Why You Crave Chocolate Leading Up To Your Period The Foodie’s Guide to Hormone Health
Does PMS bring out the chocolate and carb lover in you? Blame it on hormones! Read on as we explain why this happens and how adding certain foods to your diet can help support overall hormone balance, no matter what day of the month it is.
Hormones are considered “balanced” when the right ones are produced in the right amounts, at the right times. In the context of PMS, or menstruation, the hormones most focused on are the two main drivers of your cycle, estrogen and progesterone.
A 2016 study suggests that even the normal changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can trigger cravings for high-carb and sweet foods during those whacked-out days before your period.
And, while estrogen and progesterone may be the main characters, your yearning for all things carbs is exacerbated by a dip in the feel-good hormone (serotonin) and the increase of cortisol (the stress hormone). Does this hormone chaos sound familiar? We feel you.
In short, it’s no surprise that we eat to make ourselves feel better. We’re not here to hate on the occasional chocolate or high-carb snacks (truffle oil fries, we’ll always love you!). But, if you feel like you’re suffering a little more than you should, or simply want to be proactive in supporting your hormone balance throughout your cycle, some foods may provide more benefits than that pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Here are 6 foods that will keep your hormones balanced and your body (and mind) humming nicely.
- Prebiotics and Probiotics: Probiotic foods (yogurt, kimchi, etc.) fuel the good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics are the fibrous fruits and veggies those bacteria nosh on to flourish. What do hormones have to do with gut health? Your gut is the largest endocrine organ in your body. It synthesizes and secretes more than 20 hormones that play a starring role in appetite, satiety, and metabolism. Poor gut health can negatively impact hormone balance. Experts suggest that lack of sleep, alcohol, and processed foods can throw off the gut microbiome, which helps keep hormones in check.
Protein: Aim for protein at every meal. Your body needs protein to provide essential amino acids. Protein is also vital to the production of peptide hormones. These Swiss-Army hormones regulate everything from metabolism, appetite, and energy, to growth, stress, and reproduction (just to name a few). Experts recommend eating a minimum of 20-30 grams of protein per meal. Remember to put high-protein foods such as eggs, chicken breast, lentils, and fish in heavy rotation.
DIM Foods: Foods such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower contain DIM, or diindolylmethane, a natural plant compound that helps balance hormones by helping to get rid of unwanted estrogen, which has been linked to PMS and heavy periods.
Artichokes: Once our bodies produce hormones, they’ll need a way to cycle or get rid of them, and that’s when the liver steps in. The liver does a great job of “detoxing’ the body all by itself, but, fibrous ‘chokes support liver function and help balance hormones. Artichokes also offer a significant 7 grams of fiber. That’s good because fiber helps bind to and remove excess hormones via the GI tract. A diet rich in fiber has been associated with lower hormone levels, which can be helpful when certain hormone levels soar. For instance, high cortisol levels from chronic stress or high estrogen levels may increase breast cancer risk in some people.
Avocados: They’re rich in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance shown to significantly lower blood cholesterol levels. Beta-sitosterol also helps to balance the stress hormone, cortisol, and may restore low DHEA (a hormone produced by the adrenal gland). They are also packed full of fiber which further supports gut health.
- Flaxseeds: Good things come in small packages. Studies suggest these tiny seeds support hormone metabolism and hormone health. Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens, a plant-based estrogen-like substance weaker than the estrogen we make in our bodies. Benefits include reducing cyclical breast pain, lowering estrogen and testosterone in postmenopausal women at risk for breast cancer, and may even prevent PMS and lighten periods. Plus, flaxseeds contain about 2 grams of fiber per ground tablespoon.
According to Melissa Groves Azzaro, RDD, and author of A Balanced Approach to PCOS, unless you have a diagnosed hormone condition, chances are your hormones are where they need to be.
However, Ms. Azzaro adds that even small hormone irregularities may cause symptoms like low energy, struggling sleep patterns, and difficulty losing weight.
Besides adding hormone and gut health supporting foods like the ones listed above to your diet, there are a few other things you can do to make it a little easier for your hormones to stay balanced. Regular exercise, making sure you get enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and making stress management a priority, are just a few of the lifestyle changes you should consider to give your body a helping hand.
While lifestyle changes can take time to make, small changes add up.
If taking care of your gut health is one of the first things you would like to tackle, we can help! Zenwise® offers a full line of quality digestive health products that nurture good gut health and in turn support hormone balance. Have questions? Our customer service team is eager to help. Reach them at email@example.com or M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST at (800) 940-1972.