Hormones are among the most important travelers in your body’s bloodstream. Without them, your mind couldn’t relay important messages to your body’s organs, and your organs would be unable to work in tandem.
The pancreas, pineal, pituitary, thymus, thyroid, and adrenal glands are the primary endocrine glands responsible for manufacturing and distributing hormones in the body. In addition, testosterone (the primary male sex hormone) is generated in a man’s testes, and the female sex hormone estrogen is supplied by a woman’s ovaries.
When any one of these glands is unable to properly generate hormones, a broad range of problems can occur. Metabolism can be hampered and lead to weight gain, while energy levels can plummet so low that you literally feel like the walking dead. Irritability, skin problems, insomnia, impotence, and infertility are just a few of the other unpleasant side effects of having imbalanced hormones.
Getting the body’s hormones back into sync is best approached naturally, through supplementation and lifestyle changes that help the glands recover from damage. Listed below are the most important practices for naturally healing hormonal imbalances.
1. Lighten Your Load of Emotional Baggage
Our emotional states have tremendous impacts on our hormone levels. For example, the emotion of fear can cause the body to produce too much cortisol and adrenaline, and over time chronically elevated levels of these hormones wreak havoc on the body, particularly the kidneys, reproductive organs and adrenal glands.
Feelings of impatience and unresolved resentment can damage the liver, which may result in unbalanced estrogen levels. And chronic worrying and anxiety often lead to erratic levels of insulin, which in turn unbalances several other vital hormones.
These are just a few reasons why resolving negative emotional patterns is so very important for naturally balancing hormone levels. The key is to prevent stress associated with negative emotions from building up by working in practices like meditation, belly breathing, nature walks and daily exercise. TCM treatments like acupuncture and massage also aid in balancing hormones, minimizing stress and increasing blood circulation.
Our feelings and hormones are intimately related, so when we make an effort to stabilize one, the other is inevitably balanced as well. So during moments of stress, intense worry, anger and fear, remember that these feelings directly affect your hormone levels and may eventually trigger more serious health problems.
2. Improve Your Digestion
Impaired digestion is often overlooked as a primary cause of hormonal imbalance. What a lot of people don’t realize is that many essential hormones and neurotransmitters are manufactured directly in the intestinal tract as a result of digestion, and if the gut is compromised these chemicals may be in short supply.
Serotonin, which is responsible for feelings of alertness and well-being, is mostly synthesized in the digestive tract rather than in the brain. Over two-thirds of the human immune system resides in the digestive tract, where it dispatches messages to the endocrine glands in order to protect the body. In addition, the production of thyroid hormones that normalize metabolism is also closely connected to the digestive system.
Supplementing with probiotics is an extremely helpful therapy that restores digestive function by equalizing beneficial gut bacteria. In addition, instead of eating refined sugar and starches that cause insulin swings, stick to moderate amounts of natural carbs like fruit, starchy vegetables, and whole grains. The fiber in these natural carbohydrate sources helps offset blood sugar fluctuations, and seasoning them with ginger and cinnamon helps to further slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
3. Eat More Saturated and Omega-3 Fats
Most modern diets are high in polyunsaturated and omega-6 fats, which in excess can cause the body to overproduce inflammatory stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Many unsaturated vegetable oils (including canola, peanut and soybean oil), which became extremely popular in American cooking during the second half of the 20th century, are loaded with omega-6s.
In addition to taking in too many omega-6 fats and polyunsaturated seed oils, most people don’t consume enough healthy omega-3s and saturated fats, which are essential ingredients for optimal hormone production and cellular metabolism. When the body doesn’t get enough of these fatty acids, it has to rely on inferior polyunsaturated fats, which aren’t very stable and oxidize rapidly – resulting in the overproduction of pro-inflammatory hormones.
To increase the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in your diet, replace margarine and most vegetable oils with coconut oil, pure butter, olive oil and lard, while increasing your intake of high Omega-3 foods like fish, organic eggs, chia seeds, flax seeds and green leafy vegetables.
