Anyone who has suffered from a hormonal imbalance has probably wondered at some point how to balance hormones naturally.
Personally, I have struggled with this for a long time. I suffered from hormonal acne for years and had visited various doctors and none of them had any input for me on how to deal with my problems.
So I started reading a lot about the topic. One by one, I implemented changes in my life to get my hormones back to balance. Today, my acne is under control and I feel better than I have in a long time. (For a list of 6 actionable steps I took read my post about how I beat hormonal acne.)
For that reason, I want to share the things I learned about how to balance hormones naturally. I hope this will help some people as it helped me.
That being said, I am no doctor. All the things written here are to the best of my knowledge, but none of the content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, is intended or should be construed as medical advice. If a reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are so-called provision links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
What is hormonal imbalance in women?
So what is hormonal imbalance? Many people think of hormones as “that stuff that makes teenagers wild”. But hormones are so much more than that.
What hormones do in our bodies
Actually they are responsible for thousands of tasks in our bodies. Hormones are responsible for how we feel, for the quality of our sleep, regulating blood sugar levels, our immune system and even cell growth. It is safe to say that in everything you do or feel, those little chemicals play a part.
The simple answer to “What is hormonal imbalance?”
In order to deal with that many tasks, the human body uses about 50 different hormones, created in various glands all over the body. (See the info graphic for details.) And they not only affect you in pretty much anything, but they can also strongly affect each other. This can change the “perfect” hormones ratio to a less desirable one. It really is as simple as this. This is what is hormonal imbalance.
Now there are no hormones that are generally good or bad. Especially when it comes to hormonal imbalance in women, there are misconceptions. We often read about a lady having too much of a male hormone. This can create the impression that women shouldn’t have those. Instead the opposite is true. Male hormones like testosterone play a very important role in the female body as well. In fact, one extremely common female hormone imbalance is estrogen dominance. This means there is too much estrogen (THE female hormone) in relation to other hormones. In a nutshell: We need all hormones, both male and female. What matters, is how to balance hormones naturally.
Causes of hormonal imbalance in females
There are many causes of hormonal imbalance in females. As explained above, we have a big variety of chemicals in our body. All of them interact with each other and we influence them with what we eat, do and even think! Still, there are some reasons for hormonal imbalance that are more common than others in today’s world. Let’s have a look at those.
Common causes of hormonal imbalance in females
Many people know that there is such a thing as a “stress hormone”, also known as cortisol. When we are stressed, our body gets flooded with cortisol. Now you might wonder why your body has this built-in function if cortisol is not good for it. Again, there are no bad hormones. Cortisol is vital for many important body functions. It regulates metabolism, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reduces inflammation and helps with our memory, to just name a few.
But when there is too much stress, the body starts using up progesterone to make more cortisol. So now there is not enough progesterone. Which again has an effect on other hormones… And there we go, our hormones are out of balance and the chain reaction starts.
2. (Natural) Hormonal changes
Puberty, pregnancy and menopause. While those stages of life are all natural, they seriously impact our body chemistry and its’ balance. This makes at least two of them unavoidable causes of hormonal imbalance in females. In puberty new hormones join the party. In pregnancy, our bodies create a very different hormone-cocktail than usual to grow new life. And in menopause some chemicals just leave the mix.
3. Illnesses, Disorders, Tumors
As our body is a very detailed and finely tuned machine, any changes or “defects” in it affects our hormonal balance as well. So if any of our hormone producing organs gets sick, we have another chain reaction of hormones doing all the wrong things at hand. A typical example is hypo- or hyperthyroiditis (or under- or overactive thyroid). But also tumors and diabetes will greatly change the hormonal balance.
As you can see in the info graphic above, many of our digestive organs do work themselves when it comes to producing hormones. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our diet can be a huge factor when it comes to hormonal imbalance. Very generally speaking, there are three main ways in which our nutrition can throw us off balance hormonally:
– We eat food that badly influences internal hormone production. For example a diet that regularly provokes huge insulin spikes. High insulin levels in turn can cause the ovaries to make too many androgen hormones. And this can definitely cause trouble for females!
-We consume food that already contains hormones, thereby sending confusing signals to our body. From cow milk to tofu, many foods contain hormones. And while so-called “phytoestrogens” or plant based estrogens can help with hormonal imbalance, they can also cause them. Your body could think “Oh, okay, we have enough of this stuff. Let’s just stop producing it, we got enough to do already!”
– We simply don’t eat balanced enough to get all the nutrients our sophisticated body-machine needs. This means, it cannot produce all necessary chemicals in the right balance.
5. Lack of sleep
While we sleep, our body uses the rest time to level out and organize plenty of things. It metabolizes stress hormones, trains new cells for our immune system, produces melatonin and growth hormone, adjusts reproductive hormones and many more things. And what do you think happens to those tasks when we don’t get enough shut-eye? Exactly, they don’t happen. Or only very insufficiently. So it is safe to say that sleep is critical for hormonal imbalance.
