Hormones are vital to our health and well-being. Did you know that at least 50 of them circulate in the human body, functioning as chemical messengers between our cells and organs, including the brain?

Our hormones affect many aspects of our health, encompassing but not limited to mood, libido, puberty, menopause, metabolism, growth, appetite, sleep cycles and stress management. When they’re in balance, hormones help our bodies thrive.

Unfortunately, hormone imbalance is common and can lead to mild to severe health challenges, such as weight gain (or loss), diabetes, infertility, sleep disorders, loss of focus, weak muscles and bones, depression and/or anxiety, and more.

You are likely familiar with the sex hormones—estrogen, progesterone and testosterone—that influence a woman’s reproductive health. But they don’t tell the whole story. Our body makes and uses many other hormones, too. Thyroid, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), melatonin, vitamin D and cortisol, for example, can profoundly affect a woman’s overall health. When hormone production is prime and proportions are balanced, we have plenty of energy, weight is more controllable, and libido and enjoyment of sex is where we’d like it to be.

Here are some lifestyle and dietary tips to promote hormone balance

Make sleep a priority.

Inadequate rest can result in hormonal imbalance. Go to bed before 10 p.m. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. If necessary, consider 3 milligrams of melatonin daily to optimize your circadian rhythm and get the best sleep. Note: Cherries are a great natural source of melatonin.

Consume a plant-based, high-fiber diet.

Beets, spinach, whole grains, raw fruit, dark-green vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, winter squash—all are great sources of fiber, which helps us maintain a healthy weight and lower elevated estrogen levels.

Get essential nutrients.

Zinc and selenium are essential for hormonal balance, especially sex hormones and thyroid. Food sources include dark chocolate, peanuts, grass-fed beef, lamb, Brazil nuts, organic tofu and oysters.

Include omega-3 fatty acids.

These are vital to the structure and function of all cells in the body, including hormones. Walnuts, sardines, wild salmon, trout, oysters and pasture-raised eggs are all good food sources.

Incorporate thyroid-supportive foods.

Tuna, wild cod, yogurt, eggs, prunes and bananas all provide iodine, which is essential to healthy thyroid function.

Prioritize vitamin D3.

Talk to your health-care provider about a healthy dose. Organic milk, pasture-raised eggs and mushrooms all provide vitamin D

Limit caffeine and alcohol.

Caffeine can act as an irritant and increase anxiety, interfere with sleep and trigger hot flashes. Alcohol has been shown to be a risk factor for certain cancers, including breast cancer. It can also impair release of hormones, resulting in hormone imbalance.

Maintain healthy liver function.

This organ influences hormone metabolism. In addition to the above dietary strategies, include foods (and teas) that assist the liver in cleansing, such as avocado, dandelion root and greens, milk thistle, and turmeric.

Find Your Baseline

Although these tips will start you on a path and lifestyle to balance your hormones, it is important to have your hormones measured prior to implementing any strategy to alter (or balance) their levels. Blood, saliva and urine samples are all valid sources for measuring hormones, and some are more reliable than others. Talk to your health-care provider about what is right for you.

 

Dr. Debra Rouse is a registered naturopathic doctor and cofounder of Optimum Wellness. drdebrarouse.com