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Can Poor Diet Cause Hormonal Imbalance? How to Balance Your Hormones Naturally
Published on August 10, 2022 and last updated for accuracy on August 14, 2022
The Importance of Hormonal Balance
Hormones play a critical role in your overall health. As a result, there’s a wide range of signs that could signal a hormonal imbalance. Many conditions that cause hormonal imbalance can be treated.
Hormones and the endocrine system keep your body in a balanced state. Having too little or too much of a certain hormone, depending on the hormone can have harmful side effects. Oxidative stress, infertility, autoimmune diseases and endocrine disorders like thyroid disease are just a few conditions that can result from a severe hormonal imbalance (1).
Your hormones are responsible for major bodily functions. When these hormones become unbalanced, the symptoms can be extremely varied. Hormonal imbalance can cause a variety of complications, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Consulting your doctor as soon as you notice any significant changes in your body or energy levels is a key step in treating a hormonal imbalance early.
Women undergo natural changes to their hormone levels at certain times throughout their lifecycle. This is most commonly notably during the phase of puberty, during a pregnancy, and during menopause. Men can also experience signs of hormonal imbalance during puberty and later on again as they age.
Effects of Hormone Imbalance
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is related to a hormonal imbalance that can affect women and girls of a certain age. PCOS may cause menstrual cycle changes and skin changes which may increase facial and body hair and acne, cysts in the ovaries, and infertility. Often, women with PCOS have problems with their metabolism also. (2)
Osteoporosis is a serious and unfortunately common health issue among aging postmenopausal women. The majority of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis have bone loss related to estrogen deficiency. The weakness in the bone creates potential risk of fracture. (3)
Women can also experience irregular menstruation due to hormone imbalances and other hormone-related conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Menstruation is one of the most common acne triggers. For many women, it develops the week before they get their period and then clears soon after. Dermatologists recommend hormonal testing for people who have acne in combination with other symptoms, such as irregular periods and excess facial or body hair.
Imbalance can also be the cause of infertility both in men and in women. Hormone-related conditions like PCOS can cause infertility. Men can also experience hormonal imbalances. Low testosterone levels can affect fertility. Some men even take testosterone replacement therapy in order to replenish the low testosterone in their body.
A possible and more obvious effect of an imbalance in the hormone is the presence of Acne. While there are of course, many factors that cause acne, hormone fluctuations, especially during puberty, are a big reason. The increase of hormones in teenagers is part of the reason why teenagers often go through a period of having many acne. Oil glands on the skin on your face get stimulated when hormones become active during puberty. Acne is most common in areas with many oil glands, including the face, chest, upper back and shoulders.
However, even after adolescence, acne related to hormonal imbalance can still occur. Adult acne can happen and is especially common during pregnancy, menopause and for people who are taking testosterone therapy.
Insulin is also a hormone whose imbalance causes a serious condition. With diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make any or enough of the hormone insulin or your body doesn’t utilize the insulin properly.
Thyroid diseases like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, which both concerns thyroid hormone secretion, are also caused by such an imbalance. Each condition has multiple possible causes.
Many hormones can affect how your body tells you that you need food and how your body uses energy, so an imbalance of certain hormones can result in weight gain in the form of fat storage. People with Cushing syndrome have high levels of cortisol in their blood which leads to an increase in appetite and fat storage. Less or lack of production of hormones from the thyroid gland, also known as hypothyroidism, can also lead to weight gain.
Your diet can affect the production and secretion of hormones by direct actions on the gut, by nervous reflexes, through changes in the concentration of various metabolites in the blood, or secondary to changes in circulating gut hormone levels. Not only is the composition of the diet important but also its texture, quantity and duration. (4)
Slight hormone imbalances can happen during menopause. During this transition, many people gain weight because their metabolisms slow down. So despite living normally, doing the same amount of exercise and eating the same amount of food, you still gradually gain weight over time. A slowing of our metabolism is to be expected as we age.
The only way to treat weight gain from a hormone disorder is to treat the root cause.
Natural Remedies for Hormonal Imbalance
Natural Remedies to balance your hormones. Various herbal medicines have been developed and used in different parts of the world for thousands of years.
