The endocrine system is like a well-constructed web of hormonal reactions that also propel a number of other actions and are influenced by factors in your health, lifestyle choices, and your daily stress levels. The endocrine system functions as the chemical messenger system in your body. Imagine your hormones needing written instructions to arrive at the place they’re supposed to. Whatever messages they receive, is ultimately how they react. Hormones like insulin, cortisol, estrogen, leptin, ghrelin, serotonin, testosterone, and many others are all affected by your diet, sleep habits, stress management abilities, weight, and health history. They also trigger responses within your body depending on the messages they’re given.
Everyone wants a healthy thyroid, sex drive, normal appetite, healthy blood sugar levels, and a great ability to manage stress. But let’s face it – that’s easier said than done. While you can’t control all the hormonal responses in your body, you can do your best to take care of it. Here are some lifestyle and dietary choices to take care of your endocrine system as much as possible.
1. Eat a Balanced Diet
First and foremost, the body knows when it’s out of balance. It will let you know in the form of fatigue, moodiness, sleep issues, unhealthy amounts of weight gain or weight loss, hair loss, focus problems, blood sugar spikes, and a low libido. Of course, there are other ways it can let you know as well, but relating to your hormones, those are some of the most common issues. Diet is one of the best ways to influence a healthy balance in your lifestyle because a healthy diet will support your sleep and also support how well you handle stress.
Be sure to include a variety of whole food, plant-based options such as leafy greens, unlimited amounts of veggies, fresh fruits (especially berries and apples both easy on the glycemic index), whole grains versus processed grains, and plant-based proteins such as beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods provide vitamins, minerals, necessary fatty acids and protein, which are all needed for a healthy endocrine system. Also be sure to take in some healthy seaweed, superfoods, and herbs and spices all rich in antioxidants. Fresh foods will help support a healthy endocrine system, especially green vegetables and root vegetables. These foods fight off harmful fake estrogenic compounds we encounter through the environment and factory farmed animal products. They also all contain amino acids that hormones need to function properly. They also help prevent health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer.
These foods also fuel a healthy sleep cycle by providing key amounts of calcium, magnesium, amino acids, and trace minerals that assist with relaxing the body and ensuring a good night’s rest. Best of all, they contain fiber to keep you full and lower insulin levels naturally.
2. Skip the Junk
Sugar, alcohol, and even excess caffeine all wreak havoc to the endocrine system. They weaken the blood, liver, and the adrenal glands and as a result can lead to unhealthy hormone function. Sugar and excess caffeine can both cause a spike in insulin, and all processed foods are like putting tar in your body. Don’t expect it to use those foods to create healthy hormones. The body needs real, fresh food which it automatically knows how to process. Real food is used to be broken down by the body, but junk food products only confuse it and your hormones at the same time.
3. Ditch the Dairy
Dairy is a big no-no for taking care of your hormones, but not just because it comes from an animal. It’s also because dairy contains numerous natural hormones that weren’t meant to be combined with your own. Skip the dairy and go dairy-free. Remember, dairy comes from pregnant cows and we seriously doubt you want any of that in your body, right?
4. Get Your Rest, No Exceptions
Rest is absolutely essential for a healthy endocrine system. Without enough, no hormone in the body will function naturally and stress, weight gain, and even serious health issues can occur. You know the drill – seven to eight hours, no exceptions! Need some help getting there? No glass of milk needed; try these options instead.
5. Find the Right Exercise for YOU
Exercise is important to live a healthy life, but choosing the right exercise for you is also key to taking care of your hormones. Did you know high intensity training (though as beneficial in many ways as it may be), can exasperate stress by raising cortisol levels in certain individuals? Try more relaxing exercises like yoga and walking if you’re prone to stress. They may seem boring, but they help lower stress, which evens out your hormones and raises feel good chemicals, specifically the amino acid GABA, which relaxes the body, improves stress, and levels out the hormones naturally. Serotonin and dopamine are two important hormones that are influenced by diet and exercise. If a long run or kickboxing sessions pumps you up and lowers stress for you, then great, but if it makes you tired and more stressed, then try a better exercise for you that isn’t as intense.
It should also be said that all animal products contain natural hormones, even meats and other products labeled added hormone free. These foods can upset our natural hormones and aren’t optimal for balance in the body or production of your own hormones. While everyone transitions into a plant-based diet in their own way, or comes to it for different reasons, your hormones will appreciate foods from the earth, much more than hormone-filled, bacteria-filled, and acidic animal sources of protein. Try some of our transition tips if you need some extra help!
Remember that the better you take care of your blood sugar, manage your stress, and aim for a balanced lifestyle and diet, the better off your hormones will function. Why? All of these things propel off of the other, so emphasizing a whole food, plant-based nutrition plan free of processed foods, getting enough rest, and finding the best exercise for you are some of the most influential things that you do have control over.
Lead Image Source: Stacy Spensley/Flickr