How to Balance Your Hormones Naturally
You might not think about your hormones very often unless they lead to problems. Our hormones play a vital role in everything from managing weight to mood. They act as chemical messengers to tell our organs what to do. But hormone levels can become out of balance. Even small imbalances can lead to a variety of problems.
Hormonal imbalances can include too much of a hormone or not enough. In both cases, the change in hormone production can lead to an imbalance. Hormonal imbalances can develop for a variety of reasons, including the following.
Poor diet: Eating too much of some types of foods, such as sugar or simple carbs, can increase certain hormones, such as cortisol, which can have a negative effect on your health.
Aging: As we age, hormones such as growth factor, testosterone, and estrogen naturally decline. The rate of decline can vary greatly. Although the decrease in these hormones does occur naturally, it can still lead to unwanted side effects.
Medication side effects: Certain types of medication may alter hormone levels. For example, chemotherapy to treat breast cancer can influence hormone levels such as estrogen and progesterone.1
Certain medical conditions: Medical conditions including diabetes, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism can also disrupt hormone production.
Hormones play a vital role in your overall well-being. When they become out of whack, it can lead to a vast array of symptoms. Symptoms may vary in severity and can include the following:
- Weight gain or loss
- Thinning hair
- Decreased sex drive
- Fast heart rate
- Puffy face
- Irregular menstrual cycles
The good news is that there are several things you can do to balance hormones naturally. Consider the following suggestions.
1. Get enough sleep
You already know that sleep can affect your mood and energy levels. But if you don’t get enough shuteye, it can also alter your hormone levels. Hormone imbalances related to sleep can lead to a variety of problems, including weight gain.
Research published in Pediatrics Neuroendocrinology, which involved an analysis of controlled lab and epidemiologic studies, indicated that lack of sleep can influence hormones. The study found that sleep deprivation decreased the hormone leptin, as well as increased ghrelin and cortisol, which can play a role in weight management.2
Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite and also promotes fat storage. Leptin has the opposite effect and tells your brain you are full. When levels of ghrelin increase and leptin decreases, it can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Although individual sleep needs can vary, most people need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep nightly. To help you get good rest, go to sleep and wake at about the same time each day. Sleep in a quiet, dark, cool room. Also, limit the use of your cell phone and computer a few hours before bed. The light from the devices can interfere with the release of melatonin, which promotes sleep.
2. Limit exposure to toxins
Harmful chemicals or toxins are found in everyday items, such as plastic, air fresheners, and household cleaners. Exposure to these chemicals can alter certain hormones. For instance, plastic water bottles and tin cans may contain bisphenol A (BPA), which is considered a potential toxin. Pesticides and herbicides can also contain chemicals that may affect hormones.
These substances are considered endocrine-disrupting chemicals because of how they may affect hormone levels. During critical periods of a person’s life, such as puberty, adolescents may be even more sensitive to hormonal disruptions caused by exposure to toxins.3
It may be impossible to decrease exposure to all toxins, but you can take steps to reduce contact. Avoid buying foods in cans and opt for fresh foods instead that have not been sprayed with pesticides. Consider making your own cleaning products and use fragrance-free personal hygiene products. Ditch the plastic containers and use glass.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Hormones and your weight are linked. Hormone levels can affect how easily you gain weight. Also, being overweight can then influence your hormone levels. For instance, hormones, such as insulin, leptin, and ghrelin affect metabolism, appetite, and body fat distribution.
If these hormones are out of balance, it can lead to weight gain. Subsequently, being overweight can often influence your hormone levels. For instance, estrogen and progesterone may be affected in women.4 Overweight men may also develop low testosterone levels. Obesity is also considered a risk factor for certain types of cancer, such as hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
Losing weight can improve hormone balance. Even a modest weight loss can help. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about sensible ways to lose weight such as diet and exercise. Although fad diets may be tempting to try, they can be hard to maintain. The best approach is lifestyle changes that you can live with for the long-term.
4. Address stress
Occasional stress is hard to prevent. But when stress becomes chronic, it can wreak havoc on your body. According to research published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, stress can alter various hormone levels including prolactin, glucocorticoids, and growth hormone.5
It’s easy to get busy and not take the time to unwind. But allowing yourself downtime helps you recharge and may decrease stress level. Find healthy ways to lower stress including doing some form of relaxation, such as tai chi, qigong, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises. Make time to do the things you enjoy, such as hobbies or sports. Spend time with family, friends, or your four-legged buddies.
Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It’s also a good way to balance hormones naturally. In 2002, a study was conducted to determine the connection between exercise and hormone levels in females.
