How to Balance Hormones Naturally

by Ann Marie Michaels on October 11, 2010

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I’ve been on a journey of balancing my hormones naturally with nutrition. If you’re a woman looking to balance your hormones without having to resort to drugs, you’ve come to the right place.

I have had some amazing successes over the past few years, but I’m still not all the way healed. In this post, I’m also going to share with you some of the new supplements I’m trying in my quest to balance my hormones.

My Story: PMS & Melasma

Before I started eating a diet of traditional food, I suffered from a number of things related to female hormones, including PMS symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, and heavy bleeding and painful cramping.

Worst of all was the melasma. Often called “mask of pregnancy” since it commonly happens after pregnancy (another indication that it is hormonal,) melasma is a condition that produces ugly dark patches on your face. By the time I was in my mid-30s, I had these melasma patches on my forehead and, to my horror, on my upper lip. I swear it looked like a mustache that I could not wash off. I tried using medicated creams and bleaches — nothing worked. It just kept getting darker and kept spreading all over my face, like that old movie, The Blob.

How I Balanced My Hormones Naturally with Nutrition

It wasn’t until I turned 39 and had just given birth to my first child that I found the Weston A. Price Foundation. I switched our family to a traditional foods diet of raw milk, cod liver oil, grass-fed butter, cream, cheese and meats, pastured eggs, organ meats, plenty of seafood, soaked or sprouted grains, and fermented foods like kombucha, yogurt and kefir.

Within about six months on this diet, I started to notice my melasma fading. I didn’t start the diet to heal my melasma — and had no idea it would have any impact on it. But lo and behold, it was fading. It’s almost 3 years later now and my melasma has almost completely disappeared. There’s only one little spot left on my forehead, and it’s so light you hardly notice it. (I wish I had some before and after photos. I will try to dig some up on my old computer.)

I also noticed that my PMS symptoms lessened on a traditional diet. The cramping is a lot lighter and the mood swings are less severe. About a year and a half ago, I tried taking maca for a few months, and that completely eliminated the painful cramping and heavy bleeding. My periods would come and go and I experienced a much lighter flow with cramps that were barely noticeable — no pain whatsoever.

I didn’t stay on the maca. I guess because it was so much work every day to mix it in with kefir and honey and I really do not enjoy the taste. But in the past week I’ve gone back to it. I remember those blissful days of pain-free periods when I did not have to reach for the ibuprofren — and I want them back! (Update: I got my period this week and have had no painful cramps — only very light cramping but it’s not painful.)

My Hormones Still Need Some Balancing

I’m still working to balance my hormones. Having a baby and nursing really did a number on me. Ever since the pregnancy, I’ve experienced weight gain (an extra 20-25 pounds), mainly around the mid-section, and low (almost non-existent) libido.

These symptoms only showed up after my baby was born. I’ve always been slim and never had trouble losing weight. I’ve tried every kind of diet and exercise regime to no avail. The fact that I also have issues with my libido makes me think I’ve still got some hormonal issues going on.

If you struggle with baby weight that won’t budge or low sex drive, you’ll want to follow my blog over the next few months (click here to subscribe to my free email updates). I’ll be posting about my progress.

Hormone Tests

The first thing I did was get a full hormonal panel done. It’s important to get a baseline to understand where you are when you start. I really don’t recommend playing around with hormonal supplements without getting tested. I also recommend working with a nutritionist, naturopath or doctor.

I ordered the saliva and blood tests from Canary Club online. It’s costs a couple hundred bucks but it’s worth it — since you can do it by mail and you don’t have to have insurance or a doctor. It took about 10 days to get the results back.

My results say that I am low (below normal range) on estradiol, progesterone, cortisol (mid-day and evening — normal in morning and at bedtime). I came out in range but on the low end of normal for testosterone and T3 thyroid.

The fact that I have low cortisol tell me that I have adrenal fatigue. Not surprising — it’s something I’ve struggled with since my 20s. Pregnancy takes a toll on adrenal function as well. I’ll be posting more about adrenal fatigue in an upcoming post.

Supplements for Balancing My Hormones

I took my results to a local pharmacy here in LA where they have a nutritionist who will consult with you. I like this particular pharmacy (called The Apothecary) because they have a wide range of natural supplements, including the Standard Process line. Standard Process uses whole foods in their supplements, including lots of glands and organ meats.

