The Gut-Hormone Connection: 6 Essentials to Heal Hormone Imbalances Naturally

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Hormone imbalances got you down? Look no further than the gut-hormone connection to help you heal your hormone imbalances naturally!

Hormone Imbalances 101

Hormone Imbalances - Woman Sitting In Her Bed Feeling Sick

Hormone imbalances are common, affecting at least 3 in 4 women and 1 in 4 men.

  • Approximately 3 in 4 women experience PMS throughout their lifetime (1), and the same amount also experience hot flashes and mood swings during menopause (2).
  • 1 in 5 women have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), characterized by high testosterone, enlarged ovaries with cysts, extra hair growth and acne and unwanted weight gain (3)
  • A total of 1 in 4 women are on the birth control pill, and more than 50% of birth control pill users use the pill for “non-contraceptive” (hormone imbalance) purposes (4)
  • 1 in 8 couple experience infertility—Approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third attributed to the male partner and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, is unexplained (5)
  • 1 in 4 men have “low T” (testosterone) syndrome, characterized by erectile dysfunction, fatigue and mood changes, sleep difficulties, lowered sex drive, hair loss, increased boy fat and reduced muscle mass and/or testicle size (6)
  • More than 1 in 10 people will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime (7)

Although hormone imbalances are common, it does not mean you have to struggle with them forever—especially when you understand the gut-hormone health connection, and how to optimize your hormones (by healing you gut).

Here’s all you need to know about your hormones, the gut-hormone connection and 6 essentials to fix hormone imbalances naturally (by healing your gut!). 

The Gut-Hormone Connection

Your body is home to some 70 different hormones. 

Hormones are chemical messengers that tell specific tissues to behave in a certain way. They are like the symphony or orchestra of your body—playing the music to keep your bodily processes balanced and in sync, including:

  • Your drive and passions
  • Appetite & metabolism
  • Happiness
  • Satisfaction
  • Motivation
  • Mood
  • Sex drive and libido 

The conductor of your hormone symphony? Your gut microbiome! 

If your hormones are like a symphony, then your gut microbiome is the conductor.

Just like the gut is called the “second brain,” it is also often referred to as the “largest endocrine organ” in the body. Our gut bacteria play a central role in the regulation of hormone levels within the body—particularly our estrogen.

A certain set of your bacteria—known as the “estrobolome”—are responsible for metabolizing (breaking down, using, and clearing out) estrogen.

When the gut microbiome is healthy, the estrobolome produces just the right amount of beta-glucuronidase to maintain estrogen homeostasis. In conjunction, your liver is also responsible for maintaining a healthy hormone environment—clearing any excess hormones out as wastes and keeping your hormones in tip top shape.

When the gut microbiome is unhealthy or liver is under-functioning, you can guess what happens: “hormone imbalance.” 

Signs of Hormone Imbalance

“Hormone imbalance” is the disruption or fluctuation of normal hormone homeostasis characterized by symptoms like:

  • Irregular menstrual cycle or heavy bleeding
  • Feeling stressed
  • Infertility
  • Mood swings
  • Hot flashes or night sweats
  • Poor sleep quality or insomnia
  • Acne or skin breakouts
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Low sex drive
  • Loss of bone or muscle mass 

The Bottom Line: Imbalanced Hormones Begin in the Gut

Hormone conditions—from amenorrhea to endometriosis, infertility, menopause, PCOS, low testosterone to  PMS—all have a strong gut connection. Coupled with inflammation and stress (mental and physical), and once more, we have the perfect storm for “hormone imbalance.”

6 Essentials to Fix Hormone Imbalance Naturally 

Regardless of which hormone imbalance you experience—from PCOS to PMS, menopause, period problems, infertility and beyond—“revitalizing” o optimizing hormones involves fairly similar steps. Remember: When given the right tools, your body innately wants to heal itself. 

Here are 6 essentials most anyone with hormone imbalance can benefit from for hormone vitality. 

Essential 1: Focus on a Nutrient Dense Diet

Hormone Imbalances - A Variety Of Nutrient-Densed Food, Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts

Nutrition is king—especially high-quality fats and amino acids (proteins), since this is what hormones are made from. Eating the right amount is what’s going to allow your body to start producing its own adequate amounts, without the aid of synthetics. As for carbs, it comes down to the “just right” balance—some women fall into the trap of accidentally under-eating (particularly carbs) and send their body into “stressed out” mode. Other women with blood sugar imbalances swing the other way, equally stressing out the body as glucose and cortisol go hand-in-hand. Aim for a moderate carb amount to start (between 50-100 grams* of starchy tubers, roots, prebiotic fibers and fruits) and modify accordingly dependent on energy needs, glucose toleration and hormone health.  *Fibrous, non-starchy vegetables don’t count towards a daily carb intake.

