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8 Unexpected Things That Affect Your Hormones

Environmental, dietary and lifestyle factors can all mess with your body's hormone levels — and not in a good way.

Are your hormones out of whack and you can’t figure out why? It’s troubling to feel tired, extra hungry or bloated as a result of hormone imbalances — which is why knowing about unexpected things that affect hormones levels is worth your while.

Low Dietary Iodine

When your diet lacks iodine, an essential mineral your body needs plenty of regularly to function properly, your thyroid hormone may work spotty at best, says the American Thyroid Association. Lack of sufficient thyroid hormone in your body can lead to hypothyroidism, a slowed metabolism, an enlarged thyroid gland and mental retardation in infants and children (when mothers are deficient during pregnancy). So be sure to get plenty of iodine-rich foods in your diet daily (dairy foods, seafood, and iodized salt) or take a multivitamin supplement containing iodine.


Chronic stress can also mess with your hormone levels. Mayo Clinic says stress boosts the hormone cortisol, which over time can lead to weight gain, depression, anxiety, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, digestive problems and cognitive impairment. So, try your best to de-stress to keep cortisol levels in check.

Too Much Light

Light delays the release of the hormone melatonin, which helps get you to sleep at night. Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the human body in response to darkness, which is why you might start to feel sleepy when the sun goes down at night. When your body is exposed to too much light late at night (as in the case of bright lights in the house or late-night screen time), you may find it more difficult to catch good Zs.

BPA in Plastics

Plastics containing bisphenol A (BPA) are thought to be endocrine disruptors, which may reduce fertility and boost the incidence of some cancers and endometriosis, says the National Institute of Environmental Sciences. Endocrine disruptors alter hormone activity in the body by mimicking naturally occurring hormones, blocking hormones from binding properly or interfering with the body’s natural hormone process in other ways. Look for BPA-free plastic food containers and other BPA-free plastics products.

Non-Organic Dairy and Meat

Because non-organic animal products like meat and dairy foods often contain growth hormone, you may want to opt for organic varieties instead. A 2015 review published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health found that steroid hormones in dairy products might be a risk factor for certain cancers. Small amounts of hormones used in the production of animal food products can get into your body, and full long-term effects of consuming high amounts of hormones from food isn’t entirely clear.

Lack of Sleep

Getting too little sleep can also affect hormone levels, and not in a positive way. It messes with hormones related to blood glucose control and appetite — and chronic sleep loss can boost the risk for weight gain and obesity, say researchers who conducted a 2010 review published in Endocrinology Development. So aim to get at least seven hours of sleep nightly, suggest the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Excess Soy

Soy products contain phytoestrogens, which are naturally-occurring plant substances that act like the female hormone estrogen, says the National Institute of Environmental Sciences. While soy products are packed with nutrients and unlikely to cause harm when consumed in moderate amounts, men may want to steer clear of large servings of soy products or soy-based supplements (just in case).


Exercise is a good thing, but overtraining can mess with hormone levels, say researchers who conducted a review in 2012 in the journal Sports Health. Researchers say hormone alterations decrease the body’s testosterone : cortisol ratio, and can suppress testosterone as a result of overtraining. This might cause the opposite effects on muscle building you'd hoped for with regular workouts. So if you’re a compulsive exercise fanatic, take at least one day off to rest your body and keep hormone levels in check.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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