The woman I met with (Marlene — tell her CHEESESLAVE sent you if you go) recommended the following supplements for me:

Dessicated Adrenal Gland (Standard Process)
Drenamin (Standard Process)
Catalyn (Standard Process multivitamin)
Progesterone cream (Springboard ProBalance Plus)
A supplement called WomenSense SexEssentials (terrible name) – contains Pantothenic Acid, L-Arginine, Tribulus, Choline, Ginkgo, and Eurycoma Longifolia

In addition to that, I’m taking 1-3 teaspoons of fermented cod liver oil and anywhere from 1-3 teaspoons of maca powder on Amazon..

I plan to take these supplements faithfully over the next 3-6 months (Marlene says it should not take longer than that) to see if I can rectify the low libido and drop some pounds.

Diet, Exercise & Lifestyle Changes

I also plan to eat a nutrient-dense diet along the lines of Matt Stone’s Schwartbein-esque HED (High Everything Diet) on his 180 Degree Health blog. I haven’t read Diana Schwarzbein’s books but I plan to after reading so much about them on Elizabeth Walling’s wonderful blog, Living the Nourished Life: Review of the Schwarzbein Principle Series. I’m not going to follow a “diet plan” per se — I’m just going to eat when I am hungry and try to focus on nutrient-dense foods.

To give you an idea of what I’m eating, yesterday I had decaf coffee with raw milk, some bacon and a few tortilla chips fried in coconut oil, a glass of raw milk, half a chocolate chip cookie (made with palm oil), a glass of kefir and an egg yolk and raw honey with maca, cod liver oil, and for dinner I ate some soaked brown rice with grass-fed butter, natto, an egg yolk, and a huge dollop of salmon roe.

I will continue to avoid coffee and caffeine (see my post on how to quit coffee), and I will do my best to exercise at least 3-4 times a week. That said, because I have adrenal fatigue, I will not do any rigorous exercise for long periods of time. I might walk briskly on the treadmill or go for a swim — but I won’t exhaust myself and I’ll keep it to 20 minutes or less. I do plan to do a lot of walking, swimming, weight lifting, yoga, and pilates — mainly because these are the forms of exercise I enjoy.

Last but not least, I will commit to getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night, and I’ll try to take off at least one day a week to do something fun (or at least a few hours). I do have to work a lot, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But I’ll do my best to take some time each week to play and relax.

It’s Working So Far!

I can tell you that after only one day on the supplements, I have noticed a major change in my libido. I won’t say more than that but suffice it say, this is working!

Marlene says that when I balance my hormones, the weight should naturally drop off. I have read a lot about how hormones that are not balanced will cause weight gain — it makes so much sense to me.

Especially since I’ve never had these problems before. I was always a slim 125-130 (I’m 5’5) and never had any trouble with my weight. Now no matter what I do, how much I exercise, how low I go on carbs, the weight will not come off.

I should note — my main goal is not to lose weight, but to get healthy and balance my hormones naturally. I’ve seen amazing results with eliminating my melasma and painful cramps, so I am very confident that I can take this the rest of the way. If I do lose weight naturally, that’s wonderful. But if I don’t, I’m not worried about it. I plan to try to conceive a second child next year, so the weight is really not so much of an issue for me now.

Plus, I am approaching this from the standpoint that when my hormones are in balance, I will naturally lose weight — and until my hormones are balanced, weight loss really isn’t possible.

So I’ll be your guinea pig — let’s see if it works.

Disclaimer: This is Not Medical Advice

Now, please don’t take this as a prescription for what you should do. Everyone is different and you really do need to get your hormones tested and then work from there, preferably with a naturopath or nutritionist who can help you. Please don’t ask me in the comments if you should take X, Y or Z because I am not a doctor and I can’t help you like that.

What I can do is share with you my experience of what I am doing and the results I get. Which is what I will be doing over the next 3-6 months on this blog (be sure to sign up for my email updates).

Share Your Story

Do you suffer from hormonal imbalance? Please share your story below in the comments — the challenges you face, any success you’ve had with diet and nutrition, and questions you have.

