Reviewed by Lisa Blohm, PhD, MSN, RN
Hormones. They’re so mysterious and yet key to health and wellbeing. And you have over 50 of them pumping through your body at any given time! You never see them, but you can definitely feel them — especially when they’re out of balance. In this article, we’ll explore how to balance hormones naturally for women.
The Role of Hormones for Health
You can thank hormones for telling your body when it’s time to sleep, or when it’s time to keep you up all night tossing and turning. You can thank hormones for telling your body when it’s time to menstruate every month. You can even thank hormones when you’re stressed and you feel the urge to fight or flight, because hormones play a big role in your body’s reaction to stress, as well.
Hormones control almost everything your body does. They’re responsible for helping regulate your mood, your energy levels, and your sanity! And because hormones play such an important role in your body’s everyday function, it’s important to make sure they’re working in harmony. Here’s everything you need to know about natural hormone balance in women.
Why Female Hormonal Imbalance Is a Big Deal
Healthy hormone balance in women is key to overall health and wellness. Even the slightest change can have a great effect on your body. Why? Because hormones do SO much work in a woman’s body!
Think of your hormones as messengers. They enter your bloodstream and travel to different parts of the body to give instructions.
Feeling hungry? That’s because your hunger hormone told you to go eat!
Feeling sleepy? Your sleep hormone told you it’s time to sleep!
Feeling blue? Your mood hormones are telling your brain you’re bummed!
Your hormones regulate most of your physiological and psychological functions. Proper hormone balance allows your body to function at its best. It’s efficient, it’s healthy and it’s happy. When one or more of your hormones is out of proportion, it can affect just about all aspects of your health. This is why it’s vital to make an effort to support your hormone health!
Important Hormones to Know About
Most of the hormones in your body can be found in both men and women. That said, there are key hormones especially important for the female body, including estrogen and progesterone. Each hormone carries out a unique function in a specific area of your body. Here’s an overview of some of your most important hormones:
Estrogen is a hormone that’s essential for girls and women. It affects sexual development and is important for reproduction. It’s got a hand in maintaining bone health, mood and brain health, and more.
This hormone is essential for reproduction. It helps your body get ready for ovulation. In fact, progesterone is also known as the “pregnancy hormone”. It helps maintain conditions to remain pregnant (and so much more.) After the delivery of a baby, both estrogen and progesterone levels drop allowing prolactin to stimulate breast milk production.
Stress, stress, stressssss. That’s what causes your body to release cortisol. As such, it’s called the stress hormone. When you’re under duress or faced with a dangerous or otherwise stressful
situation, your body sends a message via cortisol. It says “red alert, be on your guard!!” and lets your body know it should be ready to defend against danger.
This is a necessary response since the alarm gets your body ready for action. That said, it’s meant to be a temporary response to an intense situation. If you have a high-stakes job, or some major life changes that have you on edge, your body pumps out cortisol…all…the… time. And too much cortisol over a long period of time can have a detrimental effect on your health. It can cause anxiety, weight gain, sleep issues, brain fog, and much more.
Melatonin lets your body know when to get some zzz’s and when to wake up and face the day. You have melatonin to thank when you refer to your ‘internal clock’ that doesn’t let you sleep in on the weekends. It’s also to blame when you don’t get restful sleep after an evening spent binge-watching your favorite tv show while laying in bed. Melatonin is essential to help your body get restful sleep, but it’s also sensitive!
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance In Women
If all is working well and your hormones are happily balanced, you likely won’t notice them at all. But if there’s too much of one, or not enough of another, there are some symptoms to watch out for.
Changes To Menstruation Could be Cause for Concern
If you’ve been on a very regular exactly-28-days-between-periods schedule and suddenly experience a change to your cycle, take note. This can be a sign that something’s off with one of your sex hormones.
For those who are less regular, on the regular, it can be tough to spot a change. Keeping a period log can help! Also, keep in mind that any change to your period could be thanks to your hormones. A shorter cycle, spottiness when your flow is generally heavy, extra cramping, or more sensitivity, etc. You get the idea.
Take Note of Changes to Your Sleep Schedule
Like your period, your body is also on a sleep cycle. If you find yourself tossing and turning when you usually get plenty of shut-eye, your hormones could be to blame. On the flip side, if you’re tired, like, all the time, your hormones could also be the culprit. Any change to your sleep cycle could signify hormone imbalance.
Feeling Fatigued? It Could Be Your Hormones
Similarly, if you’re feeling extra tired, it could be fatigue, another symptom of hormone imbalance. If you’re used to having plenty of energy throughout the day, and that afternoon lull suddenly seems to hit you hard every day, your hormones could be the cause.
The Brain Fog Effect
You may not think about the fact that your hormones affect—the way that you think. But they do! And a hormone imbalance can cause brain fog. If you’re having a tough time staying focused, or you’re having a hard time following a conversation, a hormone imbalance could be to blame.
