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The Best Research-Backed Supplements to Balance Hormones

How Supplements Can Restore Balance to Your Hormones and Resolve Your Symptoms

Key Takeaways:
  • Probiotics, B vitamins, lecithin, and botanicals — like black cohosh and vitex — are useful in regulating hormone levels.
  • These supplements can reduce symptoms of a hormonal imbalance, including (but not limited to) PMS, irregular or heavy menses, low sex drive, infertility, and weight gain.
  • When using supplements to balance hormones, it’s likely most beneficial to use them in combination formulas.
  • In order to see the most benefits from hormone-balancing supplements, it’s best to adopt a healthy lifestyle that incorporates a balanced diet and exercise regimen.

Hormonal imbalances are behind some of the most problematic conditions and symptoms for women today. Fortunately, you can use natural supplements to balance your hormone levels, reduce your symptoms, and improve your overall quality of life. The benefits of probiotics, B vitamins, lecithin, and herbal formulas are supported by research and can help you get your hormones back on track. 

Conventional therapy for resolving hormonal imbalances often involves placing menstruating women on synthetic hormones — in the form of birth control — to help regulate estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels. However, this is often a band-aid solution and doesn’t fully resolve the underlying imbalance or symptoms. 

Whether your symptoms are due to poor gut health, stress, or the natural decline of your body’s hormone production, supplements can be used in both menstruating and menopausal women to help fix the root cause. Not to mention, they can help you avoid any unwanted side effects of synthetic hormones. 

When used alongside a healthy lifestyle, these promising supplements can help reduce symptoms of PMS, PCOS, and menopause, both naturally and effectively. If you’re looking for a way to regulate your menstrual cycle, lessen your mood swings, or reduce your hot flashes and night sweats, these research-backed supplements may be the boost you need. 

Top 5 Supplements to Balance Hormones

Regardless of your specific condition, research shows that the following supplements may help reduce symptoms associated with an endocrine (hormonal) imbalance. In the clinic, we see that these supplements seem to work best when combined with lifestyle changes. 

A healthy diet, stress reduction, and getting enough exercise and sleep all help set the proper foundations so that your body can naturally restore your hormone levels. We’ll get into some of those details later, but, for now, let’s dive into the best supplements to balance hormones. 

1. Probiotics

Our gut health and the endocrine system are highly interconnected, and research shows that women with certain hormonal disorders may have:

  • Decreased diversity in gut flora [1, 2]
  • Intestinal dysbiosis [2, 3]
  • Increased GI inflammation [4]
  • An increase in gut barrier permeability (leaky gut syndrome) [2]

Having healthy gut bacteria is essential to endocrine health, as they play an important role in the detoxification of certain female hormones. A dysbiosis (imbalance) in the microbiome can disrupt estrogen levels and lead to changes in hormone levels [5, 6].

Furthermore, dysbiosis and gut inflammation can damage the lining of the GI tract and decrease the absorption of important nutrients [7]. This is problematic, as your body cannot create hormones without the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, and fats, potentially leading to a hormonal imbalance [8, 9].

Fortunately, probiotics can restore normal gut bacteria, regulate the immune system to reduce inflammation, and improve the intestinal lining (reversing leaky gut) [10, 11, 12, 13]. Because of their positive effects on the digestive tract and endocrine system, probiotic supplements can reduce symptoms of various hormonal disorders, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

One study showed that women who took probiotics saw an improvement in menstrual cramps, gas and bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea [5, 14, 15, 16]. Adding probiotics into your daily regimen can likely improve your overall gut health and restore balance to your hormones. 

2. Black Cohosh 

This popular herb may reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms in menopausal women [17, 18]. Research supports that its effects are particularly evident when menopausal symptoms present alongside mood changes and sleep disturbances [17].

Black cohosh’s ability to balance hormone levels and reduce menopausal symptoms is likely magnified when used in combination with other herbal supplements, such as [19]:

  • Dong quai
  • Milk thistle
  • Red clover
  • Vitex 
  • American ginseng

One study showed that when these botanicals were used together, menopausal women experienced nearly a 70% decrease in hot flashes and night sweats, along with an overall improvement in sleep quality [19]. More importantly, in all of the research studies that we reviewed, the use of these herbs was shown to be safe.

3. Vitex

Also known as chaste tree or chaste berry, vitex may be especially useful for balancing hormones in cycling women. Its influence on progesterone levels can help regulate irregular and painful menstrual cycles, improve fertility, and lessen PMS symptoms [20, 21, 22, 23, 24].

