Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Subscribe to the Magazine for free
Subscribe for free to keep reading! If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Combining Conventional and Integrative Medicine For Optimal Endocrine Health

Medically reviewed by 
Combining Conventional and Integrative Medicine For Optimal Endocrine Health

The endocrine system is responsible for regulating hormone function in the body, a role that impacts everything from metabolism to menstruation, mental health, and hunger-satiety signaling. It’s important to understand that hormones often communicate as a network, meaning they are constantly impacting each other and the body as a whole. Combining conventional endocrinology, which can excel at diagnosing hormone-based conditions, with integrative endocrinology, an approach that helps address the root causes of said hormone dysfunction and provide a subsequent personalized care plan, maybe the key to optimal endocrine health.


Understanding The Endocrine System

The endocrine system refers to the network of glands in the body that produce and regulate various hormones. This system continuously monitors levels of hormones like insulin, thyroid hormone, and sex hormones and adjusts production accordingly. Hormone production and secretion are closely controlled, with the hypothalamus and pituitary playing major regulatory roles in secreting “releasing” hormones that increase the production of circulating hormones. The endocrine system, thus, works as a whole- not as independently functioning parts.   

The main glands that make up the endocrine system include the:

  • Hypothalamus
  • Pituitary
  • Thyroid
  • Parathyroid
  • Adrenal
  • Pineal
  • Pancreas
  • Ovaries and Testes

Hormones produced by the endocrine system play a role in controlling physiological functions such as metabolism, growth and development, sleep, fertility, blood pressure, mood, and stress response.  

Conventional Medicine's Role in Endocrine Health

A conventional medicine approach to endocrine health may include diagnostic testing and treatment based on test results. An endocrinologist is the main specialist who oversees endocrine cases, though OB-GYN’s may manage disorders related to sex hormones and fertility.  

Treatments may include medications or surgery, with limited counseling on nutrition and complementary therapy options. For example, oral contraceptives may be recommended for conditions like PMS, PMDD, or PCOS, while Synthroid is often the first-line approach for any case of hypothyroidism. However, these medication recommendations are often ongoing with no finish line in sight, so the only treatment option is to continue taking said medications to keep the symptoms under control. Medications often come with side effects as well, such as drug-induced nutrient depletions, changes to the gut microbiome, vague symptoms like fatigue, or more serious symptoms such as blood clots or liver failure.  

Limitations of Conventional Approaches

While conventional endocrinology can be important for obtaining a diagnosis and pursuing pharmaceutical intervention for severe symptoms, it is unfortunately not common to receive any lifestyle support such as nutritional advice, exercise recommendations, or lifestyle changes to better support a given endocrine disorder. 

Symptom management is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to hormone disorders, and for long-term success, it’s important to investigate and support the underlying root causes of hormone dysfunction. Medications may also bring unwanted side effects that should be considered when choosing treatment options, and at times, more medication may be prescribed to address the side effects of the initial medication.

The Top Functional Medicine Tests That Practitioners Use For Endocrine Health

Integrative practitioners may use several functional medicine tests when evaluating and supporting endocrine health. Hormones may be analyzed using a blood test or a saliva or urine sample to look at not only hormone levels but also how hormones are metabolized in the body. Systems related to hormone communication and metabolism, such as micronutrient levels or the gut microbiome, may also be investigated as part of a whole-body approach. The tests chosen by an integrative practitioner are selected based on each patient’s symptoms and medical history and may look different for each person. Below is a list of several of the top functional medicine tests that practitioners may use to support optimal endocrine health.

Complete Thyroid Panel

A Complete Thyroid Panel that looks at more than just TSH can help identify why a patient may not have optimal thyroid function. The complete panel includes free levels of hormones as well as thyroid antibodies, which are helpful in identifying if autoimmunity is at the root of thyroid dysfunction.  

Comprehensive Sex Hormone Testing

Hormones may be evaluated via a blood panel, a saliva test, or a urine test. Urine testing, such as the DUTCH test, is helpful to see hormone metabolites and to monitor the use of hormone replacement therapies, whereas blood and saliva testing are more common initial testing approaches to assess for total and free levels of hormones like estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone.  

