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Why eating according to your hormones could be key to boosting weight loss and reducing anxiety

Don't underestimate the importance of hormonal balance

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 08 May 2018 16:30 BST
Five signs your carbohydrate intake is too low, according to a dietitian

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there when it comes to curbing common health concerns, such as poor sleep, water retention and fatigue.

While it’s well-documented that diet plays a fundamental part in our physiological and psychological health, the key to understanding these correlations could be down to our hormones, one holistic health coach claims.

According to Magdalena Wszelaki, whose upcoming book, Cooking for Hormone Balance, features 125 recipes designed to promote healthy hormone levels, a lot of the problematic symptoms we experience on a daily basis could be explained by high or low levels of particular hormones - and there are foods we can eat to combat this.

After being diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease in 2008 and struggling with acne for years, Wszelaki sought out nutritional remedies to combat her conditions.

She initially cut out a series of inflammatory foods, such as gluten, dairy and soya, clearing her skin within weeks and her symptoms from Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid, improved a few months later.

“People say ‘you are what you eat’, but the truth is that you are what you can absorb,” Wszelaki told The Independent.

She explained that there are seven food groups scientists typically deem as inflammatory: gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts and nightshade vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergine.

Too much of these foods can inflame the lining of the small intestine to such a degree that nutrient absorption is severely compromised.

In other words, even if you’re eating foods you would typically perceive as “healthy”, such as eggs and vegetables, the nutritional value could be somewhat wasted on your body because your inflamed gut isn't absorbing nutrients properly.

So, what does any of this have to do with our hormones?

Wszelaki explains that it’s inflammation which causes our hormone levels to fluctuate, because the body is not as receptive to absorb hormones in this state.

This can affect us in a number of ways, depending on which ones we’re experiencing particularly high or low levels of.

For example, someone with high oestrogen levels could experience cellulite, hair loss, facial hair and water retention. This is very common in women, she says.

On the other hand, those struggling with low oestrogen could subsequently suffer from fatigue.

Meanwhile, it’s well-known that high levels of cortisol - often referred to as “the stress hormone” - can lead to weight gain, whereas low levels can lead to anxiety, depression, incontinence and poor sleep.

In terms of rectifying these imbalances, Wszelaki advises first identifying which of the seven inflammatory foods your body is most affected by.

The easiest way to do this is by embarking upon an elimination diet for four to six weeks, eliminating all of these foods before slowly reintroducing them one by one and noting down how your body - and most importantly, your digestive system - responds, ideally in a journal.

“Everyone is a little different,” Wszelaki adds, explaining that it’s crucial to work out what foods work for you as an individual first, rather than following a generic diet which may or may not suit your body’s needs.

This should give you a fairly good idea of which foods work for you and which don’t and, according to Wszelaki, will “help rebalance the three fundamental bodily systems that govern good hormonal balance: the gut, the liver and blood sugar levels.

“I use the analogy of a three-legged stool, if someone wants to sit comfortably on a three-legged stool, all of the legs need to be in place and of the same length, the same is true of the aforementioned factors.”

While maintaining a good digestive system is crucial for nutrient absorption and efficient liver functioning is key for detoxification, it’s sugar imbalances that can prove most detrimental to our hormonal health.

For example, she explains that too much sugar in the diet can lead to high testosterone levels, which in women can cause polycystic ovary syndrome and abnormal hair growth.

So, what foods are generally considered advantageous for hormone health?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that foods don’t contain hormones as such, but there are certain ones that are enablers i.e. sesame seeds don’t contain progesterone, but they are high in vitamin E and zinc, both of which are nutrients the body needs to produce progesterone, low levels of which can lead to insomnia.

Other foods the author advocates consuming for hormone health include citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, coconut oil and berries.

Foods high in fat such as walnuts, salmon and butter are also included in Wszelaki’s list of hormone-friendly foods, all of which are high in a range of vitamins that a non-inflamed gut should be able to absorb easily.

However, Wszelaki insists that her ethos is by no means a diet. “There is no hormone balance diet,” she clarifies.

Instead, her cookbook is designed to show readers how to incorporate these foods into your diet with a whole host of healthy recipes designed to alleviate common health concerns.

From the “Early Menopause Latte” to the “Kudzo Calming Pudding”, it’s a whole new hormone-friendly world.

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