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Natural Ways to Achieve Hormone Balance: Insights from OB/GYNs and Registered Dietitians


Hormones have a significant impact on the human body throughout life, not just during puberty. Estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, thyroid hormone, insulin, leptin, ghrelin, cortisol, and others play crucial roles in regulating various aspects of your well-being, including emotions and physical health.

Just like a lack of sleep can disrupt your entire day, imbalances in hormones can cause a range of problems over time. The simplest approach to avoid this is to understand natural methods for hormone balance.

How crucial hormone balance is 

Hormones can be understood as chemical messengers that play a crucial role in the body. According to Kelcie Rosendahl, a licensed naturopathic physician and co-founder of Terrain Natural Medicine, their primary purpose is to regulate the functioning of cells and tissues in different organs. When hormones are in balance, you experience a sense of well-being. However, when they become imbalanced, it can affect various aspects of your health, including appetite, metabolism, reproductive cycles, and sexual function.

Rosendahl explains that even slight fluctuations in hormone levels can cause significant changes in the body. Some common indicators of suboptimal hormone levels may include mood swings, irregular periods, a decrease in sex drive, concerns about skin or sleep quality, unexplained weight gain, or feelings of fatigue.

How to naturally balance hormones

Fortunately, there are natural methods available to assist you in promoting hormone balance and enhancing overall health and well-being:

1.Through diet
The age-old adage "you are what you eat" holds true when it comes to hormones. The food and beverages you consume have a direct impact on your hormone levels, influencing how they function in your body. It's not just about reproductive hormones; there are other important hormones, like insulin, leptin, and ghrelin, which regulate appetite, fullness, and blood sugar levels, and they are affected by your diet.

According to Maggie Michalczyk, a registered dietitian behind the blog Once Upon A Pumpkin, what you eat plays a significant role in supporting or hindering hormone functionality. To promote hormone balance, Michalczyk suggests opting for nutritionally balanced meals and snacks that include protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich carbohydrates. Foods like leafy greens, vegetables, certain fruits (such as berries), nuts, seeds, and fatty fish are excellent choices. Whole, unprocessed foods can help maintain healthy hormone levels, including insulin and cortisol.

However, it's important to practice moderation even with healthy foods. Some plants and seeds contain phytoestrogens, which resemble estrogen and may impact hormone levels in females. While the effects of phytoestrogens on the female body are still not fully understood, it's advisable to seek guidance from a registered dietitian or endocrinologist if you have specific concerns about hormonal health.

Processed foods, refined sugars, and alcohol should be avoided for hormone balance, as they are known disruptors of hormones and can affect inflammatory processes, hormone signaling, and insulin levels. Additionally, certain food groups like dairy and gluten can contribute to unwanted hormonal fluctuations in some individuals. Brooke Davis, a registered nurse, holistic nutritionist, and certified women's health coach, recommends working with a nutrition professional to identify any food sensitivities or intolerances that may need further investigation regarding hormonal health concerns.

2.Through supplementation
Relying solely on supplements to fulfill your daily nutritional requirements is not recommended, and here's why: When you consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, you benefit from the combined effects of their micronutrients, known as the entourage effect. This means that the complementary compounds present in whole foods enhance the overall impact of the micronutrients, as explained by Emily Brown, an integrative and functional nutrition practitioner and adviser for the menstrual care product company Rhythm.

The way your body responds to nutrients is influenced by consuming a combination of nutrients together, rather than isolated substances. Additionally, certain nutrients, such as minerals, play a crucial role in hormonal balance but can have undesirable effects if taken in excessive doses.

For instance, if you feel tired and suspect low iron levels as the cause, you may decide to take an iron supplement to boost your energy. However, it's possible that low copper levels, which are necessary for the conversion of dopamine to epinephrine, could be contributing to your low energy. If you lack copper and focus only on iron supplementation, it may exacerbate your feelings of low energy and trigger further hormonal changes, as explained by Brown.

The goal is to optimize your intake of micronutrients to ensure you meet the recommended doses of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients (such as omega-3 fatty acids, choline, and dietary fiber) necessary for supporting overall health and well-being through your endocrine system.

