7 Steps to Hormonal Balance
What Is the Endocrine System?
To fully understand your hormone health, it certainly helps to know about your endocrine system and how your hormones work together to maintain homeostasis. The endocrine system is in charge of coordinating the relationship between different organs and hormones, which are chemicals that are released into your bloodstream from cells within your endocrine glands.
Once your hormones are in circulation, they target specific tissues or cells by binding to receptors that are located inside the cell or on its surface. These hormones work as chemical messengers and play a key role in your body’s daily functions.
The endocrine system is made up of many glands, including the pituitary gland or “master gland” that’s responsible for sending information from your brain to other glands in your body. The pituitary gland also produces many hormones that travel throughout the body and have different important functions.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of hormone imbalances include:
Infertility and irregular periods
Weight gain or weight loss (that’s unexplained and not due to intentional changes in your diet)
Depression and anxiety
Changes in appetite
Hair loss and hair thinning
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances can range dramatically depending on what type of disorder or illness they cause. For example, high estrogen can contribute to problems that include endometriosis and reproductive issues, while symptoms of diabetes often include weight gain, changes in appetite, nerve damage and problems with eyesight.
Some specific problems associated with some of the most common hormonal imbalances include:
Estrogen dominance: changes in sleep patterns, changes in weight and appetite, higher perceived stress, slowed metabolism
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): infertility, weight gain, higher risk for diabetes, acne, abnormal hair growth
Low estrogen: low sex drive, reproductive problems, menstrual irregularity, changes in mood
Hypothyroidism: slowed metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, digestive issues, irregular periods
Low testosterone: erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, mood-related problems
Hyperthyroidism & Grave’s disease: anxiety, thinning hair, weight loss, IBS, trouble sleeping, irregular heartbeats
Diabetes: weight gain, nerve damage (neuropathy), higher risk for vision loss, fatigue, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin problems
Adrenal fatigue: fatigue, muscle aches and pains, anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, brain fog, reproductive problems
Risk Factors and Causes
Hormonal imbalances are multi-factorial disorders, meaning they are caused by a combination of factors such as your diet, medical history, genetics, stress levels and exposure to toxins from your environment. Some of the major contributors to hormonal imbalances include:
Food allergies and gut issues: An expanding field of new research shows that your gut health plays a significant role in hormone regulation. If you have leaky gut syndrome or a lack of beneficial probiotic bacteria lining your intestinal wall, you’re more susceptible to hormonal problems, including diabetes and obesity.
Being overweight or obese
High levels of inflammation caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle
Toxicity (exposure to pesticides, toxins, viruses, cigarettes, excessive alcohol and harmful chemicals) (2)
High amounts of stress, and a lack of enough sleep and rest
Adrenal dysfunction is the largest cause of the hormonal imbalance with the sex hormones — especially because of something called the “cortisol steal.” This occurs when cholesterol, which usually helps to make the sex hormones, combines with too much stress and the enzyme 17/20 lyase blocks the conversion; the production of cortisol ensues. Cortisol then causes the imbalance of progesterone, estrogen and testosterone, which then decreases the sex drive.
How to Balance Hormones Naturally
Step 1: Get More Sleep
A lack of sleep or disturbing your natural circadian rhythm can be one of the worst habits contributing to a hormone imbalance. Hormones work on a schedule!
For example, Cortisol, the primary “stress hormone,” is regulated at midnight. Therefore, people who go to bed late (you know who you are…you say that you get your ‘second wind’ in the evening!), never truly get a break from their sympathetic flight/fight stress response. Cortisol is typically highest in the morning so if you notice you wake up tired, it could be due to an imbalance of cortisol…and lack of restorative sleep. If you noticed you wake at 3:00 am…again….cortisol related.
Sleep helps keep stress hormones balanced, builds energy and allows the body to recover properly. Excessive stress and poor sleep are linked with higher levels of morning cortisol, decreased immunity, trouble with work performance, and a higher susceptibility to anxiety, weight gain and depression. To maximize hormone function, ideally try to get to bed by 10 p.m. and stick with a regular sleep-wake-cycle as much as possible.
