The Impact on Hormones

Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the body’s endocrine glands that regulate numerous biological functions. They are released directly into the bloodstream, from where they travel to various parts of the body to exert their effects on target cells and organs. They regulate a wide array of physiological processes such as metabolism, immune function, growth and development, mood, sexual function, and reproduction. The science of hormones involves understanding their biosynthesis, secretion, mechanisms of action, and regulation. Hormones bind to specific receptors on target cells, triggering a cascade of cellular responses, which can be either rapid or sustained, depending upon the hormone and the target cell. The precise secretion and regulation of hormones are critical for maintaining homeostasis in the body.

Let’s explore the impact that an anti-inflammatory diet has on hormone production and how it may contribute to overall health and wellbeing.

Estrogen & Progesterone

Estrogen and progesterone are two essential hormones produced primarily in the ovaries in females and play vital roles in women’s reproductive health. Estrogen is responsible for developing and regulating the female reproductive system, promoting the growth and development of secondary sexual characteristics, and preparing the body for conception. Progesterone, often referred to as the “pregnancy hormone,” complements estrogen’s functions by preparing the uterus for a fertilized egg’s implantation and maintaining pregnancy. Together, estrogen and progesterone orchestrate the menstrual cycle, with their levels fluctuating throughout each cycle. While these hormones are more abundant in females, they are also present in males in smaller quantities, contributing to bone health and libido.

Here’s how they balance one another for woman of reproductive age.


During the first half of the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels rise, promoting the growth and maturation of the follicles in the ovaries. As the follicles mature, they produce more estrogen, which signals the release of luteinizing hormone (LH), triggering ovulation.

Luteal phase

After ovulation, the follicle that released the egg transforms into the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone. Progesterone prepares the uterus for pregnancy by thickening the endometrial lining and maintaining its health.

Hormonal feedback

If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum will degenerate, leading to a decrease in progesterone production. This decrease in progesterone signals the shedding of the endometrial lining, resulting in menstruation. If pregnancy occurs, the placenta will take over the production of progesterone, which is essential for maintaining the pregnancy.

Hormonal balance

The balance between progesterone and estrogen is crucial for regulating the menstrual cycle and maintaining reproductive health. When this balance is disrupted, it can lead to an increased risk of health problems, including menstrual irregularities, infertility, and certain types of cancer.

In general, progesterone has a balancing effect on estrogen, helping to regulate its effects and prevent an overgrowth of the endometrial lining, which can lead to menstrual irregularities and other health problems. Maintaining a balance of both hormones is essential for optimal reproductive health and overall health.

Estrogen Dominance

Estrogen dominance refers to a condition where a person has excessive estrogen levels in relation to progesterone, another key hormone, particularly in the second half of the menstrual cycle. This imbalance can occur naturally, especially during perimenopause when fluctuations in hormone levels are common, but it can also be influenced by lifestyle factors and health conditions. Estrogen dominance does not necessarily mean that the body is producing too much estrogen; rather, it can also occur if progesterone levels are too low. Symptoms may include bloating, breast tenderness, mood swings, irregular menstrual periods, weight gain, and decreased sex drive, among others.

Estrogen Metabolism

Estrogen metabolism is a complex process that occurs primarily in the liver, where the hormone is converted into various metabolites for excretion. These metabolites have varying levels of estrogenic activity, and their relative proportions can significantly influence overall estrogenic effect in the body. The process involves two main phases: hydroxylation and conjugation. In the hydroxylation phase, enzymes, particularly those belonging to the cytochrome P450 family, add a hydroxyl group to the estrogen molecule, producing three possible metabolites: 2-hydroxyestrone, 4-hydroxyestrone, and 16α-hydroxyestrone. These metabolites have different estrogenic activities, with 2-hydroxyestrone being the least estrogenic and 16α-hydroxyestrone being the most. The balance among these metabolites can significantly impact an individual’s risk of developing estrogen-sensitive conditions. In the conjugation phase, these metabolites are made water-soluble through methylation, sulfation, or glucuronidation, facilitating their excretion from the body. Factors such as diet, lifestyle, genetic variations, and overall health can influence the efficiency and balance of estrogen metabolism.

Healthy Estrogen Levels

The anti-inflammatory diet can potentially help manage estrogen dominance and promote hormone balance. This is due to the diet being rich in fiber, which aids in the detoxification of excess estrogen from the body. It’s also high in quality proteins and fats, which can support overall hormonal balance. Additionally, by eliminating processed foods and excess sugars, the diet can help reduce inflammation and improve liver function, both important for proper estrogen metabolism.

Let’s discuss some foods that can be beneficial in supporting healthy estrogen levels.

Cruciferous vegetables

Foods such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower contain compounds that help to remove excess estrogen from the body.