4. Go Easy On the Caffeine
While moderate amounts of coffee have their benefits, excessive caffeine can pummel your endocrine glands, particularly when your hormone levels are already out of balance due to pregnancy, a high-sugar diet, or stress. And then of course there’s the caffeine in sodas, beverages which have no beneficial elements and only leach vitamins and minerals from the body.
Try to reduce the amount of coffee you drink, or opt for herbal teas instead. Soda should really be avoided altogether, as the sugar and caffeine are a double-whammy for hormone levels. Carbonated, zero-calorie flavored water with a little citrus added is a healthier soda substitute that will give you a gentle energy boost without making your hormones plummet once the sugar rush wears off.
5. Reduce Your Chemical Intake
Unhealthy chemicals present in insect sprays, foods, plastics, cleaning products, and even certain types of fabric may release chemicals that are absorbed by the body and disguise themselves as hormones, causing the endocrine glands to stop producing them naturally.
One way to reduce your intake of these chemicals is to cook only in glass or uncoated metal pots and avoid warming or refrigerating foods in plastic containers. Buy organic meat, fruit and vegetables when you can and only use natural pesticides and cleaning products.
Commercial bath and body goods are also common sources of harmful chemicals, many of which have never been tested to determine their long-term effects. Using only natural beauty products can have a hugely beneficial impact on hormone levels. You can even make your own deodorants and lotions with coconut and essential oils.
6. Optimize Sleep
Hormones are all but impossible to balance without sufficient sleep. When you’re asleep, toxins are rapidly mobilized from your body’s tissues, while the brain is revitalized and hormones are generated. Just one sleepless night can negatively affect hormone levels.
One way to enhance the quality of your sleep is to remove all sources of light from your bedroom at night. That’s because total darkness is necessary for the proper production of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that regulates energy levels and sleep cycles. And for optimal melatonin production at night and serotonin production in the day, it’s best to establish a regular circadian rhythm, which means waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day.
To prevent insulin and glucose levels from dipping too low during the night, eating a relatively heavy dinner or a protein-packed snack a couple of hours before bedtime can be helpful.
During waking hours, make it a priority to always get some quality sunlight if possible, spending at least half an hour outdoors every day. This will optimize your serotonin levels, which in turn will make it easier for your body to optimally produce melatonin once the sun goes down.
If you find it difficult to wind down just before bed, your levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline may be elevated. Relaxing salt baths, ASMR videos, calming music, meditation, massage and acupressure mats are helpful tools for slowing down the release of these excitatory hormones and lapsing into a peaceful, rejuvenating sleep.
7. Take Natural Supplements
On a planet where food is frequently deficient in vitamins and minerals due to grain-feeding, water is polluted with chemical compounds, and the air is filled with noxious gases from cars and factories, it’s very easy for our hormone levels to get out of whack.
In a perfect world, our food would provide us with all the essential nutrients we need, clean water would flush out toxins instead of adding to them, and daily sunshine would stimulate our bodies to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D, an important hormone precursor. Our iodine, magnesium, and other mineral requirements would be fulfilled by eating fresh fish, so our hormone glands would receive all the nourishment they need to function properly.
But because the quality of modern food, water and air is so variable, natural dietary supplements can help us ensure we’re getting the nutrients we need in order to keep our hormones balanced. Some natural supplements that are particularly beneficial for balancing hormones include:
A root vegetable closely related to the common radish, maca is an effective hormone regulator due to its rich supply of minerals and healthy fatty acids. Women can use it to strengthen fertility, reduce PMS symptoms and improve skin conditions caused by disrupted estrogen levels – although it shouldn’t be used during active pregnancy.
For men, it helps to increase sperm count, normalize male androgen levels and improve muscle tone. It can be purchased most cheaply as a powder, but is also available in pill form.
Magnesium is a crucial mineral for regulating a wide variety of bodily functions, including the production of hormones. It’s relatively easy to become deficient in it, but fortunately very cheap and easy to supplement.
