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.

Using Functional Nutrition to Address Hormone Imbalances

Medically reviewed by 
Using Functional Nutrition to Address Hormone Imbalances

Hormones are chemical messengers in our body that exist in a delicate balance, each having distinct functions integral to all aspects of our health. When our hormones are in balance, it helps our body and mind be in optimal balance, allowing us to feel our best. Imbalances in hormones can arise for several reasons and can wreak havoc on our energy, mood, immunity, libido, fertility, and weight, among other factors. The good news is we can support our hormonal balance with several nutrition and lifestyle approaches and determine the root cause for imbalance.  


What are Hormonal Imbalances?

Hormonal Imbalances occur when we have too little or too much of a particular hormone or multiple hormones. Our hormones function synergistically, each having their own functions relative to regulating many of the body's processes. While age is a factor that can influence imbalance, such as imbalances seen during menopause, imbalances in hormones can also occur due to variations in our genes, nutrition, and lifestyle factors. For instance, stress is a significant contributing factor to hormonal imbalance.

What is Functional Nutrition?

Functional Nutrition is a whole body, root cause approach to health. This approach looks at imbalances in the body in determining the underlying cause of symptoms one presents with. It also encompasses an integrative approach to optimizing health as it recognizes the connection between the body and mind in influencing wellness.

Signs & Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

The signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance are numerous and may include compromised energy, fluctuations in mood, including anxiety or depression, acne, hair thinning or hair growth, weight gain, inflammation, compromised digestion and detoxification, heavy menstrual flow, low libido, and fertility issues.

Possible Causes of Hormonal Imbalance

The causes of hormonal imbalance are multifaceted and include a combination of lifestyle factors such as chronic stress, inflammation, and nutrition.

Stress and Adrenal Dysfunction

Stress can undoubtedly impede the body's homeostasis and lead to hormonal imbalances. This is because chronic stress causes alterations in the HPA axis resulting in a heavy burden on the adrenal glands. When stress is perceived, the hypothalamus causes the pituitary gland to make adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), resulting in the production of cortisol and glucocorticoids from the adrenal glands as a way of adapting to the stressor. This results in a reduction in DHEA and other important sex hormones for maintaining homeostasis in the body.

Elevated Cortisol to DHEA Ratio is a consequence of adrenal hyperfunction. This could be evident in those experiencing chronic stress, depression, or intense exercise.

Cushing's syndrome is an example of adrenal hyperfunction, characterized by elevated cortisol production from excess ACTH synthesis. In contrast, Addison's Disease is characterized by insufficient production of cortisol or adrenal hypofunction/adrenal failure.

Thyroid Dysfunction

Thyroid dysfunction is quite common, affecting about 10% of the US population. The thyroid communicates with every cell in the body. So, thyroid imbalances commonly lead to other hormone imbalances.

Thyroid hormone regulation depends on several factors, such as nutrition, stress, and sleep. When there is insufficient thyroid hormone production, hypothyroidism results, leading to lowered cellular metabolism throughout the body and symptoms such as weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, and constipation. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto's.

Stress can also cause hypothyroidism by inhibiting Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) production, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that tells the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. Insufficient iodine intake from the diet could also contribute to thyroid dysfunction and imbalance, as it causes a reduction in T4 (the inactive thyroid hormone) production. While rare, excessive consumption of goitrogens can also reduce the production of T4. These include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, turnips, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and lima beans.

Thyroid dysfunction can also result from too much thyroid hormone production, leading to a condition called hyperthyroidism. Common symptoms include heart palpitations, anxiety, increased hunger, excessive weight loss, and increased sweating. Graves' disease is a common cause and an autoimmune condition that leads to hyperthyroidism.

Environmental Toxins

Environmental toxins also play a strong role in hormonal disruption owing to oxidative stress and inflammation. Environmental toxins can also interfere with the uptake of iodine as they decrease the active transport of iodine into the thyroid, reducing thyroid hormone production.

Inadequate Nutritional Support

Insufficient nutrition support for the thyroid and adrenals can also contribute to hormonal imbalance. In addition to low iodine, low levels of selenium, zinc, and iron, among other nutrients, have also been noted to contribute to hormonal imbalance. Inadequate amounts of high-quality fatty acids, proteins, phytonutrients, and beneficial bacteria can all contribute to hormonal imbalances.

