Woman practicing balance with yoga

Hormone Balance Supplements: An Easy Guide

Hormone balance is not something we typically think about. Most of us just go about our busy days: crossing things off our to-do list, thinking about relationships with loved ones, a looming deadline…what's for dinner.

But just because we don't think about our hormones doesn't mean they aren't a critical part of each of these experiences, and more—from whether we have the energy to make that deadline to whether comfort food is on the dinner menu instead of a more nutritious entrée. Hormones are chemical messengers which support many different processes in our bodies and influence everything from metabolism to growth, sex drive and fertility, wake/sleep patterns, digestion, the rhythm of your heart beating, body temperature, mood, stress, weight and so much more. When our hormones are balanced, we are simply better versions of ourselves.

That's why so many people choose hormone balance supplements—to help keep hormonal levels exactly where you want them. But how do you know what supplements to choose? Here's an easy-to-follow guide to help you find what best works for you.

Why is hormonal balance important?

Hormone levels are regulated by your endocrine system, made up of several glands including the adrenal glands that release cortisol, one of the body's primary stress hormones. When there's hormonal balance, your body thrives. When there's a hormone imbalance, on the other hand, everything can go haywire—as those of us who have ever felt "hormonal" can attest.

Hormonal health is also influenced by external factors such as daily habits (what you eat, how much you move, how well you sleep), stress management (hello, cortisol!) and underlying health-related factors.

What is a hormonal imbalance?

Before we can talk about keeping hormone levels balanced, let's first explain what happens when your hormones are imbalanced. Think of a seesaw: you might have one hormone that's higher than it should be while another one may be low.

High estrogen levels, for example, can cause testosterone levels to drop; as a result, you're wiped out, might have a lower-than-usual libido, or can just feel "off." When the thyroid makes too little or too many hormones, it can impact weight gain and weight loss goals, how your nails look or impact your skin. Either way, experiencing these changes is how your body communicates, telling you something isn't right.

It's natural for hormone levels to change at different stages of your life—think of the surge of sex hormones during puberty vs. how it teeters off as we age (a pendulum swing of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone). But that doesn't mean you can't be proactive about keeping hormonal balance where you want it—particularly as you grow older. Here's where turning to dietary supplements can help.

Pro tip: Always speak with your doctor or nutritionist before adding dietary supplements (of any kind) to your daily routine.

What are hormone balance supplements?

Simply put, dietary supplements that help support hormone balance deliver nutrients that your body needs to function optimally, including B vitamins (like vitamin B6), vitamin C, and certain minerals. Most hormonal balance supplements are multi-taskers that support multiple aspects of your overall health—because when it comes to hormone balance, everything is connected.

Take magnesium, for example: you might already take a supplement to support your brain and heart. Supplementing with magnesium also supports the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, contributing to balanced "happy hormones" and a happy you. That's because your body uses magnesium as a helper molecule in pathways that promote your stress response; the mighty mineral indirectly maintains healthy cortisol release from the adrenal glands and helps the body manage a healthy response to stress.

Hormone supplements can also support cognitive health. For instance, pregnenolone supplements may help promote youthful levels and mental health. It's also a precursor molecule for a family of hormones, such as DHEA, testosterone, glucocorticoids, progesterone, and estrogen. Adding a pregnenolone supplement to your wellness routine can help you keep healthy levels of this versatile hormone, especially as you age.

Omega-3 fatty acids are famous for the myriad of health benefits they provide—and supporting balanced hormones is one of them. Omega-3s have also been shown to support healthy serotonin levels and help keep sex hormones balanced.

Do hormone balance supplements work?

Yes! Various nutrients commonly found in supplement form are evidenced-based, with a large body of research supporting their abilities to maintain healthy levels. Some studies show the efficacy of hormonal supplements, while others show how a nutrient with estrogen-like effects influences biological pathways for sleep, digestion, mood, weight, etc.

Best supplements for hormone balance: men vs. women

We may think of estrogen as the "female" hormone and testosterone as the "male" hormone. But men and women need both to stay healthy. So, what's the difference? Our bodies may use the same hormones, but they produce and use them different ways. Normal testosterone levels for women, for example, are significantly less than in men's bodies. Additionally, both sexes need balanced levels of cortisol, progesterone and stress hormones.

That's why men and women may need different supplements. Here are our top recommendations for each sex.

Men's hormone balance supplements

  • Zinc

    —The trace mineral zinc can help support balanced levels and healthy testosterone levels; it's also been shown to promote sperm health.
  • Luteolin

    —It's been shown to help balance male sex hormones and maintain already-healthy cholesterol levels. How? It transports cholesterol into mitochondria, tiny power packs inside your cells, and enhances the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone, which is the precursor for testosterone.
  • Vitamin D

    —The sunshine vitamin is a star player for whole-body health, including maintaining hormone balance.
  • Pomegranate extract

    —Studies have shown that active compounds found in the vividly red fruit promote healthy testosterone levels by inhibiting its conversion to estrogen.
  • Multi-nutrient testosterone formulas

    Testosterone supplements that contain several of the nutrients above act together in several ways to help keep this hormone in balance as a man ages.