It can be found in powdered form, as a liquid food additive, and in a topical oil form that is absorbed through the skin. Topical oils are especially useful for people with long-term magnesium deficiency and/or weak digestive systems that can’t absorb it properly from food.
This hormone precursor is actually produced in the skin in response to sunlight, which is the most effective way to absorb it. An important building block of several hormones, it can also be introduced to the body through fish oils and D3 supplements.
While it’s very common to be deficient in Vitamin D, as a fat-soluble nutrient it can become excessive and detrimental through over-supplementation, so it’s important to have its body levels regularly checked.
As mentioned before, these fatty acids are crucial for mitigating inflammatory hormones. Fish and flax oil capsules are the most popular supplements for boosting Omega 3 levels.
Believe it or not, powdered gelatin is a great source of valuable amino acids that enhances digestion and glandular function in a variety of ways. It is reasonably cheap, easy to find, and a necessary ingredient in homemade treats like jello and marshmallows.
Bioidentical Progesterone Cream
Hormonal imbalance is usually the root cause of uncomfortable menstrual and menopausal symptoms. Bioidentical or natural progesterone creams are frequently effective at restoring progesterone levels and minimizing the discomfort of PMS. Progesterone is more easily absorbed through the skin in cream form than as a pill, which is mostly deactivated by the liver.
WARNING: Always consult with your physician or general practitioner before supplementing with nutrient formulas, particularly if you take birth control pills or prescription meds.
8. Discover Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogens are herbs and other plants that naturally bring the body’s glands back into sync, reducing elevated hormone levels while bringing low levels back up. Some of the most common herbal adaptogens include:
This nightshade plant is one of the most common and effective herbs for harmonizing disrupted hormone levels. A powerful antioxidant that minimizes free radicals in the body, it is also well-known for it’s normalizing effect on various glands. It naturally balances metabolic hormones produced by the thyroid and is a wonderful tonic for the adrenal glands, which are responsible for the production of sex hormones and stress mediators like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Also commonly labeled as “holy basil,” tulsi is a very powerful cortisol regulator and thus an effective natural supplement for relieving stress and anxiety. Research has proven that it has a protective effect on the body’s internal organs, shielding them from the damaging effects of environmental toxins that tend to upset hormone levels.
Also known as vitex, this herb helps heal damage to the pituitary gland. It is also particularly valuable for women, as it improves ovulation, reduces elevated prolactin levels and boosts progesterone.
Red Raspberry Leaf
This effective fertility supplement has been recognized for its ability to minimize cramps and other PMS symptoms. A great source of calcium and a well-known uterine stimulant, it can be bought in pill form or as a delicious herbal tea.
9. Do the Right Kinds of Exercises
When our hormones are out of balance, extremely vigorous or prolonged exercise may actually disrupt them even more. Calming exercises that keep the body supple without overtaxing the adrenal glands include walking, swimming, yoga, qi gong and tai chi, among others.
Gentle rebounding is a particularly valuable exercise for balancing hormones, since it improves lymph flow and helps flush out body toxins that may be affecting hormone levels.
Strenuous running is best avoided, but limited sets of weightlifting and muscle toning exercises (lunges, bench presses, squats, etc.) may provide benefits by gently strengthening overall glandular function. Just do a few reps of these exercises (ideally between five and seven), enough to stimulate your muscles without exhausting them or overstressing your endocrine glands.
The Keys to Balancing Hormones Naturally
It’s all too easy today for the body’s hormone levels to become skewed. Through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, hormone-disrupting toxins are almost impossible to completely avoid. Fortunately, the natural methods outlined in this article can help us combat the effect these substances have on our hormones and flush them out of our bodies safely and quickly.
By improving our diet, digestion, sleep patterns and emotional states, we can directly and positively impact our endocrine health. And with the help of natural herbal and nutrient supplements, we can make sure our glands receive the nourishment they need to thrive in an imperfect world.