When we suffer from hormonal imbalances, it is often suggested that we correct them directly. Many people with depression are prescribed SSRIs to raise the levels of happy hormones in their brain. Women with menstrual problems, or who are going through the menopause, are prescribed the pill, or another dose of estrogens. Men who suffer low fertility or have difficulty staying healthy can be prescribed testosterone in the form of steroids. And people with allergies or auto-immune conditions are often prescribed steroids to ease their symptoms. But is this really the best, and only, way?
Think of it this way: if you kept breaking bones and didn’t know why, would you be happy just having them reset every time? Or if you had recurring nosebleeds, would you say it was enough to get a plug to stop the bleeding? With other conditions we want to chase the root cause, but when it comes to hormonal imbalances we treat them as something cryptic. However, it is very rare that hormonal imbalances are spontaneous. More often, they are down to something we are doing. And in many cases the thing we are doing wrong is fat consumption.
Not eating enough fats, or the right sort of fats, can definitely cause hormonal imbalances. Which means that the best case scenario is that you already had the imbalance, and it’s a little bit worse for how you are eating. But the worst case scenario is that you had no problems at all and they are all caused by the fats you eat, or don’t, as the case may be.
First of all, not getting enough dietary fats full stop can cause severe stress for your body. There are two huge reasons for this. The first one is quite simply that when our diet is lacking in any nutrient, our bodies panic. Whatever nutrients we eat too little of, or exclude, our body will assume are not available. This puts us into survival mode, which increases our appetite and can leave us on edge and nervous. This stress promotes extra androgen production, but also extra fat storage.
The second reason is that when we don’t eat enough fats, we need to get our calories from somewhere. So we eat more carbs. The problem with this is that when we eat carbs without fats they are absorbed faster, and when we combine fast absorption with a high carb intake, we get high blood sugar. High blood sugar is toxic, so our bodies release insulin to get rid of it. Which it does by putting extra sugar in the muscles (good), the fat (not great) and the liver (bad). This makes our blood sugar crash, so we feel hungry again. This whole cycle may convince our bodies we are starving, which also stresses us.
The type of fats we eat is massively important too. Many of us eat more processed vegetable oils and less natural, whole animal and plant fats. This is important because processed vegetable oils are almost impossible to digest. This means a lot of fat will come out the other end, upsetting our gut balance, but as well that we may not be getting all the fat we are eating, leading to the above problem of too little fat.
Cholesterol is vitally important for producing hormones. If you do not have enough cholesterol from your diet or from burning your own body fat, you could also find that you stop producing the right hormones in the right amounts. For many people their hormonal imbalances are not caused by an underlying disorder, but by not having enough raw materials to make more hormones out of. Ensuring that you eat enough cholesterol can go a long way to treating hormone imbalances.
But how do you make sure your blood cholesterol stays healthy when you need to eat cholesterol to balance your hormones? A simple solution lies in another fat: omega oils. Omega oils are powerful antioxidants that help us balance our blood cholesterol, raising good cholesterol and dropping bad cholesterol. Usually we eat enough omega 6, as it is present in all vegetable oils, but we lack omega 3. By adding omega 3 to our diet we can balance our blood cholesterol, allowing us to produce hormones