The endocrine system refers to a combination of glands located in various parts of the body and include the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, pancreas, adrenal glands, testes (males) and ovaries (females). These glands are responsible for producing all the hormones our body needs to maintain an optimal level of health: they regulate development and growth, metabolism, tissue function, moods, sleep, and sexual functions.
So how do the endocrine glands work? They absorb nutrients in the bloodstream, convert them to hormones and release them back into the blood. Through the bloodstream, these hormones are carried to the body parts they are intended for. These hormones affect nearly every cell in the body. Any disorders of these endocrine glands are therefore likely to impact the entire human body. Hormones related disorders take two forms: either the levels secreted are too high or too low, or, the body is unable to use the hormones properly. A prime example is diabetes. In diabetes, the body is unable to digest simple sugars such as glucose. Insulin, the hormone needed for this function is ineffective, either because the pancreas is not producing enough, or the body is unable to use it. Another example is hypothyroidism when the thyroid gland is unable to secrete sufficient thyroid hormone.
What causes disorders of the endocrine system?
- High levels of stress
- Poor diet
- Lifestyle habits such as smoking, consumption of alcohol or drugs
- Poor dietary habits, insufficient nutrient intake especially of Vitamin D
- Sedentary lifestyle or too much exercise and/or physical activity
- Insufficient rest: sleep and relaxation
How are hormones and diet interlinked?
Like everything else, the body uses the food you intake to create and replace its components. The endocrine system uses nutrients and energy circulating in your blood as raw materials to produce hormones. The endocrine system is also connected: Higher production of any one specific hormone will cause a drop in the production of others. This is because the endocrine system weighs the availability of nutrients against the present situation and prioritizes which hormones to produce. If you are under a lot of stress, for example, high levels of cortisol will be produced, but reproductive hormones will be reduced. The hormones essential for survival are secreted, while others are sidelined. This causes unhealthy fluctuations and imbalances in the hormones.
Endocrine diseases can be treated through medication such as supplements and injections. Sometimes they may require surgery, as in the case of tumors. However, why wait until things reach that point? The best way to treat endocrine diseases is through a healthy diet. Eating the right nutrients eliminates problems from root up, and supports the body’s ability to heal itself.
The essential diet for optimum endocrine health
Your gut health is of top significance is treating hormone imbalances. Most problems originate in the gut. Inflammation is usually the cause of hormone imbalances. A diet that inflames your gut results in an overactive immune system. The body tries to balance this through autoimmune attacks on its own glands and tissue. This throws your entire endocrine system off balance. So how can you design a diet that prevents and/or heals hormone diseases?
- Your diet should contain a balance between various macronutrients: Carbohydrates, fats, and protein are all required in specific amounts. In particular, healthy fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids are important because they are building blocks for hormones.
- Eat probiotics: These are healthy bacteria that are present in the gastrointestinal tract and repair the gut lining. They promote digestion, reduce inflammation and support the immune system.
- Cut out inflammatory food: Foods that
- cause inflammation during digestion should be avoided. Foods high in sugar and processed foods are the worst offenders.
- Hydration: Eight glasses of water are the minimum for an adult. Whole fruits and vegetables such as watermelons are also high in water content.
- Consume Fiber: At least thirty grams of dietary fiber a day is recommended. Fiber keeps control of cholesterol and blood sugar levels promote digestion and help in the survival of gut bacteria.
What are some hormone healthy food options?
- Healthy fats: Coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, salmon, butter, dairy, and meat
- Fiber: Lentils, peas, beans, pineapples
- Probiotics: Yoghurt, kefir, legumes, whole grains, oats, onion and bananas
- Supplements: Vitamin D, vitamin C, and vitamin B complex
- Fruits and vegetables: Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and asparagus; mushrooms, and oranges.
- Protein: Brown rice, beans, lentils, seeds, and nuts.
A balanced diet must be supported by a regular exercise regimen. Speed walking, playing with your kids or pets can be a relaxing and enjoyable activity. To balance the stress in our daily lives, time should be set aside for yoga and meditation. Also, opt for regular medical checkups to detect any problems in the early stages.
Good luck and healthy happy living to you!