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6 Steps for How to Balance Hormones Naturally

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Reviewed by Marcelle Pick, MSN, OB-GYN NP, Pediatric NP

How to balance hormones naturally - Dr. Axe

Hormones — such as estrogen, testosterone, adrenaline and insulin — are extremely important chemical messengers that affect many aspects of your overall health. That’s why a hormonal imbalance can be problematic, so you want to make sure you know how to balance hormones.

Conventional treatments for hormonal imbalances typically include synthetic hormone replacement therapies, birth control pills, insulin injections, thyroid medications and more. Unfortunately, for the majority of people suffering from hormonal disorders, relying on these types of synthetic treatments often does three things:

  1. It makes people dependent on taking prescription drugs for the rest of their lives in order to keep symptoms under control.
  2. It simply masks the patient’s symptoms but doesn’t solve them, which means that the patient can continue to develop abnormalities in other areas of the body while the disorder progresses.
  3. It potentially causes a higher risk for serious side effects, such as stroke, osteoporosis, anxiety, reproductive problems, cancer and more.

Is it possible to balance hormones naturally? The good news is, yes, in many cases it is.

Let’s examine how to balance hormones naturally.

1. Swap Carbs for Healthy Fats

Foods that balance hormones include a variety of fat-containing foods that provide short-, medium- and long-chain fatty acids. Your body needs various types of fats to create hormones, including saturated fat and cholesterol.

Not only are these essential fats fundamental building blocks for hormone production, but they keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism and promote weight loss.

Healthy fats have the opposite effect of refined carbohydrates, which lead to inflammation and can mess with the balance of your hormones.

My four favorite sources of anti-inflammatory, healthy fats include coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter and wild-caught salmon.

  • Coconut oil uses are plentiful. For example, coconut oil (or cream/milk) has natural antibacterial and fat-burning effects.
  • Avocado benefits include improving heart health, lowering inflammation, controlling your appetite, and contributing to your daily intake of fiber and nutrients, such as potassium.
  • Salmon nutrition is also impressive. It’s one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower inflammation and help with cognitive functions. Omega-3 fatty acids are a large component of brain-cell membranes and are important for cell-to-cell communication in the brain. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids help protect against hippocampal neuronal loss and reduce pro-inflammatory responses.

What food causes hormonal imbalance? It’s best to limit or avoid added sugar, processed carbs and refined vegetable/seed oils.

Here’s a rule of thumb: Steer clear from oils high in omega-6 fats (safflower oil, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, canola, soybean and peanut), and load up on rich sources of natural omega-3s instead (wild fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and grass-fed animal products).

There is a type of omega-6 fat that you want to get in your diet called gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). GLA can be taken in supplement form by using evening primrose oil or borage oil, and it’s also found in hemp seeds. Studies show supplementing with GLA can support healthy progesterone levels.

2. Supplement to Fill Nutritional Voids

While a healthy diet is key for all aspects of health, it’s sometimes necessary to supplement in order to fill nutritional voids that can be leading to a hormone imbalance.

Here are the top supplements to focus on in order to balance hormones:

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil contains omega-6 fatty acids, such as GLA, that support overall hormonal function. Supplementing with evening primrose oil can help relieve premenstrual and PCOS symptoms. It also helps to create a healthy environment for conception.

Vitamin D

What is the best vitamins to take for hormonal imbalance? Vitamin D is definitely one of them, since it almost acts like a hormone inside the body and has important implications for keeping inflammation levels low.

This is why people who live in dark areas often suffer from seasonal depression and other health problems unless they supplement with vitamin D. Sunshine is really the best way to optimize vitamin D levels because your bare skin actually makes vitamin D on its own when exposed to even small amounts of direct sunlight.

Most people should supplement with around 2,000–5,000 international units daily of vitamin D3 if they live in dark areas, during the winter and on days when they’re not in the sun.

Bone Broth

Bone broth soothes the digestive system and supplies the body with nutrients that can be easily absorbed. Consuming bone broth or protein powder made from bone broth is especially beneficial to your health because it contains healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine, which have the powder to boost your overall health.