Common PMS symptoms include [25]:

  • Cramping
  • Breast pain and/or swelling
  • Headaches
  • Low energy levels
  • Nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Mood swings and irritability

Research shows that vitex may lessen some of these symptoms, particularly mood disturbances, like anxiety, low mood, and irritability [20]. This makes it a promising herbal supplement for minimizing the severe mood swings that present with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Furthermore, vitex may reduce mood changes and pain associated with post-menstrual syndrome — a condition similar to PMS, but which presents after the menstrual cycle and prior to ovulation [26].

When used in combination with other herbs, like licorice, vitex may relieve symptoms in menopausal women, making it a good and safe choice for women of all ages [27].

4. Lecithin

Lecithin is a health-promoting supplement that is derived from soy. It contains two important compounds, known as phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid complex (PAC). Phosphatidylserine can help regulate mood by altering neurotransmitter levels and calming the nervous system [28]. However, it’s PAC that shines when it comes to balancing hormones.

In women with PMS, phosphatidic acid complex [28]:

  • Reduces PMS symptom severity
  • Improves physical and depressive symptoms
  • Increases productivity
  • Alleviates relationship tension

Because of PAC’s success in treating PMS, it’s currently being considered for further research and use in PMDD [28]. While this supplement clearly has many beneficial effects on overall health, it’s probably best to avoid this supplement if you have an allergy or sensitivity to soy. 

5. B Vitamins and Micronutrients

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is likely helpful in treating PMS symptoms and painful menstruation. Several studies show that thiamine can effectively manage period pain and reduce symptoms of PMS [29, 30, 31].

Pyridoxine, or vitamin B6, also shows promise in reducing PMS symptoms, but is likely less effective when used alone instead of with other B vitamins [30]. We recommend that you use a high-quality, B-complex formula that contains the active form of B vitamins for maximum benefit.

Research shows that several other micronutrients are also effective in improving hormonal health and reducing symptoms of an imbalance. 

  • Zinc: Supplemental zinc can help reduce excess hair growth in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and may decrease triglycerides, blood sugar, and insulin resistance [32, 33].
  • Vitamin D3: This important vitamin, or a daily dose of sunlight, may alleviate PMS symptoms when balanced with vitamin K2 [34]. As vitamin D can be toxic at high doses, it’s important to get your levels checked prior to supplementation.
  • Magnesium: Taking magnesium may benefit women who experience anxiety with PMS, making it a viable treatment option for mood changes associated with the menstrual cycle [35]. Additionally, when used together with zinc, it reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in women with PCOS [36].
  • Selenium: This trace mineral may improve hormone levels, inflammation, excess hair growth, and cholesterol levels in women with PCOS [37, 38, 39]. However, not all research supports the use of selenium in this condition, and it may increase insulin resistance associated with PCOS [40]. It’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before determining if this supplement is right for you.
  • Calcium: Research shows that women who experience PMS have lower calcium levels than women who do not [41]. When used in combination with vitamin D, calcium can help lessen cramping and painful periods (dysmenorrhea) by preventing muscle contractions in the uterus [42]. Furthermore, this combination reduced the need for painkillers, which often have undesirable side effects on the gut [43].

Other Useful Supplements to Balance Hormones

The sky might actually be the limit when it comes to using supplements to balance hormones, as there are many other options that show beneficial effects on hormone levels. Below are just a few that are supported by current research. 

  • Gamma oryzanol can lessen menopausal symptoms of night sweats, hot flashes, and sleep disturbances [44]. It reduces total cholesterol and triglyceride levels in menopausal women and increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol [44, 45].
  • Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine and certain berries, can alleviate hot flashes, reduce pain, and improve overall well-being in menopausal and postmenopausal women [20, 46]. Additionally, research shows that it improves mood and lessens the cognitive changes that often accompany menopause [47].
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (often found in fish oil) may reduce PMS symptoms and improve painful periods [48, 49, 50]. It is anti-inflammatory and likely effective at lessening the symptoms of other hormonal disorders, as well.
  • Fenugreek may balance estrogen and free testosterone levels while increasing sexual arousal and desire in cycling women [51].

Building the Proper Foundation for Healthy Hormone Levels

While natural supplements can certainly lessen your symptoms, a healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of fixing a hormonal imbalance. If the proper building blocks of good health aren’t in place while taking supplements, you may not see the desired benefits.

