How Nutrition Affects Women’s Hormones

Paola Atlason, certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach, advocates for a cultural shift away from diet culture, towards an understanding of nutrition's impact on balanced hormones, mental clarity & vitality

How Nutrition Affects Women’s Hormones
This article is part of SupportSystem: a new BodyTalk series exploring the topics that hold the most weight for women. Consider it your field-guide for modern sensuality. 

If you look at how we used to roll, back in the day, women would sit in a circle and when one had a problem, a whole circle of sisters would say, ‘Oh, I know! I have a remedy for that!’ or, ‘You know what? I’ll hold your kid while you take care of that,’ or, ‘Come stay in my house, I’ll cook you food if you’re not feeling well.’ 

Today, we are overwhelmed by information and motivated by unrealistic health fads. People love a trend. What we really need to do is simplify the message. Women were made to believe we can do everything by ourselves, which we probably can, but we don’t have to. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s important to listen to the signals your body is sending you. 

I’m a certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach. The women who come to me repeatedly tell me that they feel heavy and weighed down by life. Food is our entryway into an alternative human experience. Why can’t it be joyful and abundant? 

We need to shift away from diet culture and start understanding the positive things that a nutritious diet can do for us – from helping us age gracefully to simply giving us more energy for the day in front of us. We need to get away from limitations, trends and fads. We should work towards balanced hormones, mental clarity and vitality, instead.  

We can only see from our eyes outward, but if we could see what’s happening inside our bodies, we would be much more considerate when it comes to nutrition. Your body is a very refined piece of equipment, with a calibrated endocrine system. Women’s bodies, in particular, are ruled by the hormones that run through them. 

Our organs are always talking to one another. When something is off with one organ, a different one compensates. If your estrogen is running low, your adrenals start pumping. If your adrenals are spent, the thyroid slows the whole machine to help it out. If the liver is overloaded, the pancreas may kick into gear. The body is constantly trying to get into homeostasis. I don’t like the word balance, but that’s the best translation. 

Your body is a crazy piece of technology, but the thing is, it can get thrown off by hormones – mainly stress. And we live in stress. That’s why when you go to the mountains or the beach on vacation, you feel glowing and refreshed: you’ve removed yourself from the chaos. But in New York, we are always hustling. We work hard, then meet friends for drinks. Then, it’s the weekend and we eat whatever we want because we need our food hugs. 

When you’re younger, you’re able to live like this without feeling the consequences, because it’s all a fairly new scenario. So, you’re ramming it, you’re racing it – but, as with any machine, the parts begin to slow down. Our bodies are in overdrive trying to protect us. 

We live in cities and we can’t always change politics, but there are a handful of things we can change to manage chronic stress: how we eat, how we move, how we sleep, the things that we put into our bodies. Grain, sugar, alcohol – these foods are inflammatory. When we remove them from our bodies, we are telling them it is safe. When it comes to diet, willpower and discipline are so overrated. You have to be kind to your body and build that trust back up again. 

One of the main benefits of a nutritious diet is mental clarity, yet people very rarely make that connection. We have three brains – our head brain, our heart brain, and our gut brain – each with its own nervous system and vibrational frequency. 

When we eat inflammatory or toxic foods like sugars, grains, or alcohol, our gut becomes upset. And when our gut brain goes into turmoil, it draws everything else down with it. The human body has a set reserve of energy to use for biological functions: to breath, to digest, to move, to do all these things. Even thinking requires energy. If you're overspending your energy reserve for your digestion, your body is going to start pulling from the energy you use to move and think. You’re either supporting your body’s system with the food you eat, or bringing it down. 

We live in a modern society, so who wants to never drink a glass of wine or never eat a piece of cake? Nobody. But if you are eating in a way that’s supportive the rest of the time, one indulgence won't make a dent. It’s when we return to that chronic stress that we get into trouble, because we start getting used to it.  

I would define ‘vitality’ simply as reduced anxiety. Your body’s energy reserve is balanced. You can handle what life throws at you better. Your skin, your nails, your hair gets clearer. You sleep better and deeper. When you break out (because you are never not going to break out) you are able to say ‘Oh, I know what I ate’ or ‘I’m about to get my period.’ Physically, you begin to feel stronger before there is no internal residue. 

Overall, your outlook on life becomes more positive, because you have turned off all the alarms and regained trust from your body. All of that can be done through food and proper diet. 

Somewhere along the way, we lost the connection to our bodies and started seeing them as a resilient thing we can abuse in so many ways. As we get older, things start slowing down. We can age gracefully and with a lot of vitality if we pay attention to what we are putting in our bodies. 

The first three days of a health shift are always going to be the hardest. Imagine you are living in an apartment and decide you want to wash the floors. You have furniture, unpacked boxes, bicycles, rugs, three dogs, plants, and so on. You start removing these items to clean the floors and halfway through, you think, ‘Why did I decide to do this? This is so uncomfortable for me. Now, I regret it and feel stuck because I have to keep going.’ Then, by day three, when all the furniture is out, you think, ‘Oh, I can clean the floor now.’ 

From there, you get to be very selective. You keep the couch, and one plant, and definitely the three dogs. 

You know what I'm saying? When we approach something through the lens of how difficult it's going to be, you are missing the point that you are doing something great for yourself. It may be an uncomfortable start, but once you’re over that hump, it’s all golden from there. 

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Paola Atlason is a proud mama of two and an advocate for Empowering Women with Wellness. A Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach,  Paola has spent well over a decade researching and developing innovative Wellness techniques and Science based Nutrition principles. She creates personalized self-care programs that help her clients thrive and shares weekly insights on her talk show The Live Journal PodcastSupport Paola’s work @paola.atlason and paolaatlason.live

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