Adrenal Testing

Adrenal testing can help identify abnormal cortisol levels and provide insight into a person’s hormonal response to stress.  This type of testing is often done as a 4-point measurement through saliva or urine to get an understanding of an indivdualls’ cortisol production over a 24-hour cycle.  

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel

A Comprehensive Metabolic Panel assesses markers related to endocrine function, such as glucose levels, electrolytes, and liver and kidney function. These panels can help identify underlying imbalances that may be contributing to endocrine dysfunction and symptomatology.   

Micronutrient Testing

A Micronutrient Panel can identify any deficiencies in vitamins or minerals that may be impacting hormone production and function. Addressing the findings through nutrition or supplementation can ensure an individual has all of the building blocks needed for optimal endocrine function.  

Comprehensive Digestive Analysis

A gut microbiome test such as the GI-MAP may be recommended to evaluate the health of the gut. Inflammation or dysbiosis in the gut may contribute to hormone imbalances, as the gut microbiome plays a role in the metabolism of hormones such as estrogen and is closely tied to the secretion of other hormones like cortisol.  


Integrative Approaches to Endocrine Health

An integrative medicine approach considers the whole person when formulating a treatment plan - mind, body, and spirit. An integrative medicine practitioner will often ask about your stress levels, environment, daily routines, and support networking, in addition to asking questions about symptoms. Integrative endocrinology offers a bigger-picture, holistic approach to supporting hormones and endocrine health, one that identifies and supports underlying causes of hormone dysfunction.

An integrative approach to endocrinology considers factors like nutrition, exercise, stress, lifestyle habits, and environment. Complementary therapies to help support overall well-being, such as yoga, a mindfulness practice, or massage, may also be part of an integrative health plan. Ultimately, an integrative medicine practitioner will curate a personalized care plan that supports the whole person in order to get sustainable results.  

Nutritional Therapy For Hormone Balance

Nutritional recommendations are a central component of an integrative approach to supporting hormone health. An anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is an important piece of any treatment plan for hormone balance. Including a variety of fruits and vegetables provides important vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants as well as fiber that are all important for hormone balance. Mineral-rich foods specific to hormone support include foods rich in selenium (like Brazil nuts), iodine (such as sea vegetables), and zinc (found in organ meats, grass-fed red meat, and pumpkin seeds).  

Getting adequate protein in the diet is also important for hormone health and has been found to support a healthy body composition during times of hormonal change, such as perimenopause. This effect likely has to do with satiety signaling as well as offsetting the increase in muscle catabolism that occurs with age as women’s hormones start to decrease. 

Including healthy fats in the diet, such as omega-3 fats, is important for hormone production and regulation. Omega-3 fats, like coldwater fish and flaxseed, have been linked to a lower incidence of hormone-related symptoms such as hot flashes while also supporting regular hormone production and ovulation in menstruating women.

Probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi, help support the gut microbiome and its impact on hormone metabolism and regulation and are, therefore, a great component of a hormone-supporting nutritional approach. 

Herbal Medicine's Role in Supporting Endocrine Function

Sometimes, herbs are used to support hormone health and endocrine function and often target specific glands or hormone functions.   

With regards to sex hormones, Black cohosh has been well-studied as an herbal remedy to decrease hot flashes and night sweats severity and incidence in perimenopause and menopause. Chasteberry (also known as Vitex) may be recommended to reduce PMS-related symptoms and support overall menstrual cycle health. 

Herbal blends have been found to help reduce fasting blood glucose and reduce inflammation in patients with diabetes.  

Ashwagandha has been studied for its ability to improve thyroid function and lower TSH in individuals with hypothyroidism.  

It’s important to have the guidance of a health professional when using herbs, especially if you’re already taking medication, as herbs and drugs may have unwanted interactions. The power of combining a conventional and integrative medicine model for hormone support is to create a safe, effective treatment plan that considers all options in the best interest of a given patient.  

