Let’s talk about hormones. Those über-important chemical messengers affect many aspects of our health, and we wouldn’t be able to live without them.
When our hormones are regulated, we feel great—stable mood, lots of natural energy, healthy weight, good sex drive, and beautiful skin and hair. But when they get out of balance, it can lead to major health issues.
Common signs of hormone imbalance:
- Weight gain or loss
- Hair loss or thinning
- Brain fog
- Dry or sagging skin
- Sugar cravings
- PMS and irregular periods
- Low libido
- Fertility challenges
Many women typically turn to synthetic treatments like hormonal birth control (pill, IUD, implant) and hormone replacement therapy (after menopause) to regulate their hormone imbalances. Unfortunately, these drugs act more like band-aids covering up the symptoms without treating the underlying cause.
The good news is that there are many ways to balance your hormones naturally with diet and lifestyle modifications. In my practice, when clients come in with symptoms indicating hormone imbalance, I look for the root cause by digging deeper into four major areas:
Gut health – the gut plays a significant role in hormone regulation.
Stability of blood sugar levels – well-managed blood sugar is crucial for balanced hormones.
Liver health – liver detoxification pathways eliminate metabolized hormones.
Balance Your Hormones Naturally With Food
Here are the top 10 ways to address these underlying causes and balance your hormones, using food as medicine.
1. Go organic.
Many of the pesticides, fertilizers, and growth hormones used in conventional foods are endocrine disruptors [source], chemicals that interfere with your endocrine (hormone) system. For example, pesticides add synthetic hormones to your body, confuse your body’s complex hormonal interactions, and congest your liver, making it harder to process and eliminate excess hormones [source].
Organic food is more nutrient-dense and, besides being free of antibiotics, chemicals, and pesticides, it helps put out the fire of inflammation that may contribute to hormonal imbalance in the first place [source]. If going 100% organic isn’t in your budget, prioritize minimizing the foods that really make a negative impact—namely, animal products (meat and dairy) and the Dirty Dozen, a yearly list of produce carrying the highest amount of chemicals.
I know it can be more expensive to buy the organic versions of these food items, but think of it as an investment in your long-term health.
2. Eat at least two servings of brassica veggies a day.
The liver is the key elimination organ for metabolized hormones, so it needs to work efficiently to make space for new hormones and prevent recycling the old ones. All of the brassica family of vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, turnips) contain indole-3 carbinol, which is a powerful hormone balancer [source]. This compound helps break down estrogen and aids in detoxification.
3. Eat beets and green apples.
The liver is the primary detoxification organ in your body [source]. A key function of the liver in hormonal balance is the production of bile. Bile is secreted by the liver for the digestion and absorption of dietary fats and fat-soluble substances—some good (vitamins A, D, E, K) and some bad (excess estrogens).
You can think of bile as a Pac-Man, gobbling up fat-soluble toxins and escorting them to the intestines to be processed and eventually eliminated. If your bile isn’t flowing, your body may have difficulty getting rid of those excess estrogens.
High-fiber foods are great bile-acid binders [source]. Two of my favorites are beets and green apples [source]. Make an easy slaw by grating a beet and an apple, combining them in a bowl, and adding a squeeze of fresh lemon. Eat a serving with lunch or dinner.
4. Eat nuts and avocados.
Fats are the building blocks of hormones, so it’s essential that you get enough healthy fats in your diet. Eating the whole food, rather than the oil pressed out of it, is recommended for better metabolic balance.
Nuts and avocados are great building blocks, as are tahini, olives, chia and flax seeds, and omega-3-rich, fatty wild-caught fish. Try to limit unhealthy saturated fats, such as those in animal products, including meat, milk, and dairy, which affect the way your body responds to insulin [source], leading to type 2 diabetes [source].
5. Eat fermented veggies.
What do you know about the estrobolome in your gut? It’s essentially responsible for breaking down estrogens and is one of the primary estrogen regulators in your body [source]. Supporting gut bacteria is important for ushering metabolized hormones out of the body.
You want to make sure you’re promoting the proliferation of good bacteria by eating fermented foods. Add 1–2 tablespoons of fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi to your plate every day—read the label to make sure they have live cultures.
6. Eat more fiber.
Upping the fiber in your diet will go a long way in helping to balance hormones, including addressing blood sugar imbalances. Dietary fiber slows down the uptake of glucose in the gut, which keeps your blood sugar from spiking—like when you eat an apple instead of a donut. That means your insulin levels don’t go up so high, and you won’t get those sugar lows.
For years, studies have shown that the standard American diet does not include enough fiber—and it has been identified as a “nutrient of concern.” Instead, the focus has been on fats, carbs, and protein. But fiber has so many health benefits [source].
Start by making sure you’re getting at least the recommended amount of fiber per day. For women, that’s about 25–32 g, and men need roughly 30–38 g daily. It seems most people get about 16.2 grams [source]!
Many people underestimate their fiber intake because they rely on cereal or bread package claims, but processed foods are not a good way to get fiber anyway. The best way to do it is to eat as many raw fruits and veggies as you can every day—and minimize animal products because they contain zero fiber.
7. Ditch gluten, dairy, and sugar.
This one is tough but important because these three foods are essentially an inflammatory trifecta. Gluten and dairy are two of the most common food allergies and sensitivities.
In my experience, women suffering from hormone-related issues heal their imbalances faster if they go gluten- and dairy-free. Inflammation decreases, nutrient absorption improves, and elimination and detoxification become more efficient.
Sugar is another inflammatory food to avoid. It materially impacts your blood sugar levels, interferes with hunger hormones, robs your body of important micronutrients, feeds bad gut bacteria, and depletes your adrenals.
Read labels and don’t buy anything with more than 4 grams (1 teaspoon) of sugar per serving.
8. Include soy.
Soy is a phytoestrogen, meaning a plant that acts like estrogen (others include whole grains, cruciferous veggies, flaxseed, and berries). A few decades ago, it was shown that phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors [source].
And it has since been concluded that this is a beneficial effect because it keeps excess estrogen from doing so, and that is cancer-preventing, particularly in postmenopausal women [source]. Phytoestrogen intake has also been associated with regular menstrual periods [source].
9. Minimize alcohol.
Drinking alcohol isn’t a good idea if you’re trying to balance your hormones, especially when you are dealing with symptoms related to estrogen dominance. Alcohol puts a burden on the gut and liver (which is supposed to be busy detoxifying your body) and, because it is mostly sugar, disrupts your blood sugar stability.
Alcohol raises estrogen levels, elevating the risk of hormone-related cancer (breast, prostate) [source]. Most of us aren’t going to cut out alcohol entirely, but you can take steps to offset some of the harmful effects.
Drink as little alcohol as possible so try a mocktail. Never drink on an empty stomach—eat a meal or snack with fiber to slow glucose uptake. Also, be sure to take a B-vitamin complex before you go out and another the next morning.
Your liver needs these vitamins to break down the alcohol. Wake up and have a big glass of warm water with lemon to help flush your system.
10. Minimize foods high in omega-6.
Vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, soybean, canola, and peanut) are high in omega-6 fats, which oxidize easily in the body and lead to inflammation. These fats are ubiquitous in almost all processed foods and used in most restaurants. Whether we mean to or not, we end up consuming way too many omega-6 fatty acids relative to inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids.
Reduce your omega-6 intake by eliminating processed foods from your diet, and load up on omega-3s by adding in wild-caught fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts. And when you do eat meat, choose organic, grass-fed [source].
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Kimberly Langdon, M.D., a university-trained obstetrician/gynecologist with 19 years of clinical experience. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.71