Last but not least, medication is one of the common causes of hormonal imbalance. Most substances we take as medication can throw our hormones off balance. In many cases, this is the lesser of two evils. After all medication saves lives! But there are also cases in which we take pills that might solve an inconvenience, but have very strong effects on our hormones. Yes, I am looking at you, contraceptive pills! Hormone drugs can confuse our natural hormonal production for years, even after not taking them anymore.
Common hormone imbalance symptoms
There are countless hormone imbalance symptoms. And while they are usually not distinct enough to give a clear diagnosis, it is hard to miss the signs and effects of hormonal imbalance. Let’s look at some common symptoms of unbalanced hormones a little more in detail.
Hormone imbalance symptoms: Hot flashes
Surely one of the best-known side effects of hormonal imbalance. Many people think that hot flashes are only happening during menopause. But anyone with an estrogen dominance has a high chance of experiencing hot flushes as well! So far it is not known what exactly causes them.
Hormone imbalance symptoms: Hormones and weight gain
Weight gain also belongs in the list of the better-known signs of hormonal imbalance. Similar to hot flashes, hormonal weight gain usually comes from an estrogen dominance. High levels of estrogen can lead to higher insulin levels. This makes you store more fat and negatively affects your thyroid and sleep. All of those factors lead to weight gain. As a result, people suffering from this imbalance and wanting to lose weight can feel discouraged. It can seem as if it doesn’t matter what they eat. Luckily, that is not true.
Hormone imbalance symptoms: Hormone imbalance weight loss
The exact opposite, but nevertheless one of the symptoms of unbalanced hormones can be weight loss. Losing weight despite normal to increased appetite and normal calorie intake is usually related to an imbalance of thyroid hormones. Although sometimes people jokingly say they’d wish to have this problem, weight loss due to hormonal imbalance is no joke. We are not talking losing those few extra pounds here! This kind of weight loss is a symptom that something is seriously wrong with your hormones. And this along with the accompanying side effects is certainly not desirable.
Hormone imbalance symptoms: Hormonal imbalance acne
Acne is not only one of the signs of hormonal changes like puberty. It can also be a symptom of hormone imbalance during other phases of your life. Hormonal acne is one of the hardest to get rid of, but I can personally vouch for it being possible! After years of suffering from severe hormonal acne, I finally found out how to balance hormones naturally. My acne was not the only symptom that disappeared, but certainly the most noticeable for friends and colleagues.
Hormone imbalance symptoms: Hormonal imbalance hair loss
Another pretty disheartening signal of a hormone imbalance, not only for people with long hair like me. Additionally the hair loss due to hormones is easily visible to everyone else. Unfortunately it can be caused by not only one, but several hormonal issues. Estrogen dominance, excess testosterone, insulin resistance and thyroid issues all can lead to hair fall. Hormonal hair loss is also common after a pregnancy. Luckily, in that case it usually dissolves by itself.
Hormone imbalance symptoms: Psychological effects
Our hormones don’t only affect our outward appearance. They also have a huge effect on our psyche. So naturally among the signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance there are a wide range of psychological issues. Mood swings and depression, anxiety, low libido, fatigue and insomnia are common signs that your hormones might be out of balance.
Hormone imbalance symptoms: Menstruation issues
Anything that might be off with your menstruation means that whatever is bothering your body is hormonal. Irregular cycles, not getting your period at all anymore, very heavy bleeding, painful periods… All of those are clear signals that it is time to get your hormones checked!
How to get your hormones checked for imbalances
If you suspect something might be off, go get your hormones checked for imbalances. While you might feel certain about having a specific imbalance after reading things online, don’t rely on that. Our body and especially our hormones are an incredibly complex system. So make sure you get a proper diagnosis. Even if you read everything there is to read about how to balance hormones naturally. Really.
See a doctor for hormonal imbalance
Your next item on the agenda should be to see a doctor for hormonal imbalance. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a “hormone doctor” right away. The important thing is that you get your hormones checked for imbalances by a professional.
If you have a general physician that you see more or less regularly, it can be a good idea to go there first. Your general physician knows you and your physical state. This could already help a lot with the diagnosis.
If you want to go directly to a doctor, who specializes in conditions related to hormones, visit an endocrinologist. Or if you are having symptoms that are period related, your OBGYN will know what to check.
Get a hormone test done
Once you picked a doctor, the next step will be a hormone imbalance test. There are different types of hormone level tests. Depending on the specific hormones the doctor will have you take a saliva or blood/serum test.
While there are various hormone level tests available online*, those cannot replace seeing a qualified doctor! As said before, hormones are a complex topic and the interpretation of hormone test results is too.