  • Diindolylmethane (DIM) and Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C): Cruciferous vegetables are rich in these two natural compounds, which can influence estrogen metabolism. Both DIM and I3C help the body to metabolize estrogen into a more beneficial or less potent form, reducing the overall effects of estrogen in the body. This can help to mitigate symptoms of estrogen dominance and balance hormone levels.
  • Fiber: Cruciferous vegetables are high in fiber, which aids in the elimination of excess hormones from the body. When estrogen is metabolized by the liver, it is excreted into the digestive tract in bile. Here, it must bind to fiber to be fully eliminated from the body. Diets low in fiber can result in reabsorption of estrogen back into the bloodstream, potentially leading to elevated estrogen levels.
  • Sulforaphane: This is a sulfur-rich compound found in cruciferous vegetables that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help protect liver cells from damage and may boost liver function, which aids in the detoxification and metabolism of estrogen.

Healthy fats

  • Hormone Production: Fat is a fundamental component in the production of all hormones, including estrogen. Hormones are made from cholesterol, which the body derives from dietary fats. Therefore, consuming adequate healthy fats is essential for the body to produce optimal levels of estrogen.
  • Hormone Transport and Cell Signaling: Fats make up the bulk of cell membranes and are involved in hormone transport and cell signaling. The healthier the fats in your diet, the more fluid your cell membranes. This fluidity allows hormones to interact with cells more effectively, which is crucial for the proper functioning of estrogen and other hormones.
  • Metabolism and Detoxification: Certain types of dietary fat, such as those found in fish and flaxseeds, provide omega-3 fatty acids. These have been shown to support liver function, a key organ involved in the metabolism and detoxification of estrogen. A healthier liver can more effectively metabolize estrogen and prevent it from accumulating to harmful levels.
  • Body Weight Regulation: Healthy fats are satiating, meaning they help you feel full and satisfied, which can aid in maintaining a healthy body weight. This is important because body fat can produce estrogen, and too much body fat can lead to an excess of estrogen, contributing to estrogen dominance.


Probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables, can help to support the health of the gut microbiome. A balanced gut microbiome is important for regulating estrogen levels because certain gut bacteria, known as the estrobolome, are involved in metabolizing estrogen. If these bacteria are out of balance, it can lead to disruptions in estrogen metabolism.


Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is primarily associated with the development of male sexual characteristics, but it also plays vital roles in both men and women. In men, it is mainly produced in the testicles, while in women, smaller amounts are produced in the ovaries. Testosterone is crucial for numerous biological functions. It helps stimulate the development of secondary sexual characteristics in males, like the growth of body and facial hair, deepening of the voice, and increase in muscle mass and strength during puberty. It also maintains male reproductive tissues such as the testes and prostate. Moreover, it influences bone mass, fat distribution, muscle size and strength, and red blood cell production. In women, testosterone contributes to the maintenance of bone and muscle strength, and it has a role in maintaining sexual desire. An imbalance of testosterone in the body can lead to various health problems, including sexual dysfunction, osteoporosis, heart disease, and mood disturbances.

Healthy Testosterone Levels


Zinc is a vital mineral that plays a key role in numerous biological processes, including testosterone production. Here’s how it supports testosterone levels:

  • Role in the Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus in the brain senses when the body needs to produce more testosterone and sends a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) to the pituitary gland. Zinc plays a critical role in this process, as it helps the hypothalamus detect testosterone levels, signaling it to produce GnRH accordingly.
  • Testosterone Synthesis: Testosterone is produced in the Leydig cells of the testes. Zinc is vital for the enzymatic reactions that convert cholesterol into testosterone in these cells.
  • Prevention of Testosterone Conversion: Zinc inhibits the action of an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone into estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. By inhibiting this enzyme, zinc helps maintain more testosterone in the body.
  • Sperm Production and Health: Adequate levels of zinc are also important for sperm production and overall male reproductive health.

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats, particularly monounsaturated and saturated fats, play a crucial role in supporting testosterone levels in several ways:

  • Building Blocks for Hormones: Fats are essentially the building blocks of hormones. Testosterone is produced from cholesterol, which is a type of fat. A diet rich in healthy fats ensures the body has enough raw materials to produce testosterone.
  • Boosts Leydig Cells: Leydig cells in the testes are responsible for testosterone production. Dietary fats, particularly saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to stimulate these cells to produce more testosterone.
  • Regulates Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG): SHBG binds to testosterone and makes it unavailable for use by the body. Diets higher in monounsaturated fats have been linked with lower levels of SHBG, meaning more free, usable testosterone in the body.
  • Absorption of Fat-Soluble Vitamins: Vitamins like A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and require dietary fat to be properly absorbed. These vitamins have various roles in hormone production and overall health. For example, Vitamin D is associated with higher levels of testosterone.


Eggs are a good source of vitamin D, which has been linked to higher testosterone levels.


Beef is rich in protein and zinc, both of which are important for testosterone production.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds, such as almonds and pumpkin seeds, are rich in magnesium and healthy fats, both of which have been linked to higher testosterone levels.

Cruciferous vegetables

Vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower contain compounds that have been shown to have a positive impact on testosterone levels.


Garlic contains a compound called diallyl disulfide, which may help increase testosterone levels. Diallyl disulfide can stimulate the release of a hormone in the brain called luteinizing hormone, which then travels to the testicles and prompts them to produce testosterone.