Photo credit: TiffanyDawnPhoto on Flickr
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{ 132 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Ayers May 22, 2013 at 8:27 AM

@cheeseslave Thanks soo much for the great info. I too have melasma (dark patch) above my lip. Everytime I look in the mirror I am disgusted and it totally reminds me of a mustache. It came right after giving birth ri my son. My question is, Has yours completelyddissappeared? The diet sounds tough. I only eat turkey and fish for meats and alot of veggies/beans/quinoaAlso, I bought some keffir that you mentioned. Any feedback would be great.
-MJ

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horoscope to June 11, 2013 at 2:37 AM
lynsey June 14, 2013 at 4:58 AM

I too have the pigmentation above my lip.. its brown and it patchy and broken in areas im not sure if it getting better or worse it looks different in different light, and im more obbsessed by it everyday so i think i look more closely. I am takin DIM to keep estrogen balanced, folic acid, antioxidants and probiotic and burdock root to cleanse blood. Im due to see a naturopath in a few months to do tests and my doctor is terrible for that kind of thing. or anything to be honest! i think i got it when i went on the sunbed whilst being on spironolactone.. it alters hormone levels i was on this for hormonal acne.. i wasnt told it was a side effect found that out the hard way.

Lynsey

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Crystal M. August 8, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Lynsey – I also take spironolactone for acne. It was the only thing that worked, until I got of the bc pill and now my hormonal acne is out of control! By sunbed, do you mean tanning bed? Have you tried anything else for your acne?

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lynsey August 24, 2013 at 5:14 AM

Hi Crystal.. just saw this message.. Spiro was great i was onit for like just under a year i think.. what it does is it blocks androgens which helps with your oil production and thus helping your skin. But i came off it since i got the melasma above my lip.. its still there, i dont think other ppl really notice it unless i point it out, but i can see it and if i went out in the sun it would b very noticable…and yes i meant a tanning bed, i used to go on now and again. Im not on any medication for my acne at the moment and havent been since i came off that so like 6 months or so.. ive never been on bc because i dont believe in making its good for your body to be pushed into a process it shuldnt naturally b doing. I would urge you to just come off the spiro too and go to a naturopathic doctor.. i went a week ago and she tested my whole internal health. I have very low progesterone which makes me estrogen dominant.. and i have every symptom of this.. painful periods, mood swings, acne and melasma. So she has me on a bunch of supplements, all natural to balance my hormones and a progesterone cream which bumps up your progesterone and balances your hormones. It isnt instant and will take probably atleast a month to see a change and then it will keep improving after that. But of all the things ive read online so many ppl have success with skin conditions this why as you are not masking the symptom, you are fixing the problem-for good so it stops happening. Im 26 btw and my acne is always in the same places, chin jawline neck, back and around my mouth, always the hormonal areas! so i knew it was my hormones anyway its just good to have someone tell you which ones are low and high before you just guess and try treating it yourself! I have done loads of research on all this stuff and if u wana email me i can keep u updated on how the naturopathic treatments going! lynseycreed87@hotmail.com

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Eleanor July 11, 2013 at 11:20 PM

Wow! Thanks so much for posting. I am going through the same thing. I have never had children, but still I found that I was working out like a mad woman, eating a stellar diet, and gaining weight. Plus, I had no libido; in fact, physical intimacy was starting to disgust me. I got my hormones checked through my gym (Lifetime Fitness) and met with a nutritionist who put me on a regimen of melatonin, DHEA, indole-carbinol 3, and progesterone cream. I’m already experiencing results after just a couple weeks. I have a libido for the first time in years, and I’ve dropped five pounds in no time. I am also sleeping decently which is frankly amazing as I have struggled with sleep patterns since I was a child. I also cut out all soy as this was a horrible estrogen-promoter: the last thing I need. I chose not to do everything the nutritionist advised. The detox diet was more than I could manage. And, I still have extremely mild melasma, but this has been an amazing realization and change for me.

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Nicole August 8, 2013 at 4:18 PM

I too am interested to hear your updates on this Ann Marie. I too have low progesterone. I am thinking you must have had some healing with your hormones and that is why you are losing weight???