Gut Microbiome Imbalance

Thyroid damage caused by an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Common triggers of immune dysregulation include gut dysbiosis, in addition to stress. Dysbiosis is the imbalance of beneficial and pathogenic gut bacteria.


Chronic inflammation has been shown to affect other hormones such as thyroid hormones, cortisol, and growth hormone. High stress, processed foods, and environmental toxins have all been associated with chronic inflammation.  

Functional Medicine Labs to Test for Root Cause of Hormone Imbalance

Common functional labs for the root cause of hormonal balance may include any of the following:


This test assesses for a comprehensive array of sex and adrenal hormones to determine imbalances. This test also measures cortisol, the main stress hormone produced by the adrenals. Finally, the DUTCH Plus measures a number of organic acids (hormone metabolites measured in the urine) that have important roles in the metabolism and function of enzymes required for hormonal health.

Thyroid Panel Comprehensive

This test evaluates a full panel of thyroid hormones to determine the function and related conditions such as hypo and hyperthyroidism. Thyroid hormone regulation and function are essential to the metabolism of all the cells in our body and therefore are important to evaluate hormonal balance.

Comprehensive Stool Test

This test assesses key markers of gut microbiome imbalance as well as the presence of diversity. This is important as factors such as dysbiosis stemming from the gut can affect thyroid function and hormonal balance. Gut microbiome balance is also important for the regulation of hormones, as a number of hormones are synthesized by beneficial gut bacteria. This test also measures markers of digestion, absorption, and inflammation vital to our hormonal health.

Micronutrient Testing

Nutritional deficiencies can definitely contribute to hormonal imbalances. Ensuring one is sufficient in all of the vitamins and minerals that are important for hormonal health is therefore important.

Liver Functioning

Assessing the functioning of the liver is important, as compromised liver functioning has been associated with hormonal imbalance. Liver function is necessary for hormonal metabolism as it regulates the balance of thyroid, sex, and adrenal hormones while also ridding the body of toxins and waste that can affect hormonal balance.

Conventional Treatment for Hormone Imbalance

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is often a conventional treatment for hormonal balance. This encompasses natural as well as synthetic hormone therapy for menopause.

Functional Medicine Treatment for Balancing Hormones

The following are recommendations for a functional medicine approach to balancing hormones:

Address Stress

Stress can greatly affect hormonal balance as it causes dysregulation in the HPA axis, among other factors. Finding adaptable and sustainable ways to cope with stress can be influential in supporting hormonal balance. Prioritizing self-care is a great way of modulating stress such as getting enough sleep, engaging in regular exercise, and spending more time in nature. It may also be helpful to implement deep breathing and meditation exercises throughout the day.

Address Autoimmunity Factors

Autoimmune conditions, such as Hashimoto's, can cause imbalances in hormones, as well as PCOS, which has been suggested to have a combination of underlying genetic, autoimmune, and metabolic causes. An anti-inflammatory diet is a great way to strengthen the overall immune system and help mitigate autoimmunity.

Address Thyroid Function

Addressing disruptions in thyroid function is also assessed in a functional medicine approach to hormonal balance. Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can contribute to an imbalance.

For either condition, it is important to support the body with an anti-inflammatory diet and immune-supportive micronutrients such as Vitamin D, A, and Zinc, as these also support thyroid function. Refraining from foods that can cause irritation and contribute to inflammation is also important.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise and movement are also essential for balancing hormones. Exercise helps to produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF, which helps reduce inflammation, regulate stress, and modulate gut function, all of which support hormonal health.

Adequate Sleep

Sleep is essential for balancing hormones, among other integral factors, to support restoration and balance in the body and mind. Some helpful tips to improve sleep include early morning exposure to sunlight, as this helps to improve the circadian rhythm. It is also helpful to dim the lights 1-2 hours before you sleep and stick to a regular bedtime.

Gut Microbiome Balance

Research suggests that balancing the gut microbiome supports HPA balance, helping with hormonal balance. The health of our gut microbiome also influences our metabolic function, which can further contribute to hormonal health. Hydration, rest, and movement are key players in promoting balance in the gut as well as probiotic foods like sauerkraut and prebiotic foods like bananas, garlic, and onions.

