10 Ways to Balance Your Hormones Naturally
If your hormones are not balanced your sexual, mental and metabolic state will be way out of wack and you and those around you will feel it.
Hormones are extremely important chemical messengers that affect many areas of your health — such as oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, adrenaline and insulin.
The endocrine system controls the level of hormones circulating in your body, and if one or more is even even slightly out of wack it can cause major health problems.
Hormones are secreted by various glands and organs including your adrenals, pituitary, thyroid, pancreas, ovaries and testicles.
Like everything in your body hormones are made from the air you breath, the water you drink and the food you eat. So unless these areas are addressed your hormones will literally moan and you will not like the feeling or the health complications.
The good news is that you can balance your hormones naturally. You’ll learn what type of hormonal imbalance your specific symptoms might be pointing to, what the root causes of your hormonal problem are, and how you can help treat the problem without experiencing the negative side effects associated with conventional and synthetic treatments.
Conventional treatments usually include synthetic hormone replacement therapies, thyroid medications, birth control pills, insulin injections and more. Unfortunately, for the many people relying on these synthetic treatments these are often the outcomes:
Dependency on taking prescription drugs to keep symptoms under control
They mask the symptoms, but don't solve them, which often leads to other abnormalities in other areas while the disorder progresses
The side affects cause a higher risk of conditions such as reproductive problems, stroke, anxiety, osteoporosis, cancer and more
Most common signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances
Cravings and appetite changes
Weight gain or weight loss (not due to intentional changes in your diet)
Depression, moods and anxiety
Infertility and irregular periods
Low sex drive
Symptoms can range drastically depending on the type of disorder or illness they cause.
Some specific problems associated with some of the most common hormonal imbalances include:
Adrenal fatigue: fatigue, muscle aches and pains, anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, brain fog, reproductive problems
Hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease: anxiety, thinning hair, weight loss, IBS, trouble sleeping, irregular heartbeats
Oestrogens dominance: changes in sleep patterns, flushes, changes in weight and appetite, higher perceived stress, emotional changes, slower metabolism
(Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): infertility, weight gain, higher risk for diabetes, acne, abnormal hair growth
Low oestrogens: low sex drive, reproductive problems, menstrual irregularity, changes in mood
Low testosterone: erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, mood-related problems
Diabetes: weight gain, nerve damage (neuropathy), higher risk for vision loss, fatigue, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin problems
Risk Factors and Causes of Hormonal Imbalances
Imbalances are multi-factorial disorders, meaning they are caused by a combination of factors such as genetics, diet, medical history, stress and exposure to personal care, home and environmental toxins.
Some of the major contributors to hormonal imbalances include:
High levels of inflammation caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle
Being overweight or obese
High amount of stress, and a lack of enough sleep and rest
Food allergies and gut issues: New research shows that gut health plays a huge role in hormone regulation. If you have leaky gut syndrome or a lack of beneficial bacteria lining your intestinal wall, it make you more susceptible to hormonal problems like diabetes and obesity. That’s because inflammation usually stems from your gut and then impacts nearly every aspect of your health (1)
Toxicity (exposure to pesticides, food additives, toxins, viruses, cigarettes, excessive alcohol and harmful chemicals in the air and water) (2)
10 Ways to Balance Hormones Naturally
1. Eat Healthy Fats (Including Coconut Oil and Avocados)
Eating a variety of foods high in short, medium and long-chain fatty acids is key to keeping your hormones in check. Your body needs various types of fats to make 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.
Four excellent sources of anti-inflammatory, healthy fats include: avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed organic butter and wild-caught salmon. Coconut oil (or cream/milk) has natural anti-bacterial and fat-burning effects. Avocado improves heart health, lowers inflammation, controls your appetite and contributes to your daily intake of fibre and important nutrients. Salmon oil is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower inflammation, help with heart health and cognitive functions.
