January 8, 2017

How To Fix Your Hormones With a Fork

by Dr. Sara Gottfried

Are you successful in resetting some of your hormones, but not others? I get it. I joke sometimes that I’ve had every hormone imbalance a woman can have, and I’ve also reset my hormones – some fast, some rather slowly. Among the smart people who work with me online or in my integrative medical practice, many struggle to get their thyroid hormones fixed, or their estrogen back in balance. But certain hormones are trickier to wrangle, like insulin, leptin, and that rascal, cortisol, the main stress hormone.

Short version: the best way to reset your hormones efficiently and permanently is with what you put on your fork.

Why? Because the latest synthesis of nutragenomics, epidemiology, and endocrinology — a totally hot new field called nutritional endocrinology — tells us the importance of food first. Food and drink are information for your body, and we want to make sure you’re conveying the right information.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Inhale the Kale.

When you cut kale in your kitchen and inhale the aroma, the innate intelligence of your body produces and releases exactly the right enzymes to digest the kale. This process ensures that you extract every morsel of nutrient-dense goodness from the kale once you smell, taste, chew, and savor it.
When I realized this fact, I had to take a cold, hard look at how I was eating kale. Five years ago, I grew it in my organic garden and cut it myself, which releases the strongest scent — now I live on a hillside with no garden, and I often grab organic kale at the grocery store in a mad dash to pick up the kids at school. We need to slow it down.

Rinse your kale at home, in your kitchen, like you would a precious tea from the Dalai Lama. Pay particular attention to the fragrance as you prepare the kale (or other greens) for your fork. Taking three slow, deep, steady breaths before eating kale has been shown to lower your cortisol (the main stress hormone) and improves digestion.

2. Cut the GMO.

Genetically modified (GM) food appears to suppress fertility, probably by raising testosterone in females and raising estrogen in males. Among agricultural staff who work with GM foods, there are higher rates of miscarriage. While we lack rigorous data showing the adverse hormonal effects of GM foods on humans, I believe we need to apply the “Precautionary Principle,” which means GM foods are guilty until proven otherwise and do not belong on your fork. The solution that balances your hormones? Eat organic, or at the very least, non-GMO.

3. Fire Up the Fiber.

Increased fiber intake has been shown to reduce cortisol (the main stress hormone), stabilize insulin and blood sugar, and lower bad estrogens (which may reduce your risk of breast cancer). Regardless of age, I recommend that women consume 35 to 45 grams of fiber per day as part of a healthy food plan; men should consume slightly more than this. To compare, most women only consume about 13 grams of fiber per day. I recommend a combination of eating fiber-rich foods – such as vegetables, fruit, chia seeds and flax seeds – and taking a fiber supplement. But beware: increase your fiber intake slowly, by no more than 5 grams per day. Going faster may cause gas, bloating, and even constipation.

4. Eschew Conventional Meat.

There are many reasons to purchase grass-fed, organic meat – instead of whatever you happen to find on sale in your local grocery store. Let’s take beef, for example. The average cow in the U.S. gets 6 or more growth hormones and steroids, which make you fat and raise insulin (the main fat-storage hormone). Conventional red meat consumption has also been shown to raise your risk of Type 2 Diabetes, according to the results of a new Harvard study that investigated the eating habits of nearly 150,000 U.S. adults over four years. While the data on organic and grass-fed meat isn’t conclusive, it’s a much safer bet for your health and hormones.

5. Slurp the Oyster.

Oysters are rich in zinc, which raises testosterone (one of the most important sex hormones). Napa cabbage is another option.

6. Diversify Your Microbiome.

Your gut bacteria play a large role in whether you are fat or thin. They control how you respond to the food you eat: whether you store it as fat or use it as fuel. To turn on your “skinny bacteria” and turn off your “fat bacteria,” eat more probiotic-rich foods, such as: organic miso, sauerkraut, and kim chi. I also recommend taking a probiotic. I recommend getting somewhere between 15 and 50 billion CFU per day, which is a large dose. Work with your doctor to make sure the dose is right for you. Similar to fiber, many people need to start low, such as less than 5 billion CFU per day, and gradually work up to avoid the “die off” reaction (makes you feel achey, tired – like you have the flu), diarrhea, or other abdominal issues.

7. Pass the Cheese.

Dairy and conventional cheese often cause food intolerance to casein, the main milk protein. If you are sensitive to casein, like I am, you want to avoid it because intolerance raises cortisol and contributes to leaky gut syndrome.

8. Sprinkle Turmeric.

For those of us who are chronically stressed, turmeric is the just what the Doctor ordered. It’s the most potent anti-inflammatory in the world and can calm down the battles that happen in the gut, so that you can absorb and assimilate the food you need to build your happy hormones.

9. Restrain the Grains.

If you struggle with your weight, have sugar cravings or know already that you are one of the half of Americans with diabesity (diabetes or prediabetes), you need to nix the grains on your fork. We eat too many refined carbohydrates, and grains often can cause hormonal havoc — more stress, higher cortisol levels, lower sex hormones (such as testosterone). Focus instead on low-starch vegetables and clean protein, eaten slowly and mindfully. After a period of reset, many people can add back grains but focus on the slow-burning types, especially sprouted grains that do not contain gluten.

10. Make Your Liver Dandy.

Between 30 and 50% of Americans have “Acute Fatty Liver,” which leads to problems with how you utilize hormones in the body since your liver is like a traffic cop for hormones. What helps? Avoid fructose, sugar, sugar substitutes. Focus on getting liver detoxifiers such as beets or dandelion leaves, or make a tea.

There are many other ways to upgrade your hormones, but the priority is to choose your food carefully based on your hormonal issues and to eat it mindfully. If you’re not sure which hormones are out of whack, start with cortisol because it pulls the other hormones offline and must be addressed first when resetting your hormonal harmony.

Health Disclaimer

Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging.

About the author

Dr. Sara GottfriedDr. Sara Gottfried M.D. is a Harvard-educated physician, speaker, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive, and Vitality with The Gottfried Protocol. Her most recent book is The Hormone Reset Diet: Heal Your Metabolism to Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 21 Days . For the past 20 years, Dr. Gottfried has been dedicated to practicing and helping women feel at home in their bodies.

To know more about Dr. Gottfried, visit her website www.saragottfriedmd.com.

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