The Best Foods That Balance Hormones Naturally
When your hormones are not in balance, you can feel pretty “off.” Actually, if they are sufficiently out of whack, “off” may be an understatement. You can feel downright horrible.
Unfortunately, doctors typically do not have a lot of options or ideas to offer you when it comes to hormones. This is probably in large part because many of them simply lack the specialized knowledge to address hormonal issues.
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do for yourself at home naturally to balance your hormones. One of those is to adjust your diet.
Adjusting hormones is a pretty broad topic. Since this blog focuses largely on topics surrounding menopause and menstrual imbalance issues, I am going to focus mainly on estrogen.
Depending on your situation, you may have too much estrogen or too little. In either case, the ratio with progesterone may be off as well.
Figuring out what is going on in your body involves identifying symptoms and tracking how your symptoms rise and fall over the course of the month.
This can be a challenge, since the symptoms of depleted hormones versus hormones produced in excess can be similar.
Here are some symptoms associated with low estrogen:
- Mood changes
- Anxiety or depression
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Cognitive issues
- Lower sex drive
- Vaginal dryness
- Headaches and other pain changes
- Reduced bone density
- Dry skin
- Urinary incontinence
These symptoms are of course often associated with perimenopause.
Here are some symptoms associated with estrogen dominance (when estrogen is too high in relation to progesterone):
- Irregular periods
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Anxiety or depression
- Headaches or other pain problems
- Skin problems (i.e. acne)
- Changes in libido
Hormone imbalances like these may also increase your risk for complications such as thyroid disorder or PCOS. When one set of hormones goes out of balance, others are thrown off as well.
Neither of these lists that I have provided are full list of symptoms. You may have symptoms not on these lists, or you may not have all the symptoms listed here but still have a hormonal imbalance.
You should be able to see at a glance why I say it is so difficult to determine which type of imbalance you might have. It does not help that the symptoms may also mimic other conditions. And in some situations, other conditions do need to be ruled out.
Before you begin making extensive lifestyle changes to treat your hormonal disorder, I do recommend consulting with the physician for exactly this reason.
If you are fortunate, your physician may be able to shed some light on your symptoms. In many cases, however, you may find yourself on your own. If that is your situation, you will need to proceed with caution and take careful notes.
That way, you can continue to increase your understanding and (hopefully) treat your condition properly.
Foods that Increase Estrogen
If you believe that you are low on estrogen and need to increase your estrogen levels, here are some foods that you can consider adding to your diet:
- Tofu, soybeans, and other soy products
- Flax seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Dried apricots and other dried fruits
- Whole grains
You will notice that these foods are all plant-based. Indeed, they boost estrogens by providing your body with phytoestrogens. These are compounds found naturally in plants which have an estrogenic effect in the body.
Unless you are specifically quite certain that you are low estrogen, I would urge caution before introducing a lot of estrogen-rich foods into your diet.
The reason is that you probably already are getting a lot of phytoestrogens in your diet right now—likely more than you know. A shocking amount of products contain soy as well as sesame oil. Just turn over some random packages at the grocery store sometime to see what I mean.
In other words, the average diet is already probably too high in phytoestrogens. There are select situations where increasing estrogen would likely be appropriate, but it is worth checking first whether you might have a different imbalance.
Foods That Decrease Estrogen and Promote Progesterone
If you think that you might have too much estrogen, the first thing you should probably do is try to reduce the estrogen-rich foods you are eating.
Once you reduce your exposure to phytoestrogens, you can introduce some foods into your diet to reduce your overall estrogen profile. Here are some to try:
- Cruciferous vegetables (I will expand on this shortly)
- Red grapes
- Citrus fruits
- Beef, chicken, and turkey
- Green tea
- Spinach, kale, and leafy green vegetables
A Couple of Disclaimers:
The lists above are compiled largely from anecdotal evidence as well as claims relating to specific nutrients. For example, foods which are high in zinc are often recommended for estrogen dominance.
That being said, some foods show up on lists both for promoting estrogen and for reducing it. This is probably because they contain nutrients which could feasibly contribute opposing effects.
Plus, there is some confusion about what effect certain phytoestrogens actually have on the body. Take soy for example. I have seen claims that it both increases estrogenic activity in the body and blocks estrogenic activity in the body.
You can see now why it is so difficult to get solid recommendations for what to do about hormonal imbalances. The reality is, there is a lot we still do not understand about basic nutrition and how it impacts hormonal profiles.
