Do Hormone Balancing Diets REALLY work?
A quick search for a hormone-balancing diet yielded thousands of results, but is there any scientific evidence to back up these diets?
In short NO, there are no peer-reviewed research studies in any major scientific journals that back up hormone balancing diets claims for long-term fat loss, disease management or improving infertility.
Hormone imbalances that lead to diseases like diabetes or hyperthyroidism typically require medical treatment, although a healthy diet can assist in the treatment and management of these diseases.
Infertility can also be a result of hormonal imbalances, but there are a number of factors that can impact a woman's ability to conceive. Eating a healthy and balanced diet will support a woman's health and could lead to a viable pregnancy, however, if you suffer from infertility or have been trying to conceive and have been unsuccessful it's best to see a specialist.
Now do these diets provide bad nutrition advice? NO, there are pros and cons to all diets.
What can you eat on a hormone-balancing diet? I'm going to avoid naming any of them specifically but in most, you will find a mix of low glycemic foods, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, chia & flax seeds, nuts, olive oil, and whole grains.
What do I have to give up? You're encouraged to avoid/ minimize caffeine, alcohol, fried foods, processed meat, peanuts, saturated fat, full-fat dairy, artificial sweeteners, and simple carbs like white bread, pasta and crackers.
How often do I eat? Most hormone-balancing diets recommend you eat small meals every 3-4 hours.
Can I have treats? You're encouraged to stick to the program religiously but 1-2 'treat' meals each week are allowed.
Do I have to "detox"? There is a 'detox phase' for some of these diets that involves giving up caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy, gluten and most oils for a period of about 2 weeks. Some also recommend you test your body's pH and ketones daily and get a series of blood tests to check hormone levels (costly if your insurance doesn't cover these).
Do I need a bunch of pricey supplements? I found a surprising number of diets encourage supplements like multivitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D3, calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. You should always speak to your physician before adding supplements as there can be certain health implications and drug interactions.
Other things to note: It is also recommended that you eat only organic foods (which can be costly and provides no additional nutritional value compared to non-organic foods) and engage in 30-60 minutes of exercise 6 days a week.
This can be quite a LOT of rules to stick to, and eating every 3-4 hours is difficult for some people, so I don't believe it's sustainable or recommended long term.
Weight loss on this diet is due to reduced caloric intake more than anything. It takes a significant amount of any one food to disrupt or assist our body's natural hormone receptors. That's not to say that you won't feel better if you switch to this diet after eating processed foods and not exercising, because you will. But to make claims that a hormone balancing diet will reduce symptoms of hyperthyroidism, cure diabetes, promote fertility or reduce PCOS or PMS symptoms is a bunch of baloney.
If you suspect you may have diabetes, a thyroid condition, infertility or any type of hormonal imbalance it's best to see your physician for a physical and ask for a round of blood tests to determine what's going on before handing over $$$ for 'hormone coaching'.
If it turns out you do in fact have an imbalance, your doctor may recommend that you make changes to your lifestyle, diet, and/or exercise program along with any western medicine medications or procedures. Science is cool and holistic medicine can help, but I'm not in favor of eschewing science altogether.
Find what works for YOU. I am currently seeing a specialist for my infertility AND taking better care of my body by eating a healthy and balanced diet, reducing stress, and exercising frequently.
Have questions about a specific hormone balancing program, send them my way! I'm happy to take a look and give you my honest feedback. Had success with a program? Drop it below, I'd love to know what it was and why it worked for you.