When your hormones shift, it can make you struggle with being tired, bloated, unable to sleep, and so much more. But there are some really simple and doable steps that’ll help you feel better. If you think you have a hormone imbalance, check out these six easy ways to help balance hormones naturally.
1. Just say no to diets that ask you to cut a lot of calories
Giving yourself a daily calorie goal may seem like a good idea to maintain or lose weight. And, for some people, it can be. But how realistic is your limit? So many women have been told that 1,200 calories a day is enough for their bodies to function and use that as a guiding point for how much to eat. But even though you can survive on 1,200 calories doesn’t mean you’ll have the energy to feel well and thrive.
To put things in perspective: most toddlers need about 1,000 to 1,400 calories daily. How can that possibly be enough for an adult? When chronically under-eating happens, hormone imbalances follow. Eating too little for too long causes changes to your thyroid hormones, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and adrenaline, and even hormones like melatonin (which helps you sleep!)
Everyone’s different, which means the one-size-fits-all calorie advice that’s out there isn’t accurate. Most women need at least 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day. Some might need a little less or even more. But instead of tracking every last morsel of food, a way to balance your hormones naturally is to try mindful or intuitive eating practices that help you tune into what your body needs and what it doesn’t.
2. Eat your carbs and fats (yes, really)
Consistently reaching for refined carbs or eating non-fat foods isn’t a great idea. Neither is cutting out carbs to lose weight. As a whole, carbs don’t deserve the bad reputation they’ve gotten. There are plenty of good ones that you can (and should!) be eating on the daily. After all, carbohydrates are your body’s go-to energy source. Your hormones need them. Without them, your body stresses and your cortisol goes up. Then, progesterone declines. Your thyroid starts to put the brakes on making active thyroid hormone. Even your serotonin and melatonin drop. (Key hormones to your mood and sleep.)
Instead of overly processed or sugary carbs, look to eat more complex carbohydrates like vegetables with starch, whole grains, and other foods with fiber. The same goes for healthy fats: fatty fish, olive oil, avocado oil, and more. Your body uses these fats to make cholesterol, and cholesterol is what your hormones are made from.
3. Don’t put all your faith in a multivitamin. Make room for nutrients in your diet too
When thinking of ways to balance hormones naturally, this one doesn’t always come up. The truth is: nutrients and minerals have a huge impact on hormones. Some really key players that women can easily not be getting enough of are magnesium, zinc, iron, folate, vitamin D (not truly a vitamin!), and many more. Vitamin supplements are an important way to help your body get what it needs, but they’re ultimately still meant to be supplements. They can’t cover for or undo a diet that’s missing a variety of fresh, wholesome foods.
Instead of buying a cartload of fresh food your first week of trying to eat more healthfully, pick one or two things to add into your meals. Maybe you make sure to get some dark leafy greens every day for magnesium. Or, you snack on chickpeas for some extra zinc. By taking gentle steps rather an entire overhaul at once, you’re much more likely to stick with your changes. (Your hormones will thank you for that!)
4. Go with your gut (health)
The good news is: if you start to improve your diet and more variety, you’re well on your way to improving your gut health. Gut health is quickly becoming increasingly researched for its role in a lot of different conditions. Hormone balance and gut health go together because extra amounts of hormones (that your body doesn’t need) gets sent to your intestines. From there, they should be eliminated when you go to the bathroom. Except that’s not always what happens. If your gut health isn’t up to par (you’re constipated or your bad gut bacteria have more of an influence than the good ones), the extra hormones get recirculated into the body instead of sent out. You might notice changes to your period or other symptoms or be told that you have estrogen dominance, which is uncomfortable and raises your risk for some cancers.
So should you take probiotics? If you do, make sure you 1. ask your provider and 2. take prebiotics too. (Both of those steps are skipped way too much!) But probiotics alone won’t get your gut health where you want it to be. Along with the fiber and nutrients you get from eating a variety of foods, exercising regularly, drinking water, getting enough sleep, and lowering stress are all just a few good steps to take for gut health.
5. Clean out your beauty and cleaning supply cabinets
Unfortunately, our environments are full of chemicals that interact with our body in a harmful way. You might hear these called endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors mess with your body’s hormone balance. Many of these chemicals act like estrogens in your body. By changing products as you finish your old ones, you’ll help your hormone health. For the hows and whys of what to change (without any overwhelm!), our interview with integrative physician Shala Salem, M.D. is an incredible resource of information on this.
6. Change how you respond to stress
Let’s face it: stressors aren’t going away. There will always be surprise expenses, childcare to figure out, work problems, relationship dynamics, and so much more. But just because there will always be things to stress over doesn’t mean that you have to let all of it affect you so much.
With stress hormones surging in response to us looking at every stressor like it’s big deal, major changes happen physiologically. We immediately feel the impact of stress with muscle tensing and an elevated heart rate. But over the long term, even more things occur–including hormonal changes. When one hormone shifts, so do others. Your period is different. You’re more tired. You’re hungrier, craving all types of foods, and gaining weight. That domino effect, plus worries about health issues that are cropping up because of it, leave you feeling terrible and off balance.
But as psychotherapist Tacha Kasper says, “We’re gifted with neuroplasticity. We can learn to change our mindset and the skills we use to deal with thoughts and emotions.” Actively practicing relaxation is a good way to help your body come down from stress. Other things that are really helpful is to bring more movement into your life, get out into the sunshine, ask for help when you need it (most of us need to work on this!), and, if you can, talk with a therapist for tools on everything from how to set boundaries to getting to the root of what’s really bothering you and finding out if you’re putting too much pressure on yourself.
Are there other ways to balance hormones naturally?
All of the best ways to balance your hormones naturally involve changes you can make to your lifestyle, and to most of us, they look like self-care. Whenever you reduce your stress response, your body will benefit–and so will all of your hormones.