For that reason, I urge you to do your own in-depth research. These lists give you a starting point, but it should not be your ending point.
Let’s Talk About Cruciferous Vegetables
As I mentioned previously, I want to take a little extra time to talk about cruciferous vegetables. These are probably the most highly recommended foods for treating estrogen dominance.
Cruciferous vegetables are also referred to as brassicas. Here are some common examples:
- Collard greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard greens
The reason that these vegetables are so often recommended for balancing hormone levels is because they contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol.
When this compound enters your digestive tract, it undergoes a breakdown process. One of the results of this breakdown process is a compound referred to as diindolylmethane (DIM).
The effect that DIM has on the body is at this point still is not very well understood because research is still in the starting stages.
Summing up this confusion, WebMD says, “Diindolylmethane might act like estrogen in the body, but there is evidence that under certain circumstances it might also block estrogen effects.”
At Whole World Botanicals, I found a potentially insightful quote from Michael A. Zeligs, MD, & A. Scott Connelly, MD, which states:
“DIM has no estrogenic activity in itself. Although it helps to convert estrogen to useful metabolites, it does not directly mimic or replace estrogen. Using DIM will promote a more desirable estrogen metabolism, but it will not make up for estrogen deficiency. Optimal estrogen metabolism in women is defined by the ample production of “good” estrogen metabolites. These metabolites help lower the risk of cancer and decrease the symptoms of estrogen over-stimulation, or dominance-symptoms.”
So foods which can help your body to increase DIM may be an option worth exploring if you want to balance your hormones.
If you prefer, you can get your DIM by taking a supplement. DIM supplements provide you with concentrated DIM to meet your nutritional needs.
This can be more efficient and more cost-effective than trying to get all your DIM from cruciferous vegetables.
Plus, not everyone likes cruciferous veggies. Quite a few people hate Brussels sprouts for example.
Taking a DIM supplement gets you around that issue altogether.
When choosing a DIM supplement to take, you should look for the following before you make a purchase:
- A brand name that you trust.
- High-quality, natural ingredients.
- Third-party testing.
- A lack of unnecessary additives.
- High bioavailability.
- Easy to swallow capsules.
- An ideal dosage to treat your imbalance.
- Vegetarian ingredients (if that is relevant in your case).
Where should you shop for DIM supplements? You can check your local supermarket, pharmacy or supplement shop—you are more likely to find it at a specialized store than at the grocery store, but it all depends on the selection in your area.
An even better option is to purchase DIM online. There you have access to a larger selection of DIM products, and you can pick one which fits the criteria above. We even offer our own supplement here on our site called Eu Natural DIM Pure which is enhanced with BioPerine to boost bioavailability.
Tips for Success When Adjusting Your Diet
You now know some options for different foods you can incorporate into your diet to try and treat different hormonal imbalances. Here are some tips to help you achieve success.
- Know that it takes time for dietary changes to lead to improvements in your health. You might not notice the difference in the first few days of a new diet. Give your new diet time to work before you give up on it.
- Do not forget that hormonal fluctuations are a part of life. Whether you are menstruating regularly or not, ups and downs in your symptoms are unlikely to totally disappear. As such, you need more than a few weeks to gauge if dietary changes are helpful. You may need at least a few cycles, especially since there can be variances between one cycle to the next even at the baseline.
- Take careful notes. Write down the different foods you are incorporating and how much of them you are eating and how often. If you are supplementing, make note of that as well. Track your symptoms and see if they are responding.
- Make sure that the foods you are purchasing are as healthy and wholesome as possible. If for example you buy cruciferous vegetables which have been treated with nasty pesticides, those contaminants could throw your hormones out of balance even more—despite the fact that the food itself should be healthy and helpful.
Conclusion: Eat Right For Your Body, and You Can Improve Hormonal Health
It isn’t easy to identify hormonal imbalances properly, nor is it easy to treat them.
The support and guidance you get from the traditional medical community may be minimal, which can leave you having to figure out a lot on your own.
But in some respects, you are the number one expert on your own body. You are the one who is able to make daily observations about your health.
That means that if you are dedicated to improving your health, you have a lot of data which can help you out.
You will need to be patient and be prepared for some trial and error when you are treating hormonal imbalance. You might need to try a few different dietary changes before you see positive results.
The more willing you are to engage with that process and not give up, the more likely you will succeed.
Need more ideas for natural treatments for hormonal imbalance? Keep exploring our blog. You will find plenty of detailed posts to help you out. Good luck on your journey toward more balanced hormonal health.