A hormone imbalance is no day at the beach. It can instead fill your days with exhaustion, irritability, weight gain, and a constant battle with brain fog.
Your body has over 50 hormones that all work in harmony to control everything from sexual desire to mood to blood sugar. If your levels of one hormone are off-kilter, your entire system can fall into disarray.
Hormone deficiencies might point to problems with one of your endocrine glands. These glands — like the testes, ovaries, or pancreas — produce hormones. But even medically “normal” hormone levels might not be fully in balance, stopping you from feeling your best. If you’re wondering how to test for hormonal imbalance, you can use the Lifeforce Diagnostic at-home blood test for more clarity.
Here are some approaches for how to balance hormones naturally that can help you regain energy, keep off weight, and improve libido.
The importance of hormones can't be overstated. These natural messengers regulate our growth and development, our blood pressure, our sex drive, our sleep, and just about all our body's core functions." - Tony Robbins, LIFEFORCE
1. Get Enough Protein
One third of U.S. adults over 50 years old don’t get enough protein. In this quest for how to balance hormone levels, tracking your protein intake is step one.
Why It Matters
Protein is essential for hormone balance. Amino acids are among the key ingredients your endocrine glands need to make peptide hormones. These are vital for appetite control, stress, energy processing, and reproductive processes.
The amount of daily protein you need will vary depending on your body weight and health goals. However, to build muscle and reduce sex-hormone-binding globulin in your blood — a protein that reduces the activity of your sex hormones — you’ll need to consume about one gram of protein for every pound of body weight each day.
Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and peptide YY (PYY): These hormones can help you feel full between meals, reducing the urge to snack and supporting weight management.
Serotonin: This neurotransmitter sends messages and instructions between brain cells. It can play a crucial role in mood, sleep, and libido, among other essential functions.
Insulin. This hormone allows your cells to remove sugar from the blood and use it for energy. If your body doesn’t make enough, type 2 diabetes can develop.
How to Eat More Protein
You can get protein from:
Ground chia, which packs almost as much protein as an egg into a 2.5-tablespoon serving
If you’re not on an exercise program, this is one of the best answers to the question of how to balance hormones.
Why It Matters
Hormones can only communicate with their specific hormone receptors to send messages. Improving how sensitive these receptors are can help those hormones do their job — and regular exercise can boost sensitivity.
For example, if your cells lose sensitivity to insulin, they leave more sugars circulating in the blood. This can heighten your risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and problems with regulating your blood sugar levels. Fluctuating blood sugar can have you feeling tired and drained throughout the day.
Which Types of Exercise Help Hormones?
Separate studies on cardio training, strength training, and high-intensity interval training have all shown that exercise can reduce insulin resistance, making it vital when considering how to balance hormones. Aging also reduces levels of some hormones that preserve muscle, like testosterone and human growth hormone. Regular exercise can help you balance these hormones as you get older.
Lifeforce offers a range of testosterone optimization creams and injections to help prevent or address testosterone imbalance.
Read more in our article on how strength training can help balance your hormones.
3. Manage Obesity
If you’re overweight and trying to find out how to balance hormones naturally, weight loss is your best low-hanging fruit.
Why It Matters
Being overweight or obese can disrupt your hormone balance by:
Increasing your risk of insulin resistance
Reducing testosterone levels in men
Contributing to reduced (or completely absent) ovulation in women
How to Prevent Obesity
Preventing obesity involves:
Making healthier food choices. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and proteins. Limit less healthy foods like processed meat, refined grains, sweets, junk food, and sugary drinks.
Move more. Exercise is critical. Spend less time sitting and more time moving, and find types of exercise you genuinely enjoy. When exercise is fun, it’s much easier to motivate yourself.
Sleep more and stress less. Stress and sleep disturbances can make obesity more likely, so try to control your sleep schedule and have a stress-relief toolkit for those “can’t cope” days.
Pro Tip: You can zap stress with mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, exercise, balancing your nutrients, and believe it or not — music. See our article: 5 Science Backed Ways to Reduce Stress.
4. Cut the Stress
Stress feels, well, stressful, and countering it can be a helpful tool when figuring out how to fix hormonal imbalance.