The study involved 30 women between the ages of 19 and 69. The participants were divided into 3 groups. One group completed 40 minutes of cardiovascular endurance exercise at 75% maximum heart rate. The second group completed resistance training that involved doing three sets of 10 repetitions of eight different strength-training moves. The third group was the control group that did not do any exercise.
Blood was analyzed before and after exercise. The result indicated that estradiol, testosterone, and growth hormones significantly increased in both exercise groups as compared to the control group.6
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Include both cardiovascular exercise and strength training in a comprehensive exercise program. Find exercise activities that you enjoy, and you are more likely to stick with your program.
6. Consider supplements
Ideally, we should try to get all our nutrients from the foods we eat. But that may not always happen. Taking supplements is often a good way to get the essential nutrients you need that you don’t get from your diet.
Various vitamins and minerals may help keep hormones balanced. For instance, magnesium is thought to affect pituitary health and, in turn, hormone levels.7
Vitamin B is also an important nutrient to maintain proper nervous system function. It also plays a role in liver detoxification. Proper liver function is vital to remove harmful chemicals from the body that could affect hormone levels. Keep in mind; as with any type of supplement, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider to make sure it is safe for you to take.
7. Limit caffeine
Caffeine may affect cortisol level in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that affects several functions including metabolism and blood-sugar regulation. But high levels of cortisol can have an adverse effect on your health.
The association between caffeine intake and cortisol levels has been studied extensively. One 4-week study involved 96 healthy adults. The participants took a daily capsule, which contained either 300 mg of caffeine, 600 mg of caffeine, or a placebo containing 0 mg. The results indicated that caffeine increases cortisol secretion in the body.8
Consider limiting or eliminating caffeine from your diet. In addition to coffee, cola and certain medications also contain caffeine. Making a few substitutions a day can make a big difference in your caffeine intake. For example, swap your morning java for a cup of herbal tea. Switch from caffeinated cola to sparkling water.
8. Reduce inflammation
Inflammation in the body is linked to various disease states including heart disease and arthritis. It may also affect hormones.
During the inflammatory process, cytokines are released by the immune system. The molecules promote inflammation. Inflammation can be beneficial when your body is fighting infection, but it can also lead to problems—including a hormonal imbalance. Data from a study published in the American Journal of Medicine indicates that cytokines can affect the production of several hormones.9
To decrease inflammation in the body, limit foods containing trans fats, as well as simple carbs. Consider loading up on anti-inflammatory foods including vegetables, fruits, and foods containing omega-3s, such as tuna, walnuts, and salmon.
Keeping hormone levels in check can help your body function optimally and decrease your risk of health problems. By taking the steps above you may not only balance hormones naturally, but you will also improve your overall well-being.
About MaryAnn DePietro
MaryAnn DePietro has written about all things medical, as well as health, fitness, pregnancy, and parenting for various websites, magazines, and newspapers. She has a degree in Rehabilitation from Penn State University and a degree in respiratory therapy. In addition to writing, she works as a respiratory therapist at a trauma center in California.
1. Pribylova, O., D. Springer, et al. “Influence of chemotherapy to hormonal levels in postmenopausal breast cancer patients.” Neoplasma 55, no. 4 (2008): 294-298.
2. Leproult, R., & E.V. Cauter. “Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism.” Pediatric Neuroendocrinology 17 (2009): 11-21.
3. Frye, C., E. Bo, G. Calamandrei, et al. “Endocrine disrupters: a review of some sources, effects, and mechanisms of actions on behaviour and neuroendocrine systems.” Journal of neuroendocrinology 24, no. 11 (2012): 144-159.
4. Wade, G.N. “Sex Hormones, Regulatory Behaviors, and Body Weight.” Advances in the Study of Behavior 6 (1976): 201-279.
5. Kim, T. W., J. H. Jeong, & S. C. Hong. “The Impact of Sleep and Circadian Disturbance on Hormones and Metabolism.” International Journal of Endocrinology (2015).
6. Copeland, J. L., L.A. Consitt, & M. S. Tremblay. “Hormonal responses to endurance and resistance exercise in females aged 19–69 years.” The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 57, no. 4 (2002): B158-B165.
7. Briden, Lara. “8 Ways Magnesium Rescues Hormones.” Lara Briden. Larabriden.com.
8. Lovallo, W. R., T. L. Whitsett, M. Al’Absi, M., et al. “Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion Across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels.” Psychosomatic medicine 67, no. 5 (2005) 734-739.
9. Ferrucci, L., & J. M. Guralnik “Inflammation, hormones, and body composition at a crossroad.” The American Journal of Medicine 115, no 6. (2003): 501-502.