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Lisa August 8, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Hi …..great article! which lab test exactly did you order from canary labs? I was wondering if you did the saliva over a full month or just what exactly? How great to work with a knowledgable pharmacist! Good luck….i am very interested in seeing your results.

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Joan August 8, 2013 at 8:15 PM

I also eat organic, more veggies and nothing raw, no fsh, and not so much fruit. I have an analysis of my hair done a few times a year and this determines the supplements I take. I also have adrenal fatigue and have cut down on the hour a day exercising and get my rest. I feel better now than I have in years and haven’t had a migraine in months. My hormones seem to be in check, no mood swings, hot flashes ect. Plus I am loosing weigh and belly fat! It’s a way of life and it’s also working for me.

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Elizabeth August 8, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Thanks for this! This post came at just the right time! I sat down to look up hormone balance naturally (after a slap I. The face realization that my moods are swinging like monkeys!) but of course got distracted by Facebook and I saw your post! I’ll be following you! I have a couple q’s: have you heard of Sarah Gottfried? I was headed to her website before I got distracted. She seems great, just wondering if anyone here has followed her protocol. I need to get my hormones checked, I’ve known something’s been wrong for awhile now. Will any doctor do, my family doctor for example or is it better to find a specialist of some sort? Very interesting and very needed topic, thanks for sharing! I’ll be following :-)

Elizabeth
Kindredvine.com

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Elizabeth August 8, 2013 at 10:14 PM

*slap in the face

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Vannessa August 9, 2013 at 11:11 AM

Thanks for the post, I look forward to hearing results. I had both my kids with a two year difference in between and I never really got better from my first pregnancy and still struggling after my second one which will be almost two years in November. While I have changed our diet to Paleo with a few starches (mostly because kids love them) I have felt a world of relief in my aches, pains, brain fog, I seriously thought I was losing my mind for a while there. The changes for me occurred by not just eating Paleo, but also adding supplements to my diet including Omega-3, a strong multivitamin (larger doses than usual), and a Rhodiola blend by Rainbow Light which has green tea extract. Those supplements have been life savers! Although I still haven’t lost a single pound, I’m sure its due to a hormonal imbalance, adrenal fatigue, and probably thyroid. The endocrinologist says my thyroid is borderline, not sure what that means but after reading your article on Iodine, I think that will help. I appreciate all your insights!

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iamalighthouse August 17, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Thanks for the post! I have PCOS which is major hormonal problems, and I get it genetically. I don’t know that I can reverse it, but with such terribly painful periods (have to take a day off from work each month!) I’m hoping for some solution. I don’t have insurance at the moment, and although I’m working on getting that, I’m hoping to get in to see a more natural of a dr. I’d be interested to try the maca if it will take the pain away, as that is what totally knocks me over each month. I as well try to incorporate not much white flour at all (only pasta @ a restaurant), coconut oil, proteins, veggies, and all organic as much as possible. This has helped drop some weight and now I’m a comfortable 120 for 5’5″. But it hasn’t seemed to impact my noticeable hormones much. Do you have any advice?

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lynsey August 24, 2013 at 5:18 AM

I was told by my naturopath i have alot of inflammation on my uterus and my ovaries were baisically just not doing anything because my progesterone is so low.. she says i have endimitriosis, it can be fixed by highering progesterone… i was wondering if anyone knows if you can also heal cysts this way? or do they have to surgically be removed?

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Kristin October 9, 2013 at 11:36 AM

I started reading a book called “Belly fat to Belly Flat”, by an MD. It confirmed what I heard elsewhere which is that estrogen dominance is pretty common in midlife…and would account for my recent belly fat that I can’t get rid of. I have a doctors appt tomorrow and will lol forward to tests.

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Annie June 16, 2014 at 12:35 AM

Hello,

I’ve also been struggling with melasma and hormonal acne (I’m 33). I’ve recently started taking linseed (flaxseed) as a dietary supplement – I soak about a tablespoon of whole seeds in a bit of cold water overnight and then add to my breakfast along with a tbs of ground flaxseed as well. I’ve also been drinking kefir regularly. My skin has been getting better and I feel less bloated but it’s only been about a month. I was wondering if anyone else has tried flaxseed with any success – it is meant to balance oestrogens and help with overall hormonal balance.

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