Why hormone balance depends on your fiber intake
Being a woman isn’t easy. Wacky hormones can be the cause of so much grief, but what if we turned it around and used them to our advantage? It may seem bothersome to be so affected by these little guys (or gals), but it also gives us the opportunity to really leverage our control over our hormones and change how they affect us.
So instead of just attempting to manage them on a month-to-month basis, let’s take a step backward and consider how we can increase our hormonal health so there’s less to manage in the first place. Great news: you can gain some control over your hormones just by increasing your fiber intake. No pricey supplements needed.
Why is fiber such a big deal with hormones?
Estrogen! We’re all pretty familiar with that one – it’s the main hormone for females. Estrogen is processed by the liver and should ideally be excreted when you head to the bathroom, but if you aren’t making regular trips to the loo (or not eliminating entirely), the estrogen is circulated back into your system. If you think that sounds like too much of a good thing, you’re right.
Excess estrogen – sometimes called estrogen dominance - can be the root of many symptoms including:
Breast tenderness and swelling
Fibrocystic lumps in your breasts
Increased PMS symptoms
Cold hands or feet
Excess estrogen can also decrease your sex drive, and in case you haven’t heard, orgasms are really good for you.
As I’m sure you know, eating plenty of fiber helps us go, and going to the bathroom daily is perhaps one of the best things you can do for your hormones (and your health in general).
Fiber Goals and Health Gains
If you’re a woman under the age of 50, the general recommendation is to consume a minimum of 25g of fiber per day. If you’re over the age of 50, your fiber intake recommendations decrease to 21. This is simply because you require less calories as you age, and the fiber recommendations reflect that.
The 25g of fiber recommendation reflects a 1,800 calorie diet, but many active women need to consume well over this number, so your needs may certainly surpass the general guideline. Put another way, you should consume 14g of fiber per 1,000 calories.
How to increase your fiber intake
You should include fiber at every meal and snack. This doesn’t mean you can’t have simple carbs like bread and rice, it just means you should include fiber with them, too (this will help your blood sugar balance as well!)
If you’re looking for more fiber, try these:
Whole grains: brown, wild, or forbidden rice; quinoa; oats; and buckwheat
Seeds: chia, flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower
Nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and cashews
Beans: black, pinto, kidney, and garbanzo
Fruits: raspberries, oranges, apples, mango, guava, and many more
Dark and colorful vegetables: beets, carrots, and artichokes
Some vegetables that are particularly helpful for your hormones are cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, arugula, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, and radishes. That’s because in addition to being great sources of fiber, they’re very supportive for your liver because of the compounds they contain.
Before you start loading up on the fiber, remember to take it slow and drink plenty of water to keep things moving. Increasing your fiber intake too quickly can lead to issues like constipation and bloat, which us ladies certainly don’t want. If you’re having a hard time eliminating and already tried increasing your fiber (and water intake!), you should consider seeing your doctor or working with a dietitian or qualified nutritionist. Elimination is one of the ways your body detoxes, so it’s important that you’re doing it.
And finally, if you’re feeling discouraged, let me leave you with this: dark chocolate has 2-3 times as much fiber as milk chocolate.