However, meeting all your nutritional needs solely through diet can be challenging, as many individuals struggle to do so on a daily basis. In such cases, supplements can be beneficial for filling the nutritional gaps. For example, mindbodygreen's vegan ultimate multivitamin+ is formulated with hormone-supporting ingredients, including a potent vitamin B complex, vitamin D, iodine (essential for thyroid hormones), and the trace mineral boron, which aids in the functionality of steroid hormones responsible for metabolism, homeostasis, and reproduction.

3.Through physical activityBesides customized nutrition, incorporating regular physical activity is one of the simplest ways to achieve hormonal balance in women.
Dr. Stephanie Brownridge, a board-certified OB/GYN, explains that exercise holds significant influence over metabolism, stress response, and reproductive hormones. Conversely, imbalances in hormones can lead to low energy levels, which can impact motivation for exercise, perpetuating a troublesome cycle.
In general, maintaining a healthy exercise routine can have a highly positive impact on hormones. According to Alisa Vitti, founder of FLO Living, a center for hormonal health, and an expert in women's hormones and functional nutrition, exercise can help reduce cortisol levels, decrease estrogen levels, boost endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, testosterone, and human growth hormone, and profoundly affect thyroid hormone while promoting insulin sensitivity.
When it comes to determining the best exercises for hormone regulation, Dr. Brownridge emphasizes that it depends on the individual. Overexercising, especially in individuals with a low body mass index (BMI), can lead to hormonal suppression, disrupting the body's equilibrium. This can result in menstrual changes, nutritional deficiencies, and even affect bone health. In such cases, reducing exercise intensity or engaging in more restorative activities like yoga may be beneficial.
Dr. Brownridge advises that women with certain hormonal health issues and a slightly higher BMI may face challenges in managing weight through diet and exercise. However, cardiovascular exercises and weight training can be helpful. For individuals without specific hormonal health concerns but aiming to optimize their health, Dr. Brownridge suggests engaging in any enjoyable form of exercise in moderation.
4.Through lifestyle changes Many aspects of our lifestyle can surprisingly impact our hormones, and it's often information that the average person isn't aware of. Jenna Blake, MSN, FNP-C, a board-certified nurse practitioner, functional hormone specialist, and owner of Her Rooted Wellness, highlights one particularly concerning group of everyday endocrine disruptors: cleaning products.
Yes, you read that correctly. From the sprays used to clean countertops to the detergents and fabric softeners used for bedding and clothes, a majority of commonly used products in the market contain harmful chemicals that can adversely affect hormone balance.
One such group of chemicals is known as phthalates, which are found in a wide range of items, including plastic bottles and personal care products. Research, such as a 2022 study published in Environment International that examined healthy pregnant women, suggests that phthalates can disrupt the hormone corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH) in the placenta, which triggers labor. Other studies indicate potential negative effects on neurological and developmental health.
Blake suggests opting for non-toxic alternatives whenever possible as a solution. "Most conventional personal care and cleaning products contain chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system, mimicking our body's hormones and causing significant disruptions, particularly in estrogen levels," explains Blake. She advises her clients to avoid any products that are fragranced or list "fragrance" as an ingredient. This advice extends to candles, perfumes, and lotions as well.
5.Through stress managementStress, the force that seems to govern the world, unfortunately takes its toll on our bodies. When we're juggling work, household chores, looking after children, and a multitude of other everyday responsibilities, stress becomes abundant. And when it strikes, it hits hard, directly affecting our hormones.
According to Michalczyk, constantly dealing with stressors can gradually elevate levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Over time, these elevated levels can lead to various issues, such as changes in appetite, hair health, and sleep patterns. External stressors can also impact the immune system, compromising its optimal functioning. But how does this happen?
Brown explains it as follows: Stress affects pathways that promote inflammation, causing a kind of miscommunication within the body, similar to a game of telephone. "We want the hormone signal to reach the intended target cell so that everything functions properly. However, when inflammatory pathways are involved, these signals can become confused, affecting us on a cellular and even genetic level."