What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘hormone imbalances’?
When we hear the word ‘hormones’ we generally think of estrogen & testosterone, adrenaline, or insulin……while these are very important there are myriads of hormones that affect our over-all health. The endocrine system works to control our hormone levels found in the thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, testicles and pancreas among other glands & organs. If is just one or more is even slightly imbalanced it can cause widespread major health issues.
** Keep scrolling down to view “7 Steps that Balance Hormones Naturally”
after the “9 Proven Ways to Fix The Hormones That Control Your Weight”
Dr. Josh Axe on Hormones:
- It makes people dependent on taking prescription drugs for the rest of their lives in order to keep symptoms under control.
- It simply masks the patient’s symptoms, but doesn’t solve them, which means that the patient can continue to develop abnormalities in other areas of the body while the disorder progresses.
- It causes a higher risk for serious side effects such as stroke, osteoporosis, anxiety, reproductive problems, cancer and more.
The good news is there are ways to balance your hormones naturally. Below you’ll learn what type of hormonal imbalance your specific symptoms might be pointing to, what the root causes of your hormonal problem are, and how you can help treat the problem without experiencing the negative side effects associated with synthetic treatments.
Signs & Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalances
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
- Low libido
- Changes in appetite
- Digestive issues
- Hair loss and hair thinning
- Inflammation & disease progression
Risk Factors & Causes of Hormonal Imbalances
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 or a lack of beneficial probiotic bacteria lining your intestinal wall, you’re more susceptible to hormonal problems, including diabetes and obesity. That’s because inflammation usually stems from your gut and then impacts nearly every aspect of your health. (1)
- Being overweight or obese
- High levels of inflammation caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle
- Genetic susceptibility
- Toxicity (exposure to pesticides, toxins, viruses, cigarettes, excessive alcohol and harmful chemicals) (2)
- High stress and a lack of enough sleep and rest
9 Proven Ways to Fix The Hormones That Control Your Weight
- Your weight is largely controlled by hormones.
- Research shows that hormones influence your appetite and how much fat you store.
Here are 9 ways to “fix” the hormones that control your weight.
- Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells of your pancreas.
- Insulin is also the main fat storage hormone in the body. It tells fat cells to store fat, and prevents stored fat from being broken down.
- When cells are insulin resistant (very common), both blood sugar and insulin levels go up significantly.
Here are some tips to normalize insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity:
- Avoid or minimize sugar: High amounts of fructose and sucrose promote insulin resistance and raise insulin levels .
- Reduce carbohydrates: A low-carb diet can cause an immediate drop in insulin levels
- Fill up on protein: Protein actually raises insulin in the short-term. However, it should lead to long-term reductions in insulin resistance by helping you lose belly fat
- Include plenty of healthy fats: Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish can help lower fasting insulin levels (22).
- Exercise regularly: Overweight women who walked briskly or jogged had an improvement in insulin sensitivity after 14 weeks in one study (23, 24, 25).
- Get enough magnesium: Insulin resistant people are often low in magnesium, and magnesium supplements can improve insulin sensitivity (26, 27, 28).
- Drink green tea: Green tea may lower blood sugar and insulin levels (29, 30).
BOTTOM LINE: Insulin is the main fat storage hormone in the body. Reducing sugar intake, cutting carbs and exercise are the best ways to lower insulin levels.
- As a signaling hormone, its role is to communicate with the hypothalamus, the portion of your brain that regulates appetite and food intake.
- Unfortunately, in obesity the leptin system doesn’t work as it should. This is referred to as leptin resistance.
- In essence, your brain thinks it is starving, so you’re driven to eat.
- Two potential causes of leptin resistance are chronically elevated insulin levels and inflammation in the hypothalamus
BOTTOM LINE: People with obesity tend to be resistant to the effects of leptin. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods, exercising and getting enough sleep may improve leptin sensitivity.
