Correct your nutrition and supplement to balance your hormones

Nutrition_orange

Consuming the right foods and beverages is fundamental to ensuring hormonal balance.

In order to produce the right amount of hormones, your body requires the correct foods and beverages to:

  • Absorb the right macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) which are building blocks to healthy hormones Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 149.
  • Improve your digestion and gut health so that you are absorbing the macro and micronutrients you are consuming
  • Balance your blood sugar
  • Maintain a healthy BMI of between 21 and 25 Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 172.
  • Detoxify excess hormones and toxins

 

 

See correct your nutrition for general guidelines on eating for optimal mental health, which can also help to keep your hormones balanced.

Below are some specific nutritional guidelines for hormonal balance.

Eat a balanced diet to balance your hormones

  • Make sure that each meal combines protein, complex carbohydrate, fibre and fat for optimal blood sugar control, increased energy levels, better mood Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 153. 
  • Protein
    • Protein is very important for building and repairing the body, and to make optimal levels of neurotransmitters from amino acids
    • Should be eaten three times a day from vegetable and/or organic animal sources
  • Complex carbohydrates
    • Should be eaten twice or three times a day
    • They cause the release of insulin, which in turn triggers the production of serotonin, which has a calming effect on the brain
    • They also have been shown to lower cortisol Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 181.
    • They are also full of fibre and good for the gut and detoxification of excess hormones and toxins Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), pp. 115, 118.
  • Fat
    • EFAs (omega 3 and 6) are important for hormonal balance and can improve  as they are
      • Are anti-inflammatory
      • Protect and insulate nerve cells and facilitate hormonal communication between cells by making cell walls more flexible
      • Can lower depressive symptoms linked with PMS and menopause
    • Saturated fats, in moderation, from organic meat or plant based sources only are important to help the liver make cholesterol, from which sex hormones are made

Provided your digestion and absorption are working well, you should be able to absorb the vitamins and minerals you need for hormonal balance from the food and drink you consume.

However, due to intensive farming methods and transportation, produce is often depleted of nutrients. And due to the prevalence of excess stress and gut issues, digestion and absorption can be compromised. In which case it can be important to supplement vitamins and minerals for optimal hormonal balance.

In comparison to whole foods, processed foods are often full of salt, sugar, bad fat and chemical additives, they are depleted of nutrients, have a high glycemic index and are generally low in fibre.

Eat vegetables to balance your hormones

  • Raw, steamed, or cooked, ideally, organic and local, vegetables should form 80% of your meal
  • The fibre in vegetables aids in the elimination and detoxification of excess estrogen in the bowel
  • Vegetables can reduce beta glucoronidase levels thus preventing the recycling of estrogen and other toxins back into the system
  • Vegetables contain antioxidants and sulphur compounds which help support the liver’s detoxification pathways to detoxify excess hormones and other toxins
  • The indole-3-carbinol found mostly in cruciferous vegetables positively modulates estrogen levels

One of the simplest natural ways to balance our sex hormones and optimise them during perimenopause and menopause is through eating fresh food and vegetables.

Green leafy vegetables are high in several minerals which are essential for hormone balance.

  • They are high in iron, essential for hormonal balance and healthy thyroid function
  • High in magnesium which is also essential for hormonal balance because it
    • Helps control insulin production
    • Helps control thyroid hormone production
    • Aids phase II liver detoxification (important for excess estogen excretion)
    • Is an integral part of sex hormone production cycle
  • High in calcium which is an important mineral to regulate the parathyroid in particular
  • High in iodine, which are an important component of thyroid hormone production
  • Certain seaweeds i.e. Alaria have been shown to lower estrogen levels Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 174.
  • High in calcium and magnesium, particularly kelp
  • Cruciferous vegetables can help balance estrogen and progesterone when there is estrogen-dominance Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 86.
    • Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage contain the phytochemical I3C (Indole-3-carbinol) which increases the production of protective estrogens and helps to reduce bad estrogens Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 86., Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 98.
    • Many cruciferous vegetables contain calcium d-glucarate which helps reduce the reabsorption of estrogen by the digestive tract Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99.
  • Help the detoxification process
    • Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and broccoli help with the detoxification of carcinogens Nechuta, S., Caan, B. J., Chen, W. Y., Kwan, M. L., Lu, W., Cai, H., Poole, E. M., Flatt, S. W., Zheng, W., Pierce, J. P. and Shu, X. O. (2013). Post-diagnosis cruciferous vegetable consumption and breast cancer outcomes: a report from the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project. [online] Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 22 (8), pp. 1451-6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3732536/ [accessed 5 Sept. 2017]. 
  • Contain vitamin E and folic acid
    • Both essential for hormonal balance (see above, vitamin E and folic acid)

However, beware of raw cruciferous vegetables, which can act as goitrogens (as can soy and millet):

  • Goitrogens interfere with the cells’ uptake of iodine which is essential to normal thyroid hormone production Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 248.
  • They can have a thyroid suppressing effect and should be limited by anyone with an underactive thyroid. They include broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, turnips, swedes and Brussels sprouts – all members of the Brassicaceae family of plants Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 179.
  • If you do eat goitrogen containing vegetables
    • Make sure that they are lightly cooked, which will lessen their goitrogenic properties
    • Make sure you offset their effect by getting enough iodine
    • Track your thyroid hormone levels regularly Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 248.

Eat high quality protein to balance your hormones

High quality protein provide amino acids which are the building blocks for hormones and neurotransmitters.

  • If you eat poultry and meat, make sure that they are free range, pasture fed, and ideally organic
  • Offal, calf and chicken liver for instance, is especially good for hormone balance,though try to make sure it’s organic and/or free range/grass fed offal as otherwise it can contain concentrated levels of toxins. Offal contains
    • high levels of vitamin A (essential for estrogen and adrenal hormones)
    • high levels of vitamin D and iron
  • Other good sources of protein for hormone balance come from seafood, sardines, anchovies and pilchards (include their tiny bones to get their best nutrients), fish which are lower down the food chain as large ocean fish such as tuna and swordfish can contain high levels of mercury
    • These are particularly high in omega 3s which are essential for hormonal balance
  • The most complete forms of protein is found in eggs

