If you’re in your 40s or 50s and feeling sluggish, depressed, or not like yourself, it might be because of a hormone imbalance. In this post, I will share 15 natural ways to balance your hormones.
As women, we may experience changes in estrogen and progesterone that lead to symptoms such as weight gain, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, depression, hot flashes, or night sweats.
It’s important to be aware of these changes and take steps to balance your hormones naturally!
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance
Hormone imbalances occur when there is an imbalance or deficiency of hormones in your body.
Because of the essential role of hormones in the body, side effects can significantly affect the quality of your life.
- metabolism and appetite
- heart rate
- sleep cycles
- reproductive cycles and sexual function
- mood and stress levels
- body temperature
Thus, a hormone imbalance can result on:
- an increased risk of disease
- problems sleeping
- weight gain or loss
- craving for specific foods (affects on appetite)
- chronic pain and headaches
- mental health problems like anxiety and depression
- hormonal acne and hair loss.
Perimenopause and menopause create a hormonal imbalance. However, there are many natural ways to balance your hormones and improve the quality of your life.
Eat enough protein
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in healthy fats and protein is essential as both of these nutrients significantly contribute to the regulation of hormones.
Firstly, protein is necessary to produce hormones that control appetite and hunger (2).
Moreover, a cohort study found that high consumption of vegetable protein, equivalent to 3-4 servings per day of protein-rich foods, was associated with a lower incidence of early menopause in women (3).
How much protein do you need?
It depends on many different things, but a good rule of thumb is to eat between 0.8 and 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you want to calculate your needs, do the following easy math:
- Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilos.
- Multiply that by 0.8 to know the lower amount of protein that you need.
- Next, multiply your weight in kilos, and you will have the upper range of protein you need.
For example, if you weigh 140 lbs, your weight in kilos is 63.6 (140/2.2), and your protein needs are 51 to 76 grams.
As you can see, eating enough protein is easy! Simply including a small amount of protein in every meal will provide you with the necessary amount of protein you need.
Keep in mind that if you exercise strenuously, you will need a little bit more protein.
Eat healthy fats
Examples of good fats include olive oil, omega-3 fatty acids, fats in nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut oil, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and others.
In addition, a review study concluded that omega-3 supplements might reduce night sweats but have no benefit in reducing hot flushes or improving sleep quality and quality of life during the menopausal period (6).
Also, healthy fats can reduce menopause-related anxiety in women (7).
Eat a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables
Diets high in these foods can help the body to produce more of its own estrogen. In addition, natural progesterone, the precursor of estrogen, will also be produced when you eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, germ-filled grains, and seeds.
Manage your weight
Weight can also influence the hormones that send signals to your brain when hungry or full; studies show that overweight and obese people are more sensitive to the other hunger-inducing effects of ghrelin-the hunger hormone (8).
Also, managing your weight can help you balance your hormones by suppressing estrogen-related conditions and promoting healthy progesterone levels. Research shows that obese women have higher concentrations of free estradiol and free testosterone, which can place them at higher risk for certain diseases, including depression (9,10)
Furthermore, it’s better to lose weight slowly through diet and exercise rather than crash diets or other drastic methods. It is all about being gentle with yourself.
Workout and move more
Exercise can help balance cortisol, the stress hormone. Balancing cortisol is important because having too much can cause sleep, memory, and anxiety problems, while too little could put you at risk of depression.
In addition, exercising regularly has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which supports healthy hormone levels (11) amongst other benefits such as increased energy, muscle strength, and an improved outlook on life.
If you feel too fatigued for exercise, try yoga or stretching instead until you feel more energetic; consider other exercise types when you feel better. Trust that you will get there.
The goal is to exercise most days of the week, including strength training, aerobic and flexibility exercises. These exercise routines can help you slow down age-related muscle loss and keep you in shape and with a healthy weight.
Exercise is one of the best natural ways to balance hormones and enjoy a great quality of life.
Last, move more through the day. Stand up and walk for a minute every hour while working; park further from the store; play with your young kids or grandkids; go a bike ride with your grown kids or partner.
Just be the active person you are meant to be.
Drink a glass of water before every meal
This can be exceptionally beneficial for balancing your hormones as it will hydrate your body and keep you feel good.
By drinking enough water, you will reduce any feelings of bloating or constipation by ensuring that the food you eat has been properly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream.
As many as 80% of US adults are deficient in Vitamin D (12). You can get Vitamin D from sunlight on your skin or by eating foods high in vitamin D.
To get vitamin D from sunshine, try to spend at least 20 minutes outside the sun each day (13). If possible, wear short sleeves to get the most amount of sunlight.
Not a bad way to balance your hormones, right?
Foods high in vitamin D include fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk.
