Your endocrine system is made up of a network of glands, each of which secretes a type of hormone that regulates various functions in your body. You can think of hormones as “chemical messengers” that affect everything from your mood, the look and feel of your skin, your hunger, your digestion, and your energy levels, to how well you burn fat.

Your hormones are greatly influenced by your diet and lifestyle, and when even one hormone functions incorrectly it can cause a cascade of symptoms including insomnia, migraines, acne, fatigue, low libido, constipation and weight gain. In fact imbalanced hormones contribute to many of the health issues women struggle with today including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, endometriosis, difficult and painful periods, thyroid problems, and adrenal exhaustion.

When it comes to your hormones you don’t have to feel helpless. The truth is you really can support your hormonal health through your diet and lifestyle choices. Here are 3 tips (and a few more mentioned at the end) that you can start implementing today!

Eat the Right Fats

Healthy fats, and yes, cholesterol are the building blocks of hormones so if you’re eating a low-fat diet or worse, avoiding fat altogether, you’re doing your health and hormones a disservice. Healthy fats include those found in avocados, coconuts, and olive oil, and omega-3s found in wild fish like salmon and sardines, Chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and grass-fed animal products.

Steer clear of man-made or chemically altered fats including most commercial vegetable oils (soy, peanut, safflower, sunflower, cotton, canola), margarine, shortening and those found in most packaged foods. Read your labels!

Support Your Liver

The liver can be likened to an amazing filtration system that removes toxins and other debris from our bloodstream to be safely processed and removed from our body. This involves the conversion of fat-soluble toxins to water-soluble toxins through a 2-step detoxification process that enables them to be safely eliminated via our sweat, urine and bowel movements. These toxins include not only chemicals we’re exposed to through our diet and environment such as pesticides, household cleaning products, and cosmetics, but also waste products produced internally like excess hormones (i.e. estrogen).

In order for this 2-step detox process to run smoothly it needs a steady supply of micronutrients as well as sufficient dietary fibre to bind with these toxins (and hormonal waste products) so they can be eliminated through the bowel. If your diet is lacking in fibre these compounds will be reabsorbed right back into your bloodstream (not good!) contributing to many of the health problems mentioned earlier.

The best way to support your liver and its detoxification duties is to eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables including leafy greens like kale, bok choy, collards, and spinach; root veggies like carrot, beets and sweet potatoes; and brightly coloured fruits like berries and apples. For additional fibre try adding 1-2 tbsp of ground flaxseed to your smoothie or sprinkle it over your yogurt or cereal.

Be a Sleeping Beauty

If you’re constantly skimping on sleep, aside from feeling cranky the next day, your stress and hunger hormones will surge causing a corresponding peak in insulin that can lead you to pack on the belly fat. Lack of sleep is also associated with accelerated aging, depression and a host of other hormonal health problems. Most experts agree that 7-8 hours of sleep per night is the optimal length for most people – although some people may require more or less.

Prioritize sleep and improve your sleep hygiene by powering down all of your electronics (phone, computer, iPad) at least one hour before you hit the sack since these devices stimulate brain activity at a time when you should be relaxing. Even a small amount of screen light can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin so be sure to keep any devices away from you while you sleep and use a sleep mask if your bedroom isn’t dark enough.

Here are a few more hormonal health tips worth mentioning: manage your stress levels, get enough exercise (but don’t overdo the cardio!) and limit (or ditch) the caffeine, booze, and sugary treats – all of which wreak havoc on your hormonal health.

About the Author

Elaine is a Certified Nutritionist and Women’s Health Coach. She works with clients across the globe to help them improve their health and relationship with food. Elaine believes in a real food approach to health that is rooted in optimizing digestion and includes ongoing and intelligent cleansing. You can download her FREE Hip, Healthy & Holistic Makeover Guide to learn 5 simple things you can do every day to lose weight, increase energy, kick cravings, and feel beautiful inside & out.