    • Eggs have the added benefit of packing many other hormone friendly nutrients such as vitamin A (essential for estrogen and adrenal hormones) and D as well as iron , and Omega 3s provided it is a free range egg
    • If you are a vegetarian and eat eggs, this is a good way to get complete proteins
  • If you are vegan, you can get protein from quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, rice and beans/lentils/chickpeas,mushrooms, mycoprotein (quorn), spirulina, nuts, seeds especially hemp, vegan protein powder. etc…You can also get complete protein from soy however it should be consumed with caution and opt only for organic only:
    • The best forms of soy to consume are fermented soya products such as tempeh and natto
    • However when we eat soy, our estrogen is fooled by the presence of phytoestrogen in the soy, and the receptor site for estrogen becomes full of phytoestrogen
    • In young girls, this can produce premature puberty which is very difficult to deal with psychologically, and can lead to anxiety Scott, T. and Keith, L. (May 2015). Anxiety, Depression and the Vegetarian Diet. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/.
    • In young developing boys it may cause a decrease in testosterone and an increase in oestrogen
    • Soy is particularly high in phytates, which grab onto minerals in the digestive tract and excrete them from the body
    • Soy also contains trypsin inhibitors, trypsin being an enzyme that’s made by our pancreas crucial to digestion
    • Over time, soy can even damage our pancreas’ ability to produce trypsin

Correct your proteins and amino acids.

Eat good fats to balance your hormones

In moderation, fats are essential building blocks for your hormones, and it’s important to get the right amount but also the right kinds of fat.

Unlike highly refined oil such as rapeseed, canola, soya and/or sunflower oil which generally have an inflammatory effect on the body, unrefined saturated fats are  building blocks for creating hormones and are therefore important for maintaining hormonal balance.

  • Should make up 33% of total fat intake
  • Good sources
    • Grass-fed red meat, dairy, game, nuts, ghee and coconut oil
  • Saturated fat from coconut oil is an essential source of medium chain triglycerides which are high in antioxidants, gut protective and stimulate thermogenesis in the liver

While cholesterol has been, and often continues to be vilified due to its assumed damaging effect on cardiovascular health, cholesterol is essential to brain function and hormonal balance.

Researchers looking at the genetic disorder SLOS, in which children don’t produce adequate amounts of cholesterol, note that many of these children have behavioural issues, social problems, anxiety, autism, learning difficulties, etc. Dr. Kurt Woeller speaking at the Integrative Medicine for Mental Health (IMMH) conference in 2017, Washington D.C 

  • Cholesterol is essential to making Pregnenolone, the mother hormone, from which other hormones are made Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 46., Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 116.
  • It helps synthesize Vitamin D, essential for hormonal balance Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 44.
  • Cholesterol helps to augment the function of oxytocin (the love and bonding hormone, which is also calming) and oxytocin receptors
    • It is thought that cholesterol increases the binding capacity of oxytocin to its receptor, creating stability
  • Food sources of cholesterol
    • Eggs, grass fed red meat, full fat dairy

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

  • Omega-3 and -6 are both important for the production of estrogen and progesterone, and a lack of either in the diet can usually result in PMS symptoms
    • Omega-6 can relieve breast tenderness and lumpy breasts (fibrocystic breast tissue) that occurs in many women before menstruation, while omega-3 helps regulate the fluid retention and uterine contractions that can cause period pain Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 138.
    • Should be 33% of fat intake
    • Ideal ratio = 1:1 omega 3:omega 6 Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 33.
    • Omega 3 fats help to reduce inflammation and aid in the proper functioning of hormone receptors Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 98.
    • Omega 3 contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which can help control estrogen metabolism Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99.
  • Food sources of Omega 3
    • Seafood and oily fish, which are especially high in DHA and EPA which can only be found in fish sources of Omega 3 rather than vegetable sources. DHA and EPA are essential for brain function and mood
      • Focus on low mercury fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines and avoid large ocean fish such as tuna and swordfish
    • Seeds such as chia, hemp, pumpkin and flax seed
    • Green leafy vegetables
    • Grass fed beef, game

Avoid refined carbohydrates to balance your hormones

Consuming refined carbohydrates on a regular basis causes hormone imbalances. Sources include white bread, pasta, pastries, cakes, cookies, white rice etc.

  • Through processing, refined carbohydrates have been turned from complex carbohydrates to simple ones which are essentially pre-digested
  • They are fast-releasing sources of energy and have a high glycemic load prompting a rapid increase in blood sugar which usually leads to a subsequent rapid fall in blood sugar Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 19.
  • The process of refining carbohydrates reduces 90% of the minerals and vitamins Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 19., of which chromium, which is essential to balancing blood sugar Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 134.
  • High levels of sugar increase serum insulin and IGF-1, both of which raise androgens and cause excess-androgen symptoms Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 224.
  • Refined sugar can reduce testosterone by 25% Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, pp. 107-8., Campbell, K. L., Foster-Schubert, K. E., Alfano, C. M., Wang, C. C., Wang, C. Y. and Duggan, C. R. (2012). Reduced-calorie dietary weight loss, exercise, and sex hormones in postmenopausal women: randomized controlled trial. [online] Journal of Clinical Oncology, 30 (19), pp. 2314-26. Available at: http://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/JCO.2011.37.9792 [accessed 5 Sept. 2017]. both depression and dementia are linked to low testosterone levels
  • Refined carbohydrates worsen estrogen dominance and reduce progesterone (your happy and calming hormones respectively) Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 165.
  • Women with PMS consume 275% more refined sugar than women who don’t have PMS Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 147.
  • Sugar can increase the production of estrogen in the liver Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 70.
  • Refined sugar causes a surge in adrenaline which can last up to several hours after ingestion Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 19.
  • Refined sugar can cause inflammation which can negatively impact hormones
  • Refined carbohydrates strengthen bad bacteria and reduce good bacteria
  • Healthy bacterial balance is essential for healthy estrogen metabolism Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 97.

Focus on fibre to balance your hormones

Fibre comes from plant food and is a form of carbohydrate, however unlike other carbohydrates, it does not get broken down and absorbed by your digestive system. Instead, as it moves through your body it slows digestion, attracts water to the bowel, provides food for beneficial bacteria and makes your stools softer and easier to pass.

  • It helps keep food and waste moving steadily through the intestinal system, and aids with absorption of nutrients
  • It helps detoxify hormones and toxins by sweeping them along the intestines
  • It helps balance blood sugar by ensuring steady absorption of glucose
  • It helps maintain a healthy bacteria balance
    • Allows negative bacteria to be removed
    • Sustains a healthy estrogen metabolism Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 97.
    • Helps maintain healthy testosterone levels by preventing conversion of testosterone into estrogen Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 97.
    • Increases the excretion of testosterone and estrogen in the stool
  • Most women only consume around 13g per day
  • Aim for 35-45 grams of fiber per day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 223. obtained from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds
  • Even with 7 or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, most women need to take a fibre supplement Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 172.