- Ghrelin is known as a “hunger hormone.” When your stomach is empty, it releases ghrelin, which sends a message to the hypothalamus telling you to eat
- Studies have also shown that after obese people eat a meal, ghrelin only decreases slightly. Because of this, the hypothalamus doesn’t receive as strong of a signal to stop eating, which can lead to overeating
Here are a few tips to improve the function of ghrelin:
- Sugar: Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and sugar-sweetened drinks, which can impair ghrelin response after meals
- Protein: Eating protein at every meal, especially breakfast, can reduce ghrelin levels and promote satiety
BOTTOM LINE: Eating plenty of protein and avoiding foods and beverages high in sugar can help optimize ghrelin levels.
- Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands.
- It’s known as a “stress hormone” because it’s released when your body senses stress.
- Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to overeating and weight gain
- A strict diet can also raise cortisol
These strategies can reduce cortisol levels:
- Balanced diet: Follow a balanced, real food-based diet. Don’t cut calories to extremely low levels.
- Sleep more: One study found that when pilots lost 15 hours of sleep over the course of a week, their cortisol levels increased by 50-80%
BOTTOM LINE: High cortisol levels can increase food intake and promote weight gain. Eating a balanced diet, managing stress and sleeping more can help normalize cortisol production.
- Estrogen is the most important female sex hormone
- To maintain fertility during the reproductive years, estrogen starts promoting fat storage at puberty
These nutrition and lifestyle strategies can help manage estrogen:
- Fiber: Eat plenty of fiber if you want to reduce estrogen levels
- Cruciferous vegetables: Eating cruciferous vegetables may have beneficial effects on estrogen
- Flax seeds: Although the phytoestrogens in them are controversial, flax seeds appear to have beneficial effects on estrogen in most women
- Exercise: Physical activity can help normalize estrogen levels in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women
BOTTOM LINE: When estrogen levels are too high or low, weight gain may occur. This depends on age and other hormonal factors.
6. Neuropeptide Y (NPY)
- Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a hormone produced by cells in the brain and nervous system.
- It stimulates appetite, particularly for carbohydrates, and is highest during periods of fasting or food deprivation
- Levels of neuropeptide Y are elevated during times of stress, which can lead to overeating and abdominal fat gain
Recommendations for lowering NPY:
- Eat enough protein: Eating too little protein has been shown to increase release of NPY, which leads to hunger, increased food intake and weight gain
- Don’t fast for too long: Animal studies have demonstrated that very long fasts, such as over 24 hours, can dramatically increase NPY levels
- Soluble fiber: Eating plenty of soluble prebiotic fiber to feed the friendly bacteria in the gut may reduce NPY levels (89).
BOTTOM LINE: Neuropeptide Y (NPY) stimulates hunger, particularly during fasting and times of stress. Protein and soluble fiber can help lower NPY.
7. Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1)
- Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is a hormone produced in your gut when nutrients enter the intestines.
- GLP-1 plays a major role in keeping blood sugar levels stable, and also makes you feel full.
BOTTOM LINE: GLP-1 can decrease appetite and increase weight loss. Consuming a diet high in protein and greens can help boost your levels.
8. Cholecystokinin (CCK)
- Like GLP-1, cholecystokinin (CCK) is another satiety hormone produced by cells in your gut
- Higher amounts of CCK have been shown to reduce food intake in both lean and obese people
Strategies to increase CCK:
- Protein: Eat plenty of protein at every meal
- Healthy fat: Eating fat triggers the release of CCK
- Fiber: In one study, when men ate a meal containing beans, their CCK levels rose twice as much as when they consumed a low-fiber meal
BOTTOM LINE:CCK is a hormone that reduces appetite and is produced when you eat protein, fat, and fiber
9. Peptide YY (PYY)
- Peptide YY (PYY) is another gut hormone that controls appetite.
- It is released by cells in the intestines and colon.
Strategies to increase PYY:
- Lower-carb diet: You should eat a lower-carb diet based on unprocessed foods in order to keep blood sugar levels stable. Elevated blood sugar may impair PYY’s effects
- Protein: Eat plenty of protein from either animal or plant sources
- Fiber: Eat plenty of fiber
BOTTOM LINE: In order to increase PPY levels and reduce appetite, try avoiding processed carbohydrates and eating plenty of protein and fiber.
