Have you observed certain changes or symptoms such as moods swings, unexplained weight gain or loss, digestive problems, chronic acne, irregular periods, fatigue, lethargy, frequent headaches, and so on? If yes, you may be suffering from hormonal imbalance.
Our endocrine system impacts our life in various ways from birth to death—puberty, libido, child birth, menopause—and other functions such as digestion, memory, and so on. So, it’s important to keep our hormonal secretions in check. Hormones are nothing but chemical secretions by the endocrine glands such as thyroid, pancreas, pituitary, and so on, which control the functioning of various organs in the body.
Most of the time, the causes of hormonal imbalance are an unbalanced diet, high sugar intake, junk food, stress, irregular sleep patterns, excessive caffeine and alcohol intake, sedentary lifestyle, PCOS and related health conditions, and genetic factors. A high-intake of sugar prioritizes balancing insulin over estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone hormones.
Sugars, when accompanied with nutrient-deficit packaged foods containing artificial ingredients and chemicals, disrupt hormonal balance. They also cause obesity which is linked to disturbances in hormonal secretions. Fad diets also deprive you of healthy nutrients, leading to hormonal imbalance.
Both underactive hormones and excessive secretions are bad, and a balance of hormones is what is required. Symptoms will differ based on if it’s underactive or excessive. For instance, the symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism are slightly different. Hormonal imbalance symptoms are often confused with a few other common symptoms. Read on to know more about hormonal imbalance symptoms and the foods to balance hormones.
Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms
How do you know if you are suffering from hormonal imbalance? The best way is to get a blood test done. However, based on the symptoms, your doctor can decide which hormones need to be checked.
Here are a few hormonal imbalance symptoms which you should be mindful of, and consult a doctor for tests and medication in order to achieve the required levels.
Most women have menstrual cycles that vary between 21 and 35 days. For women in their late 40s or early 50s, it is normal to get irregular periods because they are in menopausal stage. However, if you are are not in that age group and you don’t get your period on time every month, or if it’s delayed by months, then there may be some hormonal imbalance.
Another reason for irregular periods is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This is a very common condition in young women that causes cysts in the ovaries, because ovulation is impacted. Thankfully, it can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes.
Breakouts are common during periods, but if the acne doesn’t clear up or it reoccurs, then there may be some hormonal imbalance in the system. The male hormone, androgen, is responsible for excess oil secretions causing acne.
According to experts, changes in hormones like estrogen and progesterone cause forgetfulness. These hormones may also impact brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Hormonal conditions like thyroid can also cause lack of focus and mental clarity.
Our gut is lined with cells called receptors which respond to estrogen and progesterone. Any changes in the levels of these hormones cause digestive problems leading to diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating, and nausea. Many women have diarrhea during periods. Digestive issues along with chronic acne may be a hormonal imbalance symptom.
Fatigue and Lethargy
Fatigue can also be a symptom of hormonal imbalance. An excess of the progesterone hormone can make you feel sleepy. In addition, low levels of the T4 thyroid hormone (thyroxine) will deprive you of energy, making you feel tired and lethargic.
Mood Swings and Depression
Estrogen hormones affect the most vital brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Dopamine is essential for feeling happy and positive. The changing levels of these hormones can cause mood swings and depression.
Foods to Counter Hormonal Imbalance
To get certain hormone levels right, your doctor may prescribe synthetic hormones for a certain period. Hormonal pills prescribed by your doctor are helpful and necessary, especially for thyroid conditions. However, along with that, certain lifestyle changes go a long way in helping to recover the levels quickly and get your health back on track.
Generally, everyone must eat a healthy diet; however, those who have a hormonal imbalance must closely observe their food consumption patterns. They must have a diet rich in proteins consisting of bison, grass fed beef, wild caught fish, and organic fruits and vegetables. They must also include healthy fats from dairy products such as milk and butter from grass fed animals, coconut oil, avocados, and olive oil. Junk and processed foods, and high intake of sugar must be avoided.
Dr. Natasha Turner listed some of the best hormone-balancing foods in her book, The Supercharged Hormone Diet.
Flaxseeds are one of the best hormone-balancing foods. They contain phytoestrogenic compounds (lignans), which protects against breast, prostate, and colon cancers. You can add these seeds to smoothies, salads, oatmeal, and cereals. Or, simply snack on some roasted flaxseeds.
Broccoli and other vegetables containing sulfuric compounds such as Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage have high amounts of phytonutrients like isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol. These compounds help break down estrogen metabolites responsible for forming tumors, especially in the breasts. Research studies conducted at the University of California in Berkeley showed that indole-3-carbinol halts the growth of breast cancer cells and may also protect against the spread of cancer. However, avoid these vegetables if you have an underactive thyroid.
Green tea contains theanine which blocks the release of cortisol. This is very helpful in curbing the accumulation fat. According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, green tea extract can increase metabolism and fat burning. It is recommended to have four cups of green tea daily.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the break down of fat cells was higher in rats who were fed an olive oil-rich diet compared to the ones fed with soybean oil. It was found that soybean oil hindered healthy hormone production.
According to a Finnish study on more than 10,000 people for more than 30 years, it was found that people eating one apple daily showed reduced risk of cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
On a per-gram basis, chia seeds have the highest source of omega-3 and also the highest source of fiber. The hormonal benefits of chia seeds include improved insulin sensitivity, stabilized blood sugar levels, and easing blood pressure and blood sugar spikes. A 3.5-ounce serving of chia seeds have 20 grams of omega-3.
Avocado contains beta-sitosterol which helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Beta-sitosterol also helps balance the stress hormone, cortisol, and it may also help restore the hormone produced by the adrenal gland, DHEA, to normal levels.
Nuts are rich in beta-sitosterol, proteins, fiber, and other healthy nutrients. According to a research study conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center and published in the journal, Nutrition, walnuts contain melatonin, which promotes better sleep.
When consumed daily, soy can improve heart health. Soy also keeps bones strong, lowers cholesterol, protects the prostate, and eases menopause. Research conducted at the University of Illinois suggests that soy protein may help manage weight by increasing metabolism and limiting the growth of fat cells. Obesity is closely linked to hormonal imbalance.
Water is one of the most important sources for hormonal balancing. Dehydration increases the release of appetite-stimulating hormones. It is recommended to drink at least eight cups of water a day to prevent joint stiffness, headaches, weight gain, and decreased athletic performance.
In addition to consuming the right foods, exercising for 30 minutes, five days a week is also recommended. Start with exercises like yoga and cardio, and then gradually move on to strength training and interval training. Exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and also lower stress.
The rule to staying healthy is simple: eat healthy. Be sure to include foods that balance hormones, exercise, and stay away from hormone-disrupting foods.
Staff, R., “21 Hormone-Balancing Foods You Should Be Eating,” Rodale’s Organic Life web site, November 12, 2015;