By Rustina, Contributing Writer
Hormones drive us all a little crazy or a little (ok, maybe a lot) tired, sometimes. If you have ever started digging into it, then you know that it can get complicated or overwhelming!
I have been researching it for a while and writing about it for almost a year now. There is still a lot that I am learning about every day, and there is so much out there to discover yet! We don’t have to stress over big lists of what to do and what not to do for each hormone though. When one is out of whack, it drags others with it. Each part of our body’s processes are all connected. There are so many things that we can do that will help hormones find their balance.
Below are 7 basic steps to take (and why they matter).
Ways to Naturally Balance Your Hormones
#1 Lower Your Sugar Intake To Help Support Your Gut Health
Gut health is really important (you will see this theme repeated in a few of these tips). The other tips are about getting certain nutrients – which is important. But, if our gut isn’t in good health, then all those nutrients aren’t going to get where they need to go!
When toxins and gut disrupting foods like sugar and sometimes gluten, go wayward in our guts, we lose out in more ways than just the obvious concern of rogue toxins loose in our bodies instead of them being expelled. We also lose the nutrients that our bodies need to absorb. Instead of meeting up with the receptors that know how to use them in the gut, the nutrient goes wild in the body also – not making the needed synthesis process for our body to process it.
Even after we make vast improvements to our diets and start doing better, sometimes, we still have a lot of healing to do. (It can be done so please don’t let it cause you stress!) It likely took decades to create the damage in your gut, and that is going to take a while to repair. There is never an easy fix or magic pill. It always takes time and commitment to making better choices.
Things like processed sugars and refined grains can hurt the very important gut flora health as well as damage the lining/barrier in our gut. (0)
Here are some foods that can help with not just lessening the damage, but also help support repairing damage that has already happened. These can be added to your diet as part of the meal, tea, tincture, infused oil, or extract.
- Clove: helps prevent yeast and candida growth. (2)
- Calendula: anti-inflammatory, wound healing, antibacterial. (3)
- Coconut Oil: anti-fungal, helps prevent candida growth, anti-parasitic. (4,5)
- Pumpkin Seeds and Oil: may be used to help with gastrointestinal infections, can help eliminate tapeworms and other parasites. (6,7)
If teas and DIY don’t fit in your schedule right now, cloves, calendula, coconut oil, and pumpkin seed oil can be found in Earthley’s Gut Health Oil.
Fixing the gut takes a while. Don’t get overwhelmed with a million changes at once though, take it one step at a time. This season, cut out sugar. Next, replace refined grains with soaked and fermented grains (like sourdough bread). You can read more in How to Heal Your Gut (Research + a Plan) and Earthley’s Gut Health Support Guide.
#2 Eat Healthy Fats and Proteins To Support Your Hormone Production
Hormones are made from amino acids (the basic building blocks of protein). This is an important reason to support your hormones with a healthy diet. If you are lacking in proteins, your hormones will struggle.
Our body needs protein and its components –amino acids– for delivering iron throughout our body to even creating hair! If the gut is not balanced, protein may not be absorbed very well or leaking out and washing out with the lymphatic system. Hair is one of the easily noticeable signs that you need more protein. Brittle hair that breaks easily is a sign of protein malabsorption, and so is fatigue, brittle nails, and low iron. Iron is utilized in the body by joining proteins like hemoglobin and myoglobin to transport oxygen around the body. (8)
There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential in our body. Different foods have different amino acids in them so a variety is best. Most meat sources have all 9 essential amino acids. All 9 essential amino acids can be found in plant sources as well. It does require a larger variety and quantity consumption compared to meat sources though (9). Just like with meat, it is important to ensure you get food from safe and healthy sources. Both sources are often made with or raised on GMO and undesirable toxins (round up, pharmaceuticals, etc). You can read more at Feeding Plant-Based Kids and How To Tell High Quality Meat.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is almost a gram of protein for every 2 lbs of body weight. If you are exceeding the RDA for protein and still having troubles, then digestive bitters may help the body break down and utilize proteins and other nutrients more effectively. (10)
If you struggle to get enough variety of protein in your diet, here are some great foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids:
- Chicken (11)
- Bone Broth (12)
- Eggs (13)
- Kelp (14)
- Quinoa ( 15)
- Ezekiel Bread (16)
- Greek Yogurt (17)
- Pumpkin Seeds (18)
- Oysters (19)
- Hemp (20)
- Buckwheat (21)
- Chia Seeds (22)
If you want to add Oysters, but aren’t a fan of their taste, Earthley offers Oyster-Min capsules that have dried oyster meat with powdered mustard seed and celery seed. This combo helps to make it a good source of iron, zinc, copper, selenium, and some B vitamins also! Check out this Greens whole food supplement with Kelp and 5 other super foods!
