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Lillian Wilson

Your Body in Balance by Neal D. Barnard

Discover what hormones are doing to your body and what health improvements you can achieve by balancing them with food.

Your Body in Balance

The book has gotten 4.05 ⭐️ on GoodReads.

In the intricate tapestry of our well-being, the foods we choose hold remarkable sway, influencing weight, fertility, energy levels, and more. The harmony or disarray of our hormones hinges on these choices, impacting whether we thrive or languish.

In this review, we will delve into the book ‘Your Body in Balance’ which navigates this vital intersection of diet and hormones, providing insights that can revolutionise our approach to health and well-being.

Author’s background

Dr. Neal D. Barnard, FACC, holds a position as a faculty member at the George Washington University School of Medicine and serves as the President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Dr. Neal D. Barnard (r)

In addition to his roles, Dr. Barnard serves as the chief editor of the Nutrition Guide for Clinicians, a nutritional textbook that is distributed to second-year medical students across the United States. He also holds the role of editor for Good Medicine, a magazine with a readership of 150,000.

What is the book about?

‘Your Body in Balance’ by Neal D. Barnard delves into the emerging science of hormones and their impact on the body. The book reveals how hormones can disrupt the body’s equilibrium, leading to various health issues, and offers a delicious solution that not only enhances health but also reduces pain and aids in weight loss.

The book reveals that we can take control of our hormones with the help of proper nutrition. By balancing our hormones, we can overcome a variety of health problems, including infertility, menstrual cramps, weight gain, hair loss, and even cancer.

Dr. Barnard divides the book into three parts, starting with a focus on sex hormones and their balance. Part I includes chapters on fertility, addressing menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome, and tackling cancer for both women and men. It further delves into topics like polycystic ovary syndrome and menopause.

Part II of the book explores the intricate relationship between hormones, metabolism, and mood. This section includes chapters on treating erectile dysfunction, conquering diabetes, and maintaining a healthy thyroid, skin, and hair. Part III provides insights into foods that can combat moodiness and stress, along with guidance on achieving overall well-being. The book concludes with menus, recipes, and practical steps for implementing hormone-balancing dietary changes.

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • Part I SEX HORMONES: FINDING YOUR BALANCE
  • Chapter 1. Foods for Fertility
More…
  • Chapter 2. Curing Cramps and Premenstrual Syndrome
  • Chapter 3. Tackling Cancer for Women
  • Chapter 4. Tackling Cancer for Men
  • Chapter 5. Reversing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Chapter 6. Tackling Menopause
  • Part II HORMONES, METABOLISM, AND MOOD
  • Chapter 7. Curing Erectile Dysfunction and Saving Your Life
  • Chapter 8. Conquering Diabetes
  • Chapter 9. A Healthy Thyroid
  • Chapter 10. Healthy Skin and Hair
  • Chapter 11. Foods That Fight Moodiness and Stress
  • Part III FEELING BETTER AGAIN
  • Chapter 12. A Healthy Diet
  • Chapter 13. Avoiding Environmental Chemicals
  • Menus
  • Recipes
  • Breakfasts
  • Salads and Starters
  • Soups
  • Sandwiches and Wraps
  • Mains
  • Sides
  • Desserts
  • Acknowledgments
  • Discover More
  • About the Author
  • Also by Neal D. Barnard, MD, FACC
  • References

Three key takeaways from ‘Your Body in Balance’

1A plant-based diet can help women control menstrual discomforts

In the first part of the book, the author elucidates the relationship between diet and menstrual discomfort. Menstrual cramps, PMS, fibroids, adenomyosis, and endometriosis are all influenced by hormonal fluctuations and are found to be significantly impacted by dietary choices. The menstrual cycle’s hormonal shifts, driven by estrogen, create conditions that can lead to pain and discomfort.

The book emphasises that adopting a plant-based, low-fat diet devoid of animal products and excess oils can significantly alleviate these issues. This dietary approach helps regulate estrogen levels, reducing uterine lining thickening and prostaglandin production, ultimately leading to shorter periods of pain and diminished PMS symptoms. Here are the results of a study, the author took part in, that tested the effect of a plant-based diet on PMS symptoms:

…also about how many days each month they experienced premenstrual symptoms – both physical and psychological. It turned out that water retention was cut from 2.9 days at the beginning of the study to 1.3 days on the diet. And what we called “behavioral changes,” referring to moods and emotional reactions, were cut from about 1.7 days to 1.1 days on the diet. For many, the symptoms were not only briefer, but also milder. In the bargain, they lost weight, their cholesterol levels improved, and they had more energy. Instead of feeling stuck with recurrent pain and other symptoms, many gained a new level of control over their health.