Brain fog can also include forgetfulness! If you forgot to grab the pen you walked upstairs for, or forget why you drove to the store, you may have a hormone imbalance you should address.
Hormones Could Put You In a Bad-Mad-Mood
You no doubt know that hormones affect your mood. So, if you’re experiencing major mood swings or extreme emotions for no apparent reason, it could be a sign that your hormones are unbalanced.
Too much, or too little, estrogen can cause your emotions to yo-yo unpredictably. You could feel irritable, and get upset about the littlest thing. Of course, some amount of moodiness is normal for everyone and especially just before menstruation. That said, if you notice your emotions get the best of you more often than usual, it could be a sign that you have a hormone imbalance.
Hormone Imbalance Can Mean Sudden Weight Change
Drastic changes to your weight could be caused by an imbalance in hormones. Why? Because your thyroid and metabolism are controlled by hormones. And they both directly affect your weight.
A hormone imbalance could cause you to feel extra hungry. Or it might make you feel like you don’t want to eat. A hormone imbalance could also lead to weight gain or loss even without a change to your appetite.
If your thyroid gland isn’t functioning correctly, a result is often weight gain or weight loss. The thyroid plays a huge role in metabolism, which also affects your energy, nutrient absorption, and much more! If you’re gaining weight and you just can’t figure out why, check your thyroid levels to see if they’re the reason.
More Signs Of Hormonal Imbalance In Women
That’s not all, though! Because hormones have a hand in almost every body function, an imbalance in hormones comes with many symptoms. Some lesser-known symptoms to watch out for include:
- Heat or Cold Sensitivity: If you can’t get enough of that AC breeze, or you’re suddenly feeling extremely hot…or cold…at the drop of a hat, this could be a sign of hormonal fluctuation.
- Excessive Sweating: Along that same token, hot flashes and heat sensitivity can make you sweaty! This is a common side effect or symptom of menopause. Vasodilation often accompanies hormonal fluxes which leads to those unpleasant hot flashes/sweats.
- Changes To Your Heart Rate: A racing heart, or a sloooooow beat can be the result of hormone imbalance. So can changes to stamina, like finding yourself out of breath after simple tasks.
- Acne: Even if your skin wasn’t super clear to begin with, worsening or sudden acne is another sign of hormonal imbalances.
- Changes to Your Libido: If you have a low libido, or experience a change in your libido, you’ve guessed it — hormones could be the reason.
- Blurred Vision: Any sudden change to your vision warrants a trip to the eye doctor, but you may want to consider stopping by your primary care physician as well. Blurred vision can be a sign of a hormonal imbalance.
- Dry Skin: This includes scaly, itchy, flakey skin.
- Anxiety: If you’re worried about everything, all of the sudden, you’re sweating the small stuff and can’t shake this doom and gloom anxious feeling, your hormones could be to blame. Adrenal glands in overdrive or too-low levels of serotonin could be the cause.
- Headaches or Migraines: It’s common for women to experience hormone-related headaches as a symptom of PMS. An increase in headaches outside your typical PMS period, however, is sometimes linked to out-of-whack hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Causes Of Hormonal Imbalance In Women
We’re going to use a tasty metaphor here. Think about your body’s collection of hormones as similar to baking a cake. There’s a recipe, and if you stick to it, you can expect good results: a delicious cake that looks just like the picture in your recipe book.
When you’re careful to measure each ingredient just so and add exactly what’s listed, you don’t have any problems. But, let’s say you forget one ingredient—the baking powder. Sure, there’s only ½ teaspoon included. But, that one ingredient is essential! It’s what makes your cake rise. Without it, you’ve got a disappointing mess on your hands.
Similarly, when your body misfires and sends too little or too much of one hormone, it can affect your overall health and wellness. There are several factors that could cause a hormone imbalance.
Too Much Stress Can Cause Hormone Imbalance in Women
Everyone feels stress. But prolonged, intense stress is not good for your health. When you’re on high alert, your body releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. If this happens only occasionally, it’s no problem at all.
But if levels of those hormones don’t subside, it can wreak havoc on our entire well-being and affect the rest of our hormones, as well. Overactive adrenal glands can have a number of causes, from chronic, unmanaged stress to an actual disorder or serious health issue. If that might be you, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Sleep is Important for Healthy Hormone Balance
Quality sleep is essential for your overall well-being and your hormone health. Getting enough sleep — GOOD sleep! — and moving through all the sleep cycles is key. If you’re missing out on adequate sleep or failing to get good quality sleep, it may be contributing to your hormone imbalance.
Of course, hormonal imbalances can also cause sleep issues too. If you’re struggling with sleep problems, we suggest you visit your naturopath and get a blood panel done to check things out.