The following recommendations can assist in improving your overall health, while balancing out your hormone levels.

Get Some Sleep

Sleep disorders often go hand-in-hand with hormone imbalances. Restless legs syndrome, insomnia, sleep apnea, and sleep movement disorders often plague menopausal women [52], creating a sleepless cycle that can further disrupt hormone levels. Add in symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats, and good-quality sleep may seem far out of reach for women who are transitioning through menopause. 

Fortunately, research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), hormone replacement therapy (HRT), yoga, and acupuncture improve sleep in menopausal women [52, 53, 54, 55]. It may also be helpful to get screened for sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, which may interfere with your ability to get a restful sleep.

For women who have exhausted other options, research shows that antidepressant therapy, particularly with SSRIs, may improve sleep quality during menopause [52].

Eat a Balanced Diet

As previously mentioned, it’s essential to eat a healthy, balanced diet that provides you with all of the nutrients and fats you need in order to make hormones. As long as you don’t have a sensitivity to these foods, some good dietary fats include:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Flaxseed
  • Fatty fish
  • Nuts and seeds

Unfortunately, not all diets are created equal and diets that involve fasting, or those that focus on extreme weight loss, can stress the body by wreaking havoc on your blood sugar levels. In fact, skipping meals, eating processed foods, and engaging in weight-loss diets can all worsen period pain [56].

We recommend using a framework like the Paleo diet, which focuses on consuming healthy fats and plenty of nutrients. It has added benefits of reducing gut inflammation and restoring the gut microbiome, which can help balance hormone levels and improve hormone detoxification. 

Work on Your Stress Levels

In women, sex hormones, like progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen, are made in the adrenal glands. These hormones often become depleted during periods of chronic stress, in order for the body to increase cortisol levels (our stress hormone) [57].

Additionally, stress affects our hormones further upstream by disrupting the pituitary gland or “master gland” of the endocrine system. The pituitary gland controls the creation and release of many hormones, and a dysregulation of this system can offset normal hormone production [57].

Over time, chronic stress can create symptoms of a hormonal imbalance and potentially lead to an endocrine disorder. Common stressors include:

  • Work, relationship, and personal life issues
  • Blood sugar fluctuations
  • Infections (including gut pathogens)
  • Chronic inflammation

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce your stress levels. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and coping-skills training can both reduce stress and symptoms of hormonal disorders [58, 59]. Meditation, yoga, deep-breathing exercises, and other forms of mindfulness are all effective at reducing overall stress levels. 

Eating a balanced diet to control blood sugar levels, healing the gut, and lessening your inflammatory burden on the body are all ways in which you can reduce your overall stress load.

Get Some Exercise

Regular exercise is essential for improving your hormonal health — plus, it has numerous overall health benefits. Research shows that consistent exercise can:

  • Improve hormone production [60]
  • Reduce stress, anger, and anxiety [61, 62]
  • Regulate blood sugar levels [60]
  • Improve sleep [63]
  • Lessen menstrual pain [61]

We already know that stress, blood sugar swings, and lack of sleep can all disrupt your hormone levels, and exercise appears to be an effective way to bring your hormones back into balance. 

Even better, you may not have to exercise daily in order to reap the benefits. One study looked at women with PMS who swam for 30 minutes three times a week. Compared to controls, the participants experienced an overall decrease in [64]:

  • Anxiety, depression, and other mood changes
  • Tension and feeling out of control
  • Fatigue and sleep disturbances
  • Menstrual pain and cramping
  • Breast tenderness 

This goes to show that exercising just a few days per week may help lessen PMS symptoms, and likely provides significant benefits to other hormonal conditions and symptoms. 

Final Thoughts on Using Supplements to Balance Hormones

Supplements are a viable option when treating hormonal conditions and non-specific symptoms of an endocrine disorder. While research shows that they may be particularly beneficial for PMS, menopause, and PCOS, their benefits likely extend beyond these to other types of hormonal imbalances. 

We see that many of the above supplements provide the best results when used in combination, such as in our hormone balancing formulas, Estro-Harmony and Progest-Harmony. These formulas can help improve hormone levels and non-specific symptoms in a variety of conditions, and are approved for use in both cycling and menopausal women. 

For more help on how to balance your hormones and improve your lifestyle, reach out to our clinic at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine for an appointment. You can also learn how to regulate your hormones by healing your gut in my book, Healthy Gut, Healthy You

The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations, including Progest-Harmony and Estro-Harmony, to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.

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