Fats are equally as important! Fats and cholesterol are often given a bad rap, but they are both ESSENTIAL for our body and especially our hormones. Hormones (and pre-hormones like vitamin D) use fat and cholesterol to convert the building blocks like amino acids into one specific hormone or the other.
Not all fats are created equal though. Aim for monounsaturated (use unheated) and saturated fats. You can read more about why these fats and not others in Healthy Fats: What, Why, and Where to Find Them.
Good saturated and monounsaturated fats:
- Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)
- Chicken (even skin!)
- Whole-fat dairy products (milk, cream, cheese)
- Tropical oils such as coconut and (sustainable) palm oil
- Olive oil
- Avocados/avocado oil
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
Looking for new recipes? Try Kate’s Wholesome Real Food Favorites Cookbook
#3 Reduce Your Stress To Support Your Thyroid
Stress is so hard to avoid, I know. I get it. I struggle here too. When we start to feel stressed or threatened, our body releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline gets the heart pumping and energy flowing. Cortisol increases glucose in the blood and sends it to our brain for fast energy processing and makes tissue building cells increase so it is ready for repairs from the “fight or flight” response. Cortisol can do good things for us. It helps regulate our circadian rhythm so we sleep well, controls our moods, motivations, fears, inflammation, and metabolism. When too much is flowing through us for too long, then our blood is oversaturated and eventually the dependent systems get used to these levels and can have the negative effect of those positive things. It can start to suppress our immune system, reduce our metabolism, depress our mood, and prevent our sleep.
Supporting the adrenal glands helps to keep healthy production and release of hormones like cortisol. If you need adrenal support check out: 9 Tips for an Adrenal Health Diet and DIY: Adrenal Cocktail. You can have your Cortisol and TSH levels tested also.
So what does all that have to do with the thyroid you are wondering? Whilst I am at times out of order, there is a connection here! For starters, cortisol-release triggers the thyroid to work harder to get the needed thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) up to the pituitary gland. The focus on TSH also reduces the thyroid’s attention to its other hormones creating an even further disparity of hormones by preventing conversion of T4 to the active T3 hormone. The imbalances that this creates along with timing of stress in growth and hormone shifts along with the increase in inflammation thus oxidative stress, can all lead to hypothyroid, Hashimoto’s, or thyroid cancer. (S, S) Reducing stress, letting go of emotions that hurt us, and preventing anxiety can go a long way to help! You can read more in Natural Ways to Reduce Stress & Anxiety and 7 Herbs to Reduce Stress & Anxiety.
Does your thyroid have sluggish symptoms? Try Earthley’s Thyroid Support.
#4 Reduce Toxins To Support Your Liver
We talked about reducing toxins to let your gut heal, but there is another reason to reduce it too. All those toxins that get absorbed are taken to the liver for filtering and attempted recovery. If the liver cannot make it useful, then it either throws it out to be eliminated or tries to envelope it and tuck it away from everything else to keep the body safe. Too much toxin can make the liver, and other detox pathways, struggle.
Focusing on making healthier choices, even when just one step at a time, will lead to better progress than making no changes and feeling defeated.
Our bodies have natural detox pathways. Here, toxins and other materials are eliminated through our urine, feces, sweating, and breathing (carbon dioxide with every exhale). Our kidneys, liver, and lymphatic system process most of what we are exposed to everyday.
Sometimes, our systems become overtaxed. We are exposed to so much more junk through contaminated air and water, pesticides sprayed on our foods, the over processed foods filled with sugar or sodium, and so much more. Much of this we can avoid, but some of it we can’t.
When detox pathways start getting jammed up, we feel tired, sluggish, and tend to get sick more often. No one has time for that. You can read more about all of the natural detox pathways and how to support your immune system also in The Immunity Tool Guide.
Right now, let’s talk about the liver. As one of the larger organs in our bodies, the liver has several important functions.
Role of the Liver:
- Storing nutrients
- Converting the nutrients we cannot consume into bioavailable forms
- Handling the leftover material from those conversions (free radicals)
- Store the toxins to keep them out of the rest of the body (as best it can)
- Signaling the release of toxins for the body’s elimination
Blood from the veins feed into the liver for filtering. When the liver is overburdened and congested, it cannot effectively filter out those toxins, allowing them and other free radicals to cause cellular stress and inflammation. These can stay in a person’s system or get stored in fat (to protect the body). This can result in lots of different symptoms, including ones seen long after exposure when the fat tissue is finally accessed.
