Diet Hazards for Your Hormones

Monday, 29 March 2010 09:11 AM EDT

Many women have no clue that common foods and trendy diets can wreak havoc on their hormone health.
Hidden endocrine disruptors – including extremely low-fat diets, diet soda, and soy products – sabotage the hormones, causing a disruption on pituitary, thyroid, and ovarian hormone production, which can result in a wide variety of symptoms and health problems, including infertility.

Joni had been trying to get pregnant for several years. At 39 years old, she came to see me about other problems – hair loss, dry skin, low energy, and severe bladder and vulvar pain. She had already seen nine different specialists.
They told her that her thyroid and adrenal function were normal, yet no one had checked her ovarian hormone levels.
She told me she had been a smoker as a teenager, but stopped and “cleaned up” her lifestyle and diet when she got married and wanted to start a family.

As part of her “cleanup” plan, she drastically cut out fat in her diet, changed to diet soft drinks, stopped eating all animal protein and began concentrating on soy protein sources for her vegan diet.
She took supplements of soy isoflavones, and used an herbal PMS formula to help “balance her hormones.” She increased her exercise to an hour of spinning class or running six days a week, plus weight training three days a week.
She lost 40 pounds and her body fat decreased to 16 percent. She gradually stopped menstruating and lost more hair. Her skin dried and aged and she slept restlessly.
She felt exhausted all the time. She became more alarmed when she began suffering unrelenting bladder and vulvar pain. The specialists told her that her hormones were “normal.” She was offered an antidepressant for the pain, but no one could diagnose the cause. She decided to consult with me to evaluate her hormone status in more detail.

Joni’s labs told the story: She had a marked decrease in estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone, and lost the ovulatory rise in progesterone and estradiol in the luteal phase of her cycle.
She was deficient in vitamin D and ferritin (a measure of iron stores), and had high levels of bone breakdown products (NTx) in her urine. Her thyroid studies showed normal TSH and T4, but low free T3.

So what had caused all these abnormal results in someone so young?
1. Extremely low fat diet. Loss of healthy fats decreases cholesterol that is the building block for the body to make your ovarian hormones. Dry skin, hair loss, fatigue, irregular, or absent menstrual cycles, insomnia, bladder pain are clues to the loss of both estradiol and testosterone.
2. High soy protein intake. Soy proteins interfere with conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 to the more potent and active T3, contributing to fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, and irregular cycles.
3. High soy isoflavone intake. These compounds mimic estrogen at brain centers and confuse the pituitary regulation pathways that oversee the menstrual cycle. Studies show that ovarian production of estradiol and progesterone can be decreased 20 percent to 50 percent in women consuming high levels of soy isoflavones, and this, in turn, contributes to infertility.
4. Vegan diets. These plant-based diets are deficient in protein, vitamin B 12, vitamin D, and iron.
5. Soft drinks. These contain a number of harmful excitatory amino acid additives that interfere with hormone balance via pituitary pathways. Soft drinks are high in sodium and phosphates that leach calcium from bones and contribute to bone loss.
6. Cigarette smoking. Joni’s earlier days of smoking causes death of ovarian follicles that produce our hormones. Loss of follicles contributes to infertility and also to earlier loss of estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone.
7. Excessive exercise and loss of body fat. Together, these cause physical stressors that cause the pituitary to direct the brain’s hypothalamus to shut down the ovarian cycles. Menstruation becomes less frequent, with scant flow, and then may stop altogether.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like Joni’s, I recommend these five action steps:
1. Eliminate dietary endocrine disrupters and balance your diet to include 35 percent high-quality protein sources, 30 percent healthy fats, and 35 percent complex carbohydrates and eating enough calories each day to be 200-300 kcal above resting metabolic rate. Click here to determine your resting metabolic rate. Also, read Women, Weight and Hormones for meal plans.
2. If you are trying to become pregnant, target a healthy body composition of 22 percent to 28 percent body fat. Lower or higher than this can impair fertility.
3. If you are not menstruating normally, or are having trouble getting pregnant, cut back exercise to moderate intensity no more than three days a week.
4. Review the chapters in It’s My Ovaries, Stupid!that describe other endocrine disruptors that pose a risk to your ovaries’ hormone production.
5. Read the free booklet on my Web sitethat outlines the medical tests that can help you get answers. Ask your doctor to check your ovarian hormones, as well as the more commonly checked thyroid profiles.

For more information about Dr. Vliet, visit www.herplace.com.

© HealthDay

Many women have no clue that common foods and trendy diets can wreak havoc on their hormone health. Hidden endocrine disruptors – including extremely low-fat diets, diet soda, and soy products – sabotage the hormones, causing a wide variety of symptoms and health problems, including infertility.
Monday, 29 March 2010 09:11 AM
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