Address Toxicant Exposure

Addressing toxins in the environment. Reducing exposure to toxicants, such as heavy metals, chemicals, and alcohol, is also encouraged, as these have all been found to wreak havoc on our hormonal levels, especially as we age.

Using Functional Nutrition to Address Hormone Imbalances

Nutrition can be a significant factor in balancing hormones. Load up on fruits and vegetables as they substantially benefit hormonal health. They are great sources of fiber and phytonutrients and have vitamins and minerals that support hormonal balance. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower and dark leafy greens like spinach and kale can support the body with detox, which is important for maintaining hormonal balance. Cooking these vegetables will negate any goitrogenic issues.

Ensure to include sources of selenium, such as Brazil nuts, and iodine, such as seafood, as these minerals are important for thyroid health. Zinc helps modulate gut functioning and immunity, supporting hormonal balance. Nuts, whole grains, and legumes are all great sources of zinc.

Protein is also important for hormone health. Fish, chicken, and organ meats are good protein sources rich in vitamin B6, which is integral to hormonal health.

Healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, grass-fed butter, wild-caught salmon, and flaxseed are rich in anti-inflammatory properties and support hormonal balance. Healthy fats like Omega-3s serve as precursors for many hormones.

Supplements and Herbs for Hormones

The following supplements and herbs may be recommended for hormonal balance. Before beginning any new regimen, it is recommended that you get your hormone levels evaluated by your practitioner.

Maca Root

Maca root has been well supported in the literature as an effective treatment for hormonal imbalance. Research specifically has looked at its benefits for regulating sex hormones regarding sexual dysfunction, menopausal symptoms, and semen quality.


Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb helping the body to adapt to stress. It is supportive in terms of hormonal balance by helping to modulate the stress response, support anxiety, and reduce inflammation.


Curcumin is the active component of the herb turmeric. It is well known for its significant anti-inflammatory properties. Because inflammation can negatively affect hormone balance, incorporating curcumin can benefit hormone health.


Consuming probiotic foods such as fermented foods is a great way to balance the microbiome. However, for individuals who may not consume enough or any fermented foods, probiotic supplements can be a supportive option to rebalance the microbiome and positively influence hormonal balance.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is not only a vitamin but is also known as a prohormone because of its hormone-like effect on the body. Over 40% of the US population is deficient in vitamin D, so supplementing can be helpful. This vitamin can help modulate immunity, inflammation, and mood, which all have an impact on hormonal health.

Integrative Medicine to Help Balance Hormones

The use of saunas allows us to excrete toxins via sweat from the body that could otherwise disrupt our hormonal balance.

Massage helps promote blood flow and parasympathetic dominance, calming the body and mind. A recent study found that scalp massage, in particular, had promising effects on stress hormones.

Acupuncture has been noted to have promising benefits for those with hypothyroidism. It has also been suggested to support fertility in combination with mindfulness.

Yoga has been found to be supportive of balancing hormones. The mechanisms contributing to these effects include parasympathetic dominance, vagal tone stimulation, and alteration in the HPA axis that support balance in the nervous system.



Hormones are involved in various bodily processes integral to our health and well-being. The balance of our hormones is necessary for metabolism and reproduction, among other important factors. Imbalances in hormones from stress, inadequate nutrition, or other reasons can impede many aspects of our health, such as energy, metabolism, libido, mood, and digestion, among other factors. The causes of hormonal imbalances are multifactorial; A functional medicine approach to hormonal balance assesses for the underlying root cause of imbalance, with nutrition and lifestyle factors.