Gluten free whole grains can be excellent for hormonal balance maintaining the detoxification function of the bowel and providing valuable nutrients such as amino acids and minerals necessary for hormone production. Examples are:

  • Rye
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat (also contains rutin, which strengthens the small capillaries throughout the body preventative for thread veins)
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Millet

Fibre comes in two forms: soluble, and insoluble. Most foods contain both, but are usually richer in one type than the other. The easiest way to tell them apart: Soluble fibre absorbs water, turning into a gel-like mush (think of what happens when you add water to oatmeal) while insoluble fibre doesn’t (think of what happens when you add water to celery).

  • Insoluble
    • Peels of fruits, brown rice, whole wheat
    • Excellent source: lignins, found in certain nuts and seeds (especially linseed), and certain vegetables such as peas, green beans and carrots Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 97.
    • Lignins can bind harmful estrogens so that they can be removed with the stool rather than being reabsorbed Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 97.
  • Soluble
    • Oats, nuts, beans, apples, blueberries

You need both soluble and insoluble fibre to balance your hormones.

Eat nuts and seeds to balance your hormones

  • To aid digestion, soak your seeds and nuts overnight with a pinch of good quality salt
  • High in fibre, and contain high levels of omega 3 and 6, especially ALA, which is only present in vegetarian sources of Omega 3 rather than fish and seafood
  • Linseeds (same as flaxseed): contain lignans. 2 tablespoons of linseeds, freshly ground, twice per day for 6 weeks has been shown to reduce symptoms of low estrogen Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 189.
  • Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds and peanuts are high in vitamin E, which is helpful in dealing with symptoms of low estrogen
  • Brazil nuts are high in selenium, which is essential to healthy thyroid function
  • Seed cycling:
    • Rotates seeds to support the follicular and the luteal phase of a woman’s cycle
    • During the follicular phase, which is day 1 to 14, it’s good to boost estrogen. In this phase you take a teaspoon of flaxseed and pumpkin seeds, freshly ground, every day
    • In the second phase of the cycle, the luteal phase, day 15 to 28, do the same with sesame and sunflower seeds
    • Sesame seeds are full of zinc, which helps progesterone production, while sunflower seeds are full of vitamin E, which can also help to boost progesterone
    • It’s good to grind the seeds since this ensures they release their oils Scott, T. and Wszelaki, M. (May 2015). Foods to Balance your Hormones and Ease Anxiety, Part I. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/.

Eat to balance your blood sugar for hormonal balance

Balanced blood sugar levels are essential to balanced hormones and balanced mood:

  • The brain needs a steady supply of glucose to function properly, so avoid spikes and slumps of blood sugar which can cause mood swings, low energy, anxiety, etc. Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. 2nd ed. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 151.
    • When blood sugar drops, it causes an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and can lead to feelings of anxiety, panic, fatigue, irritability, etc. Finnerty, C. C., Mabvuure, N. T., Ali, A., Kozar, R. A. and Herndon, D. N. (2013). The surgically induced stress response. [online] Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 37 (5), 21S-29S. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3920901/ [accessed 5 Sept. 2017].Vitti, A. (2013). Woman Code. New York: Harper Collins, p. 59.
  • Blood sugar imbalance also causes sex hormone imbalance Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 97.
  • Blood sugar fluctuations can cause insulin imbalances
    • An excess of insulin may be associated with polycystic ovaries and menstrual irregularities, as well as diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Eat little and often, between 3 and 6 meals a day, combining some protein, some fat and some complex carbohydrates with every meal to maintain balanced levels of blood sugar Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 146.

 

  • Low-GI foods provide a more steady, constant source of energy
  • Low-GI food can reduce androgens by up to 20% Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 223.
  • Combine complex carbohydrates with protein Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 26.
    • Eating too much protein without carbohydrate can lead to dehydration and bloating Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 151.
  • Add healthy fats to your meals which can slow digestion Wooster, T. J., Day, L., Xu, M. and Clifton, P. M. (2014). Impact of different biopolymer networks on the digestion of gastric structured emulsions. [online] Food Hydrocolloids, 36, pp. 102-14. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259123338_Impact_of_different_biopolymer_networks_on_the_digestion_of_gastric_structured_emulsions [accessed 5 Sept. 2017].
  • Eat the right carbohydrates, i.e. unrefined

Eat for gut health to balance your hormones

A healthy intestinal flora is essential to balanced hormones Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 97.:

  • Follow the guidelines in heal your gut for optimal hormonal balance
  • Make sure to include plenty of probiotics and probiotic foods in your diet (fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, yoghurt, tempeh, etc.), to enhance the balance of good bacteria, which is essential in order to ensure healthy estrogen levels Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99.
  • Take probiotic supplements which can help support healthy levels of gut bacteria,
    • 10-60 billion units per day Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99.
    • As broad spectrum as possible with a mixture of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains
  • Avoid inflammatory foods, which can irritate the gut such as nightshade vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, chilli and goji berries, though some people can tolerate them well, but with others they can be irritating
  • Contribute to healing and rebuilding your gut lining with organic bone broth, as its high gelatine content can help restore the digestive lining

Keep hydrated to balance your hormones

  • Drink at least 2-3 litres of good quality water (spring water, filtered tap water)
  • Dehydration can increase cortisol and lower testosterone and other hormones Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 76.

