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What is the hormone diet all about?

There are literally thousands of diet books, Apps, website articles and podcasts floating around the stratosphere. Whether you want to lose weight, have more energy, feel happier or sleep better – there is a diet suggestion for everything.

All the various diets claim to be ‘tried and tested’ and guaranteed to succeed, but how do we know who’s telling the truth or whether these will actually be good or harmful to our bodies? After all, we are all truly different in every way.

One of the latest diets to fly into the media is the hormone diet. There are many forms of the diet in the mix, claiming that you can ‘adjust’ your hormones with a special diet in order to lose weight fast, reduce anxiety and generally feel better in yourself.

It sounds amazing, but what does it actually mean, and could it really work for you?

We delved a little deeper…

What is the hormone diet?

Hit ‘hormone diet’ into Google and you will be overwhelmed with the number of articles and reference guides on the subject. So where to begin? A lot of the content is targeted at women over 35, who’s hormones are apparently working against them from here on, meaning that weight loss is harder than their younger or non-female counterparts.

Magdalena Wszelaki is an integrative hormone and nutrition expert, who has struggled with hormone complications first-hand. Having suffered from hyperthyroidism and then Hashimoto’s adrenal fatigue, she decided to leave her high-powered job in the advertising industry and focus on a new way of eating, to repair her insides – she is apparently now symptom-free because of her new lifestyle choices.

Magdelena’s Cooking for Hormone Balance book features over 100 recipes – all designed to promote healthy hormone levels. Her anti-inflammatory recipes are all free of gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and nightshades, as well as being low in sugar. The Decadent Chocolate Cherry Smoothie sure sounds amazing we think!

According to Magdelena’s theory, as well as other nutritionists like her, by eating the right foods and taking the right supplements for your body, your hormone balance can be restored.

How do you know if you have a hormone imbalance?

Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate processes within our body. There are at least 60 different hormones within each of us, and it’s only now we are beginning to explore how food and other lifestyle choices affect each of them.

Feeling bloated? Frequently irritable? Getting palpitations for no reason? These symptoms could well be the results of a hormone imbalance – affecting every cell and system in your body as a consequence. Medication and monthly fluctuations can all affect your hormone levels and symptoms may worsen at various times for each of us.

Cortisol is one such hormone that can play havoc on us when it is off-balance. This hormone is secreted by the adrenal glands (found above our kidneys) and increases at times when you are ill or particularly stressed out. It is recommended to carry out some low-intensity exercise (like yoga, Pilates or a brisk walk) to help lower cortisol levels during these times, but now we are finding out that what we eat could also help to lower our levels, too.

Imbalances of progesterone and oestrogen can also be to blame for symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety and depression. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, sugar and sodium, as well as getting adequate water, calcium and exercise can also help to balance things out a little more naturally.

If you are having some symptoms, but are not sure which hormones might be out of sync, then Magdelena’s website also has a handy hormone quiz you can take to try to get to the root of the problem, before you try to treat it. Making an appointment with an endocrinologist (female hormone expert) could also be a good idea to chat things over and a hormone blood test might be offered to you.

So, is there any evidence that hormone diets work?

Although so-called hormone diets have appeared to work wonders for lots of women, there is still a lot of research to be carried out.

Suneil Koliwad is an associate professor of endocrinology in the University of California at San Francisco Diabetes Center. In an article published in the Washington Post recently, he said “It’s premature at this point to think anyone knows exactly what components of the diet are needed to manipulate a variety of hormones across the board in specific ways,”

What we do know is that eating fewer calories, choosing higher-quality and minimally processed foods, and drinking plenty of water are all strategies with lasting impact for everyone. Diets that are high in a variety of whole foods that are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals are also shown to promote healthy hormone levels.

Hormones such as insulin, cortisol and sex hormones can all be severely affected by a low-quality diet. Such a diet would include lots of refined carbohydrates as well as hydrogenated and saturated fats from fried foods, fatty meats and highly processed foods.

Keep moving and don’t stress

Frequent exercise has been shown to positively impact insulin levels, as well as producing endorphins – the hormones that make us feel good and happy. These are the ones we love!

It’s often hard to totally avoid stress, no matter how hard you try, but managing it is essential if you want to improve your overall health and well-being. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness can help lower cortisol levels, which can, in turn, support your weight-loss efforts as well as improving mental health.