Hormone health is a fickle thing. Everyone's bodies are different, meaning their hormones are likely different too.
If you have PCOS, for example, an influencer might tell you to take DIM for hormone balance. But this supplement suppresses estrogen, which can be problematic if you already have low estrogen rather than high estrogen.
The point here is that going to your doctor and getting a full hormone panel completed is the key to optimizing your hormone health and wellness. (Remember, if a doctor says your hormone panel is "normal," that doesn't mean it's optimal!).
Outside of supplements -- food and lifestyle play a huge role in our health and can benefit our hormone and metabolic health in many ways.
AND it's not difficult! Here are our top science-backed tips:
1. Eat More Fiber
Studies show less than 5% American adults meet the daily fiber recommendations of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men (Slavin 2005, Rehm 2016). You can get enough fiber in your diet -- deliciously. High fiber foods like veggies and Resist Bars (half of your daily intake of fiber!) are good for hormone health and wellness for a number of reasons. Fiber slows down how fast carbs are digested and how quickly sugar is absorbed into the blood. This improves insulin resistance and helps decrease ghrelin, your hunger hormone (Parnell 2009).
2. Eat More Protein
High-protein foods fuel the body with essential amino acids necessary for muscle, skin, and bone health. Studies show that eating foods with protein also improve hormone health by decreasing levels of ghrelin and keeping you fuller for longer (Poppitt 1998, Weigle 2005).
We don't recommend ingesting whey protein because typical cow’s milk has various hormones, including estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, growth hormones and others. This does not include the hormones or antibiotics that companies may use. Additionally, many people have an intolerance to milk/whey which leads to unwanted inflammation or bloating.
We do recommend organic, pasture-raised animal proteins like chicken and turkey, as well as seafoods like wild-caught salmon (although they are more expensive). Be sure to talk to your doctor before making any dietary changes to positively impact your hormone health.
3. Move You Body!
Exercise can be great for your hormone levels, but what is the best exercise for hormone health? Whatever workouts you like best, of course! And the workouts that you can be consistent with. We really love walking, strength training, and pilates.
The workout you like best, of course! And the one you can be consistent with. We really love walking, strength training, and pilates.
Exercise helps improve hormone health by reducing insulin levels and insulin resistance (Ross 2004, Motahari-Tabari 2014). This helps the body respond to insulin more effectively to absorb sugar and amino acids, and use them for energy and maintaining muscle.
Many types of physical activity have been found to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin levels, including aerobic exercise, strength training and endurance exercise (Ligibel 2008, Lakhdar 2014, Borghouts 2000).
Note: if your body has high levels of cortisol present, be aware that prolonged high intensity cardio can actually increase the presence of cortisol. Talk to your doctor about a full hormone panel if you feel you may be high in cortisol.
4. Less Sugar and Refined Carbs
These sugars are found in natural forms like honey, dates, and maple syrup, and also in refined white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
That said, a low-to-moderate carb, whole food diet may benefit hormone health by reducing insulin levels in people with pre-diabetes and other conditions where insulin resistance is common like PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome (Volek 2005, Gower 2014, Masharani 2015). We describe low-to-moderate carb diets as 100-200 grams of carbs per day or less. If you're getting these carbs from complex, whole food sources -- even better!
5. More Self-Care (less stress!)
Are you stressed? Chronic stress causes elevated cortisol levels. This constant fight-or-flight mode can in-turn lead to increased belly fat, weight gain, binge eating, and more (Epel 2001, Vicennati 2009, Hewagalamulage 2016).
This reaction is completely normal as the body is gearing up to protect itself against the stressor. Our favorite (research-backed!) methods to lower your cortisol levels are meditation, yoga, bathing, reading, and massage (Field 2013, Lim 2015, 35Trusted Source, Uedo 2004).
6. Increase Healthy Fats!
Foods with quality, natural fats are actually AMAZING your hormones! We love medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil which helps increase energy and keep you full (Schönfeld 2016, St-Onge 2014, Kinsella 2017).
In multiple studies, MCT oil has shown to help manage diabetes by reducing fat accumulation, increasing fat burning, improving glucose metabolism, and aiding in blood sugar control (Han 2007, Nagao 2009, Eckel 1992).
Foods with monounsaturated fats in nuts and olive oil also have been shown to boost hormone health by improving insulin resistance in healthy adults and in adults with diabetes, pre-diabetes, fatty liver and elevated triglycerides (Casas-Agustench 2011, Lopez 2011, Miranda 2014).
This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the importance of sleep to maintaining healthy hormone levels. Poor sleeping patterns can influence the imbalance of many hormones including insulin, ghrelin, cortisol, leptin, and growth hormone.
Sleep quantity and quality matter, so try to get seven to nine hours for optimal hormone health. It's a lot, but it's worth it if you have the time!