Probiotics

Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can actually improve your production and regulation of key hormones like insulin, ghrelin and leptin. They can also aid in repairing your gut lining, which in turn can balance your hormones.

When undigested food particles, like gluten, for example, leak through your gut into your bloodstream, it leads to disease-causing inflammation that impacts the entire body — especially glands like the thyroid that is very susceptible to heightened inflammation. Most people with leaky gut have an a deficiency of probiotics in their guts.

To consume more probiotics, you can both add fermented foods to your diet (such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, etc.) and take probiotic capsule supplements.

Adaptogen Herbs

Adaptogen herbs are a unique class of plants that promote hormone balance and protect the body from a wide variety of diseases, including those caused by excess stress. In addition to boosting immune function and combating stress, research shows that various adaptogens — such as ashwagandha, medicinal mushrooms, rhodiola and holy basil — can help:

Ashwagandha, in particular, can be extremely effective at balancing hormones. It benefits thyroid function because it promotes the scavenging of free radicals that cause cellular damage.

Ashwagandha can be used to support a sluggish or overactive thyroid, and it can also help to overcome adrenal fatigue. Your adrenals can become overtaxed when you experience too much emotional, physical or mental stress, leading to the disruption of hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and progesterone.

Holy basil, which is also known as tulsi, helps regulate cortisol levels, thereby working as a natural remedy for anxiety and emotional stress. Studies show that holy basil can also protect your organs and tissues against chemical stress from pollutants and heavy metals, which are other factors that can lead to hormone imbalance.

Mushrooms

Functional mushrooms support the body’s ability to adapt to stress and promote immune system modulation. These mushrooms have been used for over 2,000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and are chock-full of beneficial compounds, including polysaccharides and polysaccharide peptides, beta-glucans, glycoproteins, and triterpenes that also support gut health, metabolic health and more.

Herbal Hormone Supplements

Certain supplements intended to support women’s hormones combine functional mushrooms with adaptogens and other botanicals to help support overall hormone balance. Within these supplements you’ll typically find reishi mushroom, chaste tree berry, ashwagandha, black cohosh root and schisandra berry.

Together these support female reproductive health, healthy energy levels, a positive mindset, mental clarity, restful sleep and the body’s ability to handle stress.

3. Address Emotional Imbalances

According to TCM, internal emotions have a direct impact on a person’s health, and addressing emotional imbalances, external factors and lifestyle choices can help prevent health conditions associated with hormonal imbalances.

TCM practitioners believe that the emotions of fear cause disease in your reproductive organs, kidneys and adrenals, affecting cortisol levels. This can lead to serious conditions like PCOS and infertility.

The emotions of frustration, impatience and unforgiveness cause disease in your liver, which can lead to an estrogen imbalance. Emotions of worry and anxiety can cause issues with your insulin levels, which can then affect several hormones.

A major component of balancing your hormones naturally is addressing any emotional imbalances that you are dealing with. You can do this by reducing stress levels, engaging in personal reflection and taking time for yourself.

Practicing meditation or healing prayer can be extremely beneficial, and so can deep breathing exercises, spending time outdoors and exercising every day. Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies like acupuncture and massage can also help to improve hormonal balance, combat stress and improve blood flow.

4. Use Certain Essential Oils

To balance your hormones naturally, it’s important that you eliminate toxins in your body by avoiding conventional body care products that are made with potentially harmful chemicals, including DEA, parabens, propylene glycol and sodium lauryl sulfate. A better alternative is to use natural products made with ingredients like essential oils, coconut oil, shea butter and castor oil.

The Environmental Working Group evaluated tens of thousands of products and ranked them in an easy-to-understand guide to make sure you have a resource to keep your family safe. Check out EWG’s “Skin Deep Cosmetic Database” today for recommendations for which products to use and avoid.

To replace toxic body care and cleaning products, use these hormone-balancing essential oils:

Clary Sage

Clary sage helps balance estrogen levels because it contains natural phytoestrogens. It can be used to regulate your menstrual cycle, relieve PMS symptoms, treat infertility and PCOS, and even reduce the chances of uterine and ovarian cancer.

