Our hormones play a vital role in helping our whole body run effectively so if we have a hormonal imbalance, our overall health is affected big time.
While we have many, many hormones at work inside of us, the ones that most commonly cause issues by being out of balance are the stress hormones, thyroid hormone, sex hormones, and insulin, which controls our blood sugar levels.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman (1), hormonal imbalance is the most common type of health imbalance affecting almost everyone in our society. That means balancing hormones should near the top of all of our to-do lists.
But how do you know if you’re one of the people affected by this type of imbalance?
Are My Hormones Out of Whack?
If you’re suffering from one or more of these common symptoms then your hormones may be out of balance:
- Weight gain and/or belly fat
- Depression, anxiety, and irritability
- Mood swings
- Loss of libido
- Digestive problems
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fertility issues
A pretty lengthy list isn’t it?
Well, the good news is there are ways to balance your hormones so you can start feeling good again. By making dietary and lifestyle changes, over time your hormone levels will regulate themselves.
But Can’t I Just Take Medication?
Sure, synthetic hormone treatments are another option that many people turn to – they work a heck of a lot faster than dieting.
But, as tempting as it is to get a quick fix, research suggests that the side effects of using synthetic hormone treatment can be more trouble than they’re worth.
It may put you at increased risk of:
- Breast cancer
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Vaginal bleeding
- Skin rashes and acne
- Weight gain
If any of these worries you, then cleaning up your diet and lifestyle may be the way to go.
However, based on your own personal medical condition and health status, you should always follow your doctor’s advice in relation to taking medications and treatments.
How To Balance Hormones Through Diet
If you’ve decided to go the natural route, you’re probably wondering what you should and shouldn’t do to balance your hormones.
Let’s break it down and see what you need to do.
Enjoy Tasty, Healthy Fats
One of the key ways to keeping our hormones working as they should is by eating short, medium, and long chain fatty acids.
Not only will your body use these essential fats to efficiently produce hormones (2) (particularly the sex hormones), but your metabolism will be kicked up a notch.
Good fats also keep us fuller for longer and add flavor to our meals.
Make sure to eat a mix of coconut oil, olives, egg yolks, avocados, and salmon, every day along with other healthy high-fat foods.
Balance Your Omega 3s & Omega 6s
I’ve talked before about the importance of balancing the ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that we consume.
Because processed foods and vegetable oils contain huge amounts of omega 6, we should be lowering our intake of those, and upping omega 3 rich foods to restore the balance…but most of us don’t.
The result of our negligence is a rise in chronic and inflammatory-based diseases and hormone levels that are out of whack.
Avoid vegetable oils that are high in omega 6s like sunflower, soybean, peanut, cottonseed, and safflower oil. Processed foods will also contain these oils so they’ve got to go too.
Enjoy plenty of oily fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, which are rich sources of inflammation-fighting omega 3 fats.
Try Cultured, Fermented & Probiotic Foods
I’ll admit, fermented foods have freaked me out in the past. I mean, they’re technically (3) rotting.
But they’ve grown on me in a big way. After all, these foods are chock full of beneficial bacteria and yeasts (known as probiotics), which contribute to a healthy digestive system. And our gut health has a huge impact (4) on our overall health.
Helpful bugs in our gut help to metabolize and recycle hormones (like estrogen, phytoestrogens, and the thyroid hormones) from food sources, which helps to maintain proper hormonal balance.
Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are all full of gut healing microbes. You should be striving to eat at least one portion every day.
For those who really can’t stomach these living pickles, invest in a high quality, multi-strain probiotic supplement instead.
Eat Sleep-Inducing Foods
Seriously, there are foods that can help you sleep at night.
Getting a full nights’ sleep (I’m talking seven to eight hours here) is absolutely crucial to balancing your hormones.
Just like the rest of us, hormones work on a schedule. Take cortisol, for example, this stress hormone is regulated as we sleep.
If we don’t get enough sleep, we can expect to suffer from a host of stress-related issues like weight gain, heart problems, digestive issues, blood sugar imbalances, and much more.
Sleep deprivation actually lowers leptin (the appetite suppressing hormone) and increases ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).
It’s no wonder that those who are sleep deprived have been shown (5) to be hungrier and crave carbs and sweet and salty foods. I know when I’m lacking sleep, I definitely get food cravings like those.
So to stay rested and balanced, eat leafy greens, whole grains, almonds, and these other sleep-inducing foods.
Choose Your Carbohydrates Wisely
The type of carbohydrates you choose can have a big impact on two of your body’s hormones: insulin and leptin.
When you eat simple carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta, cakes, and pastries it leads to a quick rise (6) in blood sugar and insulin secretion – which can have negative health effects. Long term, it may cause insulin resistance, affect your ability to burn fat, and even lead to diabetes.
If you choose complex carbs like whole grains, vegetables, and quinoa, it’s much better for your health and your hormones.
These foods also help stabilize leptin (7) levels, which then signals your body to reduce hunger, increase fat burning, and reduce fat storage, especially around your middle.
And complex carbs tend to be high in fiber, whereas simple carbs are not. Fiber helps carry excess estrogen out of the body. A lack of fiber means you could hang on to this excess estrogen, leading to estrogen dominance – yet another imbalance issue.