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

  • Bower-Cargill C, Yarandi N &  Petróczi, A (2022).  A systematic review of the versatile effects of the Peruvian Maca Root (Lepidium meyenii ) on sexual dysfunction, menopausal symptoms and related conditions. Phytomedicine Plus, 2
  • Breton J, Galmiche M, Déchelotte P. (2022). Dysbiotic Gut Bacteria in Obesity: An Overview of the Metabolic Mechanisms and Therapeutic Perspectives of Next-Generation Probiotics. Microorganisms, 10(2):452.
  • Dezső Csupor et al. ( 2019 ). Vitex agnus-castus in premenstrual syndrome: A meta-analysis of double-blind randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 4
  • Faheem Maqbool, Sara Mostafalou, Haji Bahadar, Mohammad Abdollahi (2016).Review of endocrine disorders associated with environmental toxicants and possible involved mechanisms, Life Sciences,  145,
  • Gallagher, P., Young, A. (2002). Cortisol/DHEA Ratios in Depression. Neuropsychopharmacol 26, 410.
  • Genes SG. (1977). Role of the liver in hormone metabolism and in the regulation of their content in the blood.  Arkh Patol, 39(6):74-80. Russian. PMID: 334126.
  • Georgakouli K, Manthou E, Fatouros IG, Deli CK, Koutedakis Y, Theodorakis Y, Jamurtas AZ. (2022). HPA-Axis Activity and Nutritional Status Correlation in Individuals with Alcohol Use Disorder. Nutrients.
  • Hoption C. (2006). Hypothesis: dietary iodine intake in the etiology of cardiovascular disease. J Am Coll Nutr, 1, 1-11.
  • Ilpo T. Huhtaniemi, Jari A. Laukkanen (2020). Endocrine effects of sauna bath, Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research, 11
  • Jeng M. Hsu (1986). Interrelations between Vitamin B6 and Hormones, Editor(s): Robert S. Harris, Ira G. Wool, John A. Loraine, Vitamins & Hormones, 21
  • Joels M., Karst H, Krugers HJ et al. (2007).  Chronic stress: implications for neuronal morphology, function and neurogenesis. Front Neuroendocrinol, 28, 72-96.
  • Josef Köhrle &  Roland Gärtner (2009). Selenium and thyroid. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 23, Issue 6,
  • Lane L, et al. (202). New Therapeutic Horizons for Graves’ Hyperthyroidism, Endocrine Reviews, 41, 6, 873–884
  • Lobo, R. Hormone-replacement therapy: current thinking. (2017). Nat Rev Endocrinol 13, 220–231
  • Mahajan A. (2014). Role of yoga in hormonal homeostasis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Physiology, 1, 3.
  • Mardia López-Alarcón et al. (2014). "Excessive Refined Carbohydrates and Scarce Micronutrients Intakes Increase Inflammatory Mediators and Insulin Resistance in Prepubertal and Pubertal Obese Children Independently of Obesity", Mediators of Inflammation,
  • Mayo J. (1999). Black Cohosh and Chasteberry: Herbs Valued by Women for Centuries. Clinical Nutrition Insights
  • McEwen BS. (2008). Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: Understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators. Eur J Pharmacol, 583, 145-185.
  • Mullu R., Liu Y. & Brent G. ( 2014). Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism. Physiol Rev, 94 (2): 355- 382.
  • Petri M, Karlson EW, Cooper DS, Ladenson PW. (1991) Autoantibody tests in autoimmune thyroid disease: a case-control study. J Rheumatol, 18(10):1529-31.
  • Rachel M.M. et al. (2022).  Mindfulness and yoga approach for fertility: the benefits of mindfulness in human reproduction treatments. Fertility, Pregnancy, and Wellness,
  • Ragusa F et al. (2019). Hashimotos’ thyroiditis: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinic and therapy. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology
  • Rajoria S et al. (2011). . 3,3'-diindolylmethane modulates estrogen metabolism in patients with thyroid proliferative disease: a pilot study. Thyroid. Mar;21(3):299-304.
  • Ralli M et al. ( 2020). Hashimoto's thyroiditis: An update on pathogenic mechanisms, diagnostic protocols, therapeutic strategies, and potential malignant transformation,
  • Autoimmunity Reviews, 19, 10
  • Rashmi Mullur, Yan-Yun Liu, and Gregory A. Brent (2014). Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism. Physiological Reviews,
  • Toni R, Malaguti A, Castorina S et al. New paradigms in neuroendocrinology: relationships between obesity, systemic inflammation and the neuroendocrine system. J Endocrinol Invest, 2, 182-186.
  • Yalan Xu & Jie Qiao (2022).  Association of Insulin Resistance and Elevated Androgen Levels with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): A Review of Literature. Journal of Healthcare Engineering, 13
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.