Acupuncture and Its Impact on Hormone Regulation

Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective intervention for hormone regulation, especially as part of an overall integrative approach addressing a patient’s lifestyle as a whole. The practice of acupuncture is based on the concept of Qi, which references the vital energy that flows throughout the body and promotes optimal well-being when in balance. 

Acupuncture impacts various neuroendocrine pathways, helping to modulate the stress response and hormone regulation overall. Studies have shown that acupuncture can impact sex hormones, including estradiol, progesterone, and prolactin, and may even increase estradiol in women struggling with sex hormone production due to diminished ovarian reserve or primary ovarian insufficiency. Additionally, acupuncture treatment has been linked to an improvement in hypothyroid symptoms.  

Stress Reduction Techniques Like Yoga and Meditation

Managing stress is an important component of an integrative plan for optimal endocrine health.  Stress can negatively impact hormone function, especially when it’s chronic stress. Tools like meditation have been linked to improved mental health, lower cortisol levels, and an improved response to stress when practiced consistently. Yoga can also reduce stress hormone levels and improve symptoms that often accompany chronic stress, such as anxiety or depression.  

Benefits of Combining Conventional and Integrative Medicine

Utilizing a conventional medicine approach alongside integrative medicine is a holistic, comprehensive way to support optimal endocrine health. When it comes to endocrine dysfunction, traditional hormone replacement therapies (like thyroid medication or insulin) are often important for patient quality of life and to reduce further risk of disease progression. 

Blending integrative therapies to heal underlying root causes of dysfunction can help prevent recurrence or worsening of symptoms and build a stronger, healthier underlying health foundation that addresses nutrition, stress, and other aspects of daily life.

Including conventional and integrative approaches in an individual’s health journey empowers a person to learn more about how to fully support their health rather than just reacting to symptoms with medication alone. Understanding all of the options available allows a person to advocate for their preferred care plan with providers who are open-minded and collaborative.



The combination of conventional and integrative medicine approaches to managing hormones allows a person to experience the benefits of both worlds. Diagnosis and symptom management directly impact the quality of life in a timely way, while identifying and supporting underlying root causes of hormone dysfunction can set a person up for success long-term by building a strong foundation for optimal endocrine health.   

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
Learn More
No items found.

Lab Tests in This Article

Baker, J. M., Al-Nakkash, L., & Herbst-Kralovetz, M. M. (2017). Estrogen-gut microbiome axis: Physiological and clinical implications. Maturitas, 103, 45–53.

Carruba, G., Granata, O. M., Pala, V., Campisi, I., Agostara, B., Cusimano, R., Ravazzolo, B., & Traina, A. (2006). A traditional Mediterranean diet decreases endogenous estrogens in healthy postmenopausal women. Nutrition and Cancer, 56(2), 253–259.

Castelo-Branco, C., Navarro, C., Beltrán, E., Losa, F., & Camacho, M. (2022). Black cohosh efficacy and safety for menopausal symptoms. The Spanish Menopause Society statement. Gynecological Endocrinology, 38(5), 379–384.

Chaunt, L. A. (2023, April 13). Using Functional Nutrition to Address Hormone Imbalances. Rupa Health.

Cheng, F.-K. (2018). An overview of the contribution of acupuncture to thyroid disorders. Journal of Integrative Medicine, 16(6), 375–383.

Christie, J. (2023, January 10). How to Build a Personalized Nutrition Plan for Your Perimenopausal Patients. Rupa Health.

Cleveland Clinic. (2020, December 5). Endocrine System: What Is it, Functions & Organs. Cleveland Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic. (2022a). Integrative Medicine: What Is It, Types, Risks & Benefits. Cleveland Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic. (2022b, April 12). Endocrinologist: What Is It & What Do They Do. Cleveland Clinic.

DePorto, T. (2023, January 11). If You Have These Symptoms, Ask Your Practitioner To Test Your Zinc Levels. Rupa Health.

Foster, J. A., Rinaman, L., & Cryan, J. F. (2017). Stress & the gut-brain axis: Regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiology of Stress, 7, 124–136.