Supplement with Maca Root
Maca is a root that comes from the mountains of Peru and is quickly gaining a reputation as a great way to naturally balance hormones.
It’s known as an endocrine adaptogen, meaning that it does not contain any hormones, but contains nutrients necessary to support hormone production.
Maca root comes in a powder or capsule form that can be added to smoothies or even stirred into plain water. A word of warning – the powder tastes really, really bad but it tends to cost much less than the capsules.
Get Enough Vitamin D3 & Magnesium
Doctors are still trying to figure out how vitamin D works in the body and the extent of its impact on our overall health. But one thing we are sure of is that it’s a very important vitamin.
Dietary vitamin D is actually a precursor hormone’, meaning it’s the building block of a powerful steroid hormone called calcitriol (11).
Therefore, getting adequate levels of vitamin D is a very important factor in maintaining hormonal balance throughout the body, along with enjoying a healthy immune system.
Magnesium plays a role in regulating sex hormone levels, including testosterone and HGH – the hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction, and regeneration.
This important mineral, which over two-thirds of Americans are deficient in, is also said to help you relax and sleep better, allowing hormone levels to balance themselves during the night.
Get your vitamin D from the sun or supplements, and eat plenty of leafy greens, nuts and seeds, avocado, and soybeans for magnesium.
Limit Your Caffeine & Alcohol Intake
I have a feeling this one won’t go down well with many because I love my morning coffee as much as most of you.
Unfortunately, if your hormone levels are out of sync, drinking too much caffeine is bad news.
Caffeine may affect (12) the growth hormone HGH, which helps maintain muscle and bone mass in adulthood. It can also elevate cortisol levels, lower thyroid hormone levels, and interfere with our sleep.
Swap the coffee for a cup of green tea. You’ll still get a little caffeine hit but with many other health benefits too.
Now, for more bad news.
While you may feel a glass of wine or a beer before bed is a must to help you sleep, it’s best kept to a minimum while you’re trying to get in balance. Alcohol can interfere with the way in which the body processes estrogen. It also disrupts deep REM sleep, and we already learned that lack of sleep affects the hormone cortisol.
Avoid Added Sugar
Just like simple carbs affect insulin and leptin levels, so too does sugar. Why wouldn’t it? After all, our bodies treat simple carbs and sugar the same.
Ever noticed how you’ll be happy after eating sugar but minutes or hours later you’ll be moody, irritable and anxious? That’s down to sugar affecting the balance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Of course, you can’t cut out all sugars – that would mean cutting out fruit, vegetables, and beans. Instead, aim to completely avoid added sugar and choose whole foods with a low glycemic index (13).
Make Your Meals From Scratch
Ready meals, pre-packaged soups, sauces and fast food all contain disgusting amounts of trans-fats, unhealthy vegetable oils, sugar, and questionable additives like sweeteners, MSG, and nitrates.
We already know that sugar and the omega 6 laden oils are a no-no when it comes to hormonal health.
And artificial sweeteners like aspartame – a common ingredient in processed food – have also been linked to infertility, birth defects, and endocrine disruption, which leads to hormonal imbalance.
Save yourself the effort of reading labels on processed foods and make things from scratch instead. Check out some of these healthy breakfast recipes and lunch ideas – all made in no time, using healthy, whole food ingredients.
What Else Can I Do?
Okay, so we’ve covered the main dietary changes you can make to balance your hormones but is there anything else you can do to help the process?
Of course. Like with many illnesses and health conditions, diet may play a starring role, but other lifestyle changes can be a big support.
Storage & Cookware Matter
What you use to store and cook your food in can also affect your health and your hormones. Plastic and non-stick cookware can allow harmful chemicals to leach into your food and body.
For example, the plastic compound BPA found in cookware and lining soda cans is a known hormone disruptor.
There is plenty of evidence to show it can permanently affect reproductive hormones, and cause early puberty and irregular ovulation patterns.
I seriously can’t understand how this stuff is still allowed to be anywhere near what we eat.
Check out my post on cast iron and non-stick pans to learn more about the crazy chemicals in our cookware.
Exercise is Important (But Don’t Overdo It)
Everyone should be involved in regular exercise but, if you have a hormone imbalance, intense and extended exercise may not be the best way to go.
Until you’re back in balance, focus on gentle cardio like walking and swimming. You could also try a short 20-minute session of interval training three times a week to help your hormones get back on track.
And gentle exercise will help you sleep better, lift your mood and help control weight gain – all symptoms of your out of whack hormones.
You Can Also
- Stop stressing – this doesn’t help your cortisol levels or sleep patterns
- Eat organic and non-GMO food – which helps avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals similar to those in your cookware
- Drink plenty of water or lemon water every day to keep your body hydrated enough to run efficiently
Hormones that are all over the place can have far-reaching consequences for your physical and mental health.
By eating healthily, exercising, and reducing the stress you’ll do wonders to get your body back in balance, helping you to look and feel great again.
Do any of these symptoms of hormonal imbalance sound familiar? Have you ever successfully regulated your hormones through diet or other methods?