Hormones play a vital role in our body as they carry messages between the cells and the organs. Hormones are critical for various bodily functions including growth and sexual development, sleep, and stress management.
When they are in proper balance, hormones like estrogen, testosterone, adrenaline, and insulin, help the body thrive. However, sometimes hormone levels become too high or too low. Hormone imbalances can cause serious health problems.
These health problems are usually treated with hormone replacement therapy, thyroid medications, insulin injections, and birth control pills. These treatments can make you dependent on prescription drugs for life and can also lead to side effects.
Fortunately, there are many natural ways, such as eat protein-rich foods, take healthy fats, get good sleep, consume adaptogen herbs, etc., to balance hormones. Let us learn more about hormones and techniques to restore them naturally.
What are hormones?
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers and are a part of the endocrine system. They control processes like fertility, reproduction, growth, and metabolism. Hormones also influence the functioning of the immune system, mood, emotions, and behavior.
Hormones are created by glands which are the part of the endocrine system. The main hormone-producing glands are –
- Hypothalamus: This gland is responsible for the release of hormones from other glands. It also controls body temperature, mood, hunger, thirst, sleep, and sex drive.
- Parathyroid: This gland controls the calcium content in the body.
- Thymus: This gland is responsible for the function of the adaptive immune system, the maturity of the thymus and it produces T-cells.
- Thyroid: The hormones produced by the thyroid gland are associated with calorie burning and heart rate.
- Pancreas: This gland produces insulin which helps control blood sugar levels.
- Adrenal: The gland produces hormones that regulate sex drive and cortisol.
- Pineal: The pineal gland produces serotonin derivatives of melatonin.
- Pituitary: This gland controls other glands and makes the hormones that trigger growth.
- Ovaries: Present only in women, the ovaries secrete estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, the female sex hormones.
- Testes: Present only in men, the testes produce testosterone and sperm.
Major hormones in the body
Our body produces around 50 different hormones which are divided into two distinct categories. Hormones that derive from amino acids are protein hormones, peptides, and amines. Steroids are the hormones derived from lipids.
Some hormones play a more prominent role in the body than the others. Understanding their role and importance is essential for maintaining their balance in the body.
- Melatonin: Melatonin is produced at night by the pineal gland, and it determines the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
- Seratonin: This hormone controls the mood, sleep, and appetite.
- Cortisol: Cortisol governs our flight or fight response and is critical to many other body functions.
- Testosterone: This sex hormone is essential for the development of sex organs, it is responsible for sex drive, and it also influences the mood.
- Estrogen: This sex hormone is essential for regulating the menstrual cycle, and for maintaining sex drive in men. It affects muscle tissue and brain health.
- Progesterone: This sex hormone helps to support and maintain a healthy pregnancy. It prepares the uterine lining for the possibility of pregnancy.
- Insulin: This hormone is triggered in response to glucose in the bloodstream, and it helps in breaking it down.
- Leptin: This hormone decreases appetite and increases metabolism.
- Ghrelin: This hormone regulates hunger.
Signs of hormone imbalance
The symptoms of hormone imbalance depend on which hormone may be affected. Some of the more common signs and symptoms of hormone imbalance include –
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Infertility or irregular periods
- Unexplained or excessive sweating
- Depression or anxiety
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Changes in sensitivity to heat or cold
- Low libido
- Dry skin or skin rashes
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in blood pressure
- Digestive issues
- Changes in heart rate
- Hair loss or hair thinning
- Brittle or weak bones
- Change in blood sugar concentration
- A bulge in the neck
- Blurred vision
Causes of hormonal imbalance
There can be many possible causes of hormonal imbalance. Certain medical conditions, lifestyle habits, and even environmental factors can lead to hormonal imbalance. Here are some of the possible causes of hormonal imbalance –
- Chronic and extreme stress
- Being overweight
- Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- Poor diet and nutrition
- Hormone replacement or birth control medications
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Addison’s disease
- Endocrine gland injury
- Tumors or cysts that affect endocrine glands
- Cancer treatments
Ways to balance hormones naturally
Although hormone imbalances have become common these days, there are several ways in which we can restore them naturally. Here are ten natural ways to balance your hormones –
1. Eat protein-rich food
You must consume adequate amounts of good-quality protein with your meals. Not only do proteins help maintain muscle, bones and skin health, they also influence hormones that control appetite.
According to research protein helps decrease the level of ghrelin (hunger hormone) and stimulates the production to hormones that make you feel full (PYY and GLP-1) (1).
