Hormones fluctuate throughout your lifetime due to natural internal events, such as puberty and pregnancy, as well as due to external influences, including stress, medications, and environmental toxins. Many of these hormones operate on self-correcting feedback mechanisms in which high or low levels cue the body to produce less or more of a particular hormone, helping you maintain equilibrium. But what happens when the aging process causes significant hormonal changes for which your body can no longer compensate?
As women age, hormone production fluctuates in preparation for menopause, the point at which your reproductive life draws to a close and a new phase begins. Of course, aging is a natural process. However, age-related hormone changes can result in troubling symptoms that leave you feeling perplexed, longing for energy and motivation, and wishing for something to take the edge off. For many women, that something is supplementation. By integrating the best supplements for hormone balance into your daily routine, you can support your immediate and long-term health as you enter a transformative stage of life.
The Power of Hormones
The process of aging happens in the life of every organism, but the changes are not always easy to adjust to, especially when they affect your quality of life. As body processes slow, it becomes more difficult to keep up the pace you are used to. You may also begin experiencing specific, disruptive symptoms associated with age-related hormonal shifts—and it may happen earlier than you think. Women often anticipate the hormonal changes associated with menopause but may not recognize the symptoms when they first appear.
Throughout a woman’s reproductive life, estrogen and progesterone levels interact with each other in a cyclic opposition, spurring each phase of the reproductive cycle. But as women approach the menopause transition, these natural hormonal fluctuations can become more pronounced and less predictable, causing a host of physical and emotional effects. This transitional period before menopause is known as perimenopause, and it can begin long before you enter menopause. For many women, this means struggling with symptoms like menstrual irregularity, moodiness, irritability, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and night sweats for years.
Symptomatic Relief From Supplements
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is widely acknowledged as the most effective treatment for perimenopause and menopause symptoms due to its unique ability to target the root cause of uncomfortable symptoms—declining hormone levels. Eating a healthy diet, practicing good sleep hygiene, getting regular exercise, and implementing effective stress management techniques can also be instrumental in feeling your best as you age. However, a growing number of women are also turning to nutritional supplementation to help restore physiological tranquility, whether used in concert with HRT or on their own. The best supplements for hormone balance include:
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a cruciferous vegetable found in the Andes mountains of Peru. It has historically been used to treat sexual dysfunction and enhance fertility, but it can also play a critical role in supporting women during the menopause transition. Unlike many other herbal products, Maca does not contain plant hormones, so its benefits seem to be achieved by modulating the balance of endogenous hormones rather than introducing exogenous hormones. Researchers have found that Maca had a hormone-balancing effect, alleviates uncomfortable symptoms, and lowers body weight, blood pressure, serum triglycerides and cholesterol in perimenopausal women. Indeed, some believe that Maca may be a viable alternative to hormone replacement therapy for some women.
I3C and DIM
I3C (indole-3-carbinol) and DIM (diindolylmethane)—a related chemical formed when I3C breaks down in the GI tract—also come from cruciferous vegetables. Due to their ability to metabolize estrogen into safer breakdown products, these phytochemicals have a protective effect against hormone-dependent and independent cancers in both men and women. In addition to safely eliminating excess estrogen, they have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive action, both of which are critical to optimizing health. Some evidence also suggests that these natural, vegetable products may be helpful in treating osteoporosis, but more research is needed.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Its potential as a supplement for hormone balance lies in its role as a precursor that can be transformed into estrogen or testosterone. DHEA levels are highest in young people, peaking in early adulthood and gradually declining thereafter. Supplementation may help restore DHEA levels and slow the aging process, protecting skin, preserving cognitive function and promoting leaner body composition. Research has yielded mixed results, but medical scientists continue to explore the potential benefits of DHEA.
Also known as chasteberry, Vitex agnus-castus is a herbal supplement that originated in the Mediterranean region. It has both a history of more than 2500 years of common use as well as modern medical research to back its treatment for premenstrual and menopausal symptoms as well as infertility. Its reported success in improving many of these symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness, is attributed to the estrogen and progesterone-like qualities of its fruit on the pituitary gland.
Before starting a new supplement, even an herbal or vegetable product, women should consult their health care practitioner. This will help to ensure the safety of the particular supplement and eliminate any dangerous interactions with prescription medications.
Improving Quality of Life
If the symptoms of hormonal change are affecting your quality of life, it may be time for intervention. But getting the best results requires expert help. Consulting a knowledgeable practitioner can be the first step on your journey to relief from symptoms and restoration of a better, more comfortable life. After taking a detailed history, your provider will order the appropriate lab tests to develop a clearer picture of your internal environment. If the analysis reveals conditions that would benefit from hormone replacement therapy, a hormone specialist can develop a personalized plan designed around your unique needs. They can also recommend the most effective supplements for hormone balance. These herbal, mineral and vegetable supplements can support a more balanced internal environment that keeps you living comfortably and performing at your peak.
If you want to learn more about promoting hormonal balance during perimenopause and menopause, BodyLogicMD can help. The BodyLogicMD network is comprised of top medical professionals specializing in hormone health and hormone replacement therapy. A BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner will create a customized treatment plan to address your symptoms and help you achieve your health goals. Contact a local practitioner to schedule your first appointment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.