Herbal medicine has been shown to help improve fertility indicators such as ovulation rates, cervical mucus score, biphasic basal body temperature, and appropriate thickness of the endometrial lining were positively influenced by Herbal Medicine therapy. (5)
There are a number of other herbal remedies that can be resorted to in order to alleviate hormonal imbalances. Of course, it depends on the kind of hormonal imbalance that you might have.
Nigella sativa is also known as fennel flower. It is known in Chinese medicine whose flowers produce tiny black antioxidant-rich seeds. These seeds have medicinal properties, as they contain thymoquinone whose medicinal properties include elevating blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetic patients.(6)
Scientists are keenly investigating nigella seed’s protective and therapeutic effects in people that are living with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a disorder associated with abnormal hormone levels, among other symptoms, in women of reproductive age. Studies have found that thymoquinone in Nagilla sativa could be used as a protective agent and as an adjunct treatment in PCOS patients. (7) It has also been shown to improve the structure of the ovarian tissue in animal tests; In animal studies, nigella seed extracts have helped regulate insulin, testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and thyroid hormone levels, among others. (8) Its extract exhibits estrogenic activity, meaning it acts similarly to the hormone estrogen in your body. (9)
Another Herbal treatment that has been used for a long time is Ashwagandha. It’s highly regarded in herbal medicine, with many ashwagandha supplements, teas, and root powders widely available. It has been thought to help the body overcome stress by moderating the brain’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The adrenal glands produce and release multiple hormones — including cortisol — that initiate your body’s response to stress. (10)
Cortisol may help you get through stressful and event-filled days. However, according to human and rat studies, a chronic imbalance of the hormone might cause endocrine disorders like Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome. (11)
A study conducted in 2019, twice daily for 8 weeks resulted in less stress, better sleep, and lower blood cortisol levels compared with a placebo group. (12),
Black cohosh comes from the same family of plants as Nigella sativa. It’s a popular supplement made from the ground roots of the black cohosh plant. It can be taken as a capsule, an extract, or as tea
Extracts of black cohosh were shown to be devoid of estrogenic effects on mammary cancer cells. It also inhibited the occurrence of hot flushes and development of osteoporosis. In postmenopausal women CR BNO 1055 reduced major climacteric complaints as effectively as conjugated estrogens and significantly more than placebo. (13)
Chaste berry is another common herbal supplement that’s commonly available in extract or capsule form. Its berries contain diterpenoid compounds, which may be responsible for this supplement’s potential effects on hormones like prolactin and the neurotransmitter dopamine. (14)
Marjoram and other types of herbal shrubs of the same genus, such as oregano, have been used in traditional medicine for various ailments. It has anti-allergic, antihypertensive, anti-diabetic agent, and its biological effects. (15) as well as a wide range of pharmacological activities including antioxidant, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, anti-platelet, gastroprotective, antibacterial and antifungal, anti-protozoal, anti-inflammatory, anti-metastatic, anti-tumor, and anti-ulcer inhibitory activities have been reported from this plant in modern medicine. (16)
Early research on marjoram in humans and animals has evaluated how it could reduce stress and help people with PCOS. (17) Also, one small human study had people with PCOS drink marjoram tea twice daily for 1 month. Compared with the placebo treatment, marjoram tea was linked to significant reductions in fasting insulin hormone levels, which could indicate improved blood sugar management. (18)
These are just a few of the natural remedies that can be taken as a herbal supplement to help improve the balance of hormones in your body.
There are also nutritional supplements that can be taken to alleviate hormonal imbalances.
Many nutritional supplements on the market claim to treat menopause and hormonal imbalance. However, few of them are backed up by scientific evidence.
Many of these supplements contain plant-derived hormones These supplements chemically resemble the body’s natural hormones. There’s no evidence to suggest that they work better than regular hormone therapy, however. There are of course other ways to restore balance to your hormones without resorting to supplements.