Nutrient Deficiencies or a Poor Diet Play a Part in Hormone Imbalance for Women
The food you eat directly affects your hormone health. A balanced diet filled with healthy produce, fats, and protein is essential for hormone function. So, it’s no surprise that a poor diet can throw your hormones out of balance.
The worst culprit for hijacked hormones? Sugar!
Sugar plays a big role in hormone health! Insulin, the hormone responsible for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, is released each time you consume sugar-filled foods. If you go overboard on the sweets, all the time, your body’s constantly releasing insulin. This can cause a whole host of issues and affect the rest of your hormones too. Not to mention, this puts you at higher risk for developing diabetes.
Toxins Contribute to Hormone Imbalance
Toxins are a huge problem in modern America. Unfortunately, while a lot of awareness is growing around toxins, far too many people are still oblivious that the cleaning products, cosmetics, paints, laundry products, and even foods are loaded with harmful substances.
Here are some toxins that can cause hormone imbalance in women:
- BPA: Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical that’s most often found in prepackaged goods, like plastic bottles, plastic food containers and canned foods. BPA has a similar structure to the female hormone estrogen. Consuming it, or being exposed to it, can greatly affect your hormone health. Avoid any containers or foods packaged with plastic that contains BPA’s whenever possible.
- Dioxin: If you’re a meat-eater, chemicals in the meat you eat could be the cause of your hormone imbalance. Dioxin is one such example. It’s long-lasting and accumulates in the fatty tissue of animals.
- Phthalates: These chemicals are everywhere! They’re used in cleaning products, personal care products, clothing and more. They’re often included as ‘fragrance’ in shampoos and soaps. Phthalates are a big issue and frequent exposure can result in a hormone imbalance.
- PBDEs: Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, aka PBDEs, aka fire retardants are also used all over the place. They can cause a whole host of health issues, including hormone imbalance.
- Pesticides: Mass-farmed produce can be treated with all kinds of chemicals to help with resilience and yield. Among a wide variety of harm that pesticides cause, one of the results is a detrimental effect on your hormone health.
Endocrine Health Affects Hormone Health
Your endocrine system is made up of eight major glands, all of which secrete hormones. It’s no surprise then, that when your glands are healthy and functioning correctly, your hormones are most likely in balance. And when your glands are not functioning correctly, your hormones are most likely not in balance. Some common glandular issues that cause hormone imbalance include:
The thyroid lets your body know how fast it should act. If your thyroid is producing too many hormones, your body goes into overdrive. Or, if your thyroid is producing too few hormones, your body feels lethargic and fatigued. Thyroid disorders are one of the most common hormonal disorders women face!
It’s worth noting that if an individual is being treated for a diagnosed thyroid disorder, this can impact estrogen levels. It is important to identify the primary problem as there is generally a trickle-down effect to other hormonal processes.
Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys. They’re responsible for regulating your body’s reaction to stress. Any disorder that causes an overactive (or underactive) stress reaction affects your hormone health and can be the cause of imbalance. Chronic stress is one of the primary culprits in adrenal disorders!
Additional adrenal cortex steroid hormones include mineralocorticoids (primarily aldosterone which regulates sodium and potassium balance and has a big effect on fluid retention) and androgens (which contribute to growth and development and sex development in guys). So, our adrenal cortex produces all 3 types of corticosteroid hormones. The relationship is so complex between cortisol and estrogen; high cortisol levels can lower estrogen levels and cause symptoms of a hormonal balance.
Reproductive Hormones and Women’s health
That’s obvious, right? Your body undergoes some major hormonal changes during and after pregnancy!
But, your reproductive health can also affect hormone balance when you’re not expecting a new addition to the family. Certain reproductive disorders can cause hormone imbalance. So can birth control!
- Miscarriage: The extent of hormone imbalance after a miscarriage depends on how far along you were. Heightened levels of estrogen and progesterone can affect the rest of your body. If you’ve suffered a miscarriage, we recommend that you contact your doctor for assistance in navigating this heart-breaking and physically demanding situation.
- Hormonal Contraception: If you use hormone-based contraception, it will undoubtedly affect hormone balance. That’s exactly what it’s designed to do! Unfortunately, for some women, hormonal contraception options create hormonal disruptions that are harmful, not helpful. If you’re struggling with symptoms of hormonal imbalance and you take prescription birth control, have a chat with your naturopath or doctor about the possibility that you may be having an adverse reaction. (It’s more common than you might think.)
- PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, affects hormone health in women, as well. PCOS can cause high levels of male hormones, that affect fertility, menstruation, and hormone balance.
How to Balance Hormones Naturally for Women
So, what can you do to help your body rebalance hormones naturally? Luckily, a lot! With some lifestyle changes, a good look at your diet, and some help from supplements, you can help out your hormones.