Essential 2: Optimize Your Gut Health

Sound like a broken record? Your gut is an “endocrine” organ, so gut health basics are a no-nonsense rule-of-thumb that must be addressed:

Stomach Acid Support (Hydrochloric acid supplementation (HCL) or 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in a shot glass of water

Proper Digestive Hygiene. Chew your food. Drink water throughout the day (except a lot at meals). Breathe before your meals. Sit and slow down during meal time.

Daily Probiotic Supplements & Foods. Soil based formulas are easily absorbed and a good potent source of good bacteria, along with fermented foods.

Daily Prebiotic Fiber. Essential for both GI clearance of excess estrogens and the assimilation of probiotics.

Custom Supplementation. Based on your personal gut flora and any testing or lab findings, custom supplementation, such as anti-microbials for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), or even antibiotics to kill off parasites may be warranted. Other supplements may help support liver/gallbladder dysfunction, pancreatic dysfunction, or necessary enzymes for helping assist in digestion.

Essential 3: Stress Less 

But really. If you’re serious about seeing what your hormones can do, take pro-active steps with the basics:

  • Sleep 7-9 hours per night
  • Modulate light exposure at night
  • Exercise appropriately (dial back the excess cardio; integrate walking, strength training, yoga or flexibility training and moderate amounts of cardio and HIIT—2-4 times per week)
  • Cut the caffeine and sugar
  • Slow down and breathe
  • Integrate meditation and mindfulness into your daily routine

Essential 4: Detox & Flush (daily) 

Hormone Imbalances - Woman Relaxing Inside A Sauna

Infrared sauna, rebounding, dry brushing, getting outside or heated yoga. Mix it up to to help  rid any lingering artificial hormones, signaling your body to start producing them naturally again. Anything that’s associated with natural detoxification can be really helpful (i.e. not necessarily pounding charcoal, laxatives or Master Cleanses; but instead, sweating, breathing, moving—circulation is king.

Amenorrhea

  • Hypothalamus-Pituitary Support (Homeopathic Drops with a blend of hypothalamic homeopathic including: Ginkgo biloba, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Hydrocotyle asiatica, Senna, Pituitarum posterium, Hypothalamus)
  • Progesterone Topical Cream (no synthetics; all natural; if amenorrhea has continued for 1+ year)
  • Vitamin D3 (5,000-10,000 IU x 8 weeks; only if deficient)
  • Whole Bone Calcium or Bone Marrow (to support bone health; avoid most other calcium supplements as they end up in the tissues rather than bones)
  • Zinc (if deficient; 30 mg x 8 weeks) 

Birth Control Detox

  • Magnesium Glycinate (Especially if PMS was a symptom previously)
  • B-Vitamins (Since birth control pills deplete them)
  • Zinc (Another common deficiency, like magnesium and B-Vitamins, responsible for hundreds of metabolic functions in your body)
  • Chasteberry (500-1000 mg can raise progesterone levels to help balance estrogen levels)
  • Vitamin D3 (only if deficient)
  • EPA/DHA (Extra virgin cod liver oil for anti-anti-inflammatory fats that support hormone balance) 

Endometriosis

  • AIP or GAPS diet
  • Pancreatic enzymes, stomach acid and liver-gallbladder support (bile acids, beet, taurine)
  • Focus on adrenal support (consider running a DUTCH test to see if you have imbalanced cortisol and supplement appropriately with adaptogenic herbs, such as relora, ashwaganda, Rhodiola cordyceps and reishi)
  • Figure out food sensitivities, if any, are present
  • Liposomal Curcumin + Boswellia AKBA herbal to support inflammation
  • Chinese herbal remedies to help “shrink” endometrial tissue so it no longer grows where it doesn’t belong (consider: succinum, rhubarb, turtle shell, trogopterus, typha, sparganium, zedoaria, myrrh, frankincense) 

Infertility

  • B Vitamins
  • Folate (not folic acid)
  • Vitamin A rich foods (liver, egg yolks, cod liver oil, grass-fed dairy, kidney, liver capsules)
  • Vitamin D (sun, cod liver oil, supplementation if deficient with 5000-10,000 IU x 8 weeks)
  • Vitamin K2 foods and supplement (poultry, liver, grass-fed dairy, fermented soybean—natto)
  • Avoid very-low-carb or low-fat diets (unless medical reasons warrant)
  • Eat enough (if calorie needs are not met, fertility is not optimized)
  • Blood sugar support & HPA Axis support if needed 