How to balance hormones naturally
As varied as the reasons for hormonal imbalance can be, as varied are the ways in which you can treat it.
Medicine for hormonal imbalance
Depending on what your doctor finds, they might give you hormone balance pills or even hormone replacement therapy. I personally don’t have any experience with this, as my doctors always told me that in my case artificial hormones would just imbalance my hormonal system even more. So I stayed away from hormone imbalance medication and instead focused on finding ways how to balance hormones naturally.
Let me tell you about which things I tried, what worked for me and what didn’t.
Hormone balance supplements
There are thousands of supplements out there, promising to improve all kinds of things. Naturally, there are also quite a few hormone supplements on the market. The two main groups of supplements I focused on where herbs and vitamins.
hormone balancing herbs
When looking at natural remedies for any problem, there will always be some herbs on the menu. So far, I tried the following herbs to balance female hormones: chaste berry, spearmint, saw palmetto, milk thistle and shatavari.
I drank chaste berry, milk thistle and spearmint as teas. While you can argue about the taste, I could definitely tell effects on my skin and my cycle. Unfortunately, not all of them were good… Chaste berry specifically seemed to disturb my hormones more than to balance them, so I stopped drinking it altogether.
My favorite hormone balancing herb so far: Spearmint
Spearmint on the other hand really helps in minimizing that monthly breakout I have been suffering from for a few years by now. It is effective against androgens which are responsible for the bad skin before your period.
Something important I had to learn here, too, was that dosage matters a lot! First I just started drinking spearmint tea* every day. (I really wanted to get rid of that acne!) But soon, my cycle seemed to be even more out of whack. So I realized that I might be overdosing on this herb.
According to studies, drinking spearmint tea only twice a day for 5 days a month will already significantly improve your hormone mix. Therefore I started drinking spearmint tea only 5 days per month. And with a little trial and error I found which days work best to not even get a breakout anymore. Nowadays I start drinking the tea when ovulation happens and then just do it for 5 days. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be a lasting effect (yet). Once I skip a month, I get the usual breakout.
Saw palmetto, milk thistle and Shatavari
On those three I don’t have a clear opinion yet. I have been taking Shatavari* daily for a few months now and couldn’t see any negative effects. On the other hand, I am also not sure how much of my hormonal improvement I can attribute to it. Like all the other lifestyle changes I did, Shatavari will work over a longer period of time. Therefore it is harder to track.
Milk thistle* is something I just stopped drinking, because I simply didn’t like the taste of the tea much. And saw palmetto* is my newest herb. I will try replacing the Spearmint tea with it, as they are supposed to have very similar effects. But the saw palmetto is simply better studied. That makes me more comfortable taking it.
vitamins to balance hormones
Ideally you get all the vitamins and nutrients from the food you eat. But we all know we are not living in an ideal world. Plus, once you developed a vitamin deficit, it will be hard to impossible to fill it with food only.
When I started my mission of finding out how to balance hormones naturally, I first had a detailed look at my blood results from the doctor. Most of the values were okay, but one of them really stood out: Vitamin D. The sun hormone.
Now, as someone living in the more Northern part of Western Europe, it is normal to have too little Vitamin D. In my specific case, it was so low, that if would’ve affected my bones, had I not started taking supplements in high doses.
Subsequently, I saw a huge improvement in my mood, my sleep, my appetite and many more things. I was happy and recommended taking Vitamin D* to all my friends.
But again, I had to realize that dosage and timing matter! After getting rid of my deficiency, I kept taking lower doses of vitamin D throughout the winter. Soon enough I started getting breakouts. Those miraculously stopped when I wouldn’t take the vitamin anymore. So I did a little more research on the topic.
Important to know, Vitamin D is not really a vitamin. It is a hormone. Meaning, it directly affects our other hormones. Specifically, it is part of making testosterone in our bodies.
So for someone with hormonal acne like me, it is important to not push my male hormones too much on the wrong days of the month. I started taking vitamin D only in the first half of my cycle, when the female hormones are naturally “stronger”. Since then, I didn’t have any more problems with my skin and could still make sure to keep my vitamin D level in check.
Omega-3 is important for so many things! And not only does it matter that you have a healthy Omega-3 intake. It is also important to get a good ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6. If you manage to get those in good balance, it will definitely also help with your hormonal balance. It is not by accident that Omega-3s are one of the first things popping up when one researches how to balances hormones naturally.
For me personally that wasn’t doable without taking Omega-3 supplements*. I don’t eat fish and couldn’t make up for the amount needed with walnuts etc. And while I cannot directly prove how it helped me, I am sure, that Omega-3 supplements were one of the major factors in regulating my hormones and eventually healing my acne.