Why It Matters
When you feel stressed, your body releases cortisol — the “stress hormone” — to help you respond. But feeling stressed all the time means your body has a harder time bringing cortisol levels back to normal.
How to Balance Cortisol
The following steps can help you manage stress:
Exercise and eat well. Exercise floods your body with feel-good hormones called endorphins that can help counter stress. And eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish can help to keep stress in check.
Stay away from unhealthy vices like alcohol and tobacco. These may feel good in the moment but can worsen the effects of stress on your body (more on this later).
5. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is one of your biggest allies as you zero in on how to fix a hormonal imbalance. Sleep naturally suffers with age, but there are steps you can take to get better sleep.
Why It Matters
If you aren’t sleeping well enough or for long enough, it can fuel imbalances in several hormones:
Insulin. A small 2015 study found that five nights of reduced sleep can increase insulin resistance by 25%. When looking at how to balance hormones in a week, improved sleep may help.
Cortisol. Not getting enough sleep can cause a 24-hour spike in your stress hormones, according to a 2020 study.
Leptin. Studies regularly show that people who sleep less have lower leptin levels, which influence your appetite and how you burn energy.
Ghrelin. A 2018 review of studies that restricted participants’ sleep showed that those who slept less had lower levels of the appetite-affecting hormone ghrelin.
How to Get Better Sleep
You can try a few measures to improve your sleep hygiene, including:
A consistent bedtime and wake time — yes, even on weekends.
A dark, quiet, cool bedroom.
A pre-sleep routine free of large meals, caffeine, and alcohol.
A daytime routine that includes exercise.
6. Go With Your Gut
Watching what you eat has a lot to do with knowing how to balance your hormones.
Why It Matters
After you eat a meal, a thriving community of gut bacteria — your microbiota — reacts to your food. They take energy from the nutrients you can’t digest (like fiber) and make waste products.
Your microbiota also release short-chain fatty acids like acetate and butyrate that burn calories faster and reduce your risk of insulin resistance. Acetate and butyrate can also help you feel fuller between meals by boosting your GLP-1 and PYY levels. For this reason, your gut might be essential when working out how to balance hormones to lose weight.
How to Boost Gut Health
Probiotic supplements contain live cultures that can increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut. On the other hand, prebiotic supplements provide plant fibers that nourish your more helpful gut bacteria. Foods like dandelion greens, garlic, onions, artichokes, and chicory root have prebiotic properties.
Knowing which imbalance you want to manage and which bacteria you need to cultivate is important. Speak with a dietitian, naturopath, or nutritionist before taking gut-nourishing supplements.
You can also include gut-healthy fermented foods in your diet, like:
Following a high-fiber diet can also feed your gut bacteria — particularly soluble fiber, which also gets those healthy bacteria to produce more PYY and GLP-1.
Pro Tip: Eat heart-healthy fish like salmon to boost your omega-3s. Salmon are among the least likely fish to be contaminated with toxins. See our article on the favorite foods of longevity experts.
7. Cut Down on Sugar
Added sugar is in many processed foods, soft drinks, and high-fructose corn syrup. But eating too much of it can throw your hormones out of balance.
Why It Matters
Fructose can lead to insulin resistance and mess with your gut microbiota, which can drive hormonal imbalance. Foods with fructose also don’t stimulate leptin — a fullness hormone — which means you may burn fewer calories and put on more weight with a fructose-heavy diet.
How to Eat Less Sugar
Approaching how to regulate your hormones can involve eating less sugar. You can achieve this by:
Getting rid of table sugar and using less in tea, coffee, and cereal.
Choosing fresh, frozen, or dried fruit.
Avoiding fruit that’s been canned in syrup.
Adding fruit to cereal or oatmeal instead of sugar.
Reducing the sugar servings in bakes and recipes.
Pro Tip: What gets measured gets improved. The best way to balance your hormones is to track them. See how a Lifeforce membership can take you from average to optimized.
8. Eat More Healthy Fats
Consuming too much fat can mean you put on weight, but ensuring you eat some high-quality fats can be a key consideration in how to balance hormones.
Why It Matters
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are beneficial. The liver uses them immediately for energy, helping you burn more calories and reducing your risk for insulin resistance.