Step 2: Manage Stress Proactively
One key step to balance your hormones naturally is addressing any emotional imbalances that you are dealing with. Emotional stress wrecks your hormonal balance! A report published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism stated that “Stress can lead to changes in the serum level of many hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone and prolactin.” (study)
You can lower the stress response a few different ways. Pick one you haven’t tried yet. If you work with me, you will learn all about the HYP Axis which is incredible important when it comes to understanding the stress reponse.
For now, try:
Journaling about how you feel while you inhale frankincense essential oil.
According to TCM:
emotions of fear cause disease in your reproductive organs, kidneys and adrenals, affecting cortisol levels. This can lead to serious conditions like PCOS and infertility.
emotions of frustration, impatience and un-forgiveness cause disease in your liver, which can lead to an estrogen imbalance.
emotions of worry and anxiety can cause issues with your insulin levels, which can then affect several hormones. (study)
Practicing meditation or healing prayer. (also wonderful with frankincense or sandalwood)
Using the Emotional Freedom Technique when you find yourself ruminating. (Do this while using Bergamot essential Oil)
Practicing deep breathing exercises 3-4 times a day. (while inhaling the blends ‘balance’ or ‘adaptiv’)
Spending time outdoors.
Exercising every day. (use peppermint to give you the energy to get up and go)
Go for acupuncture or a massage to work on energetic pathways and blood-flow.
See your favourite Reiki practitioner.
Your emotions and hormones are connected, so by working to balance one, you are impacting the other. If you are ever feeling stressed, angry, agitated or even fearful, understand that this is affecting your hormone balance and can lead to even bigger health issues. Keep working on your emotional balance by making it part of your daily routine.
Step 3: Get More Healthy Fats
Eating a variety of foods high in short, medium and long-chain fatty acids is key to keeping your hormones in check. Your body needs various types of fats to create hormones, including saturated fat and cholesterol. Not only are these essential fats fundamental building blocks for hormone production, but they keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism and promote weight loss. Refined carbohydrates lead to inflammation and can mess with the balance of your hormones. So no to refined carbs.
Some of my favourite sources of anti-inflammatory, healthy fats include: coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter and fatty fish, like wild caught salmon, hemp seeds and evening primrose oil. Studies show supplementing with GLA can support healthy progesterone levels. (study)
Ashwagandha, in particular, can be extremely effective at balancing hormones. It benefits thyroid function because it promotes the scavenging of free radicals that cause cellular damage. Ashwagandha can be used to support a sluggish or overactive thyroid, and it can also help to overcome adrenal fatigue. Your adrenals can become overtaxed when you experience too much emotional, physical or mental stress, leading to the disruption of hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and progesterone. (study)
Holy basil, which is also known as tulsi, helps to regulate cortisol levels, thereby working as a natural remedy for anxiety and emotional stress. Studies show that holy basil can also protect your organs and tissues against chemical stress from pollutants and heavy metals, which are other factors that can lead to hormone imbalance. (study)
Clary sage: Clary sage helps to balance estrogen levels because it contains natural phytoestrogens. It can be used to regulate your menstrual cycle, relieve PMS symptoms, treat infertility and PCOS, and even reduce the chances of uterine and ovarian cancer. It also serves as a natural remedy for emotional imbalances, like depression and anxiety. (study) Or you can use Clary Calm, a blend designed for hormonal balance that contains
Diffuse 3-5 drops of clary sage to help balance hormone levels and relieve stress. To ease cramps and pain, massage 2-3 drops of clary sage with 5 drops of coconut oil into your stomach and any other area of concern.
Fennel: Problems with your gut health have been found to cause autoimmune reactions, including thyroid disorders. Use fennel essential oil to relax your body, improve your digestion and gut health, boost your metabolism and reduce inflammation.
You can rub 2 drops of fennel into your stomach or add 1-2 drops to a class of warm water or tea to take it internally. Digest Zen is an excellent blend that target digestion also.
Lavender: Lavender oil promotes emotional balance, as it can help to treat anxiety, depression, moodiness and stress. It can also be used to promote restful sleep, which will help to balance your hormone levels as well.
Diffuse 5 drops of lavender oil at home, add 5 drops to a warm water bath or apply 3 drops topically to your temples, back or neck or wrists.
Sandalwood: Sandalwood essential oil can be used to increase your libido, reduce stress, promote relaxation, boost mental clarity and even help you to relax. The powerful fragrance triggers peaceful feelings and results in the overall reduction of stress that can lead to hormone imbalances.
