How to Optimize Hormone Signaling through Nutrition

Hormone Imbalance and Nutrition

When we look at hormonal imbalance, nutrition can play an advantageous or detrimental role which needs to be managed carefully if you are presenting with symptoms. We know that foods we eat on a daily basis can affect circulating levels of hormones. Thyroid hormone homeostasis is influenced by our intake of selenium, iodine, iron and zinc although if a person is presenting with gut issues, it may not be the levels of these minerals they are consuming being the problem but more their absorption rates.

Another example is cortisol levels and fasting. Although fasting has its benefits and has gained popularity in recent years, it can have a detrimental effect on cortisol levels which impacts many bodily functions. Another aspect we need to take into consideration is hormone sensitivity and how the receptors on our cells are responding to the hormone message. Are the receptors clean of toxins, pathogens, and debris, or are they clean with the hormone message being able to be received based on optimal nutrient status?

This is a key part of a functional medicine practitioner’s work when looking at overall hormone imbalance and will rely on bespoke hormone testing using laboratory testing to personalize protocols and treatments which would highlight additional points where therapeutic intervention may help restore balance.


Nutritional Impacts on Hormone Sensitivity


Dietary habits can impact receptor and tissue sensitivity and we know from the literature that upregulation of cortisol is a by product of the standard western diet which is full of refined carbs and processed foods causing inflammation resulting in higher levels of circulating insulin.

The hormone Leptin is the appetite hormone released from fat cells in adipose tissue, and eating different foods may potentially increase or decrease leptin sensitivity. What has shown to decrease leptin levels is a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, little red meat, fruits and healthy fats (hallmarks of a Mediterranean diet) which improves the sensitivity of the leptin message on receptor sites. Conversely, a diet high in saturated and inflammatory foods fat has shown to induce leptin resistance. What can happen with a decrease in leptin receptor sensitivity may lead to metabolic syndrome and obesity through leptin resistance. 

How nutrition can play a role in Hormone signaling

Other factors to consider when looking at leptin resistance would be stress levels, glucose intolerance, inflammation, and nutrition all playing a role in dysfunctioning signaling. Dietary patterns potentially influence leptin sensitivity with any resulting drops in leptin signaling ultimately influencing thyroid hormone dysfunction, high cortisol levels, and other imbalances within the endocrine system.

In practice

This is where Functional Medicine practitioners can play a major part in a person’s health recovery. Understanding all these elements and how they can affect a cell’s sensitivity to hormonal signaling is a very important consideration in presenting cases where hormone imbalance is at play. Looking at a person holistically and being able to decipher and test for optimal detox pathways, inflammation levels, gut dysfunction, and hormone secretion can really help a patient with their health issues. The functional medicine approach using nutrition as a core focus can identify points of imbalance and hyper-personalize protocols based on feedback through testing and a detailed case history.

Schedule a complimentary phone consultation with one of our functional medicine practitioners at see what the best next steps are for you.

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