Foods and beverages to avoid for hormonal balance

  • There is evidence linking improved fertility in PCOS patients who have given up dairy from their diet Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 145.
  • Dairy products can contain both hormones and growth factors which have the potential to impact your own hormone levels, especially estrogen

Gluten intolerance can cause an imbalance in sex hormones:

  • Gluten intolerance can cause an imbalance in estrogen levels Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 185.
  • Several reports in the medical literature show that for women who are sensitive to gluten and suffering from either amenorrhea or diminished ovarian reserve, going gluten-free can reverse these conditions Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 186.
  • Can increase estrogen levels
  • Can be full of hormones which disrupt your own hormonal balance
    • If you do eat red meat make sure it’s grass fed, organic and without additional hormones Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. London: Penguin, p. 145.Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 164.
  • Red meat requires certain gut bacteria for its metabolism, so it can stay in your system for a long time. This also makes it difficult to detoxify
  • However red meat is full of iron, which is essential for hormonal balance and thyroid function
    • So consume it in moderation and make sure that it is grass fed and pasture-raised
  • Drinking coffee increases blood sugar and can cause blood sugar imbalances
  • Drinking coffee can cause damage to the gut lining
  • Drinking coffee can cause stress to the liver, where it’s metabolised
    • The impact of coffee on the liver actually means we metabolize estrogen much slower, causing a shift of the estrogen metabolites that can then cause estrogen dominance
  • Good coffee alternatives include oolong tea, matcha tea and green tea
    • These also contain caffeine, but have fewer of the damaging compounds found in coffee
    • Non-caffeinated options include roasted dandelion root, chicory, and carob – all of which you can use as a coffee substitute Scott, T. and Wszelaki, M. (May 2015). Foods to Balance your Hormones and Ease Anxiety, Part I. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/.
  • Caffeine temporarily boots cortisol, which can inhibit progesterone production
  • While caffeine itself has not been shown to decrease progesterone, it is linked to symptoms of PMS
  • Caffeine places a burden on the adrenal glands, which then rely on the thyroid gland for support Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 179.
  • Good quality coffee can have several health benefits, but moderation is key, and if you are suffering from hormone imbalances, cutting out or reducing coffee intake is advisable

Eat phyto-hormone rich food to balance your hormones

Phyto-hormones are plant hormones – chemical messengers which regulate plant function:

  • They regulate cellular processes and determine the formation and sex of flowers, stems, leaves, shedding of leaves, ripening of fruits, plant death, etc.
  • Since plants lack glands that produce and secrete hormones, each cell is capable of producing hormones
  • Found not just in higher plants, but also in algae and microorganisms such as fungi, and bacteria, where they play no hormonal role, but are secondary metabolites https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_hormone

Eating food rich in phyto-hormones can help your body to balance sex hormones, and detoxify excess estrogen.

Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals with an estrogenic action. Flavonoids are phytoestrogens. Plant chemicals which do not have estrogenic activity are called phytochemicals Guerrero-Bosagna, C. and Skinner, M. K. (2015). Environmental epigenetics and phytoestrogen/phytochemical exposures. [online] The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 139, pp. 270-6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3644519/ [accessed 6 Sept. 2017]..

  • Nuts and seeds (especially freshly ground flaxseeds) Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 121.
  • Asparagus and artichokes
    • Liver supporting
    • Kidney cleansing
  • Garlic, onions, spring onions and eggs
    • Sulphur-rich foods that support the liver and detoxification pathways
  • Apples and pears
    • Pectin helps to remove toxins from the gut, preventing re-absorption of excess estrogen
    • Apples also contain Calcium d-glucarate which helps reduce reabsorbed estrogen from the gut Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99.
  • Pulses, especially lentils and chickpeas because like flaxseeds, they contain lignans which are particularly good for hormone balance
  • Fennel, chicory, celery, endive and radicchio because they are high in phytoestrogens Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. London: Penguin, p. 71. 
  • Whole and fermented organic soy
    • Can help reduce symptoms of low estrogen as it is a phytoestrogen and has estrogen boosting effects Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. London: Penguin, p. 71, p. 131.
    • Due to controversy however, eat whole soy in moderation – less than twice a week Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 189.
    • Soy can act as a goitrogen and slow down the thyroid Scott, T. and Daniel, K. (May 2015). Real food for Anxiety: Butter, Broth and Beyond. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/.
    • If you are going to eat soy, make sure that it is fermented as in tempeh, or in the form of miso soup because the fermentation process breaks down some of the disrupting phytates and goitrogen compounds. but make sure that it’s non-GMO Scott, T. and Daniel, K. (May 2015). Real food for Anxiety: Butter, Broth and Beyond. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/.
  • Pomegranate
    • Has been shown to mitigate symptoms of low estrogen Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 190.
  • Prunes
    • Have been shown to reduce 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone, the “less-good” estrogen associated with breast and endometrial cancer Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 172.

Eat to include hormone-balancing micro-nutrients

You need a good supply of many vitamins, minerals, EFAs, amino acids, etc. for balanced hormones – to help boost hormones which are too low, and lower the ones which are too high.

Below is a list of key micronutrients which are essential for balancing your hormones.

Ideally, you would get these from the foods you eat, however even if you eat a perfectly balanced diet, you may not be digesting and absorbing the enough micronutrients, and may need to take supplements to help balance your hormones.

  • This is because the foods we eat tend to be depleted of micronutrients due to modern farming techniques, soil depletion and transportation methods
  • And because we may not be digesting and absorbing the nutrients in the foods we eat due to poor gut health

In addition to micronutrients from foods and supplements, herbal supplements can also be very helpful in balancing hormones.

Mineral supplements are best absorbed when taken at night, whereas vitamin supplements are best absorbed when taken during the day Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 183..

Vitamins for hormonal balance

For sex hormone balance

  • Sufficient levels of vitamin A are essential for hormonal balance, and vitamin A is particularly helpful for the production of estrogen Wright, Jonathan, MD (1999) Maximize Your Vitality and Potency Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 147.

For stress hormone balance

  • Vitamin A is essential for supporting the adrenals

For thyroid hormone balance

  • Vitamin A is essential for the production of TSH and to convert T4 into T3
  • Key for healthy thyroid function Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 128.
  • Daily allowance: 5000iu. Do not supplement with more than 10.000iu due to toxicity risk

Food sources

  • Carotenoids such as carrots, butternut squash, apricots
  • Butter
  • Liver (cod liver oil), chicken liver
  • Dandelion

Supplement dosages

  • 2500iu daily Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 147.

All Bs

B vitamins are building blocks for many of our key neurotransmitters Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 115..

For stress hormone balance

  • The range of B vitamins are important for optimal adrenal function, and support our bodies to deal with stress Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 133.

For thyroid hormone balance

  • Important for thyroid function, in particular B2, B3 and B6 Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 128. 

Food sources

  • Nuts and seeds

Supplement dosage

  • Take a B complex daily Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 133.
  • 200-500% of RDA levels to optimize your stress response and cortisol control Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 159.

B1 (Thiamin) and B2 (Riboflavin)

For stress hormone balance

  • B1 Effective in reducing the increase of cortisol post-surgery Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 180.

For sex hormone

  • Low B1 and B2 correlate with PMS, however no RCT to study their effects Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 147.