2. Supplement with Adaptogen Herbs
Adaptogen herbs are a unique class of healing plants that promote hormone balance and protect the body from a wide variety of diseases, including those caused by excess stress. Research shows that various adapotogens — such as ashwagandha, medicinal mushrooms, rhodiola and holy basil — can:
Lower cholesterol naturally
Improve thyroid function (3)
Reduce brain cell degeneration
Reduce anxiety and depression (4)
Stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels (5)
Support adrenal gland functions (6)
3. Balance Your Intake of Omega-3 to Omega-6 Fats
The use of refined vegetable oils and intake of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets have skyrocketed over the last 50 years. People have not boosted their intake of omega -3 during this time period, and the result has been drastically elevated omega-6 levels. The onslaught of chronic diseases caused by inflammatory processes from excess omega-6 has taken over our health.
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. (7) Research from Pennsylvania State University suggests that jumping from a ratio of 1:1 omega-3/omega-6s (the ratio our hunter-gather ancestors enjoyed) to the astronomical ratio between 10:1 and 20:1 (omega-3/omega-6s) is one of the primary dietary factors causing many diseases. (8)
TAKE NOTE: Steer clear from oils high in omega -6 (canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, soybean and peanut), and boost the rich sources of natural omega-3s instead (wild fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and grass-fed animal products). It is important that you know that there is a type of omega-6 fat that is excellent called GLA. GLA (gamma-linoleic acid) which can be taken in supplement form by using evening primrose oil or borage oil, and is also found in hemp seeds and oil. Studies show GLA can support healthy progesterone levels for reproductive health.
4. Improve Gut Health and Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut not only affects your digestive tract, but also causes hormone issues. Gut problems have been found to trigger autoimmune reactions, including arthritis and thyroid disorders. (9) So what exactly is leaky gut syndrome?
When undigested food particles, like gluten for example, leak through your gut into your bloodstream, it causes disease causing inflammation that impacts on the entire body — especially glands like the thyroid which is very susceptible to heightened inflammation. Most people with leaky gut have an a deficiency of probiotics in their guts. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can actually improve your production and regulation of key hormones like insulin, ghrelin and leptin.
Avoid foods that can cause damage in your digestive system including: processed foods, gluten, hydrogenated oils, wheat, processed milk and added sugar. The top foods and supplements that support healing leaky gut include: high-fibre foods like vegetables and sprouted seeds, kefir, fermented vegetables, and supplements like digestive enzymes and probiotics which aid in repairing your gut lining which can help balance your hormones.
5. Eliminate Toxic Kitchen, Beauty and Body Care Products
Avoid 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 over 72,000 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.
Avoid plastic bottles, aluminum cans and containers. It’s best to replace plastic and aluminum with glass and stainless steel because of the toxic effects of PBA’s. Switch from teflon pans to stainless steel, ceramic or cast iron, to reduce chemicals getting into the food you prepare.
6. Exercise (Especially HIT high intensity Interval training)
This is one of the best all-around activities you can do for your health. If there is a silver bullet to help with a sluggish metabolism, weight gain and other issues, this might be it! Exercise in general is great for balancing hormones because it reduces inflammation, can help you maintain a healthy weight, lowers stress, helps regulate your appetite, and helps improve sleep.
Whether we’re talking about endorphins from a “runner’s high”, testosterone, growth hormone or insulin, HIIT and burst training can help your body regulate production and use of these hormones. Exercise can also enhance your immune system, allow your cells to take up more glucose (which lowers insulin), protect you from depression, and keep you more alert without the need for caffeine.
According to the University of Notre Dame Medical School in Sydney, “HIT is associated with increased patient compliance and improved cardiovascular and metabolic outcomes and is suitable for implementation in both healthy and ‘at risk’ populations”. (10) For people with hormonal imbalances, the key with exercise is to be careful not to overdo it. Training for a shorter period of time (about 20 minutes three times a week) but with higher intensity works well for most people who can’t afford to add any extra stress to their system. Keep in mind that optimal exercise can differ a lot from person to person however, so it’s a good idea to seek advise from a processional if you’re ever unsure.
7. Reduce Stress and Get More Sleep
Unless you get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, you’re not doing your body justice. 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! e.g. Cortisol, the main “stress hormone”, is regulated at midnight. 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”. (11)
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.