2The consumption of a plant-based diet is associated with increased fertility

One of Dr. Barnard’s main focuses in the book is to show how infertility can be affected by a rich-in-plants diet. Nutrition significantly influences reproductive health for both men and women.

The author delves into various aspects of fertility challenges, including the causes of infertility in women and men, structural anomalies, infections, trauma, and abdominal issues. A noteworthy revelation is the unexpected impact of dietary choices on fertility. Hormones play a pivotal role, with fat cells acting as hormone factories. Excessive body fat can disrupt hormone balance, while optimal weight management is essential for maintaining fertility.

Fibre-rich diets emerge as allies against hormone irregularities, as they facilitate the removal of unwanted hormones from the body. Additionally, dairy products come under scrutiny, with evidence suggesting that they could adversely affect both male and female fertility due to hormones and other compounds present in them. Dr. Barnard cites a study that proves a negative effect of dairy: ‘In Finland, however, where dairy products are a major part of the diet, women had a much greater decline in fertility – around 80 percent – during the same age range.’

Thus, by recognising the critical connection between nutrition and reproductive health, the chances of conceiving a child can be significantly increased.

3A plant-based diet lowers breast cancer risks by regulating estrogen

Focusing on cancers driven by hormones, such as breast, uterine, ovarian, prostate, and testicular cancers, the book explores the profound influence of food choices on cancer outcomes. Dr. Barnard discloses the surprising link between hormones, especially estrogens, and cancer, revealing that these normally vital hormones can turn harmful when things go awry.

An example provided by the author is Japanese food traditions. It illustrates that in the absence of Western eating habits in the country, Japanese women were less likely to develop breast cancer; and even if they did, the cancer was less deadly than that suffered by American women.

Thus, cutting down on fat intake, particularly from animal products, is highlighted as a significant factor for cancer risk reduction, as fatty foods tend to increase estrogen levels, thereby heightening cancer risk. Additionally, the author stresses the significance of fibre in escorting unwanted hormones out of the body and recommends consuming foods rich in antioxidants.

Strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews

Strengths

  • Offers a wealth of well-researched and reliable information.

  • Provides actionable advice and practical recipes, empowering readers to make tangible changes in their diets.

  • Adeptly presents scientific concepts in a clear and understandable manner, making it accessible even to those without a background in chemistry or nutrition.

Weaknesses

  • The book’s heavy reliance on the benefits of a vegan diet might feel one-sided, potentially missing out on the complexities and potential benefits of other dietary approaches.

Best quotes from ‘Your Body in Balance’

“Inviting 115 postmenopausal women to join a research study, 58 women were asked to cut back on meats, dairy products, and animal fat and favor plant-based foods, while the remaining women were asked to stick with their usual diets. Neither group increased their fiber intake. But, measuring estrogens excreted in urine samples, the researchers found that the women who cut back on animal products reduced estrogen levels by 40 percent.”

“Western eating habits began to invade Japan. Meaty business lunches became commonplace, and fast-food chains started to crop up, featuring burgers, chicken, and cheese. Between 1975 and 2000, breast cancer incidence doubled.”

“A higher-fiber, lower-fat diet brings a woman’s hormones to a healthier level.”

Final takeaway

‘Your Body in Balance’ by Dr. Neal D. Barnard offers an informative and practical guide to understanding the intricate connection between hormones, diet, and overall health. With his extensive background as a faculty member at the George Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Barnard brings credibility and expertise to his exploration of how dietary choices impact hormonal balance.

The book is a valuable resource for individuals seeking to take control of their health through nutrition, with its focus on addressing issues such as menstrual discomfort, fertility, and cancer risk.

Where to buy

You may purchase ‘Your Body in Balance’ on Amazon at the best price. It is available in paperback, hardcover, audio and Kindle versions, so you may choose an option that appeals to you the most.


Healthypedia FAQ

Yes, ‘Your Body in Balance’ is a reliable source of information, given Dr. Neal D. Barnard's reputable background in medicine and nutrition and the book's reliance on scientific research and references.

No, the book covers a wide range of health concerns related to hormonal balance, including those affecting both women and men. It explores topics such as fertility, cancer, diabetes, thyroid health, and more, providing insights into how dietary choices can impact hormonal equilibrium for individuals of all genders.

The book offers a range of recipes and menus tailored to hormone-balancing diets. These recipes are designed to be practical and accessible, even for those without extensive cooking experience. They include a variety of dishes, from breakfasts to desserts, catering to different tastes and preferences.

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