B5 (Pantothenic acid)

For stress hormone balance

  • B5 (Pantothenic acid) essential to support the adrenals
  • 500mg a day reduces hypersecretion of cortisol in humans under high stress Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 103.
  • Controls the secretion of cortisol during stress Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 180.

B6 (Pyridoxine)

B6 is involved in the production of many neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which controls mood, sleep, and appetite, and dopamine, which controls pleasure and satisfaction Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p.147..

For stress hormone balance

  • Helps regulate cortisol production post-surgery
  • Taken in combination with B1 and C, was shown in a study to restore cortisol production and diurnal rhythm Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 117.

For thyroid hormone

  • Converts iodine into thyroid hormones

For sex hormone balance

  • Helps support progesterone production Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 102.
  • Taken with magnesium, vitamin B6 reduces PMS-related anxiety Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p.147.

Supplement dosage

  • 50-100mg a day

Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)

Essential for sex hormone balance

  • Folic acid may help to slow the age-related reduction of testosterone Keil, K. P., Abler, L. L., Altmann, H. M., Wang, Z., Wang, P., Ricke, W. A., Bjorling, D. E. and Vezina, C. M. (2015). Impact of a folic acid-enriched diet on urinary tract function in mice treated with testosterone and estradiol. [online] American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology, 308 (12), F1431-F1443. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4469891/ [accessed 5 Sept. 2017].
  • Folate may play an essential role in ovulation through metabolism of homocysteine, and folic acid use is associated with a reduced level of neural tube defects such as spina bifida Cueto, H. T., Riis, A. H., Hatch, E. E., Wise, L. A., Rothman, K. J., Sørensen, H. T. and Mikkelsen, E. M. (2016). Folic acid supplementation and fecundability: a Danish prospective cohort study. [online] European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70 (1), pp. 66-71. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26081493 [accessed 5 Sept. 2017].

Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin)

For sex hormone balance

  • Increase the production of “good estrogens”
  • Decrease the production of “bad estrogens” Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 166.

Food sources

  • Lean meats
  • Dairy produce
  • Is best absorbed in blue-green algae or chlorella formulations

As we do not store vitamin C in the body we need to ensure that we include sources of it in our diet every day Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 137..

Vitamin C is important for protein digestion.

For overall hormonal balance

  • Essential for iron absorption, itself essential to overall hormonal balance

For sex hormones

  • Supports progesterone levels Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 134.

For stress hormone balance

  • Has been shown to help lower cortisol in stressful situations Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 103.
  • Essential to support adrenal function Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 155.
  • Deficiency has been shown to correlate with elevated levels of serum cortisol Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 183.

For thyroid hormone balance

  • Important for thyroid function Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 128.

Food sources

  • Kiwi, papaya, citrus fruit, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables

Supplement dosage

  • 1000mg-2000mg per day has been shown to significantly lower serum cortisol levels Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, pp. 180, 182-3.
  • 1000mg 3x day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 103.
  • Vitamin C for women pre menopause 750 mg/day of Vit C has been proven to increase progesterone in women Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 134.Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 102.

Whether you get your vitamin D from sun exposure, from vitamin D rich foods, or from supplements, vitamin D is essential for hormone balance.

For sex hormone balance

  • Low D correlates with PMS in women, however no RCT to study its effects Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 147.

For thyroid balance

  • Essential for healthy thyroid function Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 128.

For stress hormone balance

  • Essential for adrenal balance

Food sources of Vitamin D

  • Onions
  • Kelp
  • Oily, low mercury fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines, and cod Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 256.
  • Mushrooms grown in the sun
  • Eggs

Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 164.

Supplement dosage

  • 2000 iu a day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 227.

For sex hormone balance

  • All the way back to the 1940s studies found that vitamin E at a dose of 50-400IU per day effectively decreased hot flashes and other low-estrogen problems compared with a placebo Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, pp. 190-191.
  • Vitamin E can help prevent various diseases associated with an age-related decrease in estrogen, as it has been shown to increase estrogen levels in post menopausal women, thereby increasing antioxidant defence
  • Post-menopausal women have been found to have higher levels of oxidative stress marker when there was a vitamin E deficiency
  • Vitamin E, in combination with Vitamin C, also reduces the intensity and duration of hot flashes in post-menopausal women via promotion of adrenal function Doshi, S. B. and Agarwal, A. (2013). The role of oxidative stress in menopause. [online] Journal of Mid-life Health, 4 (3), pp. 140-6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3952404/ [accessed 6 Sept. 2017].

Supplement dosage

  • 400 micrograms
  • You need 4 weeks of vitamin E to experience the effect Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, pp. 190-191.

Minerals for hormonal balance

An adequate supply of the following minerals is essential for optimal hormonal balance.

For thyroid hormone balance

  • Copper supports and regulates healthy thyroid function Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 247.Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 128.

For sex hormone balance

  • 200mg a day helps low progesterone levels
  • Helps with bloating and anxiety
  • 200-300mg of magnesium twice a day for PMS symptoms Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 106.
  • There is a link between high estrogen levels and low magnesium in pre- and post menopausal women Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 166.
  • Shown to lower bad estrogens, and raise good estrogens Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 191.

For thyroid balance

  • Magnesium is needed to convert T4 into T3

For stress hormone balance

  • Magnesium is essential to support the adrenal glands, and is used up by the adrenal glands to manage stress Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 163.
  • Calcium cannot be absorbed into the bone matrix without the inclusion of magnesium
  • With calcium, can be calming to the nervous system
  • Magnesium has been shown to reduce cortisol levels post exercise in male athletes Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 180.
  • For adrenal support Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 133.

Food sources

  • Whole grains
  • Dark green vegetables such as watercress, rocket, parsley, kale and Savoy cabbage
  • Almonds (soaked so that they are more easily digestible)

Supplement dosage

  • 400mg of magnesium per day, escalating to 1000 if necessary
  • 125-250mg can help control cortisol levels Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 155, 160.
  • Dr. Todd Lepine advocates up to 1200mg for insomnia and anxiety
  • Too much magnesium can cause diarrhea Hyman, M. (2008). The Ultramind Solution. New York: Scribner, p. 308.
  • Magnesium bath soaks are recommended for those who don’t tolerate oral magnesium well

Deficient in most Western diets due mainly to over-farming of soils and the consumption of high processed foods.

For thyroid balance

  • Crucial in the support of healthy thyroid function Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 128.
  • Is needed to convert T4 into T3 (the more bio-available form)
  • Selenium deficiency can produce a false normal hormonal level in a thyroid function blood test
  • Selenium can reduce immune overactivity and autoimmune antibodies to the thyroid Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 254.

