Healthy foods, and some help from your health plan, can help keep your hormones in balance.
You've been sluggish and putting on the pounds. Could it be a hormonal imbalance? Hormones—your body's chemical messengers—are so powerful that a very precise balance is needed for your body to function properly.
Hormonal imbalances in men not only can cause weight gain and fatigue, but also loss of muscle mass, infertility and more.
Men don't see the doctor as often as women do, so it's especially important to make your health a priority and schedule an appointment. If you suspect you have a hormone imbalance, an endocrinologist or nutritionist can help you get to the root of the problem.
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There are some things you can do on your own to help balance your hormones, such as changing up your diet. Read on to learn how the foods you eat can improve your hormonal health—and your overall health.
The hormones behind weight gain
Insulin: This hormone tells your body how to use sugar. Many people become insulin resistant, which means that high levels of both sugar and insulin remain in your bloodstream. This can lead to obesity and greater risk of diabetes and heart disease.
The best way to avoid insulin resistance? A 2013 study in Frontiers in Endocrinology showed that it helps to reduce sugar intake and cut down on carbs, especially refined carbs like white bread and pretzels.
Leptin and ghrelin (a.k.a. the "hunger hormones"): These are the hormones that control your appetite. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology, dietary fish oil can regulate leptin, improving your sensitivity to it and getting your appetite suppressor back in action. Eating protein at every meal, especially breakfast, can help reduce your ghrelin levels so you avoid overeating. Try eggs, stir-fried tofu or Greek yogurt.
Thyroid hormones: These hormones control the speed of your metabolism. If your levels are too low, you might have an underactive thyroid, which causes your metabolism to slow down. In this case, you want to make sure you have enough iodine in your diet, which can be found in seaweed and eggs.
Hormones and men's health
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. It regulates several processes in the body, including sperm production, muscle mass and red blood cell production.
If men don't have enough testosterone, it can lead to low sperm count, reduced sex drive and erectile dysfunction, as well as other symptoms like mood changes and depression. Men with low testosterone levels can also be at risk for osteoporosis.
It's normal for men's testosterone levels to drop as they get older, and in fact, a growing number of men are experiencing the effects of low testosterone as life expectancy increases.
To boost testosterone levels, there are supplements available, but it's unclear whether they can help. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that testosterone supplements aren't suitable for treating low testosterone levels due to natural aging.
However, if your doctor diagnoses you with unusually low testosterone levels, you may be prescribed hormone replacement therapy. This has side effects, including a possible link to prostate enlargement, so you'll want to discuss this with your doctor.
The good news is there are certain nutrients that are potentially linked to testosterone production. These include vitamin D, which is found in tuna, egg yolks and fortified milks and cereals. Shellfish has high levels of zinc, which can also boost testosterone.
While it's important to go to the doctor to see if you need medical treatment, making healthy food choices can help keep some of your hormones in balance. This isn't always easy, but to help, Regence Advantages offers discounts on healthy meal planning and delivery—so even with a busy schedule, you can keep your diet, and your hormones, under better control.