Menopause

  • Blood sugar support basics (a combination multi-formula)
    • Alpha lipoic acid (200-400 mg/day)
    • Berberine
    • Chromium picolinate (up to 1000 mcg/day)
    • Cinnamon
  • Chasteberry or Vitex (500-1000 mg)
  • Cod Liver Oil: EPA/DHA (Extra virgin cod liver oil for anti-anti-inflammatory fats that support hormone balance)
  • DIM (works to create a healthy balance of estrogen and testosterone in your body; 100-200 mg)
  • Homeopathy for Menopausal symptoms (Agnus castus, Angelica sinensis, Cimicifuga racemosa, Fucus vesiculosus, Glandula suprarenalis suis , Glycyrrhiza glabra, Hypothalamus, Oophorinum, Pituitarum posterium, Pulsatilla , Sepia)
  • Focus on adrenal support (consider running a DUTCH test to see if you have imbalanced cortisol and supplement appropriately with adaptogenic herbs, such as relora, ashwaganda, Rhodiola cordyceps, reishi)
  • Liver support basics (milk thistle, dandelion, turmeric root, Chanca Piedra)
  • Gallbladder support (beets, taurine, bile acids)
  • Magnesium Glycinate
    • Sea salt (pinch in lemon water and to taste in food)

PCOS

  • Eliminate sugar and caffeine
  • Myo-inositol (2000-4000 mg/day) &/or combined with D-chiro-inositol
  • Liver support basics (milk thistle, dandelion, turmeric root, Chanca Piedra)
  • Blood sugar support basics (a combination multi-formula)
    • Alpha lipoic acid (200-400 mg/day)
    • Berberine
    • Chromium picolinate (up to 1000 mcg/day)
    • Cinnamon
  • NAC (a naturally occurring detox chemical in our bodies, and supplementation has also been shown to improve insulin resistance and reduce testosterone levels; 600 mg 2-3 times per day for 24 weeks minimum)
  • Vitamin D (if deficient 5000-10,000 IU/day)
  • Vitex (also called Chaste Berry) Extract: regulates ovulation, increases fertility, and improves progesterone in women with PCOS.
  • Focus on adrenal support (consider running a DUTCH test to see if you have imbalanced cortisol and supplement appropriately with adaptogenic herbs, such as relora, ashwaganda, cordyceps, Rhodiola and reishi)

PMS

  • Eliminate sugar and caffeine; optimize healthy fats and amino acids
  • Magnesium Glycinate (300 mg/day)
  • Extra virgin cod liver oil (1 tsp/day) &/or 1 lb. wild caught fatty fish/week
  • High quality CBD oil (best quality you can buy)
  • Liposomal Curcumin + Boswellia AKBA herbal to support inflammation
  • Liver support basics (milk thistle, dandelion, turmeric root, Chanca Piedra)
  • Gallbladder support (beets, taurine, bile acids)
  • Focus on adrenal support (consider running a DUTCH test to see if you have imbalanced cortisol and supplement appropriately with adaptogenic herbs, such as relora, ashwaganda, cordyceps, Rhodiola and reishi)

Essential 6: Seed Cycle

Hormone Imbalances - A Variety Of Seeds And More

Seed cycling is a “food as medicine” approach to supporting hormone health that is beneficial at any stage in a woman’s life—especially during times of hormone shifts (such as coming off hormonal birth control, PMS or PCOS symptoms, or trying to get your period back).

How to Do It 

Days 1-14: Eat pumpkin and flaxseeds during the follicular phase*
*Day 1=first day of your period
When your period comes, eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds and raw pumpkin seeds through day 14. These seeds can help naturally increase your estrogen while also providing fiber to support healthy estrogen metabolism. It’s an excellent way to create a healthy level of estrogen without leading to excess levels, also known as estrogen dominance. Seeds are rich in essential fatty acids and nutrients, like zinc and selenium, for hormone balance.

Days 15-28: Eat sesame seeds or sunflower seeds during the luteal phase Following ovulation, or on day 15 of your cycle, eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh ground sunflower and sesame seeds. Sesame and sunflower seeds contain lignans and essential fatty acids that support the hormones that carry us through the luteal phase.  Lignans naturally regulate the body’s production of estrogen due to their phytoestrogens. They replace endogenous estrogens in a much purer and healthier form, thus helping to maintain weight, treat acne, balance hormones, and shift hormone metabolisms.

Note: Prepare seeds properly

Soak and dry seeds overnight in filtered water with 1 tbsp. Apple cider vinegar, then dry them, to remove lectins and phytates from their shell and improve absorption

How to Eat Your Seeds:

  • Raw, soaked
  • Homemade seed crackers
  • Sprinkled on a salad
  • Stirred into coconut yogurt or grass-fed greek yogurt
  • Tossed in smoothie
  • Sun-butter or pumpkin seed butter
  • Homemade tahini
  • Homemade paleo cookie or energy bar 
  1. What if I don’t have a period?!

Eat on the “moon cycle”—Use the new moon as your day 1 and eat flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds. When the full moon arrives, switch to the sunflower and sesame seeds.

Summary

Your gut health is kind of a big deal for optimal hormone health. Want to fix your gut or hormones? Reach out to me at my virtual clinic today and we will help you feel amazing.

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