Food sources

  • Nuts and seeds, especially Brazil nuts
  • Fish
  • Seaweed
  • Sesame seeds and tahini

Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 184.

For insulin balance

  • Supports a balanced production of Insulin, which is often excessive in those with pcos Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 147.
  • Essential for blood sugar management. It enables insulin receptors to recognize insulin Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 134.

For stress hormone balance

  • Shown to reduce serum cortisol levels in livestock when exposed to stress Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, pp. 180-1.

For thyroid hormone balance

  • Supports healthy thyroid function Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 128.

Supplement dosage

  • 25 micrograms

Particularly lacking in modern food because most of it has been depleted from the soil due to intensive farming.

For thyroid hormone balance

  • Iodine deficiency is the leading cause worldwide for hypothyroidism Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 246.
  • Iodine is essential to healthy thyroid function Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 128.
  • Important for thyroxine production Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 182.

Food sources

  • Seafood
  • Shellfish
  • Seaweed, especially Kelp and Nori
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds

Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 179.

Supplement dosage

  • Recommended daily dose is 150 micrograms for adults Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 247.
  • According to Dr. Sara Gottfried, the best way to measure iron levels is by asking your doctor to measure your levels of ferritin, a blood cell protein that contains iron. Your level should be between 70 and 90.
  • If deficient, 50-100mg of elemental iron a day, with vitamin C to enhance absorption Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 254.
  • Women have a higher need for iron than men due to monthly loss of blood. After menopause, this need is reduced
  • Iron supplements can interfere with thyroid medication if taken within 4 hours Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 254.

For thyroid hormone balance

  • Iron is key to normal thyroid function
  • Iron deficiency can reduce the conversion of T4 to T3, the bio-available form of thyroid hormone
  • Low iron levels correlate with hair loss and hypothyroidism Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, pp. 254-5.

Food sources

  • Calf and chicken livers
  • Oxtail
  • Seafood
  • Sesame seeds and tahini
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, watercress, rocket, parsley and spinach, raisins, (dried) apricots and prunes Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 138.
  • Animal sources of iron are more readily absorbed in the body than vegetable sources, so a combination of both is required to maintain blood levels
  • Iron requires vitamin C for its absorption

For sex hormone balance

  • Can help with low progesterone Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 106.
  • Reduces PMS by 50% Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 147. and its symptoms such as mood swings, pain, bloating, etc. Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 185.

For stress hormone balance

  • Especially with magnesium

Supplement dosage

    • Take 250-500mg to help control cortisol levels Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, pp. 155, 160.
    • 400-500mg calcium citrate twice a day to help with low progesterone Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 106.
  • Calcium, as calcium carbonate or citrate = 600mg orally twice a day

Food sources

  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Herrings
  • Sesame seed, tahini paste

Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 163.

  • Signs of deficiency: low sensitivity for touch, taste, smell Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 154.

For sex hormone balance

  • Helps boost testosterone levels Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 108.
  • Can help boost assertiveness, confidence, sex drive and mood Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 150.
  • Is essential for building tissue, muscle and bone Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 156.
  • Zinc citrate 50 micrograms at night helps heal and repair scarring. and assists in the production of insulin for those with pcos

For thyroid balance

  • Is needed to convert T4 into T3
  • Helps convert T4 to T3. Supplementation of zinc has been shown to raise free T3, decrease reverse T3, and regulate TSH Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 253., Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 128.
  • Important for thyroxine production Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 182.

For sex hormone balance

  • Important for estrogen production Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), pp. 187-8.

For stress hormone balance

  • Zinc has been shown to reduce serum cortisol post exercise in healthy athletes Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 180.

Food sources

If possible, it is best to get your zinc from food sources, because there have been cases of zinc toxicity among people who supplement to excess Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 224.:

  • Seafood
  • Shellfish (oysters are especially high in zinc)
  • Poultry
  • Lean meat
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 179.

Fats

Healthy fats are essential for optimal hormonal balance.

Omega 3s

You need a mixture of fish oil and linseed oil to get the full spectrum of omega 3s, as both contain unique compounds. Fish oil contains EPA and DHA, which are difficult to obtain from vegetarian sources, while linseed oil contains ALA which is not found in fish oil. Both are necessary for optimal hormonal balance.

For sex hormone balance

  • EPA especially helps to regulate estrogen metabolism
  • Balances hormones; relieves uterine contractions Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 139.
  • Correlate with lower androgen levels Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 225.
  • Flaxseed oil
    • 2-4 tablespoons
    • Reduces inflammation associated with acne and helps balance female hormones in those with pcos

For stress hormone balance

  • Fish oil has been shown to lower cortisol in doses of 4000mg per day for six weeks
  • Make sure you get fish oil which is free of mercury and other pollutants

Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 104.

For thyroid hormone balance

  • A deficiency in certain EFAs can show up as symptoms of hypothyroidism such as fatigue, lethargy, weight gain, mood swings Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 252.

Supplement dosage

  • 1000 – 2000mg per day Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99., Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 139.

Omega 6 – Evening Primrose Oil or Borage Oil

For sex hormone balance

  • Reduces breast tenderness and lumpiness Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 139.

Supplement dosage

  • 500 mg Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 139.
  • 1000mg daily of evening primrose oil or starflower oil for thyroid health Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 252.

Saturated fat which helps to produce cholesterol is essential for optimal hormonal balance. Cholesterol is a key building block for pregnenolone, the mother hormone from which all other hormones are made.

Ingesting 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day can be very helpful for optimal hormonal balance.

Phosphatidylserine

  • A phospholipid concentrated in the brain cells

For stress hormone balance

  • Has been shown to modulate cortisol overproduction Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 202.

Supplement dosage

  • 400 to 800mg a day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 104.
  • 100-500mg per day for a month or so, reducing to 50-100mg per day as a maintenance dose Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, pp. 202-3.

Plant compounds

For sex hormone balance

  • Helps reduce bad estrogens (such as 4-hydroxy-estrone)
  • In another study, resveratrol was shown to block the estrogen receptor Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 174.

Food sources

  • Found in grapes, berries, etc.

For sex hormone balance

  • Helps detoxify excess estrogen and increase the production of healthy estrogens Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 173., Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99.

Food sources

  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 173., Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99.

