8 ways to balance hormones

The array of experiences controlled by hormonal fluxes is truly phenomenal, says naturopath Sally Mathrick

Ever overreacted? Ever felt like you’ve put on weight despite eating the same as always? Ever experienced period cramps or felt agitated before menstruation? Felt totally hyperactive or totally lethargic? Exhausted or excited? Horny or totally uninspired? Trusting or suspicious?

The hormone, or endocrine, system is so intricately linked with the nervous system and our cognitive functioning and psychology that the interconnected web of chemical messaging that goes on is nothing short of mind boggling.

There are many things that can disrupt the harmony of the hormone system. Stress greatly affects hormone balance. Indeed, the stress reaction is an evolutionary, protective hormonal response. In our contemporary world, this still functions, but rather than running from tigers, we run from the clock. By switching into chronic stress mode, elements of our hormone system get altered resulting in many possible imbalances, including adrenal depletion, thyroid over or under function and shifts in sexual hormone balance, resulting in sexual dysfunction. As we age, production of some hormones declines.

Environmental toxins are another major disruptor to hormonal balance in the modern world. Synthetic compound classes such as PVCs, dioxins and DDT can wreak havoc with our delicate hormones. Oestrogen is a common imbalance found in women today and the cause is dependant on many factors, including exposure to xeno-oestrogens, or molecules that mimic oestrogen activity in the body. These can derive from pharmaceutical hormonal preparations, plastics and even pesticides. Oestrogen dominance, wherein the balance of progesterone and oestrogen tips too much to oestrogen, contributes to issues such as breast tenderness, weight gain, headaches, menstrual irregularity and even breast cancer.

The range of symptoms of hormone imbalance is long and varied. After all, hormones, working in unison with the nervous and immune systems, pretty much control everything that happens in the body and it is subtle and easily affected.


1. MACA – is the root of a vegetable in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. As it contains no hormone-mimicking molecules, this is safe to use for everyone. To use: Maca has a peculiar nutty taste, which is acquired. Consume in smoothies or you can purchase capsules. Start with a low dose, for example half a teaspoon in the smoothie, and slowly increase. If you take too much at once, it can trigger detoxification, which may create detox symptoms.

2. KELP – is the leaf of the largest sea plant. Kelp is a wonderful, natural multi mineral supporter that provides usable iodine for production of thyroid hormones. Iodine has been recognised as a deficiency in many populations and is the cause of cretinism in babies. To use: It can be used in cooking, particularly Japanese style. I prefer kombu, which I use as thin strips whenever I cook legumes or brown rice. It provides a delicious salty taste. Kelp is also available in capsule-from the health food shop.

3. VITEX – is the dried fruit of the chaste tree. In women, it tends to balance the secretion of two control hormones from the pituitary gland, effecting a balancing of the menstrual cycle.
To use: With all herbs affecting hormonal function, I suggest discussing your needs with a qualified herbalist.

4. SHATAVARI – is asparagus root, and known in Ayurveda as ‘she who has 100 husbands’. This is due to its potentiality to make a mature woman ravenous for men! The active compounds in shatavari are a type of steroidal saponin, which have been shown to effect cholesterol, nervous, gastrointestinal and immunological systems.
To use: With all herbs affecting hormonal function, I suggest discussing your needs with a qualified herbalist.

5. YOGA – is the ancient rishi practice passed from wizened Himalayan yogi to yogi over millennia to reach the Western world. Yoga balances the body/or mind complex and I would question if anything better exists to help balance hormonal function! To use: Find a qualified practitioner whos classes you enjoy. Attend two to three classes a week to learn the correct alignments and get the most from the practices. Find yourself a yoga book you love reading and drink deep!

6 MEDITATION – is the art of cultivating mindfulness and increasing awareness. By cultivating calm, we help to balance the mind-body complex and consequently support hormonal balance. To use: Meditation must be practised to be effective. It is with regular practice only that the results will occur. With practice, meditation can become more fulfilling. Find a good teacher to help you.

7. COCONUTS – are actually from the grass family, the fruits of which are profoundly great for us. In terms of hormonal health, fresh coconut meat provides the building blocks for various sex hormones, including the anti-ageing hormone DHEA. To use: Eat young green coconuts straight from the nut, or include in smoothies. Laksa, Thai foods are also delicious ways to ingest coconut.

8. NATURE – has been proven to reduce blood pressure when we experience it, either vicariously or actually. Blood pressure is controlled in part by hormones, and effects many elements of the hormonal system (particularly stress). To use: Open your awareness to the natural forces around you. From ants and birds, to trees and wind. Take some time to recognise the natural world around you.


Photo credit: Thinkstock


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