8. Watch Your Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
Caffeine in moderate amounts might be okay for some people, but drinking too much caffeine is almost as bad as not getting enough sleep. Caffeine, which can stay in your system for up to six hours, is a chemical that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and raises your heart rate, increases alertness, and changes the way your brain produces hormones. Although caffeine overdoses are rare, caffeine is capable of elevating cortisol levels if it interferes with your normal sleep cycle. It might also have an impact on other stress hormones, such as adrenaline production. You’re probably aware that caffeine is addictive by nature, increases nervousness and anxiety in many people, and is linked to insomnia.
If you need a little boost during the day, try not to drink more than one–two cups. Ideally you’ll turn to matcha green tea or tulsi tea which are much lower in caffeine. Once you’re health is back on track, small amounts of caffeine can usuallyu be toleraable, and even beneficial. Dartmouth Medical School reports that “caffeine has been shown to increase insulin levels, reduce insulin sensitivity, and increase cortisol levels. However, epidemiological studies have indicated that long-term consumption of beverages containing caffeine such as coffee and green tea is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus”. (12)
Another important step is to watch your alcohol intake, since high levels of alcohol (above about 2-3 drinks daily) can negatively impact liver functioning. Chronic alcohol consumption channelled to oestrogen dominance and has been found to interfere with pancreatic function, increase liver disease risk, lower testosterone and contribute to anxiety and malnutrition. The liver is very important for hormonal balance and has over 500 different functions in the body. Of course it’s extremely important to quit smoking too. Studies have found that smoking interferes with normal immunological and reproductive processes. Compared with nonsmokers, moderate to heavy smokers (≥ 10 cigarettes/day) have abnormal levels of steroid metabolites and reproductive hormones that can be up to 35 percent higher than usual. (13)
9. Supplement with Vitamin D3
According to an article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vitamin D3’s role in promoting health is more profound than previously suspected. Researchers found that vitamin D has an impact in the following ways: (14)
It affects “the adaptive immune system, the innate immune system, insulin secretion by the pancreatic β cell, multifactorial heart functioning and blood pressure regulation, and brain and fetal development.”
Vitamin D 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 IU to 5,000 IU daily of vitamin D3 if they live in dark areas, during the winter, and on days when they’re not in the sun.
10. Back Off Birth Control Pills
In simplest terms, “the pill” is a type of hormone therapy that raises estrogen levels to such dangerous levels that it can cause many complications. To cease using the pill immediately, considering that there are many other (safer) ways to prevent pregnancy is recommended. Studies show that the risks of taking them, especially long-term, can include: (15)
increased blood pressure
Breakthrough bleeding between cycles
Increased risk of breast cancer
Increased risk of uterine bleeding, blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
Benign liver tumors
Precautions When Treating Hormonal Imbalances
In some cases, synthetic hormonal treatments (such as insulin or thyroid medication) will be necessary to treat a hormonal imbalance. The majority of people can feel a lot better by making the lifestyle changes described above and bringing the balance back naturally.
For people with diagnosed hormonal disorders− including type 1 or type 2 diabetes, Adrenal Insufficiency, Addison’s Disease, Graves’s Disease and Cushing’s Syndrome for example− it’s always important to speak with your doctor before discontinuing medication use. The natural treatments above can still help you overcome your illness and greatly reduce symptoms, but these recommendations shouldn’t take the place of medical supervision. Because hormone imbalances vary so widely in terms of severity of symptoms, always keep track of how you’re feeling, do your research and evaluate how you respond to different treatments.
A summary on Hormonal Imbalances and Natural Treatments:
Hormonal imbalances affect many millions of people worldwide, in the forms of common disorders like diabetes, thyroid disorders, menstrual irregularities, infertility, low testosterone and estrogen dominance, mental health and weight.
Symptoms include feeling anxious, tired, irritable, gaining or losing weight, not sleeping well and noticing changes in your emotions and sex drive, focus and appetite
Causes for hormonal imbalances include poor diet and gut health, inflammation, high amounts of stress, toxins, genetic susceptibility, and toxicity
Natural treatments include eating an anti-inflammatory diet, consuming enough omega-3s, getting good sleep, exercising and controlling stress