Omega-3 fatty acids also support insulin sensitivity by reducing inflammation. Plus — a 2019 study found that consuming omega-3s for eight weeks reduced cortisol levels in 43 participants in response to stress. Plus, the participants reported feeling less tired at work.
Where can you get healthy fats?
Healthy fats are abundant in:
Fatty fish, like salmon
Coconut dairy alternatives like coconut cream and coconut milk
Olive oil, avocado, and coconut oil
9. Stop Drinking and Smoking
Smoking tobacco is never good for you. However, smoking cessation can be critical when considering how to fix a hormonal imbalance.
Why It Matters
Tobacco smoke can play havoc with your hormones. A 2018 review concluded that smoking:
Alters thyroid hormone levels
Increases growth hormone levels
Spikes cortisol levels (which then drop when you quit)
Reduces estrogen levels in women
Increases insulin resistance
Why Stopping Alcohol Consumption Can Be Important for Men
Alcohol isn’t automatically unhealthy in moderation. However, one study involving 1,221 Danish men found that regularly drinking even a little alcohol can interfere with testosterone in males and reduce sperm quality.
It’s a small study, and further research is needed to confirm these findings. But if testosterone levels are a concern, cutting out alcohol might help you boost them.
How to Address Hormonal Imbalance in Females
Females have unique factors to consider. Menstruation and pregnancy drive a cocktail of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, and progesterone to trigger the physical changes of menstruation. Later in life, menopause brings estrogen production to a close.
Female hormones change constantly and interact in complex ways. Hormones may be imbalanced for many reasons, including thyroid problems, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and the side effects of medications or birth control pills. This can make periods irregular, painful, or heavy.
A major cause of hormonal imbalance and irregular menstruation in women is PCOS. Managing PCOS is high on the list of how to balance hormones in women.
This common hormone disorder can cause irregular periods, acne, weight gain, thinning hair, and ovarian cysts. Hormone regulation and insulin resistance play central roles in its development.
Some doctors recommend avoiding caffeine while living with PCOS. This is because long-term caffeine consumption may interfere with estrogen levels, according to a study of 250 women. Switching to decaf may help. Green tea is another option for women with PCOS, as it may support weight management and reduce insulin resistance.
Herbal supplements known as adaptogens can also help balance hormones, including:
Maca root. An early animal study found that it might reduce cortisol levels, soothe PCOS symptoms, and balance hormones.
Holy basil. This can bring down blood sugar and reduce cortisol.
Ashwagandha. This Ayurvedic herb may help you lower cortisol levels.
Licorice root. Glycyrrhizin, a compound in licorice root, could help your body turn sugar into energy and balance your hormones.
As a caution, the FDA doesn’t review and approve supplements the same way as medications. Speak to your doctor before taking herbal supplements.
Your hormones will change as your ovaries stop making eggs and producing estrogen.
Many women choose to pursue medical hormone therapy. However, a 2019 review suggests that 51% of women use complementary and alternative medicine to manage menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and sexual problems. Research mainly supports these techniques to manage symptoms rather than rebalancing hormones directly.
These approaches might include the following:
Hypnotherapy, which can be effective for hot flushes with few risks
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help the severity but not the frequency of hot flashes
Mindfulness-based relaxation techniques and yoga to manage stress and anxiety around menopause
Phytoestrogens — compounds from plants that mimic estrogen — like genistein. However, evidence for many of these compounds is light, according to a 2013 review of five studies
In a 2016 animal study, fennel flower seeds promoted higher estrogen levels. If similar results occur in humans, fennel might be a helpful natural remedy for rebalancing hormones during menopause.
The Bottom Line
Hormones are extremely complex, and there’s a web of interconnected natural methods for balancing them. Eating a nutritious, balanced diet full of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, sleeping enough, regular exercise, and finding ways to relax are fundamental when considering how to balance hormones naturally.
Sometimes, a doctor will need to recommend hormone replacement therapy or prescribe medical treatment for an underlying condition. Even if natural approaches to fixing hormonal imbalances don’t directly improve your hormone levels, they can help you feel better while following a course of medical treatment.
This article was medically reviewed by:
Leah Johansen, MD, Board Certified Family Practice Doctor, Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner