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A brief guide to hormonal imbalances in women

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on August 11, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Hormonal imbalance in women can trigger many frustrating, unpleasant symptoms—from night sweats and hot flashes to muscle pain and hair loss. But understanding what factors can nudge your hormones out of balance—and steps you can take to better support your hormone health—may help you manage and alleviate your symptoms more effectively.

That’s what we’ll touch on in this quick guide by taking a look at how diet, sleep, and stress can affect your hormonal balance, plus helpful tips—so read on. (And consider learning more about your own hormone levels with the at-home hormone test.)

The impact of diet

When it comes to hormonal imbalance in women, diet often plays a major role. For instance, the body produces insulin, a hormone that tells your cells how to use energy (in the form of glucose) from the foods we eat. When one’s diet consists largely of high-calorie, processed foods with minimal nutritional value, insulin resistance can develop—which means the body’s cells don’t properly respond to this particular hormone. Insulin resistance is a significant risk factor for prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and other serious health conditions.

Hormone balance is also important when it comes to levels of leptin and ghrelin—hormones that affect your appetite. When leptin levels increase, your appetite decreases—while an increase in ghrelin will stimulate your appetite.

The right dietary choices can, in some cases, help prevent hormonal imbalance in women. Here are some tips to consider to help make sure your diet supports a healthy hormone balance:

  • Avoid refined sugars, like those that are found in white bread, soda, and candy. Instead, opt for nutritious foods like veggies, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.
  • Get an adequate amount of vitamin C, B6, zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants—these can help support healthy menstrual cycles, as well as maintain healthy testosterone, progesterone, and FSH levels.
  • Consume higher amounts of healthy fats to support healthy leptin and ghrelin levels. Common foods high in healthy fats include olive oil, fatty fish (like salmon and tuna), nuts, and seeds.
  • Iodine—which can be found in fish, seaweed, eggs, and iodized salt—is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, and since our bodies can't produce iodine, dietary sources are important. Iodine deficiency is extremely rare in American diets, but make sure you're getting the recommended daily allowance of 150 micrograms (mcg) for non-pregnant women, 220 mcg for pregnant women, or 290 mcg for women who are breastfeeding.

The impact of sleep

Over long periods of time, lack of sleep can contribute to serious health conditions and can lead to a hormone imbalance. Sleep affects your stress hormones and when you don’t get enough of it, your body’s ability to regulate those hormones can be affected—potentially leading to high blood pressure and other negative health outcomes.

Ensuring that you get enough quality sleep can also help maintain hormones that control your appetite and blood glucose levels. Poor sleeping patterns have been linked to hypertension, obesity, glucose intolerance, and insulin resistance.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your sleep, consider trying these habits for healthy sleep:

  • Avoid using smartphones and laptops before bed. If you do, change the screen color to the “night option.”
  • Try to avoid caffeine in the afternoon or swap your coffee out for something more mellow, like a low-caffeine white tea.
  • Use your bed mostly for sleep, rather than working or eating.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule during the week and on the weekend (don’t overdo it with sleeping in on the weekends—aim for no more than one hour longer than usual).
  • Avoid eating too late at night as this can disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Create a bedtime routine that includes calming activities like bathing, putting on cozy pajamas, and climbing into clean sheets.

The impact of stress

The body’s response to stress can cause changes in a wide range of hormones—from thyroid hormones to cortisol and insulin. For this reason, effective stress management can be a key strategy in preventing or alleviating hormonal imbalance in women.

Here are some thought-starters for decreasing stress in your daily life:

  • Practice relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing.
  • Work on improving your emotional awareness to help you cultivate gratitude, purpose, and optimism.
  • Improve personal relationships.
  • Fine-tune skills like time management and problem-solving.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep and eat a nutritious diet.

Check your personal hormone levels at home

A hormone imbalance can result in a number of different symptoms—including weight gain, hot flashes, changes in your menstrual cycle, and hair loss. If you’re experiencing these or other symptoms of a hormone imbalance, consider checking in on your hormone levels. By testing hormone levels with our at-home hormonal imbalance test, you can learn whether any of 10 key hormones are out of balance. Sample collection is easy with this test, and you’ll get to view your results on our secure, online platform—which also gives you a convenient way to share your results with your healthcare provider if you want to.


How to know if you have a hormonal imbalance

What is a hormonal imbalance?

21 possible symptoms of a hormonal imbalance


References

1. Sleep and Circadian Rhythm. Hormone Health Network. URL. Accessed July 17, 2020.

2. Stress management. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed Accessed July 17, 2020.

3. Ranabir S, Reetu K. Stress and hormones. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2011;15(1):18-22. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.77573