When I was about 14, I remember wearing a very pretty evening gown for a New Year’s party I was going to attend with my parents, looking in the mirror, and cursing the fact I was so thin at the waist and so ‘wide’ at the hips. Or at least this is how it looked to me!
Yes, I was THAT innocent! I had NO idea this is the preferred body shape by 99% of women.
Once I grew up my waist was not as discernable as before, and I started noticing that sometimes it is more visible, and sometimes it completely disappears. There were times I would just look flat as a boy. I had no idea why that was, and would blame it all on the workouts that I was doing. I would do more ballet and less weight training in order to ‘fix’ the problem and get a more visible waist again.
However, one phenomenal thing happened once I went vegan!
Only weeks after I eliminated ALL animal products from my diet, I noticed my waist would NATURALLY become more and more visible. I was not changing much in my workouts or dancing routines, on the contrary – I was doing less of the things that I thought were giving me a thinner waist! At first I through I was just imagining, but more months passed by, and this one time I was out to eat with my mum and my sister, and my mum said ‘OMG, you have just shrunk!’ And she was pointing at my waist.
Truth of the matter was, I did not become underweight. In fact I hadn’t lost weight! (and I didn’t need to). But my body shape was indeed different! It was more feminine, and indeed I was just feeling so much better and prettier than before.
This is when it came to me – IT’S ALL BECAUSE OF THE HORMONES!
I figured that my body transformation was all due to positive changes in my hormones, because one other visible change that had happened was my menstrual cycle becoming extremely regular and predictable (something I had never had all my life).
So, I sat down and did some research. Here’s what I found:
Medical studies have shown that a curvy waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 or lower is associated with higher fertility and lower rates of chronic disease. Studies have also shown that men prefer a ratio of 0.7 or lower when looking for a mate. The preference makes perfect sense, according to evolutionary psychologists, because the low ratio is a reliable signal of a healthy, fertile woman.
Androgens, a class of hormones that includes testosterone, increase waist-to-hip ratios in women by increasing visceral fat, which is carried around the waist.
In other words, androgens are the group of male hormones that include testosterone. Excess production can lead to a number of hormonal disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome and might even increase cancer risk. Acne, excess body hair and mood disorders are some of the other problems, associated with too much of these male hormones.
While a little male hormone can be good, the problem arises when our system produce too much of these androgens leading to all kinds of unpleasant side effects. By nature women possess roughly one-tenth the amount of androgen and testosterone in men, but the levels of these male hormones may heighten if there is an imbalance in the system as a result of lifestyle choices, medical conditions and age.
Women with overly high androgen levels typically experience symptoms such excessive body hair, acne, menstrual irregularities, polycystic ovary syndrome, fertility issues and even sexual dysfunction.
When addressing the issue of excess androgen, the goal is to reduce ovarian or adrenal androgen production which reduces the level of free androgen and blocking the secondary androgen action.
Oftentimes, we focus on treating the symptoms whereas the goal should be to address the underlying cause of the issue and promote balance within our reproductive system.
Typically changing to a healthy diet, moderate exercise, reduction of stress levels as well as dietary supplements can provide relief to symptoms as well as promote balance.
And guess what? The foods that usually increase androgen levels are all the things we vegans want nothing to do with – eggs, beef, tuna, etc.
Research was carried out in Italy on the effect of reducing sex hormones through dietary change where 104 women were involved.
Dietary changes that were incorporated include reduction of total intake of fat particularly saturated fatty acids, and a reduction of the consumption of high-glycemic index foods. Dietary fibers from green foods were recommended, and foods containing phytoestrogens, like tofu, non GMO soy, and flaxseed were enhanced in the diet. These dietary changes gave rise to lower levels of testosterone.
Omega 3’s can minimize the levels of testosterone in women. Flaxseed is a great source of these omega 3 fatty acids, manganese, vitamin B1 and fiber. It comes in two different types: brown and golden which as well known as linseed and can be used in a variety of ways. Linseeds and ground flaxseed can be incorporated into smoothies, gluten free muffins, sprinkled above porridge or salads.
Some other foods that can help to naturally lower androgen and testosterone levels include:
Reishi Mushroom: Foods like Reishi mushrooms have been shown to significantly lower testosterone levels. Japanese experiments of 19 edible and medicinal mushrooms showed that alcohol extracts of Ganoderma lucidum prevented the effects of testosterone.
The research showed that one of the biological functions of Reishi mushroom is to repress androgen and its effect. In vitro and in vivo researches conducted with rats, it was discovered that the resultant effect is the suppression and reduction of the growth of cells in their androgen-dependent prostates. Reishi mushroom has been used for thousands of years in Asian cultures to treat various disease conditions.
Red clover: The Monash Institute of Reproduction & Development Centre for Urological Research in Australia conducted a research on the effects of red clover given as food to male mice.
The results of the study came to a conclusion that diets rich in red clover reduced the level of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. The phytochemicals in red clover were anti-androgenic when compared to the control group, which exhibited elevated androgen levels.
Does this all mean that while helping women a vegan diet can lower testosterone in men?
NO! The men’s body is designed differently from a female body, and it naturally produces more of these hormones.
This is a whole new topic to discuss, so I suggest you check out this article by Dr. Michael Greger:
Vegan Men: More Testosterone But Less Cancer
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