A hormonal imbalance can significantly impact mood, appetite, and overall health. Some factors, including aging, are beyond a person's control. However, manageable elements such as stress and the diet can also influence hormone levels.
The endocrine system circulates hormones, which perform various functions throughout the day.
Even small changes in hormone levels can result in adverse effects, including extra stress on the body. Symptoms can grow worse over time, and a hormonal imbalance can lead to chronic issues.
For some people, making simple lifestyle changes can help to restore levels of hormones.
The following strategies may help:
Sleep may be among the most important factors for hormonal balance. Levels of some hormones may rise and fall throughout the day in response to issues such as the quality of sleep.
According to a study in the International Journal of Endocrinology, the adverse effects of sleep disturbance on hormones may contribute to:
Regularly getting a full, undisturbed, night's rest may help the body regulate hormone levels.
Exposure to blue light, such as from cell phones or computer screens, can disrupt the sleep cycle. The body responds to this light as if it were daylight and adjusts hormones in response.
A study in Chronobiology International notes that exposure to any bright artificial lighting at night may confuse the body, causing it to suppress the hormone melatonin, which can negatively affect many functions.
Avoiding artificial lights may help regulate hormones and restore a natural circadian rhythm.
A study in the journal Experimental and Clinical Sciences points to a link between stress, the endocrine system, and hormone levels. The researchers argue that the link is strong, with even a low level of stress causing an endocrine response.
Stress leads to an increase in adrenaline and cortisol. If levels of these hormones are too high, it can disrupt the overall balance and contribute to factors such as obesity, changes in mood, and even cardiovascular issues.
For this reason, it is important to find ways to reduce stress. A study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology suggests that the simple act of listening to music reduces stress, especially if the person is intending to relax.
The hormonal effects of regular exercise may prevent overeating. A study in the journal Sports Medicine notes that even short exercise sessions help regulate hormones that control appetite.
Findings reported in Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences support the idea that sugar plays a role in issues such as metabolic disease and insulin resistance.
While concrete evidence is still lacking, eliminating sugar from the diet may help keep levels of hormones, including insulin, in check.
Some people avoid specific sugars. However, recent research in The Journal of Nutrition found that table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and honey caused similar responses. A person may, therefore, benefit from avoiding all sugar, rather than specific types.
Healthful fats may help maintain a balance of hormones involved in appetite, metabolism, and feeling full.
A study in the journal Nutrients suggests that medium-chain fatty acids, such as those found in coconut or red palm oils, may work to regulate the cells responsible for the body's response to insulin.
Meanwhile, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that olive oil may balance levels of a hormone that regulates the appetite and stimulates the digestion of fat and protein.
Separate research, in the journal Peptides, showed similar results.
Fiber may play an important role in gut health, and it may also help regulate hormones such as insulin.
A study in the journal Obesity notes that some types of fiber work to balance levels of other hormones as well, which may help a person maintain a healthy weight.
The high levels of fats in some fish can contribute to heart and digestive health and may also benefit the brain and central nervous system.
As a study in Frontiers in Physiology indicates, eating a diet rich in oily fish may help prevent mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. In some cases, adding oily fish to the diet may contribute to treating the disorders.
The omega-3s in fatty fish may play a particularly significant role in balancing mood, though fully understanding the link will require further research.
Regularly overeating may lead to metabolic issues in the long term, but a study in Obesity found that even short-term overeating changes circulating levels of fats and increases oxidative stress.
The researchers also point to an increase in ceramides, which are fat cells in the skin, noting that a significant increase may promote insulin resistance. They call for further research into this area.
A review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points to a link between green tea and reduced fasting insulin levels.
The antioxidants in the tea may also help manage oxidative stress.
Tobacco smoke may disrupt levels of several hormones.
For example, according to a study in the International Journal of General Medicine, the smoke may alter thyroid hormone levels, stimulate pituitary hormones, and even raise levels of steroid hormones, such as cortisol, which is linked to stress.
The following tips may help balance hormones in females:
Be wary of dairy products
Dairy is an important source of nutrients for many people. However, females concerned about levels of reproductive hormones may wish to use caution, especially before consuming cream or yogurt.
A study in The Journal of Nutrition notes that eating dairy can reduce levels of some protective hormones.
In addition, the authors point to an association between eating cream and yogurt and missing ovulation. The link is unclear, and the researchers call for further studies.
Consider supplements and alternative medicines
There is some evidence that alternative therapies or supplements may address some hormonal issues.
For instance, a study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that a Chinese herbal therapy routine resulted in doubled pregnancy rates, compared to Western, drug-based treatment, among female participants with infertility.
If studies in humans confirm these findings, the supplement may be beneficial for people going through menopause.
The following tip may benefit males:
Consider eliminating alcohol
While most doctors consider drinking small amounts to be consistent with a healthful diet, a study in the journal BMJ Open found that even modest alcohol consumption may disrupt hormone levels in young men.
The researchers noted a connection between regular alcohol consumption and reduced sperm quality, as well as changes in testosterone levels.
For males with concerns about hormone levels, it may be best to limit or eliminate alcohol consumption.
The following may benefit children, in particular:
Cut back on processed carbohydrates
Sugars are not the only dietary culprit when it comes to insulin resistance.
Processed carbohydrates, such as white bread products and baked goods, may also contribute to insulin resistance.
A study in the journal Mediators of Inflammation found a link between diets high in refined carbohydrates and insulin resistance in children. Eliminating processed carbs may help reduce this risk.
Hormones affect a wide range of bodily functions, and even small imbalances can have significant consequences. For some people, making dietary and lifestyle changes can restore a healthy balance.
The strategies in this article may help, but anyone concerned about their hormone levels should consult a physician.