Women's hormone balance supplements

  • Indole-3-carbinol (I3C)

    —This nutrient is found in the active compounds of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts. Your body converts I3C into DIM (3,3'-diindolylmethane) to modulate the expression and activity of enzymes involved in hormone production and balance.
  • DHEA

    —This naturally occurring hormone has been shown to support healthy estradiol levels, a form of estrogen that's crucial for sexual and reproductive health.
  • B vitamins

    —Your body uses these essential vitamins to support a wide range of functions, from energy levels to a healthy mood, cognitive health and your nervous system. Additionally, B vitamins support the healthy production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, histamine, and more.
  • Menopause supplements

    —Depending upon their phase of life, women may also need menopause supplements to fend off hot flashes and other discomforts that are common during this transitional time.

Pro tip: Nutrients like dong quai, a B-complex, and agnus-castus are terrific to support hormone balance—but speak with your doctor before you add them to your routine.

Of course, nutrient-rich foods should be your primary source of nourishment—supplements only complement a balanced diet and help keep healthy hormone balance.

Are hormone balance supplements safe?

As with anything you put into your body, you should always be choosy with supplements. A large body of research suggests that these supplements are generally well-tolerated when you follow the label instructions; they reflect the clinical studies that support their efficacy and benefits.

Pro tip: Keep in mind that your body can store fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin D, A, E and K), so speak with your doctor before adding them to your routine.

Who should take hormone balance supplements?

If you want to be proactive about staying hormone healthy, or you want to energize your body, you may want to consider adding supplements that support the balance of male and female hormones.

Pro tip: You can take a quiz to determine what hormone tests you should take. Lab work is a great way to know your hormone numbers and reveals any changes needed to stay healthy.

How to keep healthy hormone balance after menopause?

There comes a time in women's lives where age starts to take a toll at a mental and cellular level, aka menopause. But what happens after this transition? The body begins to find balance. That monthly "visitor" has been gone for 12 months. Pesky discomforts like night sweats or hot flashes get milder or go away—but hormonal levels can remain low, so it's important to complement a hormone-friendly lifestyle with proper dietary supplements.

If you've reached this milestone, speak with your doctor to see if you should add supplements like DHEA to support healthy estrogen levels or vitamin D to ensure healthy bone density, thyroid hormone production, and even support already-healthy blood sugar.

Other ways to balance your hormones: Life hacks & tips

Supplements are a great option to keep your hormones in balance, but they are only a small part of the picture. Your diet and lifestyle play a huge role in how you feel; building sustainable daily habits will help promote homeostasis, your body's natural state of equilibrium. In fact, every single day, multiple times a day, you are making choices that either promote hormone balance:

  • Your eating habits: Do you eat mindfully…or do you snack on endocrine-disrupting junk food while watching TV?
  • Your activity level: How much you move (even when you're not exercising, do you take the stairs or the elevator?)
  • Self-care: Do you prioritize restful sleep and maintaining a "zen" state of mind?

If this sounds overwhelming, it doesn't have to be! Check out these six easy tips to keep your hormones in balance.

  1. Reconnect with your body

    —Learn to recognize what your body tells you. If you notice a disruption in your menstrual cycle, you feel sluggish by the end of your day, or you're "hangry" often (maybe it's due to ghrelin and leptin); it's your body speaking to you. Learning to pick up on these signs will guide you in knowing what your body needs for optimal health.
  2. Eat the rainbow

    —Focus on balanced meals that maintain already-healthy blood sugar. Choose colorful veggies and dark leafy greens, lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates—think Mediterranean diet. Limit highly processed and sugary foods; they are linked to countless health impacts. When possible, choose dairy-free and gluten-free products; doing so has been shown to support a healthy inflammatory response. Additionally, be sure to get plenty of lean proteins like wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef, and pasture-raised eggs. These foods contain tryptophan, which is necessary for serotonin production. Meanwhile, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts are packed with glucobrassicin, which your body uses to make I3C and DIM, essential for healthy estrogen balance.

Pro tip: When possible, choose non-GMO or organic foods, which follow strict growing guidelines and follow ethical practices.

  1. Get regular checkups

    —Empower yourself to own your wellness by knowing your hormone numbers—is your cortisol at normal levels? Taking regular lab tests provides a comprehensive evaluation of your blood levels, and it shines light to any changes you can make to support optimal health. Good starting points:
    • Men's blood panel

      —This basic blood panel test provides information on blood levels for men, and it also screens for prostate health.
    • Women's blood panel

      —The blood panel test assesses blood levels for women at different stages of their life.
  2. Sweat for whole-body balance

    —Having a regular exercise routine helps balance hormones and offers whole-body health benefits. It has positive effects on dopamine levels, promoting mental health. It also promotes feelings of relaxation, supporting healthy cortisol levels. And you don't have to be a "gym rat" to reap the many benefits of physical activity. Just 30-45 minutes a day at least five-days a week is all it takes! Target and tone large muscle groups by engaging in high-intensity training and weightlifting twice a week.
  3. Sleep well

    —When we don't prioritize sleep, it can impact insulin resistance, and even production of dopamine receptors in the brain. Fortunately, many healthy lifestyle habits, like exercise and proper nutrition, support healthy sleep patterns.
  4. Spend time in nature

    —Spending times outdoors is an inexpensive way to get more movement, breathe in fresh air, get more of that sunshine vitamin, and even balance your wake/sleep patterns (circadian rhythm).When you enjoy the outdoors in the morning, for example, your body has time to promote melatonin (your sleep hormone) and serotonin (your "feel good" hormone) levels, which are crucial for healthy slumber.

References

By: Jessica Monge, Health & Wellness Writer

Jessica Monge has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences & neuroscience and a master's degree in comparative studies and related languages from Florida Atlantic University. She worked as a tutor, freelance writer and editor before joining Life Extension as a Copywriter.

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD