Your Ultimate Guide to Foods That Balance Hormones

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Balancing hormones is essential for maintaining overall health. We feel best when hormones are balanced, and imbalances can lead to various health issues. Luckily, the key to hormonal harmony may be as close as your kitchen. Certain foods, herbs, and supplements significantly impact the hormones responsible for regulating various bodily functions, and this guide will delve into these nutritional powerhouses.

From exploring nutrient-rich foods and beneficial supplements to understanding their impact on your body’s hormone health, this article will uncover the essential role diet plays in keeping your hormones in check. Read on to learn the top supplements & foods that balance hormones.

How Diet Affects Your Hormonal Health

Diet significantly influences hormonal health, with certain foods affecting hormone production like insulin, cortisol (the stress hormone), serotonin, and leptin. [1] However, diet alone cannot correct hormonal imbalance; stress levels, sleep quality, and physical activity also play crucial roles.

The impact of dietary changes on hormone levels varies, depending on the hormone type, imbalance severity, and individual health factors. It may take weeks to months for some to notice improvements. Lasting change requires time as the body adjusts to its new balance.

How do I know if my hormones are imbalanced?

Hormonal imbalance can cause varied symptoms due to hormones’ significant role in our bodies. Mood swings, anxiety, hot flashes, and skin issues like acne may be linked to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels. Fatigue, low energy, and brain fog might indicate thyroid hormone imbalance, while sleep issues could relate to imbalances in melatonin or cortisol.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms, such as excessive body hair, irregular periods, and weight gain, signal sex hormone imbalance. Blood pressure changes can be connected to adrenal hormones, and vaginal dryness, low libido, and breast tenderness may indicate imbalances in sex hormones. Recognizing these symptoms and consulting a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment is crucial.

Best Foods for Balancing Hormones

Your diet plays a pivotal role in your overall health. Here’s a list of powerful hormone-balancing foods.

  • Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods are considered healthy fats, and foods like salmon, tuna, and flaxseeds help reduce inflammation and regulate hormones.
  • High-fiber carbohydrates, found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, regulate insulin levels and assist in eliminating excess hormones from the body.
  • Antioxidant-rich foods like berries, green tea, and dark chocolate protect cells from damage, reducing inflammation and promoting hormonal balance.
  • Prebiotic foods like onions, garlic, and bananas, as well as probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, support gut health which is essential for hormone regulation.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale contain compounds that help regulate estrogen levels. Organic fruits and veggies, free from disruptive chemicals, are also beneficial.
  • Magnesium-rich foods like spinach and almonds support various hormonal processes, including regulating insulin and the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Phytoestrogen-rich foods like flaxseeds and soy products can benefit those with low estrogen levels.
  • Vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fish and egg yolks can boost testosterone and thyroid hormone levels.

It’s also important to note that certain foods can potentially worsen hormone imbalances. Foods high in sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine can disrupt insulin and other hormone levels, while trans fats found in some fried and processed foods can lead to inflammation and insulin resistance. So, a balanced, nutrient-rich diet and a healthy lifestyle are essential for optimal hormonal health.

Herbs and Supplements That Aid Hormone Balance

Magnesium

Magnesium is crucial in energy production, nervous system function, blood pressure regulation, and blood sugar control. Research suggests combining magnesium with zinc can positively affect health indicators in women with PCOS. [2] Moreover, multiple studies have highlighted magnesium’s ability to alleviate anxiety symptoms in individuals with anxiety disorders, PMS, and hypertension. [3]

B Vitamins (B12, B6, B3)

B Vitamins are incredibly versatile due to their numerous functions in the body. Studies indicate that taking amino acid supplements in combination with B vitamins can effectively reduce symptoms of skin aging and menopause. [4]

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D supplementation impacts PMS symptoms positively and plays a vital role in women’s health. [5] It helps regulate estrogen by affecting the aromatase enzyme, which converts androgens to estrogens. Studies on mice lacking a Vitamin D receptor have shown lower aromatase activity, restored with calcium supplementation. This suggests that Vitamin D influences aromatase through calcium metabolism and affects serum estrogen levels. [6]

Zinc

Zinc supplements can benefit women with PCOS by reducing excess hair growth, lowering triglycerides, blood sugar, and insulin resistance. Studies have shown that daily doses of zinc sulfate or elemental zinc led to metabolic improvements [7], reduced symptoms of alopecia and hirsutism, and lowered plasma MDA levels. [8] Zinc supplementation may also enhance fertility.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is known for its ability to promote anxiety and stress relief and improve sleep quality. It has also been found to positively affect hormonal balance, enhancing sexual function. Studies suggest that ashwagandha can benefit menopausal women by increasing estrogen levels and reducing follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones, improving their quality of life. [9]

