Your hormones play a major role in your mood, appetite, body weight, and quality of life. Because hormone levels affect your mental, physical, and emotional health, they can impact your health and well being in serious ways.
Your endocrine system is built to produce and release precise quantities of hormones, but hormonal imbalances are on the rise. Due to chronic stress, poor diet, and aging, most women will experience some form of hormone imbalance during their lives.
However, you can reverse the trend with a proper diet, a healthy lifestyle, and some natural remedies.
Read on to learn more about hormone imbalances in women and the best natural approaches to balancing your hormones.
Understanding Female Hormone Imbalance
Whether or not you think about them, your hormones play a critical role in your daily functioning. Likewise, an undetected hormone imbalance scenario can impact you negatively and may baffle conventional medicine.
Hormone imbalance symptoms can range from mild (cramps or missed periods) to severe (premenstrual syndrome and mood swings) to life-changing (poly cystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis).
Conventional wisdom may hold that women are destined to suffer through puberty, PMS, and perimenopause, but with a proper understanding of hormones and how to balance them, you can improve your health and quality of life.
Many hormone imbalances start with insulin, the blood sugar control hormone, and cortisol, the stress hormone. These hormones are influenced by lifestyle factors and have effects on sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and sleep hormones.
The most common causes of hormone imbalances are poor diet, being overweight or obese, nutrient deficiencies, chronic stress, and toxic chemicals like pesticides and microplastics.
In short, while aging and other factors are beyond your control, there’s a lot you can do to help your hormones function optimally. The first step is recognizing the signs of hormone imbalance.
Are My Hormones Out of Balance?
Hormone imbalance can occur at any age, but it’s not inevitable. Here’s a list of signs and symptoms that point to hormone imbalance:
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Sugar or carbohydrate cravings
- Feeling “hangry”
- Sleep issues (trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up)
- Dependence on caffeine to get through the day
- Sensitivities to cold and heat
- Changes in blood pressure or heart rate
- Mood problems like irritability, depression, and anxiety
- Changes in appetite
- Low or inconsistent sex drive
- Emotional PMS symptoms (mood swings, angry outbursts, or crashes)
- Bloating, water retention, edema, or puffiness
- Frequent headaches
- Unexplained feelings of sadness
- Enlarged, tender breasts
- Backaches, joint pain, or muscle pain
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Heavy bleeding, prolonged bleeding, or light bleeding
- Breast cysts or lumps, including fibrocystic breasts
- Uterine fibroids
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Trouble with memory or concentration
- Facial hair growth
If just a few of these apply to you, you may have a mild hormonal imbalance.
If you experience up to half of these issues, you probably have a moderate hormonal imbalance.
And if you experience over half of these issues, odds are you have a severe hormone imbalance.
Every hormone imbalance situation is slightly different. As a result, your best bet to create hormonal harmony in your body is to experiment.
Your journey begins by realizing that you can fix your hormone levels. You don’t have to live with fatigue, mood problems, or low sex drive.
The Natural Approach to Hormone Balancing
Start with these tips — which focus on fixing your diet, getting proper nutrition, optimizing lifestyle factors, and implementing natural remedies — to balance your hormones.
#1: Remove Sugar and Other Bad Actors From Your Diet
Sugars and refined carbohydrates are linked to numerous health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. That’s why minimizing or avoiding these problem foods altogether is essential to balancing your body’s hormone functioning.
Because many hormone imbalances begin with insulin resistance, you need to eliminate sugar, processed carbs, high-fructose corn syrup, and liquid sugar (like sodas and Starbucks).
But other components of your diet may also harm you. Xenoestrogens (chemical compounds that mimic estrogen) like bisphenol A (BPA) can cause hormone imbalances by disrupting your body’s natural estrogen production. Other harmful chemicals include pesticides like glyphosate.
You can cut out microplastics like BPA by avoiding bottled water and canned foods and using glass storage containers for your food and water. And you can avoid pesticides like glyphosate by eating organic, non-GMO foods.
Another common dietary cause of hormone imbalances is food allergies. If you suspect you may have food allergies, you can speak to a functional medicine doctor, allergy specialist, or other healthcare professional. You can also try an elimination diet to see if you feel better after eliminating potential allergens.
#2 Add More Protein, Healthy Fats, and Whole Foods to Your Diet
Proteins and healthy fats are the literal building blocks of your body’s hormones. Proteins provide amino acids that your body cannot produce, and fats like omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish) reduce inflammation and support healthy hormone production.
Eating enough protein and healthy fats can help you feel full and give you more energy. It will also reduce your cravings for sugar and other carbs. If you eat 20-30 grams of protein per meal along with a tablespoon of healthy fats like extra virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil, your health will subsequently improve.
Stay away from highly refined, chemically altered fats. For example, you need to avoid vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine, and shortening. On the other hand, eggs, and fatty fish should be on your menu.
One of the most disruptive consequences of hormone imbalance is inflammation in your body. Inflammation is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.
Therefore, to reduce your inflammation levels, you should eat multiple servings each day of anti-inflammatory whole foods like green veggies and fresh, colorful fruits.
#3: Don’t Overeat or Under eat
Being overweight or obese is linked to hormone imbalances like insulin resistance. But even if you don’t struggle with weight problems, overeating or under eating can still lead to hormonal shifts in your body.
Most women should eat a minimum of 1,200 calories per day. In addition, if you have problems with cravings or snacking throughout the day, you should stick to a fixed meal schedule. That’s because snacking, especially night-time snacking, leads to imbalances in leptin, the master fat-burning hormone.