It also serves as a natural remedy for emotional imbalances, like depression and anxiety. Diffuse three to five drops of clary sage to help balance hormone levels and relieve stress.

To ease cramps and pain, massage five drops of clary sage with five drops of coconut oil into your stomach and any other area of concern.

Fennel

Problems with your gut health have been found to cause autoimmune reactions, including thyroid disorders. Use fennel essential oil to relax your body, improve your digestion and gut health, boost your metabolism, and reduce inflammation.

You can rub two drops of fennel into your stomach or add one to two drops to a class of warm water or tea to take it internally.

Lavender

Lavender oil promotes emotional balance, as it can help treat anxiety, depression, moodiness and stress. It can also be used to promote restful sleep, which helps balance your hormone levels as well.

Diffuse five drops of lavender oil at home, add five drops to a warm water bath, or apply three drops topically to your temples, back or neck or wrists.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood essential oil can be used to increase your libido, reduce stress, promote relaxation, boost mental clarity and even help you relax. The powerful fragrance triggers peaceful feelings and results in the overall reduction of stress that can lead to hormone imbalances.

Inhale sandalwood directly from the bottle, diffuse it at home, or apply two to three drops to your wrists and bottoms of the feet.

Thyme

Thyme oil improves progesterone production, which helps treat or relieve health issues like infertility, PCOS, menopause, depression, fibroids, hair loss and insomnia. To help balance your hormones naturally, add two drops of thyme oil to a warm water bath, or rub two to three drops with equal parts coconut oil into your abdomen.

5. Beware of Medications and Birth Control

Are you aware of your medication’s side effects? Some can disrupt your hormone balance, leading to side effects like fatigue, appetite changes, altered sleeping patterns, low libido, sadness and even depression.

Some medications that can mess with your hormone balance include corticosteroids, stimulants, statins, dopamine agonists, rexinoids and glucocorticoids. Beware of your medications, talk to your doctor about the side effects and research natural alternatives whenever possible.

Birth control is another medication that alters hormone levels. “The pill” is a type of hormone therapy that raises estrogen levels to levels that can cause many complications.

Studies show that the health risks of taking them, especially long term, may include issues like:

  • Breakthrough bleeding between cycles
  • Increased risk of uterine bleeding, blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
  • Migraines
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Back pains
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea
  • Benign liver tumors
  • Breast tenderness

6. Get More Sleep

Unless you get seven to nine hours of sleep every night, you’re doing your body no favors. A lack of sleep or disturbing your natural circadian rhythm can be one of the worst habits contributing to a hormone imbalance.

How so? Because your hormones work on a schedule!

Case in point: Cortisol, the primary “stress hormone,” is regulated at midnight. Therefore, people who go to bed late never truly get a break from their sympathetic flight/fight stress response.

A lack of sleep, long-term use of corticosteroids and chronic stress are three of the biggest contributors to high cortisol levels. A report published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism stated that “Stress can lead to changes in the serum level of many hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone and prolactin.”

Sleep helps keep stress hormones balanced, builds energy and allows the body to recover properly. Excessive stress and poor sleep are linked with higher levels of morning cortisol, decreased immunity, trouble with work performance, and a higher susceptibility to anxiety, weight gain and depression.

To maximize hormone function, ideally try to get to bed by 10 p.m., and stick with a regular sleep-wake cycle as much as possible.

Final Thoughts

  • Hormonal imbalances affect many millions of people worldwide in the form of common disorders, like diabetes, thyroid disorders, menstrual irregularities, infertility, low testosterone and estrogen dominance
  • Symptoms include feeling anxious, tired, irritable, gaining or losing weight, not sleeping well, and noticing changes in your sex drive, focus and appetite
  • Causes for hormonal imbalances include poor gut health, inflammation, high amounts of stress, genetic susceptibility and toxicity
  • Here’s how to balance hormones naturally: Eat an anti-inflammatory diet; consume omega-3s, adaptogen herbal supplements, mushrooms, probiotics and other supplements like vitamin D; get good sleep; exercise; and control stress.

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