- Fatigue – not necessarily the loss of energy to use your muscles, but fatigue from a difficulty to perform activities, both physical and mental, requiring motivation or internal cues. This is called Central Fatigue because it is an issue from within the Central Nervous System.
- Musty-smelling breath
- Constipation, diarrhea, or pale-colored stool
- Yellowing of eyes
- Cholesterol – elevated levels of the bad cholesterol, triglycerides
- Weight gain
- Loss of appetite, aversion to oily foods
- Increase in moles
- Blood Sugar – weakness or dizziness, low energy levels
- Hormones – sleep problems, depression, irregular periods, fibroids in breast or uterus, cysts on ovaries, mood swings, and much more.
- Heartburn, upset stomach
- Itchy skin, rashes
- Pain in joints
- Blood has problems forming clots
- Low protein concerns or levels even though a lot of protein is consumed (the symptoms are the same as many above since the liver enzymes and actions help us process protein).
If you have some of the above issues, do not feel that it is hopeless! The liver is amazing, and can actually regenerate itself even when damaged! (26)
Here are some herbs and foods that help support the liver:
- Turmeric root and black pepper
- Milk thistle seed
- Milk thistle contains a bioflavonoid (called silymarin) which helps to support and detox the liver naturally. An isolated version is used in the mainstream for liver issues. 28 You can find milk thistle, turmeric, black pepper, dandelion, and peppermint in Earthley’s Liver Love. I really recommend it.
- Dandelion root
- An antioxidant to relieve the stress on the liver and has properties that prevent injury to the liver 29
- Peppermint leaf
- Gently detoxing, suppresses damage caused by aflatoxin – a toxic compound that is in certain molds found in food causing liver damage and cancer 30
- Green Tea
- Ginger Root
- Liver Love tincture
- This is our tincture made with organic herbs that help to support the liver. Made with organic: Turmeric root, Milk thistle seed, Dandelion root, Peppermint leaf, Black pepper, cane alcohol, and filtered water.
- Fresh, filtered water
- Our bodies need quite a bit of water to stay hydrated. The general goal should be to take your weight, divide it in half, then replace lbs with oz for how many ounces to drink. For example, 150lb person (150/2=75lbs) *should* drink 75 oz of water. Some people may find they need more or less.
- Coconut oil
- Coconut oil has specific triglycerides that are processed directly to and through the liver. This gives the liver an immediate boost! It also has gastro-protective properties like mentioned in this study of gastric ulcers. 37
- A super food when it comes to liver and kidney support. They have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.38
- Be aware that beets can lead to red bowel movements or urine. That is not usually a problem, but it can point to a weak digestive system. Red bowel movements may indicate the large intestine needs support; red urine may indicate low stomach acid (bitters and apple cider vinegar can help).
- Learn more in 20 Super Foods (and Why You Need Them).
- This “wonder drink” is made from fermented sweet tea, and contains several different organic acids and high levels of B vitamins. It helps to gently support and detox your liver. Just make sure to drink plenty of water with it, and start slowly if you’re not used to it.
- While kombucha can be expensive to buy ($3 – $4 for a 16-oz. bottle), it’s very cheap to brew. Check out this video on kombucha brewing.
#5 Rebound, Massage, and Brush To Support Your Lymphatic System
After dealing with an illness or suffering from a toxin overload, your lymphatic system can become “clogged up.” You might notice aching joints, tenderness behind your neck, heated pain in your lower back, a tugging fullness in your chest above your heart, or little swollen bumps on your armpits.
That is your lymphatic system asking you to help it out!
Our bodies are mostly water, and all that fluid is getting pushed around through the tissues into the lymphatic vessels. But, it isn’t just fluid in there! In the lymph, our body is transporting hormones, fat, fat-soluble vitamins, and our big immune system fighters patrolling for invaders. Virus cells and toxins are also floating around in the lymph. These things come from all around the inside of our body (dragged out of the tissues) and outside of our body (absorbed through the skin).
There is a lot of movement and fluid; this creates a lot of potential for toxins from all over the body to enter the lymphatic system. When the lymph fluid isn’t moving well, we are at risk for many complications like slowed detox, hormone imbalance, and lymphedema (dangerous swelling of one or more extremities). 39
- Achiness and swelling – especially in the lower legs
- Stiffness and pain in joints
- Excess weight gain and bloating
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Sinus infections
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Skin irritations
- Discomfort from fluid retention
- Decreased range of motion
- Vitamin/mineral deficiencies
Once in the lymphatic system, there is not a big pump like our circulatory system has with the heart. Instead it is our breathing and muscle movements (as well as colon/bowel movements) that create a pull on the lymphatic vessels. This happens because the difference in pressure of the emptying tissues creates a suction on the vessels. 43
Movement is the key to lymphatic flow, especially from the centrally located diaphragm. This keeps the fluid going like it should. Deep breaths through the nasal passages are great for keeping fluid moving.