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is a natural herb that contains Salidroside, a compound that can help balance cortisol levels and alleviate anxiety. It has shown potential in improving symptoms of fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. One of Rhodiola’s main benefits is its ability to reduce cortisol release during high stress. Additionally, research indicates that Rhodiola Rosea may have anti-estrogenic properties. [10][11]

Probiotics

Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria in our gut, are crucial in maintaining a healthy body and can positively impact our overall well-being. Ensuring a balanced gut microbiome is essential for optimal endocrine health, as an imbalance in gut bacteria can disrupt estrogen levels and hormone regulation. Studies have shown that altering the composition of gut bacteria can directly affect metabolism and relieve estrogen-related diseases. [12]

Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids)

Fish oil’s fatty acids can influence neurotransmitters, potentially impacting menopausal symptoms. Research suggests that soybean and fish oil can improve these symptoms without affecting triglycerides, total cholesterol, or TSH levels. [13] Omega-3 supplements may also alleviate premenstrual symptoms and enhance women’s quality of life. [14] However, the effectiveness depends on the quality of the fish oil supplement.

Selenium

Selenium, an essential mineral, is vital for producing thyroid hormones, antioxidant activity, and immune function in the thyroid. A six-month study found that taking selenium supplements reduced thyroid antibody levels and significantly increased serum selenium and selenoproteins at 3 and 6 months.[15] Another study indicated that selenium supplementation could improve fertility in women with insufficient selenium levels. [16]

Fenugreek

Research indicates Fenugreek benefits patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In a randomized controlled trial, fenugreek improved various aspects of PCOS, including body weight, ovary size, number of ovarian cysts, hormonal dysregulation, menstrual regularity, and abnormal hair growth in women. [17] Another study found that taking fenugreek extract significantly increased free testosterone, estrogen levels, sexual desire, and arousal compared to a placebo group.[18]

Maca

Maca, a natural plant-based remedy, has been proven to increase libido and improve sexual function. [19] It is also effective in alleviating menopausal symptoms such as anxiety and depression, with a study showing a decrease in the frequency and severity of hot flashes and night sweats. This makes Maca an attractive alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy for early-postmenopausal women. With these advantages, Maca can lessen the reliance on hormonal therapy programs. [20][21]

Black Cohosh

Black cohosh is a popular supplement for women with menopause, PMS, period cramps, and irregular periods. It is well-regarded in North America and has been shown to relieve hot flashes and night sweats. Despite past beliefs, this supplement is not estrogenic and works on the brain using serotonin, dopamine, and opioids. [22]

Chaste Tree (Chaste Berry, Vitex)

Chaste Tree is a flowering plant that can provide relief for premenstrual syndrome. Scientific research has shown that its active ingredient, Vitex agnus-castus, effectively reduces symptoms like hot flashes, irritability, bloating, sleep disruptions, mood disorders, depression, and cramping. Chaste Tree acts on the pituitary gland to increase luteinizing hormone (LH), stimulating ovulation and raising progesterone levels. [23]

What are the best supplements for menopause?

A variety of supplements can alleviate menopause symptoms and boost overall health. These include Pueraria Mirifica, Black Cohosh, Maca, Panax Ginseng, DHEA, Valerian, Pycnogenol, Royal Jelly, and Lion’s Mane. Incorporating these natural options into your routine may relieve and restore harmony during the menopausal transition.

While supplements can positively affect hormone health, they also carry potential risks. Overuse can lead to side effects such as digestive issues or, in rare cases, toxicity. Some supplements may interact negatively with certain medications or health conditions. Always consult a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a healthy diet rich in the above foods can support hormonal balance. However, it’s essential to remember that what works for one person may not work for another, and certain foods may even exacerbate hormonal imbalances.

Supplements can also aid in hormonal health, but they should be used cautiously due to potential risks and interactions. As such, always consult with a healthcare professional before making significant dietary changes or adding supplements to your regimen. This ensures personalized advice tailored to your needs, promoting optimal health and well-being.