Hormone balancing foods
Another important factor for getting back to balance are hormone balancing foods. “You are what you eat” might be overused. Still, this sentence is absolutely true and cannot be stressed enough. Especially when it comes to hormones, you have to look at your diet.
general diet advice To Balance Hormones
Find balance. Make sure, you get all your nutrients. Cook fresh and leave the artificial wanna-be meals in the supermarket. There is no way to heal your hormone imbalance while sticking with a bad diet.
Minimize sugar and fried stuff. Enjoy your food. An upset gut equals upset hormones. Our digestive system is a major player when it comes to hormone production and balance. Plus, most of the “happy chemical” serotonine (about 90%) is produced in our digestive tract.
Another thing to look out for are hormones in food. Avoid cheap meat, eggs and milk. Instead, go for the organic option. If you have a plant based diet, make sure to not overdo it on soy products. Or any other foods that contain big amounts of phytoestrogens.
What helped me improve my diet a lot was Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen app. (Available for Android and iOS.) It is basically a checklist with things you should eat every day. Using it daily for a while showed me where I could improve. And my diet upgrade made a huge difference to not only my skin and hormones, but also to the rest of my life!
Specific foods that help to balance hormones naturally
Next to general healthy diet habits, there are some foods that are really active in healing hormonal imbalances. During my healing process, I’ve tried a few of those hormone balancing foods.
Maca* is quite well-known as a way to push your libido. But the Peruvian root can also boost energy and stamina. Sadly, for me Maca didn’t work well at all. My cycle became very irregular and I had several symptoms that indicated it wasn’t helping me at all.
I’ve read that this happened to other people as well, but there are also many who swear by it’s effects. Everyone’s different.
I used to not like eating ginger very much. Hot and spicy is simply not my favorite flavor. But after finding out how ginger not only boosts your immune system, but also can help with hormonal imbalance, I got over myself.
First, I started drinking ginger tea. (Made from fresh ginger, mind you!) But apparently it is not that easy to get a high enough dosage of ginger this way. So my approach for the past few months has been to put grated ginger into my morning porridge or various sauces for lunch. I can often hardly tell it’s there. But behind the scenes it’s working!
Ginger is something I would absolutely recommend among the hormone balancing foods, as it has so many health benefits.
Still, don’t overdo it. At the moment the recommended maximum dose of ginger is 4 grams per day. This is the studied dose at which no side effects were observed. And for females it is important to note that ginger can increase bleeding. Just pause on consuming it during that time of the month.
Kurkuma* is the Indian/southeast-Asian sibling of ginger. So you can expect similar benefits, but also similar warnings.
While ginger is still not my favorite taste, Kurkuma has a really nice savoriness to it. It is one of my must-have spices at this point.
Lifestyle for hormonal balance
To heal your hormonal balance, it is important to also look at your lifestyle a little more in detail. Generally saying, all things that are good for you will be beneficial for your hormonal balance as well.
Use exercise to balance hormones
Exercise. Everyone knows it. It is good for body and mind. But did you know that exercise or the lack of is also very closely related to hormonal problems?
Now, when it comes to hormones, things are not quite as black and white as with other topics. For some hormonal disorders, you might actually make things worse by training like a beast five days a week! Depending on what is off balance, high intensity workouts might not be for you.
But you cannot go wrong with making sure you move your body regularly. For example planning a 30 minute walk each day. This is very light cardio and at the same time you might get some actual, real daylight! (Yes, daylight is also very important for healthy hormone production in humans!)
Sleep to heal a hormonal imbalance
We already talked about the importance of sleep when we looked at reasons for hormonal imbalance. So how to improve sleeping habits? There are many tips and tricks for that and those alone could fill their own article.
What is most important is that you get enough sleep. Whatever is holding you back from getting that, tackle it first!
If you don’t seem to have the time, make sleep a priority. It is just as important in your calendar as finding time to eat!
Make sure your bedroom is as dark and quiet as possible. Ban electronic devices and any other disturbances. If you have trouble falling asleep start a soothing evening routine.
De-Stress regularly to balance your hormones
This goes without saying. People are very different and what is relaxing for one person, can be crazy stressful for another. Make sure you are not sucked into doing things that stress you, because “people do it”.
Find your own way to relax and make yourself a priority regularly. Maybe meditation is not for you, but driving across the highway for a while, alone with your thoughts.
Maybe you need to spend the whole weekend just sitting on the couch and wondering what penguins think. Or maybe you need to dance the night away.
The more you make your personal de-stressing a part of your schedule, the better you will know what works for you. Watch yourself with the kindness of a parent watching their child. You don’t have to give in to any bad craving you have, but you also don’t have to only work. You will find balance.
Are you interested in more input on how to balance hormones naturally? Download my “Cycle Optimization Cheat Sheet” for free! It contains suggestions for exercise, diet and ideal schedule during the 4 menstrual phases.
*These links are so-called provision links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.