excess hormones.
We’re big fans of Nutribullets as a quick, easy way to get a range of macro and micronutrients into a meal including all the essential fibre. This Choc Avo Bliss is one of the most popular nutritious smoothies from our recipe book, A Second Helping. The following additions can also help and make little difference to the taste or texture of your smoothie, so you will never even know they are there doing their hormone balancing thang.
1. Flaxseed (aka linseed)
There is some compelling research supporting the hormone modulating effect of flaxseed. Flaxseed contains compounds known as phytoestrogens, which have the ability to interact with our own cellular estrogen receptors. Lignans are the phytoestrogens found in the fibre portion of flaxseed and may behave like estrogen in the body and influence estrogen production and it’s breakdown by the body. Other research has suggested that phytoestrogens don’t mimic estrogen but rather block estrogen.
Flaxseed is also being explored for its an anti-cancer effect, particularly with regard to hormone-sensitive cancers including breast and prostrate cancer. In 2005, the journal Clinical Cancer Research published a placebo-controlled study involving patients who received a 25 grams of flaxseed daily for just over 1 month. A reduction in tumor markers and an increase in programmed cell death (apoptosis) was observed with researchers concluding that “Dietary flaxseed has the potential to reduce tumor growth in patients with breast cancer.”
It is best to buy organic flaxseed to avoid adding more estrogenic pesticides and herbicides into your smoothie (negating the point of using it in the first place) and ideally buy the whole seed and grind it fresh each day. Flaxseed is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids which are unstable and will oxidise quickly once exposed to heat, light and air. If you buy ground flaxseed it may already be rancid by the time you come to use it.
As a good source of mucilaginous fibre, flaxseed can also improve the frequency of bowel movements (improving detoxification further as you take the rubbish out more often) and supporting a healthier balance of bacteria in the gut.
As well as being a tasty addition to your smoothie research suggests cinnamon has an “insulin-like” effect on the body due its ability to improve glucose control and impact favourably on blood sugar levels. A study published in 2009 found that ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon taken twice a day for 90 days improved Haemoglobin A1c levels (HbA1c), this a measure of average blood glucose levels over the last three months in people with type 2 diabetes. A 12-week London study was recently conducted involving 58 individuals with Type 2 Diabetics and observed that 2g of cinnamon daily resulted in significantly lower HbA1c levels and reduced blood pressure.
It is thought cinnamon lowers your blood sugar by acting in several different ways; it slows the emptying of the stomach reducing the rise in post meal blood glucose levels. A bioflavanoid compound in cinnamon called proanthocyanidin may also improve the activity of insulin communication within fat cells. The polyphenols in cinnamon also improve the bodies antioxidant defenses.
Berries always feature in our daily smoothie, we use either fresh or frozen berries as they offer awesome amounts of fibre per calorie, higher than most other fruits. The seeds in berries are the secret to their hormone balancing effect. These are a great source of soluble fibre that is broken down and fermented by bacteria in the gut encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria, which plays a key role in determining the amount of circulating hormones in the body. A sub optimal balance of bacteria in the gut may result in the de-conjugating (release) of hormones from their bound up state (ready to be excreted via the bowel) and lead them to be re-absorbed back into the body increasing the total hormonal load.
4. Raw Egg Yolks
Egg yolks are a superb source of countless vitamins and minerals including: A, D, E, B2, B6, B9, iron, calcium, phosphorous and which all contribute to a healthy hormonal balance. The iodine in egg yolks is also worthy of a mention as it plays a vital role in thyroid hormone production and many people are deficient in this mineral. The cholesterol in egg yolks is also crucial for the production of all hormones generally.
The sulphur in eggs supports the cytochrome P450 detoxification pathways in the liver contributing to the efficient removal of excess hormones from the body. Raw eggs or soft-boiled eggs are best in terms of digestibility and it means the cholesterol is less oxidised. Also avoid factory farmed eggs and opt for organic, free range or eggs from pasture fed chickens.
5. Fresh Ginger Root or Organic Powder
Inflammation is the root of most chronic diseases and can be a consequence and driver of hormonal imbalances. Many of us frequently treat inflammation and pain on a regular basis with non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications including ibuprofen or aspirin which are pretty toxic to the liver and damaging to the gut thus compromising our ability to maintain an optimal balance of hormones.
We can effectively balance inflammation through nutrition and lifestyle which supports our core biological systems of the body. A powerful anti-inflammatory food is ginger as it has the ability to block the cascade of inflammation by blocking the formation of inflammatory compounds known as prostaglandins and leukotrienes, it also exerts an antioxidant effect by reducing existing inflammation. Ginger can be added to a smoothie in fresh or dried form, the nutrient profile does change slightly during the drying process but it still offers lots of benefit and it maybe more convenient at times so use a combination of both fresh ginger root and dried ginger.
For more awesome smoothie recipes and the low down on our favourite protein powders check out Fitter Food: A Second Helping here.