By eating a healthy diet, you can help the balance in your hormones and address problems that come with the consequences of an unhealthy diet. A balanced diet that’s rich in lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber but contains limited amounts of processed foods and sugar may help balance the hormones that regulate your appetite, metabolism, and mood. Eat natural honey, (19), many dietary fiber(20), nutritious food (21), virgin olive oil or nuts (22), and foods omega-3 fatty acids (23). Fish and seafood sources of omega-3 tend to be higher in DHA and EPA, while plant sources are typically higher in ALA. Eating a variety of omega-3 foods is important for optimal health. Tuna, Mackarel, Salmon, Seaweed and algea are great sources from the sea. While Flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and kidney brands are great plant based sources. Additionally, studies note that omega-3s may help prevent stress hormones from increasing during difficult situations (24). Some of these healthy fats are found in pure MCT oil, avocados, almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, fatty fish, and olive and coconut oils (25).
Avoid saturated and hydrogenated fats like red meat, dairy products, fried foods, and more.
Fiber is essential to a healthy diet. Studies have found that it increases insulin sensitivity and stimulates the production of hormones that make you feel full (26).
Although soluble fiber tends to produce the strongest effects on appetite by increasing fullness hormones, insoluble fiber may also play a role (27).
Green tea may help balance insulin in some people by improving the body’s response to the hormone, although the potential effects of green tea extract on insulin resistance warrant further investigation (28)
Eating a healthy diet is just one part of the non-medical alternatives to maintaining balanced hormones. Engaging in physical activity appears to influence appetite hormones and improve the body’s use of the hormone insulin (29) combined with training and exercise results in a significant increase in circulating and adipose tissue adiponectin levels (30), while also acting to influence appetite suppression. (31)
Managing Your Stress
Manage your stress. Too much stress can change levels of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. External stress can contribute to hormonal imbalance (32). There are many ways you can manage your stress: listening to music (33), doing yoga or other exercises (34) can help.
Physical activity strongly influences hormonal health. Aside from improving blood flow to your muscles, exercise enhances the delivery of nutrients and hormone signals (35). Your body’s response to stress activates a cascade of events that leads to cortisol production. Once the stressor has passed, the response ends. However, chronic stress impairs the feedback mechanisms that return your hormonal systems to normal (36).
The Importance of Sleep
Get enough sleep. Getting too little sleep or being exposed to artificial light during nighttime hours may lead to disruptions in melatonin and cortisol. It can also influence insulin resistance (37). No matter how nutritious your diet or how consistent your exercise routine, getting enough restorative sleep is crucial for good health. Sleep is when your body repairs itself and not having enough sleep will impair your performance, mental ability, memory and will lead to imbalances in many hormones, including insulin, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin, and HGH (38).
Not only does sleep deprivation impair insulin sensitivity, but poor sleep is associated with a 24-hour increase in cortisol levels, which may lead to insulin resistance. (39) One small study in 14 healthy adults found that 5 nights of sleep restriction decreased insulin sensitivity by 25% (40).
In a review of 21 studies which studied 2,250 people, those assigned to a short sleep group showed higher ghrelin levels than those who got the recommended amount of sleep. (41)
You can also try to avoid endocrine disruptors that are present in the environment in the form of chemicals found in tobacco smoke, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, flame retardants, and fragrances in lotions and even cleaning supplies. These may cause hormonal imbalances. (42) Read labels first on products before using them.
Maintain A Moderate Weight
Strive to maintain a moderate weight. Excessive weight gain leads to complications in insulin sensitivity and reproductive health. Obesity is strongly related to the development of insulin resistance, while losing excess weight is linked to improvements in insulin resistance and reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease. (43)
Take Care of Your Gut Microbiome
Take care of your gut microbiome. Your gut has many friendly bacteria which produce numerous metabolites that may affect hormone health both positively and negatively and is linked to several conditions. (44) Your gut microbiome regulates hormones by regulating insulin resistance and feelings of fullness. (45)
Minimize Your Sugar Intake
Minimize your sugar intake. Minimizing added sugar intake may be instrumental in optimizing hormone function and avoiding obesity, diabetes, and other diseases.
The simple sugar fructose is present in many types of sugar. Fructose is commonly used commercially in soft drinks, fruit juice, and sport and energy drinks (46).There is a popular saying that you should not drink your calories. If you are going to maintain a moderate weight, you’ll need to minimize empty calories such as the calories that sweetened drinks provide.
There are many ways to regulate or balance your hormones naturally, you can start implementing any of them or all of them slowly in your lifestyle and diet. See what works for you.