Supplement dosage

  • 200mg of DIM per day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 173.
  • 75-300mg per day Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99.
  • 2-4 tablespoons reduces inflammation associated with acne and helps balance female hormones in those with pcos

For sex hormone balance

  • Reduces reabsorbed estrogen from the digestive tract

Supplement dosage

  • 500-1500mg per day Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 99.

Food sources

  • Naturally found in fruits and vegetables
  • Highest in cruciferous vegetables, such as:
    • Broccoli,
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Cabbage
    • Cauliflower
    • Kale

(2017). Want to Detoxify Your Body? Then Think “Calcium Glucarate!” Here’s What You Need to Know. [online] Body Ecology. Available at: https://bodyecology.com/articles/detoxify_calcium_glucarate.php [accessed 6 Sept. 2017].

Phytosterols are plant-derived sterol compounds found in plant oils, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.

For stress hormones

  • They have been shown to reduce cortisol levels and help maintain DHEA levels in athletes Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 200.

Supplement dosage

  • 100mg-300mg per day of a mixed phytosterol blend Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 202.

Amino acids to balance your hormones

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. As supplements, they are best taken on an empty stomach or in combination with a light carbohydrate rich snack such as a piece of fruit

For sex hormone balance

  • Helps the production of good estrogen and reduces the bad Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 174.

For stress hormone balance

  • Can help to balance stress hormones and neurotransmitters, and support the adrenals
  • L-lysine and L-arginine can help reduce cortisol and anxiety Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 104.

 

For stress hormone balance

  • Can help to balance stress hormones and neurotransmitters, and support the adrenals
  • The combination of arginine, ornithine, and the branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine) has been shown to significantly reduce cortisol levels within 60 minutes of athletic activity Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 181.
  • The branched chain amino acids can not only counteract cortisol increase, but also can enhance testosterone reduction during high intensity exercise Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 206.

Herbs and spices for hormonal balance

If micronutrients from foods, taken either in the form of whole foods, or natural or synthetic supplements are not enough for optimal hormonal balance, you can try herbal supplements.

Make sure that you only use standardized extracts of herbs and spices, which provide a uniform level of key active ingredients in each batch Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 161.. Try one herb or spice at a time for at least 6 weeks, and ideally for 12 weeks, so that it has time to take effect Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 40..

Many herbs and spices have been used to treat stress for thousands of years but there is little scientific research into their effectiveness Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110.

For sex hormone balance

  • Helps support healthy progesterone levels, which can help with anxiety and insomnia Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 102.
  • It has been proven to help low progesterone in more than sixty years of clinical research, including 5 randomized trials Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 137.
  • Proven to reduce PMS and infertility, presumably by raising progesterone
    • There is no full explanation for how it works, but it may increase cellular sensitivity to endogenous progesterone Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, pp. 50, 136, 148.
  • Women lose ovarian response to Chasteberry as they age
    • If you don’t respond within 6 weeks, and/or if you are in late perimenopause or menopause, start a progesterone cream, gel or pill Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 142.

Supplement dosage

  • 500-1000mg per day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, pp. 50, 136, 148.

For sex hormone balance

  • Less proven than Chasteberry but it is a safe option for depression, painful periods and PMS Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 138.
  • It has been used medically for 3,600 years

For sex hormone balance

  • PMS-busting
  • Natural diuretic and high in potassium and iron
  • Balances mood and oestrogen production
  • Helps maximise the use of magnesium in muscle relaxation

For sex hormone balance

  • Can raise progesterone and extend menstrual cycle
  • Contains iodine

For sex hormone balance

  • Maca has been shown to increase estradiol in menopausal women
  • It can help with insomnia, depression, memory, concentration, energy
  • It can improve the symptoms of low estrogen such as anxiety, low mood and low libido
  • It has been shown to help with the sexual side effects of SSRIs
  • Can help to boosts testosterone Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group (Australia), p. 168.

Supplement dosage

  • 2000mg per day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 191.
  • Up to two tablespoons in smoothies or in desserts of breakfast

For sex hormone balance

  • Siberian rhubarb contains active ingredients that lock into estrogen receptors
  • RCT trials show some benefits for symptoms of low estrogen Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 192.

For sex hormone balance

  • Helps with mild depression, anxiety and sleep disorders
  • In an RCT for premenopausal, perimenopausal and menopausal women, hot flashes (a symptom of low estrogen) diminished after 4 weeks of treatment
  • It has been shown to improve sexual satisfaction in women in menopause
  • Effective at relieving behavioral and physical symptoms of PMS
    • One trial looked at a combination of chasteberry and St. John’s wort for the PMS symptoms in perimenopausal women
    • The combination of herbs was more effective than a placebo for PMS symptoms, particularly anxiety Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 148.

Supplement dosage

  • 300mg 3 x per day
  • Consult your doctor before trying St John’s Wort if you are taking an antidepressant Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 192.

For sex hormone balance

  • Improves symptoms of low estradiol (hot flashes, sweating, sleep problems, anxiety) especially when combined with St. John’s wort
  • Decreases hot flashes 20-80mg twice a day Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 100.

Supplement dosage

  • 40-80mg per day
  • Higher doses may be associated with liver damage, so you should take the lowest dose that helps your symptoms Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 192.

For sex hormone balance

  • Low estrogen can cause sleeplessness and anxiety
    • An RCT in menopausal women showed that valerian at 530mg improved sleep in 30% of insomniacs versus 4% in placebo group
    • No impact on next day performance

Supplement dosage

  • 300-600mg of valerian root extract
  • Do not mix with alcohol due to potential adverse effects Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 194.
  • Helps to regulate blood sugar balance and the production and utilisation of the hormone insulin, dysregulated insulin levels are linked to stress- and sex hormone imbalances

For sex hormone balance

  • Said to reduce conversion of Testosterone to DHT and block androgen receptors, though more evidence is needed Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 228.

An adaptogenic herb. Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress by correcting imbalances in the neuroendocrine and immune system. They can provide feelings of calm, or energy, according to individual needs. If your physiology has been disturbed by prolonged stress these herbs may help restore your hormonal balance Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110..

