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How Your Food Choices Affect Your Hormones

by Julie Von

The simplest and quickest way to positively impact your health is through nutrition. We often think of immune health, physical appearance and mood when we consider nutrition, but one of the most essential systems in our bodies is also greatly influenced by what we eat: the endocrine system. The endocrine system controls the smooth flow of your hormones and regulates your menstrual cycle.

Here is a quick run down on hormones. Hormone means "messenger," and a hormone's job is to translate messages from one area of the body to the next. It is a high-level system and, much like the postal service, when someone isn't doing their job efficiently, all other services can be affected.

Hormones are fatty and dense, think about cholesterol, which is a hormone, and what you know about keeping cholesterol in check with nutrition. The main players in the female menstrual cycle--estrogen and progesterone-- switch starring roles midway through a cycle, which is not mediated by birth control pills or an IUD. Estrogen dominates the first half of the cycle, which is called the follicular phase. Progesterone dominates the second half, which is called the luteal phase.

Now, how does this relate to your digestion? The entire menstrual cycle is dependent on blood. Blood is made from sufficient nutrition and the body's ability to digest and turn food into glucose, which becomes blood. Many woman have weakened digestive systems, due to stress, worry, overthinking, extended phases of dieting and extremely active lives without sufficient nutritional support. When you are blood-deficient, your digestion is usually weak and shows signs of gas and bloating and possibly inconsistent elimination. You might experience extreme energy lows before and during your period because your blood supply is weak.

Julie Von, DAOM, Manhattan-based holistic doctor specializing in fertility.

Foods that build blood are rich in vitamin B and iron, such as beets, good quality grass-feed beef, and all leafy greens. In addition, good eating habits like eating at regular times of the day, focusing on chewing and not multi- tasking while eating, will also help to build healthy blood and digestive energy.

The simplest way to positively impact the balance of estrogen and progesterone in the body through nutrition, is by correctly identifying where you might need support. Tracking your cycle is an excellent health tool, regardless of whether you are trying to become or avoid becoming pregnant. Estrogen and progesterone both respond very well to essential and fatty oils. I generally describe estrogen as cooling and dense and suggest foods that benefit estrogen like flax seed, yams, eggs, millet, non-GMO tofu, mung bean sprouts and pears. Progesterone is warm and moving in nature and can be benefited by sesame seed, sunflower seed, lamb, quinoa, ginger and leek.

The essential universal advice that holds true to everyone, when it comes to improving hormonal health through digestion and nutrition, is the necessity of cooking at home. Nourishing your body and spirit, requires time and exquisite self-care. When you slow down to care for yourself, digestion and hormonal balance improves.

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