Inhale sandalwood directly from the bottle, diffuse it at home or apply 2-3 drops to your wrists and bottoms of the feet.
Thyme: Thyme oil improves progesterone production, which helps to treat or relieve health issues like infertility, PCOS, menopause, depression, fibroids, hair loss and insomnia. (14)
To help balance your hormones naturally, add 2 drops of thyme oil to a warm water bath or rub 2-3 drops with equal parts coconut oil into your abdomen.
Step 6: Supplement to Fill Nutritional Voids
It’s sometimes necessary to supplement in order to fill nutritional voids that can be leading to a hormone imbalance. Here are the top supplements that I recommend for your hormones:
Evening primrose oil: Evening primrose oil contains omega-6 fatty acids, such as LA and GLA, that support overall hormonal function. Supplementing with evening primrose oil can help to relieve premenstrual and PCOS symptoms. It also helps to create a healthy environment for conception. (15)
Vitamin D: Vitamin D almost acts like a hormone inside the body and has important implications for keeping inflammation levels low. This is why people who live in dark areas often suffer from seasonal depression and other health problems unless they supplement with vitamin D. Sunshine is really the best way to optimize vitamin D levels because your bare skin actually makes vitamin D on its own when exposed to even small amounts of direct sunlight.
Bone broth: Bone broth soothes the digestive system and supplies the body with nutrients that can be easily absorbed. Consuming bone broth or protein powder made from bone broth is especially beneficial to your health because it contains healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine, which have the powder to boost your overall health.
Probiotics: Probiotics can aid in repairing your gut lining, which in turn can balance your hormones. When undigested food particles, like gluten for example, leak through your gut into your bloodstream, it causes disease-causing inflammation that impacts the entire body — especially glands like the thyroid that is very susceptible to heightened inflammation. Most people with leaky gut have an a deficiency of probiotics in their guts. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can actually improve your production and regulation of key hormones.
Vitex/Chasteberry, B Complex, Magnesium, and other supplements could also help depending on your symptoms and phase of life but be sure to work with your favoaurite nutritionist or naturopath. Get my Supplement Quick Tip Sheet Here.
Step 7: Beware of Medications and Birth Control
Are you aware of your medication’s side effects?
Some can disrupt your hormone balance, leading to side effects like fatigue, appetite changes, altered sleeping patterns, low libido, sadness and even depression. Some medications that can mess with your hormone balance include corticosteroids, stimulants, statins, dopamine agonists, rexinoids and glucocorticoids. Beware of your medications, talk to your doctor about the side effects and research natural alternatives whenever possible.
Birth control is another dangerous medication that alters hormone levels. “The pill” is a type of hormone therapy that raises estrogen levels to sometime dangerous levels that it can cause many complications. I cannot urge you strongly enough to do your research and stop using the pill, especially considering that there are many other (safer) ways to prevent pregnancy.
Studies show that the health risks of taking them, especially long-term, such as: (study)
Breakthrough bleeding between cycles
Increased risk of uterine bleeding, blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
Increased blood pressure
Benign liver tumors
In some cases, synthetic hormonal treatments (such as insulin or thyroid medication) will be necessary to treat a hormonal imbalance. For example, many young women rely on birth control to avoid pregnancy and using progesterone cream during days 7 to 21 of the pill can decrease hormonal problems.
Meanwhile, some women need thyroid support as not all the natural options correct the imbalance.
However, the majority of people can feel a lot better by making the lifestyle changes described above.
For people with diagnosed hormonal disorders — including type 1 or type 2 diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease, Graves’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome — it’s always important to speak with your doctor before discontinuing medication use.
Hormonal imbalances affect millions of women worldwide..you are not alone! Hormonal imbalances are more than just sex hormone related! Imbalanced hormones are seen in diabetes, thyroid disorders, menstrual irregularities, infertility, low testosterone and estrogen dominance
Causes for hormonal imbalances include poor gut health, inflammation, lack of sleep, viral infections, high amounts of stress, genetic susceptibility and toxicity
Natural treatments include eating an anti-inflammatory diet, consuming enough omega-3s, essential oils, herbs, restorative sleep, exercising and getting proactive with stress
Linda Ljucovic, Registered Nutritionist