The Best Supplements for Hormone Imbalance
Supplements provide a safe, natural way to help rebalance hormones. They give you an extra health boost that not only works to rebalance hormones, but also supports hormone health moving forward. Here are some of our favorite hormone support supplements:
- Help your body detox and promote hormone balance with Terry Naturally CuraMed + DIM Complex. It’s jam-packed with herbs, antioxidants, and nutrients that support overall health and hormone function. Plus, it’s easily absorbable for maximum impact! This is our top-recommended supplement for general hormone balance for women!
- Boost your body’s natural production of Estrogen with Douglas Laboratories EstroMend™. Naturally balance hormones with this doctor-formulated supplement. It contains a powerful blend of herbs, nutrients, and more that all work together to improve the function of your estrogen-producing glands.
- Support healthy estrogen levels with Solgar PM Phytogen Complex. This supplement is specially formulated for women and includes Pueraria Mirifica root, a phytoestrogen. Incorporate this aid into your daily diet to help rebalance your female sex hormones, naturally.
The Best Diet to Rebalance Hormones Naturally
The fastest way to directly affect your hormones is by eating better food! Your diet directly affects your hormone health. And makes for an easy way to make hormone changes. But, what does a hormone-supportive diet look like? These are the things you should keep in mind:
- Eat Plenty of Protein: Protein is important because it contains essential amino acids your body needs, but can’t produce itself. Experts recommend you consume 20-30 grams of protein per meal to support hormone health.
- Eat Plenty of Leafy Greens: Fresh veggies have a detoxifying effect on your body, so they’re a great option when looking to rebalance your hormones naturally.
- Eat Plenty of Healthy Fats: Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids are your hormones’ best friends. These healthy fats support overall hormone health, especially in women.
- Eat a Balanced Diet: Balance in your diet is important to help you balance your hormones! Make sure you consume foods from all the good-for-you food groups.
- Add in Plenty of Antioxidants: Increase the amount of antioxidants you’re eating to further detox the body. Green tea in the morning? Yes. Blueberries for an afternoon snack? Good idea. Dark chocolate for dessert? Definitely.
- Be Mindful with Foods You’re Sensitive To: If you’ve noticed that there are foods that seem to bother your stomach, cause a headache, or general inflammation, stop eating it! Gotta have a morning java, every single day but it makes you jittery? Love a glass of wine to help you unwind each evening, but find it often gives you a headache? Foods that cause an inflammatory reaction can affect your hormones — and not in a good way!
- Cut Down on Carbs and Sugar: That said, it is important to be cautious when it comes to sugar. Eating a diet low in sugar and carbs is beneficial, especially if you hormone imbalance is thanks to your thyroid or a metabolic disorder.
- Feast on Fiber: Gut health is key when it comes to balancing your hormones. Eat enough fiber to help with healthy digestion and support GI function.
Lifestyle Changes for Better Hormone Balance
Eating a hormone-supportive diet isn’t the only change you can make to naturally balance hormones. Several other lifestyle changes help, as well:
- Get Plenty of Sleep: You’ve heard it before. At least 7 hours per night. Uninterrupted. That’s the goal! To make it happen, help your body’s sleep cycle by getting into a routine.
- Exercise: Exercise, physical activity, fitness. Whatever you call it, it’s important! Get your heart pumping to help rebalance hormones naturally. The best part is, every little bit of exercise helps, whether you’re hitting the gym, the yoga mat, or the trails.
- Reduce Toxins: Take a good look at all the products you use and consider swapping for non-toxic replacements. From cosmetics to cleaning products, and everything in between, reduce toxin exposure by going all-natural. Look for labels that include terms like ‘non-toxic,’ ‘all-natural,’ ‘BPA-free,’ or ‘paraben-free.’ When possible, opt for unscented products. Better yet, shop at your local health food store (like us!) instead of big chain stores, and choose products that come into contact with your food carefully.
- Manage Stress: Who hasn’t been told they need to stress less? But it’s often easier said than done! Start by figuring out which areas of your life are causing you the most stress and tackle them first.
Stick to a routine to help reduce stress. Incorporate breathing exercises into your day for a few moments of zen. Meditation is another great way to help relax your mind and reset against stress. Or, go get yourself a massage! Do whatever you can to reduce physical tension in the body, and mental chatter to promote relaxation.
Of course, it’s also important to check with your doctor and listen to healthcare professionals. Blood tests and other medical attention help pinpoint which hormones to target.
Your hormones are essential for countless body functions, so a female hormonal imbalance can create a host of health issues for you. But you don’t need to suffer through hormone imbalance. There’s a lot you can do to improve hormone health. Female-targeted hormone supplements and a healthy diet and lifestyle all go a long way toward balancing hormones and helping you feel your best.
Need help navigating the waters? You know we’re always here to help — wherever you are in your journey back to wellness. Get in touch with our team of certified Wellness Consultants for advice and support using our live chat feature!