Did you know that many health symptoms can be linked back to imbalanced hormones? Hormones control so many processes and even a single out of whack hormone can cause all sorts of problems in your body. One easy way to resolve this is to balance hormones with fat!
So, how can we start to balance hormones with fat? And why does this help?
When you eat carbohydrates, whether it’s whole wheat pasta, an apple or a piece of chocolate cake, they are broken down into glucose. This glucose enters your blood and is called ‘blood sugar’. When blood sugar rises, your pancreas is told to release a hormone known as insulin to help move that sugar out and into cells that need it.
Meals with a lot of carbs will place a lot of glucose into your blood, which results in a lot of insulin being released. Insulin essentially tries to get your muscle, brain and liver cells to open up and take in glucose. (Too much sugar in the blood is dangerous, so we gotta get that out quickly!)
However, if you eat high-carb meals often, like 3 times a day, eventually your cells stop responding to insulin because it’s always knocking…they don’t like that! So, to try to get more sugar out, more insulin is secreted so that it can ‘knock’ even louder! Eventually your cells just say ‘no way’!
And this is how insulin resistance begins and how Type II diabetes can eventually hit you.
Now, what happens when insulin can’t get extra sugar into the cells that use it? It shunts it to fat cells for storage. Over time, more and more excess sugar is placed into more and more fat cells and, you guessed it, we get fat. Not fun.
Balance Insulin with Fat
Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “okay but I don’t want to get fatter and eating fat makes me fat!”
Here’s a fact – dietary fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does!
If you eat healthy fats often, with every meal, they help balance insulin. Yes, you can balance hormones with fat because fat slows down the digestion of carbs into glucose, creating more of a ‘trickle’ effect as opposed to a ‘gush’. In turn, insulin is released more slowly and moves glucose into cells at a rate they can actually use.
Thus, less chance for glucose to be stored as fat!
And, eating more fat with your meals helps to keep you feeling full longer. This is good because when insulin is low between meals, another hormone, glucagon, is activated. And THIS is your fat burning hormone!
First, if you’re dealing with adrenal fatigue or symptoms of chronic stress, your body NEEDS carbs. The vitamins and minerals, not to mention other nutrients, are essential to help you manage your stress response. So, take care if you’re thinking about adding in more fat because you’ll need to watch your macro balance carefully.
That being said, more healthy fat is very good for managing stress. Your body uses cholesterol to make your stress hormones so having enough resources is good. And, cortisol helps tell your body whether to use fats, proteins or carbs as energy.
High cortisol levels tell your body to mobilize stored glucose as energy. This stored glucose comes from your liver or muscle cells, not your fat cells. So, if you aren’t running or fighting, chances are that glucose that is now in your blood is not being used as fuel. Instead, insulin is shunting it to fat cells.
THIS is the main factor behind why women with high cortisol levels tend to store fat around their bellies.
It’s thought that low-carb diets might raise cortisol levels too. When your body is low on stored glucose, cortisol is released to tell muscles to convert protein to energy. Muscle wasting could occur, however, this isn’t really proven yet. It’s a theory, one to consider.
Some studies have found that a low-carb diet actually lowers cortisol levels. This may be because a low-carb diet tends to be lower in pro-inflammatory foods like gluten and sugar. Inflammation triggers cortisol release, too.
Balance Cortisol with Fat
With respect to cortisol, a high-fat / low-carb diet has to be started with care. However, one of the easiest ways to transition is to replace refined sugar and processed grains with healthy fat. This way you’re removing pro-inflammatory foods – which help reduce overall inflammation – while increasing anti-inflammatory foods (i.e. healthy fats!).
And, to make cortisol, you need a certain level of healthy fats in the diet to keep it within the normal range.
As women, we need a relatively balanced set of hormones, namely estrogen to progesterone. If progesterone is too low (which can happen for various reasons), estrogen becomes dominant. Then we see health issues like PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, infertility, acne, breast fibroids (and potentially cancer), and elevated fat storage.
(Plus, fat cells produce their own estrogen so things can get much, much worse!)
Early onset menopause and premature aging can happen when progesterone is too low, too. Not good!
Balance Progesterone with Fat
Yep, even your reproductive hormones love fat! Why? Because at the very top of the hormone production chain is cholesterol, which is used to make something called pregnenolone. Pregnenolone is used to make cortisol and your reproductive hormones. If you’re chronically stressed, your body will ‘steal’ pregnenalone to make cortisol and there won’t be enough for progesterone, estrogen and testosterone.
So, to balance hormones with fat, make sure you eat enough dietary fat daily!
How to Balances Hormones with Fat
I get it – you’re worried you’ll get fat if you start to eat more dietary fat. But, this is only true if you start eating coconut oil by the spoonful or eat a pound of trail mix each day. In other words, if you just go to town on the stuff, yes, you’re likely to get fat.
That’s why I help you slowly integrate more healthy fats into your diet by slowly decreasing unhealthy carbs, like refined sugar or grains. It’s important to keep your caloric intake the same while increasing healthy fats and reducing those problematic carbs.
Include healthy fats like virgin coconut oil, raw nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil, full-fat coconut milk, and avocados in your daily diet. Start with breakfast and swap out the sugary jam on your toast with a quarter of an avocado. Or, take out sweetened nut milks or coconut water from your smoothie and swap in full-fat coconut milk. There are a few very simple ways to increase fat while keeping calories in check and maintaining your sanity!
Some of the carbs to ditch today are any with the nasty types of sugar listed, like high fructose corn syrup or glucose.
Eating more fat can be scary – I understand! But, hopefully after reading this, you’re now a bit more educated on WHY our bodies need a healthy level of dietary fat. And why it’s important to choose healthy types so that we can balance hormones with fat effectively.