In this article, we look at six everyday things that might be interfering with your hormone health.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant and you find it most commonly in coffee, tea and chocolate. A typical cup of black coffee will contain around 95 mg of caffeine.
Caffeine works by taking over the adenosine receptors in the brain, a chemical that inhibits neural activity and promotes drowsiness. But it has a big impact on other systems of the body as well.
Is caffeine bad for your hormones?
Caffeine can have many benefits to our health – it contains anti-oxidants, can be anti-viral and it may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But caffeine’s effects on our hormones aren’t so positive. Let’s look at some of the ways that caffeine can impact our hormones.
- Caffeine can disrupt our blood sugar balance.
- Caffeine can disrupt our stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, and can move us into the sympathetic nervous system.
- Caffeine can disrupt our circadian rhythm and therefore our ability to fall and stay asleep at night.
- Caffeine often contains mould which can worsen histamine symptoms. These are common in perimenopause, and for clients struggling with high estrogen symptoms like painful and heavy periods.
- Studies have suggested caffeine can impact estrogen levels (higher in asian population and lower in caucasian population).
WHO SHOULD give up caffeine?
If you’re struggling with your hormones, we may recommend you give up caffeine for a period of time. This includes coffee but also green tea, black tea and matcha.
This is especially important if you have insulin resistance (and therefore difficulties balancing your blood sugar) or if stress is underlying any of your hormonal symptoms. For example, testing with the Advanced Hormone Test may reveal low DHEA, high cortisol or a dysregulated daily cortisol pattern.
If you really can’t live without it, stick to one cup of coffee a day after breakfast. This will keep your blood sugar stable, won’t interfere with your natural rise of morning cortisol, and won’t impact your sleep.
Always choose a high quality, organic coffee to reduce the likelihood of mould exposure.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It is found in foods such as:
- baked goods
- salad dressings and
- soy sauce.
How does gluten impact our hormones?
Gluten can cause inflammation in the body, which in turn can cause a flare-up of autoimmune diseases, gut issues and thyroid imbalances.
Gluten can also cause gut permeability (aka a leaky gut) and an altered microbiome and is suggested to cause a leaky brain too. This can cause generalised inflammation and impact hormone health.
Who should give up gluten?
At FUTURE WOMAN, we may recommend trying a gluten-free diet for 3 months if you come to us with the following:
- Painful and heavy periods
- Endometriosis and Adenomyosis
- Autoimmune disease – thyroid
- Fertility issues
You may have heard of lactose-intolerance, but you may be less familiar with other proteins, hormones and antiobiotics in dairy that can increase inflammation and interfere with our hormone health.
How does dairy impact our hormones?
Dairy can impact our hormones in the following ways:
- A1 Casein: A1 dairy from cows can be very inflammatory and is linked to worsening mood changes, anxiety, weight gain, endometriosis, acne and period pain. A1 Casein is also known to stimulate mast cells (linked to histamine) and increase overall inflammation and oxidative stress. It also stimulates inflammatory cytokines, resulting in heavier, more painful periods.
- Hormones and antibiotics: Dairy can contain hormones like insulin growth factor-1 and antibiotics that can impact inflammatory pathways and hormone production and detoxification. These hormones can impact our own natural hormone signalling system. One study suggests cow’s dairy increased estrogen while lowering FSH, LH and testosterone
Who should avoid dairy?
If you struggle with heavy, painful periods and/or allergic-type symptoms like skin rashes, itchy nose and eyes that indicate high histamine, we may suggest to remove all A1 casein dairy from your diet for a period of 3 months. We may also recommend this protocol if your test results reveal high levels of neuro- and gut-inflammation, as well as high levels of oxidative stress.
A1 Casein is found in all cow’s dairy – goat’s cheese and milk, sheep dairy and jersey A2 cows dairy are often ok.
You may know what a hangover feels like, but do you know all the adverse effects alcohol can have on your hormones? Drinking three to six alcoholic beverages a week increases the risk of breast cancer in women by 15 per cent. Women who drink two glasses of wine daily have a 50 per cent increase in their risk of breast cancer.
How does alcohol impact our hormones?
- Alcohol slows down detoxification, worsening PMS. Alcohol is always top priority for the liver to detoxify, and therefore it can’t get rid of all the other toxins it needs to deal with properly. This has a huge impact on our hormones as it impairs estrogen metabolism, worsening PMS and endometriosis, and it is a risk factor for estrogen-related cancers.
- Alcohol increases mast cell activation. This causes high histamine, which can make PMS or symptoms of perimenopause worse.
- Alcohol blocks methylation. Methylation is an incredibly important process involved in hormone detoxification, so this can worsen PMS-type symptoms and perimenopause.
- Alcohol affects blood sugar balance. This in turn contributes to weight gain and metabolic disorders like insulin resistance (and therefore all the conditions associated with insulin resistance like PCOS).
Who should avoid alcohol?
Most women would benefit from reducing or cutting out alcohol, but in particular we recommend this for women with symptoms of high estrogen (heavy, painful periods and PMS), as well as those going through perimenopause. We would also recommend this for women whose test results revealed poor Phase 1 or Phase 2 estrogen detoxification.
If you find it hard to give up completely, try avoiding alcohol in the second half of your menstrual cycle when hormone levels are at their highest.
5. Environmental toxins
Endocrine disrupting chemicals can be found in so many different consumer products from receipts to make up to scented candles. Common endocrine disrupters to look out for include:
- Brominated and organophosphate flame retardants (volatile compounds)
How do environmental toxins impact our hormones?
Endocrine disrupters can wreak havoc with our hormones, for example, they can:
- Lower or increase hormone levels (via receptors)
- Interfere with estrogen detoxification
- Impact liver detoxification
- Cause acne
- Increase inflammation
- Impact stress hormones
- Cause hair loss, low energy, poor nutrient absorption, chemical reactions and more.
Who should avoid environmental toxins?
It can be overwhelming to overhaul everything in your house that could contain an endocrine disrupting chemical. So we always recommend to start small. Switching from a plastic bottle to a glass drinking bottle is a great start. And you can swap products for more natural alternatives when they run out, so it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.
6. Over Exercising
One of the main causes of irregular or missing periods is a dysregulated HPO axis. HPO stands for hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis and is our main communication pathway between the brain and the ovaries.
The HPO pathway is very sensitive to food intake and exercise, as well as stress. If we are over-exercising, under-fuelling our bodies (or have a history of an eating disorder) and are stressed then this pathway becomes dysregulated and periods can go missing or hormones can decrease or go out of balance.
How does over exercising impact our hormones
While exercise is important for our overall health and hormone balance, too much exercise can have the following negative impact on our hormones:
- Increases stress hormones like cortisol
- Decreases estrogen levels
- Places stress on the HPA/ HPO axis
- Can decrease fat mass, leading to lower estrogen and circulating hormones
- Increases oxidative stress
- Impairs insulin sensitivity
Who should avoid overexercising?
All women should be careful not to overexercise, but this is particularly important for women experiencing missing or irregular periods, or for those under a lot of stress.
If you’re cycling, it’s a good idea to change up your exercise according to the different phases of your menstrual cycle to reduce stress on the body. In the luteal phase (the second half of your cycle), you are expending more energy at rest because of higher hormone levels, so incorporating lower intensity exercise like yoga, pilates and walking and building in more rest days is important.
The best plan is always a personalised plan. So if you’re concerned about your hormone health, we recommend testing your hormones with FUTURE WOMAN. All our tests include a personalised health plan with supplement, diet and lifestyle recommendations based on your symptoms and results.