Hormonal Triggers and Eating Disorders


For ladies of any age, hormones seem to be an unescapable challenge. Hormones control who we are, what we think, how we feel, and our overall emotional wellbeing. The link between our hormones and how we think about (or view) food can be a tricky relationship. With all the changes going on inside of us, can the release of hormones control disordered eating habits? Or are those habits formed in our genetics?

Role Of Hormones

Looking at females specifically, the ovarian hormones Estrogen and Progesterone trigger genetic psychiatric disorders. The increase in these hormones also trigger emotional and binge eating during the menstrual cycle. This is why some women crave sweets, sugar, salty foods or in turn are turned off by the sight of food. Towards the second half, or end of the menstrual cycle there is an increased release in these hormones which can enhance cravings, emotional triggers, or cease cravings.

Ovarian hormones play a role within the brain, specifically with turning on and off certain genes that control physical changes in the body, and the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. Since Estrogen and Progesterone hormones release every month the connection can be made that they also control disordered eating habits namely binge eating. With the repeated occurrence of this behavior month over month neural connections to disordered eating can be made thus influencing eating habits.

Role Of Genetics

Learning that hormones play a large role in influencing disordered eating behavior raises the question about addiction/mental illness and genetics. It’s believed that if you acquire addictive genes you will be more likely to develop an addiction or mental illness during your lifetime. While there is science behind this notion proving it true, anyone can form an addiction or mental illness.

One set of data shows that individuals with immediate family who struggle with addiction have a 50%-60% higher chance of developing an addiction. That same study as says a genetic link does increase the possibility of having an addiction even when an individual is not brought up in an addictive environment.

Looking deeper at gene research with mice, the allele gene DRD2 (a dopamine receptor) in mice produces higher levels of addiction to alcohol and cocaine. Additionally, mice who had an altered Per2 gene drink up to three times more alcohol than mice who do not have an altered gene. This shows that if humans genetically receive the same dopamine receptor they will have a higher level of addiction. Additionally, if humans have an altered Per2 gene they will be predisposed to a drinking more alcohol.

Breaking The Cycle

Breaking the addictive cycle of eating/over eating can be difficult, however, it is not impossible. There are ways to combat these back and forth cycles to ultimately adjust eating habits to a healthier diet.

The important thing is stick to a regular eating schedule. Have set times during the day for when to eat meals, and make sure to stick to that schedule. It may be difficult to eat on that schedule at first, but even if you aren’t hungry for a full meal, try eating a small snack. Eating on a schedule will boost the metabolism ultimately making it work faster to use more energy from food. Be sure to feed your body natural, whole foods. Your body needs the best nutrients it can get from optimal food choices. If necessary make a food calendar and prep foods that align with the menu you make. There’s a plethora of healthy food menus online.

Additionally, keeping a consistent eating schedule will adjust your body to crave food during specific times of the day. If hormones are released which causes you to not crave, or over crave food, your body will be used to the schedule you set for it. Therefore, hormonal cravings will have a small impact.

Craving Alternatives

Training your body to adjust to this eating schedule can be challenging. Just like any habit it can take 45-60 days to fully succumb to the eating schedule. During this time, it’s important to be patient and understanding with yourself about the change your body is going through. Your brain will begin going in survival mode since your hormones think your body isn’t receiving nourishment. In reality, that is not true. It is your body becoming accustom to a new schedule. If you are finding it hard to fight hormonal cravings try one of the tips recommended below.

  • Accept the craving, and move on. Allow the thought to enter your mind, then let it leave as it is no longer serving a purpose for your wellbeing.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Go somewhere for a change of scenery.
  • Keep other foods close by as snacks that align with your eating menu.
  • Practice your craft. Whether you are a singer, painter, writer, or wood whittler practice a hobby which brings you peace.
  • Call a friend or family member to help keep you accountable.

From this information, we can conclude that hormones play a close role in how genes are activated. Also, we learn that the release of certain hormones can trigger our bodies to crave certain foods during a specific time of the month, or alternatively not crave food at all. This can lead to habit forming cycles, and ultimately an unhealthy relationship with food. Sticking to a regular food schedule can help break the unhealthy cycle of not eating/over eating with food, ad well as other food related disorders. Additionally, try one of the food craving alternatives mentioned above to help ease into a new food lifestyle.