A hormonal imbalance happens when your body has too much or too little of a specific type of hormone. This can affect every aspect of your overall health, from your gut health to your emotional well-being.
Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options for those wondering how to balance hormones and put a stop to their symptoms. To start, you’ll need to get to the root of your imbalance.
Recognizing Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and insulin are chemical messengers produced by the endocrine system. Hormones affect body processes like metabolism, sexual function, and overall mood. When your hormone levels are in balance, your body processes are in balance.
How does an imbalance in hormones affect your emotional health? An imbalance in hormones can affect your emotional health by worsening symptoms of existing problems like anxiety. A hormonal balance can also cause chronic stress that can affect your overall mood.
Hormonal imbalances can look different in women and men. Common symptoms in both include:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in appetite
- High cholesterol
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle aches or stiffness
- Brain fog, confusion, or memory loss
- Diminished sex drive
- Disrupted sleep
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Chronic stress
- Gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, or changes in bowel movements
- Problems regulating body temperature
- Changes in skin texture like dry skin, thinning skin, or acne
- Depression or anxiety
From there, differences in sex hormones may cause unique symptoms in men vs. women.
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance in Women
What are the symptoms of hormonal imbalance in females? The symptoms of hormonal imbalance in females include:
- Menstrual cycle changes like heavy or irregular periods
- Infrequent or absent ovulation/infertility
- Worsened premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
- Vaginal dryness
- Breast changes
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Hair loss or excessive body hair (hirsutism)
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance in Men
What are the symptoms of hormonal imbalance in males? The symptoms of hormonal imbalance in males include:
- Hair loss
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of muscle mass
- Excessive sweating
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to focus
- Sleep disturbances
Causes of Imbalanced Hormones
Understanding the causes of hormonal imbalance is an important step in finding an appropriate treatment. Some causes are natural life cycle processes, while others are induced by lifestyle choices. There are natural treatment options either way.
Hormonal dysregulation caused by rare conditions or damage to certain glands in the body may require additional medical attention. Always talk to your primary care provider about any new symptoms you may be experiencing.
Causes of imbalanced hormones include:
- Menopause or perimenopause
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of quality sleep
- Chronic stress
- Lack of exercise
- Certain medications (steroids, birth control)
- Problems with the endocrine glands
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels)
- Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels)
- Autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes
- Benign tumors that damage the pituitary gland
Balancing Your Hormones With Diet
A healthy diet is typically the first step in improving your hormonal health naturally. Getting enough protein, fiber, and healthy fats can reduce your risk of conditions like diabetes and improve your mood. A nutrition calculator can shed some light on how much protein and other nutrients your body needs based on your age, weight, and activity level.
1. Eat Enough Protein
Proteins provide your body with essential amino acids that make peptide hormones. These hormones regulate key functions like stress, energy levels, and appetite. Changes in these hormones can affect how full you feel after meals, and cause weight gain over time.
Increase your protein intake with foods like lean meats, eggs, seafood, beans, lentils, nuts, and soy products.
A high-fiber diet is important for good digestive function, a healthy microbiome, and cardiovascular health. It can also play a part in lowering estrogen levels in both men and women. Excess estrogen has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer and fibroids in women.
Much like protein, fiber can stimulate hormones that regulate appetite and reduce bloating. Boost your fiber intake by eating more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens like kale and arugula. Beans, whole grains, berries, nuts, and dried fruits are also great sources of fiber.
Note: Excessive grains and fruit, especially dried fruit, can be a source of lots of glucose, and for some, that can trigger insulin resistance and hormone imbalance. It’s important to know your body and understand your tolerance level of sugar and carbohydrate intake.
3. Add Healthy Fats
Fat doesn’t have to be a dirty word when it comes to your dietary choices. Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids are a necessary component of any healthy diet.
They can increase your insulin sensitivity, balance blood sugar levels, help your body regulate inflammation and chronic stress, and improve your energy levels. Healthy fats can also reduce food cravings for sugars and unhealthy carbs.
Sources of healthy fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, tofu, organic and grass-fed sources of dairy like yogurt, and fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, and sardines.
4. Lower Your Sugar Intake
Few dietary choices have as much impact on your energy, food cravings, and yes, hormonal health, as sugar. Refined sugar in particular can cause digestive issues, chronic fatigue, even withdrawal symptoms if you’re trying to limit your sugar intake.
Sugar and simple carbohydrates cause blood sugar spikes and put added stress on your adrenal glands, which are responsible for cortisol regulation. This is all on top of how bad you feel after a sugar crash.
Start by cutting out sugary soft drinks and add natural sweeteners like fresh fruit or monk fruit (a naturally sugar-free sweetener) to meals instead of table sugar.
5. Watch Your Weight
Obesity can also increase the risk of hypogonadism, particularly in men. Hypogonadism occurs when the body’s sex glands — these are the testes in men and ovaries in women — stop working properly. This can mean decreased testosterone in men and reduced estrogen & progesterone in women.
A healthy diet and regular exercise can help your body maintain a healthy weight. If you’re already doing both and still having trouble with your weight, talk to your doctor about other strategies. There may be hormones at play.
