Tips for Balancing Hormones Naturally
Your body is made up of a series of complex systems. In order for you to achieve and maintain optimal health, it is important that these systems work in harmony with their various parts and with each other — especially when it comes to the endocrine system and your hormones.
Hormones are essential for optimal physical and mental health, but the endocrine system is extremely delicate; even the smallest imbalance of hormones can cause major health issues. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs of possible hormonal imbalance and know small lifestyle changes that you can make for balancing hormones naturally.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that send signals to tissues and organs throughout the body. (1) These signals help ensure that the different processes within the body function properly. The endocrine system uses various glands throughout the body (such as the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands) to secrete and regulate hormones. Once hormones are in the bloodstream, they can target specific organs, tissues, or cells to help regulate your body’s various functions. (2)
Because hormones are used to regulate various processes and functions in the body, they play a key role in virtually every aspect of your health. Hormones help regulate physiological functions such as respiration, growth and development, digestion, metabolism, and reproduction. (2, 3) They also play a role in behavioral activities like mood, sleep, appetite, sexual function, and cognitive function. (1, 2)
Different Hormones in the Human Body
Did you know that there are over 70 different hormones in the human body? (2) Several of these hormones may be familiar to you, and each plays an important role in maintaining your overall health (2, 4, 5):
- Adrenaline: This hormone is secreted during stressful, highly emotional, or exciting situations. It increases blood flow and heart rate, and engages the fight-or-flight response.
- Cortisol: Known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is produced as a response to stressful situations to help control and prevent inflammation, increase insulin reserves, and regulate blood flow.
- Dopamine: Known as the “feel-good hormone,” dopamine is released when we participate in rewarding activities, such as exercise, eating, and sex, thus motivating us to seek out such activities. It also plays a role in our attention, emotions, and learning.
- Estrogen: Known as the female sex hormone, both men and women actually produce estrogen. In women, estrogen is essential for healthy bones and blood, and it is responsible for menstrual cycles, reproduction, and menopause. Men produce a particular kind of estrogen called estradiol, which helps to balance libido and develop sperm.
- Ghrelin: When released, this hormone increases appetite. Once our bodies register that we have eaten enough food, the gastrointestinal tract (mainly the stomach) slows production of this hormone to encourage us to stop eating.
- Insulin: Released by the pancreas, insulin regulates the body’s blood sugar, and makes it possible for the body to use sugars from carbs and glucose as energy.
- Melatonin: This hormone is important for regulating our wake-sleep cycles. Our bodies produce more melatonin at night to help us sleep better.
- Oxytocin: Known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin plays a key role in many behavioral activities, such as romantic relationships, socializing, and parent-child bonding. Our bodies release oxytocin when we engage in physical contact, group activities, childbirth, sexual stimulation, and breastfeeding.
- Progesterone: A female hormone that is secreted during the second half of a menstrual cycle. Progesterone prepares the female body for conception and pregnancy, and it prepares the breast for milk production after delivery. Men also produce progesterone to produce testosterone.
- Testosterone: Both men and women produce this steroid hormone. In men, it is the driver for male sexual development and libido, and it is associated with body hair growth and muscle and bone mass. In women, testosterone plays a role in bone mass and the development of reproductive tissue.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalance?
When your hormones are balanced, you can experience a great quality of life; you can have less stress, greater energy, a healthier sex drive, a better mood, greater brain function, and better sleep. However, even the smallest changes regarding your hormones can cause an imbalance and result in various health issues.
Everyone experiences hormonal imbalances throughout their lives. An imbalance occurs when you have either an excess or lower-than-normal amount of one or more hormones within the body. Some imbalances are a result of natural processes, such as puberty, whereas others are caused by external factors and lifestyle choices. Some of the most common causes of hormonal imbalance include: (1, 4, 6, 7)
- Natural changes in the body that occur as we age, including puberty, growth, and menopause
- Chronic stress
- Health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, thyroid dysfunction
- A poor diet
- Taking hormonal birth control
- Being exposed to chemicals that mimic estrogen. These chemicals include BPA, parabens, and phthalates, which can be found in many plastics, as well as skincare products and cosmetics
- Lack of good-quality sleep
- Exposure to pesticides and herbicides that disrupt the endocrine system
- Steroids and some other medications
- Exposure to cigarettes, viruses, and excessive alcohol
- Gut issues
- Food allergies
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
Both men and women can experience a hormonal imbalance, but women in particular are more susceptible. (4) Regardless, if you experience a hormonal imbalance, you will experience some symptoms. The symptoms will largely depend on your gender, the cause of your hormonal imbalance, and which hormones are imbalanced. (1, 7)
- Mood swings
- Digestive issues
- Low sex drive
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Loss of muscle or bone mass
- Insulin resistance
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Changes in appetite
- Night sweats
If you experience symptoms such as these, it is important to visit with your medical practitioner to determine if a hormonal imbalance is the cause. Your doctor can test your hormone levels and provide you with steps on how you can restore your hormonal balance.