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[4] Yamashita R, Ooe M, Saya Y, Sugisawa N, Murakami Y, Matsunaka H. Effect of Vitamin-Containing Amino Acid Supplements on Menopausal Symptoms and Age-Related Skin Changes: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2021 Oct;11(5):1681-1692. doi: 10.1007/s13555-021-00589-7. Epub 2021 Aug 22. PMID: 34420200; PMCID: PMC8484415.

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[7] Foroozanfard F, Jamilian M, Jafari Z, Khassaf A, Hosseini A, Khorammian H, Asemi Z. Effects of zinc supplementation on markers of insulin resistance and lipid profiles in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2015 Apr;123(4):215-20. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1548790. Epub 2015 Apr 13. PMID: 25868059.

[8] Jamilian M, Foroozanfard F, Bahmani F, Talaee R, Monavari M, Asemi Z. Effects of Zinc Supplementation on Endocrine Outcomes in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2016 Apr;170(2):271-8. doi: 10.1007/s12011-015-0480-7. Epub 2015 Aug 28. PMID: 26315303.

[9] Gopal S, Ajgaonkar A, Kanchi P, Kaundinya A, Thakare V, Chauhan S, Langade D. Effect of an ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) root extract on climacteric symptoms in women during perimenopause: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2021 Dec;47(12):4414-4425. doi: 10.1111/jog.15030. Epub 2021 Sep 22. PMID: 34553463.

[10] Payman Hanifi Moghaddam, Leen J. Blok, F. Heidy Van Wijk, Helenius J. Kloosterboer, Curt W. Burger; Effects of tibolone treatment on human endometrial cell lines and tissues. Cancer Res 1 April 2004; 64 (7_Supplement): 663.

[11] Ivanova Stojcheva E, Quintela JC. The Effectiveness of Rhodiola rosea L. Preparations in Alleviating Various Aspects of Life-Stress Symptoms and Stress-Induced Conditions-Encouraging Clinical Evidence. Molecules. 2022 Jun 17;27(12):3902. doi: 10.3390/molecules27123902. PMID: 35745023; PMCID: PMC9228580.

[12] Baker JM, Al-Nakkash L, Herbst-Kralovetz MM. Estrogen-gut microbiome axis: Physiological and clinical implications. Maturitas. 2017 Sep;103:45-53. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2017.06.025. Epub 2017 Jun 23. PMID: 28778332.

[13] Purzand B, Rokhgireh S, Shabani Zanjani M, Eshraghi N, Mohamadianamiri M, Esmailzadeh A, Alkatout I, Gitas G, Allahqoli L. The comparison of the effect of soybean and fish oil on supplementation on menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2020 Nov;41:101239. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101239. Epub 2020 Sep 18. PMID: 32979708.

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[15] Hu Y, Feng W, Chen H, Shi H, Jiang L, Zheng X, Liu X, Zhang W, Ge Y, Liu Y, Cui D. Effect of selenium on thyroid autoimmunity and regulatory T cells in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: A prospective randomized-controlled trial. Clin Transl Sci. 2021 Jul;14(4):1390-1402. doi: 10.1111/cts.12993. Epub 2021 Apr 9. PMID: 33650299; PMCID: PMC8301566.

[16] Lima LG, Santos AAMD, Gueiber TD, Gomes RZ, Martins CM, Chaikoski AC. Relation between Selenium and Female Fertility: A Systematic Review. Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet. 2022 Jul;44(7):701-709. English. doi: 10.1055/s-0042-1744288. Epub 2022 Jun 3. PMID: 35668679.

[17] Singh A, Gainder S, Banerjee P, Goel A, Kumar P, Mondal B, Banik SP, Bagchi D. Efficacy of a Proprietary Fenugreek Seed Extract (Trigonella foenum-graecum, Furocyst®) in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. J Am Nutr Assoc. 2022 Oct 11:1-9. doi: 10.1080/27697061.2022.2126410. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36219198.

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[19] Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C, Castillo S. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. 2002 Dec;34(6):367-72. doi: 10.1046/j.1439-0272.2002.00519.x. PMID: 12472620.

[20] Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, Kapczynski W, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, Kedzia B, Lowicka A, Barchia I. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (II) Physiological and Symptomatic Responses of Early-Postmenopausal Women to Standardized doses of Maca in Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Multi-Centre Clinical Study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006 Dec;2(4):360-74. PMID: 23675005; PMCID: PMC3614647.

[21] Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, Kedzia B, Lowicka A, Barchia I. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006 Dec;2(4):375-94. PMID: 23675006; PMCID: PMC3614644.

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.