According to experts, consuming 20 to 30 percent protein at a given meal provides anabolic and metabolic benefits (2).
2. Have more healthy fats
Our body needs different types of fats to create hormones. Essential fats are the building blocks for hormone production, they also keep the inflammation levels low and help boost metabolism.
So, include a variety of foods that are rich in short, medium and long chain fatty acids to balance your hormones.
Coconut oil, grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon and avocado are some healthy sources of fat that help lower inflammation, control appetite, and provide nutrition.
3. Avoid refined carbs and sugar
Refined carbohydrates and sugar can lead to inflammation and hormone imbalance. Studies have shown that fructose consumption can increase insulin levels and lead to insulin resistance, especially in overweight people (3, 4).
So, minimizing consumption of such foods and following a low-carb diet can optimize hormone function and help you avoid diseases like obesity and diabetes.
4. Manage stress and emotional imbalances
Stress can have a direct impact on your health as it affects two major hormones – cortisol and adrenaline. When cortisol levels remain elevated, it can lead to excessive calorie intake and obesity.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, fear can cause disease in the reproductive organs kidneys and adrenals, which can increase cortisol levels. This can lead to PCOS and infertility (5). Stress and worry can also affect insulin levels.
Stress reducing techniques like yoga, meditation, massage and listening to soothing music can help lower cortisol levels (6).
5. Get consistent sleep
Poor sleep has been linked to many hormone imbalances including insulin, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin and growth hormone (7). Poor sleep can lead to higher cortisol levels, decreased immunity, anxiety, weight gain, and depression.
Quality of sleep is as important as the quantity of sleep. The brain needs uninterrupted sleep for the release of growth hormone that occurs during the night during deep sleep (8).
So to maintain hormonal balance, you must sleep for seven to eight hours every night.
6. Adaptogen herbs
Adaptogen herbs are healing plants that help maintain hormone balance. They are also known to boost immune function and combat stress.
Herbs like ashwagandha, holy basil, Rhodiola and some medicinal mushrooms can improve thyroid function, stabilize insulin levels, support adrenal gland function and reduce anxiety.
Studies have shown that this adaptogen herb can protect your organs from chemical stress caused by pollutants, which are some of the causes that cause hormone imbalance (10).
7. Essential oils
Most of the skin care and body care products that we use today contain harmful chemicals like parabens, propylene glycol, and sodium lauryl sulfate. Switching to natural products that contain hormone-balancing essential oils can work wonders for your health.
Clary sage oil: Clary sage essential oil contains natural phytoestrogens which help balance natural estrogen levels in the body. It also helps treat depression and anxiety (11).
Lavender: Lavender essential oil helps balance hormones as it helps treat anxiety, depression, stress and moodiness and promotes better sleep.
Thyme: Thyme essential oil promotes progesterone production which helps treat health issues like infertility, PCOS, menopause, depression, fibroids, and insomnia (12).
Sandalwood: Sandalwood essential oil helps increase libido, reduce stress, promote relaxation and boost mental clarity. This essential oil minimizes the stress that can lead to hormone imbalance.
Fennel: Thyroid disorders can lead to problems with gut health. Fennel essential oil improves digestion and gut health and boosts metabolism.
8. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can strongly influence hormonal health. It helps reduce insulin levels and increases insulin sensitivity. High insulin levels have been linked to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and inflammation.
Physical activity like aerobic exercise, strength training, and endurance activities can have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity (13).
9. Have vitamins and minerals
You must supplement your diet with vitamin and mineral to fill nutritional deficiencies that can lead to hormonal imbalance. Vitamin D, vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium support healthy hormone levels.
These can be consumed in the form of supplements or consumed through foods like whole grain, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and poultry.
10. Avoid hormone-altering medicines
Certain medicines can disrupt your hormone balance leading to side effects like fatigue, appetite changes, depression, low libido, and insomnia.
Some of these hormone-altering medicines include corticosteroids, stimulants, dopamine agonists, rexinoids, and glucocorticoids. Birth control pills can also lead to hormonal imbalance.
Hormones affect different vital aspects of health like growth and sexual development, sleep, and stress management. We need them in precise amounts for our body to thrive.
Hormonal imbalance can lead to serious health problems. Signs of hormonal imbalance include unexplained weight loss or weight gain, infertility, fatigue, and depression and anxiety.
Hormone imbalance can be treated naturally by eating anti-inflammatory food, exercising g regularly and taking adaptogen herbs.