Estrogen and Progesterone Balancing Herbs, Supplements and Lifestyle Change
When hormone levels are optimal for your body, you are energized, radiant and feel good in your skin, at any age. When things are out of balance, you intuitively know that something isn’t quite right. You might feel tired, irritated, swollen and a host of other symptoms. Often routine lab work will have your doctor saying that nothing is wrong (or offer an antidepressant), but deep down you know to keep looking for answers.
Hormones are messengers made by an endocrine gland, such as the ovaries or adrenals, which flow through the blood and have effects on other parts of the body. Even small amounts of hormones have a big impact on how we feel.
Luckily, there are many natural solutions including diet, lifestyle change, herbal medicine and specific supplements that are helpful for restoring balance. In today’s article, I will discuss hormonal support for estrogen and progesterone. And, in my next article, I’ll cover adrenal support and testosterone.
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Best Herbs for Hormone Balance
Before diving into the specific herbal solutions and healthy lifestyle recommendations, it’s important to understand what your hormone imbalance is. Since different imbalances may produce similar symptoms, I always recommend testing instead of guessing! This will also save you a lot of time, energy and money trying different natural treatment options.
Progesterone is the hormone made after ovulation that maintains the uterine lining and supports pregnancy should fertilization occur that cycle. As a woman begins to see cycle changes with perimenopause, she’ll likely experience cycles where she doesn’t ovulate, and therefore doesn’t produce any progesterone, as well as overall declining progesterone levels. Sometimes bioidentical progesterone replacement is an option, and there are also supplements to increase progesterone to consider.
Vitex, or chasteberry, is at the top of the list. It works at the level of the brain to promote progesterone production and can counteract the symptoms of estrogen dominance that may be caused by low progesterone levels. In a review of clinical trials, evidence suggests benefits of vitex for PMS, PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and elevated prolactin.
High or Low Estrogen
During the perimenopausal years, estrogen fluctuates and symptoms of high estrogen, such as irritability, breast tenderness and heavy bleeding are possible. In menopause, when the cycle ceases, low estrogen becomes the norm. When estrogen levels are too low, you might notice vaginal dryness, dry skin and low mood.
Support for high estrogen supplements include 3,3’-diindolylmethane (DIM), indole-3-carbionol and sulforaphane which are compounds found in cruciferous veggies like broccoli. These molecules act on estrogen receptors in the body and promote balanced estrogen detoxification. Most of the clinical evidence has looked at breast cancer specifically, however, clinically these supplements may be used preventatively to lower estrogen levels or favorably shift estrogen metabolism. Testing estrogen levels along with an evaluation of symptoms is important, please work with myself or your functional medicine provider.
Supplements to increase estrogen are helpful during menopause. One of my favorite herbal remedies is black cohosh, which has several clinical trials that suggest an improvement in menopausal symptoms, and especially hot flashes. In addition, I’m a big fan of magnesium supplementation for low estrogen and other hormonal imbalances.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes and Hormone Balance
While well-placed supplements may help to bring estrogen and progesterone back into balance, don’t neglect the power and foundation that lifestyle change provides. Here are some basics to have in place in order to support hormone balance, especially through your 40s and 50s.
Build your foundation with diet and lifestyle tools. The habits you build today will serve you well into the future and support hormonal transitions. With a solid foundation in place, supplements and herbal remedies are wonderful for relieving estrogen- and progesterone-related symptoms and bringing these two important hormones into balance. Be sure to work with your functional medicine provider for guidance.
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