Pinpointing a hormonal imbalance can be surprisingly difficult. Thanks to a host of seemingly unrelated symptoms like weight gain, depression, fatigue, and acne, it can be hard to identify, let alone treat the root cause. “All the hormones in your body work together like an orchestra, and when they are all balanced, the body works best,” explains Douglas Lord, MD, the medical director of Nava Health & Vitality Center. “When any of the hormones are out of balance, it affects the body negatively,” he says. In other words, if your adrenal glands, thyroid, and sex hormones are functioning in a way that’s not quite right, your entire body can feel off.
If you and your doctor determine that you have an imbalance going on, there’s some good news: there are lots of ways to recalibrate your hormones without medication. Lifestyle changes and proper nutrition are some of the best ways to do that, and natural supplements have been shown to be part of the solution too.
Here, we tapped a panel of expert nutritionists and integrative health specialists to find out which supplements are actually worth taking. Follow their tips to balance your hormones, the natural way.
The Sign: Depression and Anxiety
What to Try: Vitamin D
Of course, depression and anxiety can be caused by many things, but if you’re experiencing either, it’s worth talking to your primary care physician or a mental health professional about how your hormones could be at play—especially if there’s no obvious cause behind how you’re feeling.
“Contrary to popular belief, vitamin D is actually a hormone that our bodies produce naturally when we are exposed to sunlight,” explains integrative dietitian Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN. Many people are vitamin D deficient, though, especially ones who live in northern states. “This can greatly impact how the body is able to regulate hormones (particularly the parathyroid hormone) and even can affect a person’s mood,” she notes.
“If a patient of mine is experiencing extreme fatigue or mood imbalances, I always recommend they get a routine vitamin D serum level assessment through their doctor, and then, in most cases, I will begin them on a dose of 2000 IU to 4000 IU vitamin D3, depending on their symptoms and level of deficiency.”
The Sign: Fatigue
What to Try: Adaptogens
We already know that stress can increase your risk for all kinds of health problems, and hormonal imbalance is among them. One of the telltale symptoms of hormonal imbalance due to stress, according to Faletra, is feeling excessively tired all the time.
Adaptogens are big news in the wellness community right now, and for good reason. “An adaptogen is a natural substance, usually an herb or plant, that is primarily used in integrative or herbal medicine and has the ability to increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress and support hormonal balance,” Faletra says. However, the exact way adaptogens work in the body is still being researched. That being said, there are some substances that have been studied and shown to have positive effects. “Specific adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea, and maca have been well researched and found to naturally aid in balancing hormone-related symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, and generalized stress on the body,” she adds.
When you’re choosing an adaptogenic supplement (or any supplement for that matter), it’s crucial to go with a reputable brand that has been tested for quality and safety. “Personally, I recommend Gaia herbal supplements or Navitas Organics to all of my patients who are considering adding one of these to their diet,” says Faletra.
The Sign: Acne
What to Try: Probiotics
You likely already knew that your skin is majorly affected by stress and hormones. Still, if you can’t find an underlying reason for your acne (like irritation from beauty products or a bacterial issue), it’s pretty safe to assume that it’s hormone-related.
While she generally recommends dietary modifications before getting into supplements with her clients, Elissa Goodman, an integrative holistic nutritionist and lifestyle cleanse expert, notes that certain probiotics can help with acne. “Probiotics assist in helping the body eliminate excess hormones and waste,” she explains. “Your skin is your largest organ and largest eliminator of toxins, and by supporting digestion with probiotics, toxins are more likely to break down in the liver before they accumulate and overwhelm the skin.”
Plus, even if you don’t have acne, it’s smart to incorporate probiotics into your routine since they’ve been shown to help promote a healthy gut biome and aid in digestion. Goodman’s favorites include Renew Life and Mary Ruth Organic Liquid Probiotics.
The Sign: Weight Gain
What to Try: Omega-3 and Omega-6
There are many reasons you could be gaining weight, and one of those could be a hormonal imbalance. “The hormone progesterone is a powerful anti-anxiety agent, antidepressant, and diuretic as well as a substance that helps us access fat reserves to burn for energy,” says Goodman. Along with potentially causing anxiety and depression, low progesterone can also cause the body to retain fluid and store extra body fat. “Most women today are under a lot of stress for long periods of time, so the production of progesterone goes down and cortisol and adrenaline take over,” she says. Too much estrogen can also cause weight gain by putting pressure on your liver, which leads to bloating.
You’ve probably heard that healthy fats can help you lose weight, but the reason they help with hormone-related weight gain is a little different. “Healthy fats are vital for proper cell function, especially for hormone function, as these are the building blocks for hormone production,” explains Goodman. So by ensuring you’re getting enough healthy fats, you can aid your body in producing the right amount of hormones. One particular type of healthy fat that Goodman likes to recommend is an omega-6 called gamma-linoleic-acid (GLA), which has been shown to support healthy progesterone levels and thus can help fix the imbalance causing weight gain.
The Sign: Hypothyroidism
What to Try: Iodine and Selenium
This is actually a condition, not a symptom, but it’s so common that it bears mentioning. “Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland cannot produce enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally,” says Debra Kuhn Gerson, L. Ac., FABORM, an acupuncturist and herbalist. “It is thought that at least 10% of women have some sort of thyroid hormone deficiency. Signs include fatigue, a slow metabolism, feeling cold, constipation, depression, memory loss, irregular menstrual cycles, and coarse and dry hair and skin,” she says. Not fun. There are several causes of hypothyroidism, which can only be diagnosed via blood test, but not having the right levels of certain minerals in your blood can contribute to it.
“Blood levels both too high and too low in iodine can contribute to hypothyroidism,” explains Gerson. “Many cultures around the world don’t include enough iodine in their diet, and for this reason, table salt became iodized in 1924.” Still, not everyone gets enough. “Selenium is a mineral that activates the thyroid gland and is present in the thyroid itself, and can be missing from the diets of those living in areas with poor selenium content in soil,” she says. There are many areas where the selenium content is low, so try supplementing and eating food rich in selenium, like Brazil nuts, cremini and shiitake mushrooms, fish, shellfish, chicken, eggs, lamb, and turkey, which are good options. Experts caution that it’s essential to have bloodwork done before taking either of these supplements, though, as too much of either mineral can cause hormonal issues, as well.
The Bottom Line
While supplements and other natural remedies can definitely help treat hormonal imbalances, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the full picture about your health before you start a new regimen. Many millions of people are affected by these issues, and everyone has a different hormone profile with their own specific levels. “In order to truly understand what kind of imbalance is happening in the body and adjust lifestyle, diet, and supplements accordingly, it is important to see your own personal doctor for blood tests to better understand what is going on,” says Faletra.
She also advises that hormonal imbalances can be tricky to diagnose, so be prepared to advocate for yourself throughout the process. “No one else knows what it feels like to be in your body, so it’s important you put yourself first. Don’t stop seeking an answer to your hormonal issues until you have found a solution and are feeling better.”