Our hormones are a complex communication system that our body uses to signal different actions, from reproductive organs to our mental health and energy levels. However, as our environment changes so can our health and our hormones. If your are looking to balance your hormones, the first place you can start is with the food you purchase.
First, let’s talk about the difference between conventional and organic produce.
Conventional produce: this is the stuff we usually find in most grocery stores. Conventional produce is usually sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, also include foods that have been modified to reduce the chances of going bad (these are GMO foods).
Organic produce: most grocery stores now also carry “certified organic” products. This means that the ingredients or the produce items come from farms that are certified organic, and all processes, from farm to table, follow the organic standards set out by their country.
Grey area: obtaining organic certification can be costly to many farmers, especially small family-run farms. If you shop at your local farmers markets, many likely use organic practices, without the certification. Be sure to ask as these vendors can be more cost-effective.
Now that we understand what we’re purchasing, let’s dig into conventionally grown foods and how they can impact our hormones. Primarily, I’d like to focus on a chemical called glyphosate.
What is glyphosate?
Glyphosate is an herbicide, primarily found in something called “Roundup”, a spray developed by Monsanto. It was first registered to use in the U.S. in the 1970s and is used today on a variety of conventionally grown produce today across the globe (1). In recent years, Monsanto has been in the news due to lawsuits against the company for a link between the use of Roundup and cancer rates. Glyphosate does exist in a variety of other herbicides used, however is most well-known in Roundup and Roundup Ready.
Studies have found that the use of glyphosate isn’t just prominent in cancer rates. Glyphosate has been shown to work as an endocrine (hormone) disruptor. One study found that glyphosate-based herbicides possessed estrogenic activity, even when used at low levels (2). Another study done found that maternal glyphosate exposure promoted behavioural changes and endocrine problems associated with male fertility (3). Alongside this, some studies have shown that glyphosate, specifically used in Roundup, can result in adrenal insufficiency in humans (4).
If you are following the changes in our environment, you’ve likely heard that our soils are not as fertile as they once were. And while mono-cropping does have a significant impact on this, most soil in North America also now has trace amounts of glyphosate due to its widespread use. This means that organic farms and biodynamic farms can also be at risk.
Why does this even matter?
Your hormones have a big job, and I’m not just referring to the ones that are responsible for reproduction. Imbalanced hormones can result in everything from brain fog and acne, to weight gain and chronic disease. That’s why it is important to reduce substances that can alter this precious balance, including endocrine disruptors found in glyphosate.
Where is glyphosate found?
Understanding why reducing our glyphosate intake is important, however it’s even more crucial to know what are some of the most common sources.
- Conventionally grown oats (oatmeal, granola, granola bars)
- Wheat products like pasta, breads and cereals
- Chickpea flour (5)
- Non-organic & GMO soy products
- Most non-organic produce – if you are on a budget, focus on buying organic for the Dirty Dozen
So before you head to the supermarket, be sure to see if your food choices have been helping, or hurting you!
Proper nutrition can help support your journey in feeling your best.