You may also want to consider taking a Vitamin D supplement at 1000 to 4000 IU per day (14).
Of course, it is always ideal measuring vitamin D levels before taking supplements later. Luckily measuring vitamin D levels is now a pretty standard test ordered by physicians seeing outpatients.
Regularly drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea or soda can trigger cortisol secretion (15).
An imbalance of cortisol can result in weight gain, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability, and impact the sleep/wake cycle (16).
Therefore, it is vital that women having issues sleeping control the amount of caffeine they consume daily. In addition, it may worsen any symptoms of insomnia that we might be already experiencing secondary to perimenopausal and menopause.
Also, decreasing caffeinated drinks can help alleviate hot flushes associated with menopause (17).
Cortisol level increases with alcohol intake while the sensitivity of estrogen receptors to estradiol is reduced (18).
It is important to limit alcohol intake if you are experiencing insomnia caused by perimenopause or menopause because too much alcohol may worsen any hot flashes or night sweats that you might be already experiencing.
Also, alcohol worsens sleep quality, resulting in frequent awakenings and incomplete sleep restoration (19).
In addition, it is important to note that alcoholic drinks contain a high amount of calories and carbohydrates, making weight management more difficult. One single glass of wine a day can provide over 50,000 calories a year.
Eat less high sugar foods
High sugar foods can impact hormone balance because they raise insulin levels in the body, making it harder for women to lose weight and increase their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Furthermore, insulin affects other hormones, including sex hormones. Unfortunately, after 40, eating high amounts of sugar and simple carbohydrates is harder to manage, such as white flour, pizza, cookies, and other sweets.
Too much sugar builds up and contributes to the hormone imbalance associated with hot flushes, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, and other wonderful perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
When the body has a sufficient supply of good bacteria, it will regulate your appetite in addition to boosting your metabolism so that you can begin burning those calories more effectively (20).
If your digestive system is out of whack, it won’t be able to process all the food you give it. So instead of burning calories, it will use that nutrition to help support the good bacteria in your gut.
You can easily get the probiotics you need to improve your gut microbiome from eating foods high in probiotics or taking a supplement.
Foods high in probiotics include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt with live and active cultures, kefir, tempeh, and sauerkraut.
Take a deep breath
Often hormone imbalance is worsened by having too much cortisol or stress hormone and not enough DHEA hormone. This can make us feel anxious, upset and even result in tearfulness.
Conscious deep breathing is an effective way to reduce cortisol levels in the body and boost serotonin levels. Lowering stress hormones will help support the hormonal health of the female body naturally.
Natural ways to balance hormones for menopause should include relaxation techniques that help us control our emotions, as women most commonly complain of mood swings during this time period.
A good night’s sleep is also key to decrease chronic stress levels.
A good sleep/wake cycle plays a major role in hormone balance. Melatonin and cortisol levels should be stable while the adrenal glands are rested and reset each day.
Sleeping well can help decrease the common morning anxiety caused by an excessive surge of cortisol in the morning.
In addition, poor sleep habits can change how your brain reacts to junk and sugary foods, leading to cravings for sugar-heavy or carb-oriented foods throughout the day (21).
Furthermore, lack of sleep will change the hormones that regulate your appetite and fullness (22).
To make things worse, lack of sleep can trigger the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol, leading to a stress belly or fat accumulation around the stomach.
Last but not least, lack of sleep changes the body’s glucose metabolism and increases the amount of insulin, making you feel hungrier and eating more, making weight loss more difficult.
So as you can see, sleeping is one of the best natural ways to balance hormones. Click here to find more about a good night’s sleep is the key to health, and what steps you can take to sleep better.
Try adaptogenic herbs
Herbs and vitamins can be a great way to help reduce hot flushes naturally. In addition, natural hormones like adaptogens can do amazing things for your body.
The term adaptogen has been fairly new to Western medicine but has been used in Asian countries for centuries. An adaptogen is a substance that can help your body cope with stress better.
Adaptogens work by helping regulate the various functions of your endocrine system and immune system (23). Aside from regulating cortisol levels, some of these herbs are also interested in balancing estrogen or testosterone levels.
Adaptogenic herbs include maca, ashwagandha, holy basil, and Asian ginseng.
Happiness is the antidote to stress, and it is a choice. When you can control your thoughts and choose to feel good, hormones are impacted positively. This, in turn, helps the body balance itself naturally.
It’s hard to believe it, but more than half of all women over the age of 40 live with hormonal imbalances. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including weight gain, fatigue, depression, and pain.
Fortunately, there are lots of natural ways to balance your hormones after 40! Even better, these lifestyle changes will also help improve your overall health.
The good news is that you are in control of your health and the quality of life you want to live.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui’s charisma and warmth have made her a frequent guest on Hispanic popular morning television shows.