Leptin resistance makes it harder to shed fat. Balancing your leptin levels can boost your fertility, enhance weight loss results, improve your sleep, and lower inflammation.
#4 Fix Your Sleep
Without adequate, high-quality sleep, your hormones will never be in balance. That’s how vital sleep is for your hormonal health.
Furthermore, sleep is a great way to reduce your stress levels and reset your body and mind for the following day. That’s why the Dalai Lama said: “Sleep is the best meditation.”
Your daytime habits can make or break your sleep patterns. Waking up at the same time every day and getting morning sunlight on your eyes and skin helps reset your body’s circadian clocks. Morning sun exposure has also been linked to lower levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone”.
You can also improve your sleep by having a consistent bedtime routine, reducing artificial light in your home, and “unplugging” from screens for a few hours before bed.
#5 Manage Stress With Meditation or Deep Breathing
Chronic stress is a killer in modern life. It’s also bad news for your hormone levels.
When you are overstressed, your body will produce high levels of cortisol. Cortisol puts wear and tear on your body and leads to further hormone imbalances. Therefore, you need to experiment with different methods of de-stressing, then make a daily habit of stress reduction.
#6 Exercise the Right Way
If you have hormone imbalance issues, intensive or excessive exercise can actually make your problems worse. But exercising at the appropriate intensity improves your sleep, sense of well being, and hormone levels.
As a result of proper exercise, you can attain better insulin sensitivity, higher levels of growth hormone, better mood, and reduced PMS and menopause symptoms.
Aerobic exercise, strength training, and short bouts of high-intensity interval training can all improve your hormonal health.
Start with lower intensities and durations and make a weekly habit of exercise. But remember: if you are feeling tired and stressed, it’s okay to take a day off.
#7 Reduce or Eliminate Caffeine
Too much caffeine can wreak havoc on your hormone levels and endocrine function, especially if you are chronically stressed.
Think of caffeine like a credit card: it’s a short-term loan that you need to pay off quickly (with adequate sleep and proper stress management). If you don’t, the interest (stress levels and hormone imbalances) will compound rapidly.
Try taking a break from caffeine. Because caffeine reduces sleep pressure (your body’s natural rhythm leading up to sleep), daily caffeine use can negatively impact your sleep.
But if you are unwilling to quit your daily caffeine habit, you should only have caffeine early in the morning. Green tea is a better choice for caffeine than coffee because it has less caffeine and a high antioxidant content.
#8 Limit or Cut Out Alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption negatively impacts your sleep quality, energy levels, and hormone production. And if you have hormonal imbalance issues, alcohol will exacerbate your problems by increasing estrogen levels. That’s why alcohol consumption may increase the risk of breast cancer.
While it’s true that red wine has some health benefits, you shouldn’t use red wine — or any type of alcohol — to manage your stress levels. Even if you don’t overindulge, there are much better ways to manage stress.
#9 Support Your Gut Health
Poor digestive function and the wrong gut bacteria can disrupt your health and cause significant hormonal problems. Getting enough fiber from whole food sources like fresh fruits and vegetables can improve your gut health and reduce your hormonal symptoms.
Along with eating enough fiber, avoiding pro-inflammatory foods, and following the other dietary advice in this article, you can also make traditional probiotic fermented foods at home to improve your gut health.
#10 Supplement Wisely
In the case of hormone imbalances there can be significant benefits to taking health supplements. In a perfect world you would get enough vitamins and minerals from natural foods, but modern farming practices have depleted the soil of these vital nutrients.
If you’ve eaten an unhealthy diet for years, a period of supplementation to increase your body’s stores of vitamins and minerals can provide faster relief, even if you buy organic and local natural foods.
According to studies, here are the top vitamins and minerals that can address hormone imbalances:
- Magnesium combined with Vitamin B6
- Extended-release Vitamin C
There is also evidence that some herbs can help manage hormonal symptoms. Maca powder or capsules, red raspberry leaf, and chasteberry leaf (Vitex Agnus-Castus) are worth a try if you are experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance.
#11 Talk to Your Functional Medicine Doc about Bio Identical HRT
Hormone replacement therapy is highly effective for treating perimenopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, but a major study in 2002 from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) concluded that the risks outweigh the benefits.
However, the WHI trial was conducted using a combination of equine estrogen and a synthetic form of progesterone. In your body, these compounds break down into unnatural byproducts not typically found in women’s bodies.
On the other hand, bioidentical hormones have the same molecular structure as women’s natural hormones. Your doctor can prescribe to you a FDA-approved bio identical hormone replacement therapy, or customized bio identical preparations from a compounding pharmacy.
In bio identical HRT, doctors measure your hormone levels with blood tests, and then use natural hormones like estrogen to correct imbalances.
Because HRT can have side-effects and other potential drawbacks, you should seek proper medical advice before you begin treatment.
Bio identical hormone replacement therapy can be useful for women whose lives are disrupted by hormone imbalances due to PMS or menopause, but many women find other approaches to improving health and restoring balance to their bodies preferable.
The Bottom Line: What to Expect
Most women begin to feel better immediately. But like any process, addressing hormone imbalances can take time.
Thanks to your consistent efforts, your long-term results could include reversing infertility to get pregnant, curing acne, losing weight more easily, improving your sex drive, and sleeping better.
Avoiding problem foods, eating nutritiously, engaging in healthy habits like exercise, and managing stress can work miracles in balancing your hormones. Stick with it, and you’ll regain your vitality, happiness, alertness, and innate brilliance.