Hormonal imbalances can cause a wide range of health problems for women, including irregular periods, mood swings, acne, weight gain, and even infertility. While there are several conventional methods to address these issues, many women prefer natural remedies to balance their hormones.
Here are12 natural ways women can balance hormones, including dietary recommendations, liver support, as well as how to encourage healthy estrogen metabolism and how to avoid endocrine disruptors.
1. Support your Microbiome with a High Fiber Diet
Fiber is the foundation of a healthy diet and a happy gut microbiome. Research shows that diets rich in fiber decrease insulin resistance, preventing and improving outcomes for prediabetes, diabetes, and hormonal conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). The gut microbiome ferments soluble fiber, producing short-chain fatty acids that stimulate the release of hormones involved in feeling full or satiated.
We are only just beginning to understand the relationship between the gut microbiome and our hormonal system. What we do know is that the gut microbiome has a significant impact on the levels of estrogen in women. Specifically, certain gut bacteria strains can metabolize estrogen, either converting it into less active forms or reactivating it from inactive metabolites. These processes can alter the overall estrogen balance in the body and may contribute to the development of estrogen-related conditions. Fiber is the ultimate source of proper estrogen metabolism. Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day and eat a diverse amount of high-fiber foods.
2. Incorporate Healthy Fats
Essential fatty acids are the backbone of healthy sex hormone production. Sex hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, are essential for the proper functioning of the reproductive system.
Consuming a diet rich in healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, can help to regulate the production and balance of these hormones in the body. In addition, diets that include omega-3 fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides help increase insulin sensitivity. Healthy fats are found in avocado, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and coconut oil.
3. Eat an Estrogen Balancing Diet
Don’t forget to eat vegetables, especially from the brassica family. Brassica vegetables, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale, contain a phytochemical called Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which promotes liver function and healthy estrogen metabolism. I3C has been studied extensively for its anticancer properties and it may lower the risk of hormone-dependent cancers.
Additionally, eating two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily promotes healthy levels of estrogen. Flaxseeds will balance hormone levels by either promoting estrogen or encouraging healthy estrogen detoxification.
4. Learn How to Manage Stress
Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, but when it becomes chronic, it can have a significant impact on overall health, including the production and regulation of sex hormones. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that can interfere with the normal functioning of the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, which regulates sex hormone production.
Cortisol can suppress the production of sex hormones such as testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen, leading to imbalances that can result in sexual dysfunction, decreased libido, and fertility issues. Chronic stress can also affect the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, which can contribute to hormonal imbalances and impact metabolic diseases such as PCOS and diabetes. Managing stress through exercise, breathing techniques, and meditation can help to mitigate the impact of stress on sex hormones.
5. Prioritize Adequate Sleep
Eating the most nutritious diet and taking the right supplements will never be a replacement for getting enough restorative sleep. Research shows that poor sleep is linked to hormonal imbalances in insulin, cortisol, and our hunger hormones. Poor sleep can also disrupt sex hormone production, leading to menstrual irregularities and infertility. On average, women need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep or adequate sleep, try working on sleep hygiene. Establish a relaxing nighttime routine, discontinue screen time one hour before bedtime, and make sure you’re sleeping in a dark and cool environment.
6. Encourage Proper Estrogen Metabolism
When healthy, the liver is responsible for detoxifying excess estrogen through two clinical phases known as phase I and phase II metabolism. Phase I metabolism oversees converting estrogens into a new form that can be processed further in phase II. Phase II metabolism is responsible for the subsequent binding of the estrogen that is produced in phase I and promoting the removal of excess estrogen through bowel movements.
If you are not having irregular bowel movements, then only some of the excess estrogen is constantly being eliminated from the body. The excess hormone goes back into circulation and may contribute to estrogen dominance with symptoms like PMS, breast tenderness, and tiredness. This is why gut health is also important to hormonal balance.
7. Optimize Liver Detoxification
Since the liver is a key player in proper estrogen metabolism, supporting liver function will keep your hormones happy. When the liver is not functioning optimally, such as in cases of liver disease or excessive alcohol consumption, estrogen metabolism can be impaired, leading to an accumulation of estrogen in the body. This can contribute to the development of estrogen-related conditions such as breast cancer, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary syndrome. Eating a high-fiber diet, decreasing or eliminating alcohol consumption, getting regular exercise, and incorporating herbs such as milk thistle, artichoke, and dandelion root are all great ways to optimize liver health.
8. Avoid Endocrine Disruptors
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with our hormonal system. These chemicals can be found in the environment, food, personal care products, and manufactured products like plastic. The female reproductive system is particularly susceptible to the effects of endocrine disruptors. As we are witnessing a global decline in fertility, we are becoming more aware of the toxins in everyday products that may be contributing. You can decrease your exposure to endocrine disruptors by reducing your plastic use, avoiding anti-bacterial soaps containing triclosan, and getting rid of cosmetics that contain phthalates.
9. Get Enough Magnesium
Magnesium plays a vital role in supporting balanced hormones in women. It is a co-factor for many enzymes involved in hormone production and metabolism and helps regulate several key hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Magnesium has been shown to improve symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause, such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and hot flashes. Food sources include avocado, dark chocolate, spinach, and nuts.
10. Commit to Regular Exercise
Regular exercise promotes hormone balance in several ways. It helps reduce excess body fat, which can lead to an overproduction of estrogen. Certain types of exercise, like strength training, can help balance elevated testosterone in PCOS and also provide healthy levels of testosterone in perimenopause. Exercise also improves blood circulation, which encourages nutrient and oxygen delivery to reproductive organs.
11. Consume an Adequate Amount of Protein
Protein provides the amino acids that are necessary for the synthesis of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Low sex hormone production could be a consequence of a diet low in protein. Eat 20-30 grams of protein per meal to optimize hormone balance. Healthy sources of protein include eggs, chicken, fish, and lentils.
12. Track your Menstrual Cycle
Some experts define the menstrual cycle as our fifth vital sign. Our cycle not only provides us with information about our sex hormones, but it also helps us produce progesterone, an essential hormone. After ovulation occurs, the ovaries make progesterone. A normal menstrual cycle is 21-35 days long and ovulation occurs during the second half of the cycle. Ovulation and progesterone production is important for all premenopausal women regardless of their desire for fertility. Healthy levels of progesterone balances the effects of estrogen, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, improves mood, and is crucial to maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Hormone-related health concerns are common, but you don’t have to live with them. There are many ways to naturally optimize hormone health that you can start incorporating today.