Herbs and foods to help support the blood and lymph:
- Ginger Root
- Anti-inflammatory properties, soothes pain, and discomfort. It also boosts the circulatory system and the digestive process – two things closely related to lymph health 45
- Burdock Root
- Has anti-inflammatory properties as well and promotes a healthy functioning gut which helps everything else move smoother. Yarrow has been known as the “master of the blood,” and our lymph is what feeds our blood. It helps with blood stagnation and toxicity. 51
- Castor oil is a great way to not only support your lymphatic system 53,54
- When absorbed through the skin, castor oil increases the lymphocyte count. This increases the flow of lymphatic fluid. Reduces inflammation. Improves the condition of our tissues and organs by removing excess fluid and toxins.
- Try Castor Oil Packs
- Like the blood vessel walls, vitamin A & C, protein (especially collagen), copper, magnesium, and selenium help as well.
#6 Get Quality Sleep As Much As Possible To Support Your Circadian Rhythm
Melatonin, another important hormone, directs our sleep and circadian rhythm (our sense of resting night time and active day time). That affects more than just our sleep too. Many other hormones and processes that we often don’t think about release and go in “sleep” mode to those same rhythms. The adrenal glands and especially cortisol, rely on the circadian rhythm (low in the evening and rises in the morning). Melatonin should be highest in the late evening and drop by morning. If that’s off, you may struggle to fall asleep at night or wake up tired/groggy in the morning. You may also experience that “midafternoon slump” that drives so many to get another cup of coffee or sugary snack!
Cortisol has many functions such as controlling inflammation, gathering nutrients, and how we respond to stress or injuries. Adrenal glands produce many of our hormones with a big effect on energy levels. This can leave you exhausted, sore, stressed, and without energy. Does that describe anyone you know?
#7 Track Your Cycle To Keep an Eye on Your Hormones
With so many hormones and systems affected, it can feel like “nothing is working” if the obvious symptoms haven’t started to feel a change. One way to check in on how you’re doing is to track your hormonal cycle. For women, that is pretty recognizable – we see it every month in bright bold colors lol! But did you know there is a different hormonal cycle for men that can be tracked?
A woman’s cycle lasts about 28 days (some vary down to 25 days, but most are 28). The start of the menstruation (when the blood discharge starts) is the easiest place to begin tracking. Apps like Flo, Spot On, or Cycles (an easy app that you can share with your partner if you are using a natural planning birth control method).
Manual Tracking uses a calendar to mark down your first day of a fully flowing period (not just a little spotting), then go back 14 days to mark your likely ovulation day. Mark when your flow stops (usually in a 3-7 day range). Make note of any spotting, breast tenderness, headaches, cramping, energy fluctuations, color of your flow, or mood swings. In theory, the next ovulation day will be the day following the 28th day after the previous ovulation day. It may take a few months to see a pattern. The more in sync with 28 days and low range for bleeding days, then the more balanced your estrogen and many other hormone levels are becoming. Estrogen is very influential so seeing improvement there is a big deal! That is great news!
If you struggle with period cramps and irregularity, Ease the Ache is a great tincture that can help! Lunamore, Natural Balance, and Postpartum Balance are great for helping support balancing hormones.
You can also have your hormone levels tested. I really like EverlyWell’s Women’s Health Test.
A man’s cycle is not as obvious as a woman’s, but their bodies do have patterns as well. Each day, the testosterone levels peak in the morning and lessen into the evening. These levels further are affected seasonally. In October, the morning levels are generally higher than in April (55). Some men report having blood in their urine, but this is not from hormonal shifts – that is more than likely from parasites or an infection. The daily change of testosterone will most often show as a pumped up, ready to roll morning to midday, then slowly getting more down and feeling less pumped up and maybe more irritable. A big difference in behavior without major external factors, would indicate hormone levels are very out of balance. The more gentle the shift during the day, the more balanced the levels probably are then.
Similar to a woman’s menopause, men’s hormone levels even shift during middle age as well, dubbed as “andropause” by Jed Diamond in Male Menopause. From hot flashes to reduced libido and bone density, they feel a difference too.
You can also have your hormone levels tested. I really like EverlyWell’s Men’s Health Test.
Take this Hormone Quiz to see if you have signs of imbalanced hormones!