- Hormones work together to increase or decrease appetite and fat storage.
- If the system doesn’t work properly, you may find yourself struggling with weight issues on an ongoing basis.
- Fortunately, diet and lifestyle changes can have powerful effects on these hormones.
7 Steps to Balance Hormones Naturally
by Dr. Josh Axe
Step 1: Swap out carbs for healthy fats
Your body needs various types of fats to (including saturated fat and cholesterol) to create hormones in order to keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism and promote weight loss. Healthy fats have the opposite effect of refined carbohydrates, which lead to inflammation and can mess with the balance of your hormones.
My four favorite sources of anti-inflammatory, healthy fats include: coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter and wild-caught salmon.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a large component of brain-cell membranes and are important for cell-to-cell communication in the brain. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids help protect against hippocampal neuronal loss and reduce pro-inflammatory responses.
Steer clear from oils high in omega-6 fats (safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, canola, soybean and peanut),
and load up on rich sources of natural omega-3s instead (wild fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and grass-fed animal products).
Step 2: Use Adaptogen Herbs
Adaptogen herbs ,— such as ashwagandha, medicinal mushrooms, rhodiola and holy basil — are a unique class of healing plants that promote hormone balance and protect the body from a wide variety of diseases
Step 3: Address Emotional Imbalances
….the 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. The emotions of frustration, impatience and un-forgiveness cause disease in your liver, …. breathing exercises, spending time outdoors and exercising every day and acupuncture combat stress and improve blood flow.
Step 4: Use Essential Oils
To replace toxic body care and cleaning products, use these hormone balancing essential oils:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Sandalwood: Sandalwood essential oil can be used to increase your libido, reduce stress, promote relaxation, boost mental clarity and even help you to relax.
- Thyme: Thyme oil improves progesterone production, which helps to treat or relieve health issues like infertility, PCOS, menopause, depression, fibroids, hair loss and insomnia.
- Evening primrose oil: Evening primrose oil contains omega-6 fatty acids, such as LA and GLA, that support overall hormonal function. It also helps to create a healthy environment for conception.
Step 5: 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:
- 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 like insulin, ghrelin and leptin.
Step 6: Beware of Medications and Birth Control
Beware of your medications, talk to your doctor about the side effects and research natural alternatives whenever possible! Studies show that the risks of taking them, especially long-term, can include:
- Breakthrough bleeding between cycles
- Increased risk of breast cancer
- Increased risk of uterine bleeding, blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
- Increased blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Back pains
- Mood changes
- Liver tumors
- Breast tenderness
Step 7: Get More Sleep
Adequate quality sleep helps to promote levels of serotonin. Lack of enough sleep can cause reduced brain function and hormone interruption which in turn causes other hormone imbalances.
In some cases, synthetic hormonal treatments (such as insulin or thyroid medication) will be necessary to treat a hormonal 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 for example — it’s always important to speak with your doctor before discontinuing medication use. The natural treatments above can still help you overcome your illness and greatly reduce symptoms, but these recommendations shouldn’t take the place of medical supervision. Because hormone imbalances vary so widely in terms of severity of symptoms, always keep track of how you’re feeling, do your research and evaluate how you respond to different treatments.
- Hormonal imbalances affect many millions of people worldwide, in the forms of common disorders like diabetes, thyroid disorders, menstrual irregularities, infertility, low testosterone and estrogen dominance
- Symptoms include feeling anxious, tired, irritable, gaining or losing weight, not sleeping well and noticing changes in your sex drive, focus and appetite
- Causes for hormonal imbalances include poor gut health, inflammation, high amounts of stress, genetic susceptibility and toxicity
- Natural treatments include eating an anti-inflammatory diet, consuming enough omega-3s, getting good sleep, exercising and controlling stress