6 Steps to Balance Hormones Naturally
Reviewed by Marcelle Pick, MSN, OB-GYN NP, Pediatric NP
March 30, 2021
Hormones — such as estrogen, testosterone, adrenaline and insulin — are extremely important chemical messengers that affect many aspects of your overall health.
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:
It makes people dependent on taking prescription drugs for the rest of their lives in order to keep symptoms under control.
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.
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. Below you’ll learn about some root causes of hormonal problems, as well as about treatment options to help you balance your hormones naturally.
What Is the Endocrine System?
The endocrine system is in charge of coordinating the relationship between different organs and hormones, which are chemicals that are released into your bloodstream from cells within your endocrine glands.
Hormones are secreted by various glands and organs, including your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, testicles and pancreas. The entire endocrine system works together to control the level of hormones circulating throughout your body, and if one or more is even slightly imbalanced, it can cause widespread health problems affecting growth, sexual development and function, sleep, metabolism and hunger.
Once your hormones are in circulation, they target specific tissues or cells by binding to receptors that are located inside the cell or on its surface. These hormones work as chemical messengers and play a key role in your body’s daily functions.
The endocrine system is made up of many glands, including the pituitary gland or “master gland” that’s responsible for sending information from your brain to other glands in your body. The pituitary gland also produces many hormones that travel throughout the body and have different important functions.
The pituitary gland is made up of two different tissue types: the anterior pituitary that synthesizes and releases classic hormones, and the posterior pituitary gland that secretes neurohormones that are made in the hypothalamus.
Two hormones that are secreted by the anterior pituitary gland are growth hormone, which is responsible for your proper growth and development, and prolactin, which is the hormone that stimulates milk production after childbirth.
Tropic hormones are also produced and secreted by the anterior pituitary gland, which is an endocrine gland, and they also target other endocrine glands. These hormones include:
thyroid-stimulating hormone (also called thyrotropin)
The posterior pituitary gland doesn’t produce hormones on its own, but stores and secretes two hormones made in the hypothalamic region, vasopressin and oxytocin, and then releases them into the bloodstream.
Other important glands of the endocrine system include the pineal gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, thymus gland and adrenal glands.
There are two major groups of hormones that circulate the human body — those that derive from amino acids (protein hormones, peptides and amines) and those that derive from lipids (steroids). Here’s a quick breakdown of these hormone subgroups:
Amine hormones: Hormones that are synthesized from the amino acids tryptophan (such as melatonin) and tyrosine (such as thyroid hormones and dopamine).
Peptide hormones: Hormones that consist of short chain amino acids and include antidiuretic hormone (called vasopressin) and oxytocin.
Protein hormones: Hormones that consist of longer polypeptides and include growth hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone.
Steroid hormones: Hormones that are derived from cholesterol and include testosterone, estrogens and cortisol.
When these hormones send messages, they are received by hormone receptors that process the message and signal specific event or cellular mechanisms that initiate the target cell’s response.
Related: Adult Acne: How to Get Rid of Hormonal Acne Naturally
Signs and Symptoms
Before we talk about how to balance hormones naturally, it helps to know which signs and symptoms of hormone imbalances to look out for. These include:
Infertility and irregular periods
Weight gain or weight loss (that’s unexplained and not due to intentional changes in your diet)
Depression and anxiety
Changes in appetite
Hair loss and hair thinning
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances can range dramatically depending on what type of disorder or illness they are caused by. For example, high estrogen can contribute to problems that include endometriosis and reproductive issues, while symptoms of diabetes often include weight gain, changes in appetite, nerve damage and problems with eyesight.
Some specific problems associated with some of the most common hormonal imbalances include:
Estrogen dominance: changes in sleep patterns, changes in weight and appetite, higher perceived stress, slowed metabolism
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): infertility, weight gain, higher risk for diabetes, acne, abnormal hair growth
Low estrogen: low sex drive, reproductive problems, menstrual irregularity, changes in mood
Hypothyroidism: slowed metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, digestive issues, irregular periods
Low testosterone: erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, mood-related problems
Hyperthyroidism & Grave’s disease: anxiety, thinning hair, weight loss, IBS, trouble sleeping, irregular heartbeats
Diabetes: weight gain, nerve damage (neuropathy), higher risk for vision loss, fatigue, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin problems
Adrenal fatigue: fatigue, muscle aches and pains, anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, brain fog, reproductive problems
Risk Factors and Causes
Hormonal imbalances are multi-factorial disorders, meaning they are caused by a combination of factors — such as your diet, medical history, genetics, stress levels and exposure to toxins from your environment.
Some of the major contributors to hormonal imbalances include:
Food allergies and gut issues: An expanding field of new research shows that your gut health plays a significant role in hormone regulation. If you have leaky gut syndrome or a lack of beneficial probiotic bacteria lining your intestinal wall, you’re more susceptible to hormonal problems, including diabetes and obesity. That’s because inflammation usually stems from your gut and then impacts nearly every aspect of your health.
Being overweight or obese
High levels of inflammation caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle
Toxicity (which is related to exposure to chemicals like pesticides, or viruses, cigarettes, excessive alcohol and some medications)
High amounts of stress, and a lack of enough sleep and rest
Adrenal dysfunction is the largest cause of the hormonal imbalance with the sex hormones — especially because of something called the “cortisol steal.”
This occurs when cholesterol, which usually helps to make the sex hormones, combines with too much stress and the enzyme 17/20 lyase blocks the conversion; the production of cortisol ensues. Cortisol then causes the imbalance of progesterone, estrogen and testosterone, which then decreases the sex drive.
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 anti-bacterial 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 GLA. GLA (gamma-linoleic acid) 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:<