Anyone who's experienced a hormonal imbalance can speak to their pervasive role in influencing behavior. From determining fertility to shaping the way you experience stress and anxiety, your hormones can have a profound influence on your mental and physical health.
In the words of Melbourne-based nutritionist Steph Lowe, "Hormonal control is the cornerstone of health," she writes on My Body + Soul. "Your hormones can determine everything from anxiety to your zest for life." More specifically, a hormonal imbalance can manifest in "low energy, fatigue, cravings, unexplained weight gain, anxiety, [and] low sex drive," she explains.
While you should definitely discuss any hormonal concerns with your doctor, Lowe kindly shared some dietary and lifestyle changes that may help in the meantime. "You can help your hormones calm down with these natural solutions—all of which are worth doing more of, even if you’re feeling great." Below, find her list of all natural hormone-balancing tips.
Avoid Refined Sugars
"Sugar can cause an estrogen overload and lead to an abundance of the 'wrong' bacteria in our gut," which is linked to a host of health issues. Refined sugars can be found in processed foods like cookies, cakes, crackers, flavored yogurt, frozen meals, tomato sauce, and salad dressing. Counterintuitively, low-fat processed foods are the most sugar-laden, since manufacturers use sugar to add flavor. Stick to a natural sugar source like raw, organic honey.
Eat Good Fats
"Fat is essential for hormonal production, which is just one of many reasons why there is no requirement for low-fat products or diets," she explains. She recommends cooking with a healthy saturated fat like ghee butter and adding sources of omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, avocados, and almonds to your diet.
Support Your Digestion
"Remember, so much of our good health starts in the gut," she notes. "Good digestion and regular elimination assists in the efficient removal of estrogen, which is important to create balance in the body." She recommends loading up on probiotic foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir, in addition to fibrous vegetables, like kale, broccoli, and cabbage.
Load Up on Vitamin C
"Vitamin C is essential for progesterone production, which helps to balance estrogen in the body," explains Lowe. Leafy greens, citrus fruits, and strawberries are great sources of this essential vitamin.
Minimize Your Intake of Processed Soy
"Soy contains high levels of phytoestrogens and usually, sugar," she writes. "This may create an estrogenic (high estrogen) environment and insulin spike with consumption." Processed soy is commonly found in meal replacement drinks and supplements, plus energy bars with "soy protein isolate" or "texturized vegetable protein" listed on the ingredients label. Fill up on traditional or fermented soy foods like tempeh or miso instead.
While supplements like omega-3, vitamin D, maca powder, and herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola can help balance hormones, always consult your health practitioner first. "Ensure you focus on the balance between what you obtain from food and what additional support your unique body might need," clarifies Rowe.
Ensure you focus on the balance between what you obtain from food and what additional support your unique body might need.
Take a Look at Your Lifestyle
Lifestyle factors also play a pivotal role in shaping hormonal health—especially how you deal with stress. "Elevated stress hormones are the enemy for hormonal control," Lowe says. "[Be sure to] walk, breathe, meditate, and find a yoga class you love. And don't forget good quality sleep."
Next up: These five hormones affect how you age. Here's what to eat to balance them.