For stress hormone balance

  • It extends the lifecycle of cortisol which can be helpful in cases of HPA axis dysregulation when cortisol levels are low
  • It can alter a baby’s HPA function in utero
    • One study of pregnant women showed that the more licorice the moms consumed, the higher the children’s cortisol levels
  • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice has the compounds which raise blood pressure removed Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 117.
  • Boosts energy levels as it gently stimulates adrenal glands

For sex hormone balance

  • Lowers estradiol levels and raises progesterone levels
  • Can be very good for menopausal women
  • Has been shown to help alleviate depression

Supplement dosage

  • As advised by complementary healthcare practitioner
  • Not advisable if there is a risk of estrogen sensitive cancer, high blood pressure, kidney problems, low potassium

For sex hormone balance

  • Used for hot flushes, mood swings, insomnia and night sweats
  • Be aware of use during menstrual period as can increase bleeding

Supplement dosage

  • 200 mg three times a day Cass, H. and Barnes, K. (2008). 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health: A Take Charge Plan for Women to Correct Imbalances, Reclaim Energy and Restore Well-being. Brevard, NC: Take Charge Books.

For sex hormone balance

  • Shown to counter the proliferative effect of estrogen on cancer cells
  • It is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 175.
  • Protect the liver and supports detoxification

For sex hormone balance

  • Hops have been shown to reduce estrogen levels
  • Hops can help with symptoms of high and low estrogen

For stress hormone balance

  • Can help with sleep difficulties, anxiety and restlessness Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 175.

Supplement dosage

  • 30-300mg – 100mg is an effective dose
  • It become less effective over time, so they’re best used while waiting for other measures to kick in Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, pp. 103, 194.

Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress by correcting imbalances in the neuroendocrine and immune system. They can provide feelings of calm, or energy, according to individual needs. Many herbs have been used to treat stress for thousands of years but there is little scientific research into their effectiveness Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110.. If your physiology has been disturbed by prolonged stress these herbs may help restore your hormonal balance.

Gingsengs contain ginsenosides or eleutherosides. Most traditional cultures have their own.

Korean red ginseng

Korean red ginseng is Panax ginseng which has been steamed, and therefore changes chemical composition and colour.

For stress hormone balance

Menopausal women were given 6g per day for 30 days

  • Menopausal symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression decreased
  • The ratio of cortisol to DHEAs improved Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 111.

Dosage in trials varies massively, but Gottfried recommends between 250-500mg a day for 3 months or less Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York: Scribner, p. 111.

Panax ginseng

For sex hormone balance

  • Has been shown to improve mood and add to a general sense of well-being in post-menopausal women

For stress hormone balance

  • An adaptogenic herb
  • Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress by correcting imbalances in the neuroendocrine and immune system
  • They can provide feelings of calm, or energy, according to individual needs
  • If your physiology has been disturbed by prolonged stress these herbs may help restore your hormonal balance Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110.
  • Can modulate effects of chronically elevated cortisol levels
  • Promotes feelings of calm
  • May reduce fatigue
  • Can improve cognition
  • Can improve memory

Supplement dosage

  • 200-400mg per day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, pp. 110-1, 193.

An adaptogenic herb. Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress by correcting imbalances in the neuroendocrine and immune system. They can provide feelings of calm, or energy, according to individual needs. If your physiology has been disturbed by prolonged stress Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110., these herbs may help restore your hormonal balance.

One of the most commonly used herb in Ayurvedic medicine, though it has few randomized controlled trials.

For stress hormone balance

  • Helps with sleep
  • It has a calming, but not a sedative effect, and may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety
  • Can be used safely with other anti-depressants
  • Reduces cortisol levels

For sex hormone balance

  • Can help to increase libido, sexual tonic
  • Can help to raise testosterone 

For thyroid hormone balance

  • Can help to increases thyroid hormone levels and basal body temperature

Supplement dosage

  • 300mg twice a day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 112.
  • 250mg 2-3x per day Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 133.
  • Take 300 mg between two or three times a day Holland, J. (2015). Moody Bitches. New York: Penguin, p. 161.

For stress hormone balance

  • Reduces evening cortisol and can have an anti-anxiety effect Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 112.Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 193.
  • Reduces stress related eating
  • Reduces anxiety in perimenopausal women

Supplement dosage

  • 250mg three times a day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 112.
  • ST says 150-750mg per day Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 193.
  • 750mg 2-3x per day Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 133.

An adaptogenic herb. Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress by correcting imbalances in the neuroendocrine and immune system. They can provide feelings of calm, or energy, according to individual needs. If your physiology has been disturbed by prolonged stress Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110., these herbs may help restore your hormonal balance.

For stress hormone balance

  • Adaptogen which helps to cope more effectively with physiological and psychological stressors Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 224.
  • Has been shown to support the nervous system, fight depression, and improve sleep Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 113.
  • It seems to alter levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 113.

Supplement dosage

  • 200mg once or twice a day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 113.
  • 300-600mg per day Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 225.

An adaptogenic herb. Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress by correcting imbalances in the neuroendocrine and immune system. They can provide feelings of calm, or energy, according to individual needs. If your physiology has been disturbed by prolonged stress Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110., these herbs may help restore your hormonal balance.

For stress hormone balance

  • It may function like an adaptogen by increasing levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine when they are low, and reducing cortisol levels when they are high Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 198.

For sex hormone balance

  • It can help to restore testosterone levels Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 198.

For thyroid hormone balance

  • It can help to restore levels of thyroid hormone Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 198. promoting energy

Supplement dosage

  • 250-1000mg per day Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 199.

An adaptogenic herb. Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress by correcting imbalances in the neuroendocrine and immune system. They can provide feelings of calm, or energy, according to individual needs. If your physiology has been disturbed by prolonged stress, these herbs may help restore your hormonal balance. Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110.

For stress hormone balance

  • Supplementation with various extracts of holy basil decrease stress hormone levels, corticosterone in particular Bhattacharya A, Muruganandam AV, Kumar V, Bhattacharya SK. Effect of poly herbal formulation, EuMil, on neurochemical perturbations induced by chronic
    stress. Indian J Exp Biol. 2002 Oct;40(10):1161-3
  • 200-400mg 2-3x per day has been shown to be useful in reducing stress Amen, D. (2013). Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 133.

Avoid herbal stimulants

Even if you have low cortisol, it is not a good idea to use herbal stimulants to boost your cortisol, as these can be detrimental to the balance of all hormones and long term mental health.

They are often used to promote weight loss or increase energy as they increase cortisol, adrenaline, epinephrine and norepinephrine. This also means that they can be detrimental to healthy adrenal function and the nervous system over the long term and lead to increased anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Be sure to avoid:

  • Ma huang (ephedra)
  • Sida cordifolia (ephedra)
  • Guarana (caffeine)
  • Citrus aurantium (synephrine)
  • Coleus (forskolin)
  • Yohimbe (yohimbine)

Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, pp. 148-9, p. 168.