How to Balance Hormones Naturally
If you have imbalanced hormones and do not want to use medications, there are many different ways that you can help your body restore balance naturally. Before you make any changes to your lifestyle or incorporate any of these tips, be sure to consult with your doctor to make sure these changes are okay for you. Once you have the okay to make a few lifestyle changes, try some of these tips to start balancing hormones naturally.
1. Eat a healthy diet.
Eating nutrient-dense foods can help provide your body with the proteins and healthy fats it needs for proper hormone production and regulation. Hormones are generally made up of proteins, amino acids, and fatty acids; however, your body cannot make all of the amino acids and proteins on its own, which means they need to come from your diet. (2, 8)
To give your body the nutrients it needs for balanced hormones, try eating foods that are rich in omega-3s, healthy protein, and healthy fats. Some recommendations include wild-caught salmon, leafy greens, coconut oil, grass-fed dairy products, and avocados. (4, 7)
2. Ditch the sugar.
Refined carbs and processed sugars cause your blood sugar levels to increase. If it increases too much, your body will release more insulin. Eventually, this will lead to insulin resistance, which can cause Type 2 diabetes. By limiting carb intake and reserving treats for special occasions, you can help keep your insulin hormone levels balanced. (4)
3. Exercise regularly.
Aging is one of the natural causes of hormonal imbalance, but exercise can help slow those natural changes. Daily exercise can help increase the amount of testosterone production in men and estrogen in women. (4) Exercise can also help reduce your insulin levels, thus helping you reduce your risk of inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, all of which have been linked to higher insulin levels. (8)
For best results, try participating in some high-intensity exercises daily, such as running, jumping rope, or cycling. However, if you cannot do high-intensity workouts, you can try aerobics, endurance exercises, strength training, or even just walking regularly. (4, 8)
4. Get regular, high-quality sleep.
Studies have linked poor sleep quality to imbalanced hormones. As a result, you may experience greater insulin resistance, increased hunger due to an increase in ghrelin, and greater stress from an increase in cortisol levels. (8) Plus, your brain needs time to experience uninterrupted sleep in order to go through all five stages of sleep. By completing the sleep cycle, your body can properly release the growth hormone, which is released mostly during deep sleep. (8)
Not only does a full night of high-quality sleep affect your growth hormone, but it also can affect your stress levels. Your body regulates cortisol, the stress hormone, at midnight each night; but, if you go to bed too late, your body can never fully break away from the stress response. (7) This means that you can experience continued stress, which can lead to a variety of health issues. To ensure that you get the best sleep possible, aim for seven or more hours nightly. Create a bedtime routine, and eliminate foods that can keep you up, such as caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications. (4)
5. Eliminate plastics and chemical-filled beauty products.
Many plastics and beauty products contain harmful chemicals, such as BPA and phthalates, that mimic estrogen and testosterone within the body. Even though your exposure to these chemicals is low, most of us are exposed to them constantly through the products we use. Such exposure can eventually lead to a hormonal imbalance.
To reduce your exposure to hormone-mimicking chemicals, try replacing your plastic containers with glass or ceramic ones. Avoid heating up your food in plastic containers, as heat will cause more chemicals to leach into your food. You can also avoid products that have phthalates, PVC, or “fragrance” listed in their ingredients.
6. Learn to manage stress.
In today’s world, many people lead a busy and overwhelming life. As a result, you may experience constantly elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline. While these hormones help you cope with stress in the long run, constantly high levels can be harmful. Elevated cortisol levels can contribute to greater calorie intake and obesity, whereas increased adrenaline can cause higher heart rates, increased blood pressure, and feelings of anxiety. (8)
To ensure that your stress hormone levels do not remain elevated, learn different techniques to manage your stress. Try yoga or meditation, listening to relaxing music, or massage therapy. (8)
7. Drink hydrogen-infused water.
One of the causes of hormonal imbalance is inflammation, particularly in the gut. Your gut plays a big role in keeping your hormones balanced, but if you experience inflammation—which typically stems from your gut—you can experience a variety of health issues, including hormonal imbalance. (7) Free radicals are a major contributor to oxidative stress and inflammation within the body. Hydrogen gas has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant, fighting against free radicals to help reduce inflammation within the body. To learn more about how hydrogen gas works as an antioxidant, check out this blog post.
If you want to help your body experience less inflammation and thus help your body regulate hormone levels properly, add hydrogen-infused water to your diet. Even just a few glasses a day can make a difference!
Balanced Life, Balanced Hormones
Hormonal imbalances can wreak havoc on your quality of day-to-day life. If you experience an imbalance in your hormones, there’s no need to get discouraged. With a few minor lifestyle changes, you can start balancing hormones naturally and experience greater overall health once again!