Herbs & Supplements for Hormone Health
There are a variety of natural herbs and supplements that can improve your hormone regulation. The type you choose to incorporate into your diet may depend on where your body is lacking (or in excess) when it comes to your hormones.
What vitamins help balance hormones? Vitamins that help balance hormones include vitamin D and B vitamins. The mineral magnesium can also support hormonal health.
All of the following supplements can be found at the following Fullscript Protocol, curated just for your hormone balance.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has positive effects on bone health, reduced stress and anxiety, and an improved immune system. It’s also important for endocrine health and can reduce hormonal fluctuations. Some medical journals even claim vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin.
Supplements are the best way to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D in your diet. This is especially true in the winter months when sunshine, a natural source of vitamin D, is limited in many areas. Most Americans have non-optimal levels of Vitamin D. Even though the lab reference range may be as wide as 30-100, the optimal range for your Vitamin D level is 50-80.
2. B Vitamins
B vitamins ( B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12) support healthy brain function, combat chronic stress and fatigue, and help your body produce hormones like estrogen and progesterone. That’s thanks to vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, an essential nutrient that supports metabolic function.
Fish, avocado, and yogurt are all good sources of vitamin B5. If you’re still lacking after adding natural food sources, a B-complex supplement may be best.
Many people lack adequate absorption of B vitamins, even if they are consuming the right foods, due to conditions like gut inflammation. It’s helpful to get your B vitamin levels tested with your medical provider in order to know what you might benefit from supplementing.
Some women experience a drop in magnesium during perimenopause and into menopause. That can cause chronic fatigue, depressive symptoms, and problems regulating blood sugar levels. A magnesium supplement can reverse those symptoms and provide thyroid support.
Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, spinach, and peanut butter are all foods rich in magnesium.
Studies have shown that the majority of Americans are deficient in this critical nutrient, which is involved in some 300 enzymatic reactions. Deficiencies can lead to constipation, migraines, elevated blood pressure, tense and spasmodic muscles, and even arrhythmias. Many people will need to take a magnesium supplement in order to truly replete their levels, due to farming practices depleting our soil of magnesium.
Probiotics support improved digestion and a healthy microbiome. Imbalances in your microbiome can impact your hormones, particularly during major life changes like pregnancy or menopause.
Supplements are a great way to boost your probiotic intake. Yogurt, kefir, and kimchi are great natural sources if you’d like to add probiotic-rich foods into your diet.
5. Black Cohosh
Black cohosh is a popular supplement and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) alternative used by women during early menopause. While it won’t reverse any hormonal balances, it may reduce symptoms and make menopause more comfortable.
Talk to your primary care physician before incorporating black cohosh or any other supplements into your diet, especially if you’re worried about contraindications.
Lifestyle Changes to Balance Hormones
Lifestyle changes to improve hormone production and regulation go beyond diet alone. Here are some practices to promote healthy hormone balance.
1. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise can improve how efficiently your body receives and delivers hormone signals. It can help you maintain a healthier insulin balance, reduce your risk of storing excess fat due to fluctuations in hormones, and boost energy levels reduced by thyroid changes.
More vigorous physical activity can increase your dopamine levels, reduce mood swings, and decrease stress levels. Even less intense exercises like stretching or walks around the neighborhood are beneficial to your overall health.
2. Reduce Stressors
Chronic stress can increase your body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Too much cortisol can increase your blood pressure, impact insulin sensitivity, and even cause conditions like Cushing’s syndrome.
Engage in activities that help you manage and reduce stress long-term. Meditation, yoga, and regular exercise are common stress relievers. Spending time outside can also reduce stress. It can also be meaningful to schedule time to do things you enjoy.
3. Get Good Sleep
Poor sleep can impact your overall mood, energy, and your cortisol levels, your primary stress hormones. Poor sleep can also impact your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone produced in the pineal gland that helps your body regulate sleep.
A melatonin supplement can help improve your sleep-wake cycles with the added benefit of alleviating sleep-related anxiety.
It can be a challenge to get enough sleep when your hormones are out of balance, especially when you know hormonal changes are contributing to your insomnia. Seek medical advice if you think you may have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea interfering with good rest.
4. Manage Chronic Conditions
If you’re already dealing with chronic conditions that may have an effect on your hormones, it’s important to take steps to treat those conditions as best you can. Autoimmune conditions like diabetes and endocrine disorders are both linked to hormonal imbalances.
5. Pay Attention to Medications
Certain medications like steroids and prescription birth control can cause both intended and unintended changes to hormone levels and depletion of key nutrients like zinc, B vitamins, and magnesium. Always talk to your primary healthcare provider before adding or removing any medications, particularly if reproductive hormones are a concern.
Medication management is also a common tool in dealing with hormone-related symptoms as we age. Your doctor may suggest HRT, a combination of estrogen and progesterone, or thyroid medications to support hormonal health.
Need more guidance?
PrimeHealth offers an integrative approach and holistic health solutions to conditions affected by your hormonal health. Our comprehensive Women’s Health Group Program is specifically targeted at treating conditions caused by hormonal imbalances.
If you’re not sure about your next steps, set up a free phone consultation. We can help you feel better for the long-term with individualized support for your needs.
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