Hiller-Sturmhöfel, S., & Bartke, A. (1998). The endocrine system: an overview. Alcohol Health and Research World, 22(3), 153–164.

Khakham, C. (2023, March 27). An Integrative Approach to Endocrinology. Rupa Health.

Ko, J. H., & Kim, S.-N. (2018). A Literature Review of Women’s Sex Hormone Changes by Acupuncture Treatment: Analysis of Human and Animal Studies. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018, 1–9.

Li, N., Li, M., Chen, B., & Guo, Y. (2019). A New Perspective of Acupuncture: The Interaction among Three Networks Leads to Neutralization. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2019, 1–10.

Lucas, M., Asselin, G., Mérette, C., Poulin, M.-J., & Dodin, S. (2009). Effects of ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on hot flashes and quality of life among middle-aged women. Menopause, 16(2), 357–366.

Mincer, D. L., & Jialal, I. (2019, May 5). Hashimoto Thyroiditis.; StatPearls Publishing.

Mumford, S. L., Chavarro, J. E., Zhang, C., Perkins, N. J., Sjaarda, L. A., Pollack, A. Z., Schliep, K. C., Michels, K. A., Zarek, S. M., Plowden, T. C., Radin, R. G., Messer, L. C., Frankel, R. A., & Wactawski-Wende, J. (2016). Dietary fat intake and reproductive hormone concentrations and ovulation in regularly menstruating women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(3), 868–877.

Pang, G.-M., Li, F.-X., Yan, Y., Zhang, Y., Kong, L.-L., Zhu, P., Wang, K.-F., Zhang, F., Liu, B., & Lu, C. (2019). Herbal medicine in the treatment of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Chinese Medical Journal, 132(1), 78–85.

Rafieian-Kopaei, M., & Movahedi, M. (2017). Systematic Review of Premenstrual, Postmenstrual and Infertility Disorders of Vitex Agnus Castus. Electronic Physician, 9(1), 3685–3689.

Ranabir, S., & Reetu, K. (2011). Stress and hormones. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 15(1), 18.

Research, C. for D. E. and. (2019). Finding and Learning about Side Effects (adverse reactions). FDA.

Sharma, A. K., Basu, I., & Singh, S. (2018). Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 24(3), 243–248.

Simpson, S. J., Raubenheimer, D., Black, K. I., & Conigrave, A. D. (2022). Weight gain during the menopause transition: Evidence for a mechanism dependent on protein leverage. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 130(1), 4–10.

Sweetnich, J. (2023a, March 17). Iodine 101: Testing, Top Foods, and Supplements. Rupa Health.

Sweetnich, J. (2023b, March 22). Selenium 101: Testing, Top Foods, and Supplements. Rupa Health.

Szydłowska, I., Marciniak, A., Brodowska, A., Loj, B., Ciećwież, S., Skonieczna-Żydecka, K., Palma, J., Łoniewski, I., & Stachowska, E. (2021). Effects of probiotics supplementation on the hormone and body mass index in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women using the standardized diet. A 5-week double-blind, placebo-controlled, and randomized clinical study. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 25(10), 3859–3867.

Thirthalli, J., Naveen, G., Rao, M., Varambally, S., Christopher, R., & Gangadhar, B. (2013). Cortisol and antidepressant effects of yoga. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(7), 405.

Wang, Y., Li, Y., Chen, R., Cui, X., Yu, J., & Liu, Z. (2016). Electroacupuncture for Reproductive Hormone Levels in Patients with Diminished Ovarian Reserve: A Prospective Observational Study. Acupuncture in Medicine, 34(5), 386–391.

Yoshimura, H. (2023, March 27). The Use of Acupuncture in Treating Infertility. Rupa Health.

Zhou, K., Jiang, J., Wu, J., & Liu, Z. (2013). Electroacupuncture Modulates Reproductive Hormone Levels in Patients with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency: Results from a Prospective Observational Study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, 2013, 657234.

Subscribe to the Magazine for free to keep reading!
Subscribe for free to keep reading, If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.