Supplements for Hormonal Health
I cannot overemphasize the importance of high-quality supplements. A recent study revealed that four out of five herbal supplements at GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart didn’t contain any of the herbs on their labels. Most of them actually contained cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus, and houseplants. For people with allergies, these substances can be dangerous.
How do supplement manufacturers get away with this? Dietary supplements are exempt from the strict regulations applied to the prescription drug industry. The trouble is that many people spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on supplements thinking that they will improve their health, and they are actually doing little, if any, good. To better understand this, let’s first get a better understanding of what a supplement is.
A dietary/nutritional supplement is a product that contains vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes and/or other ingredients intended to supplement the diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has special labeling requirements for dietary supplements and treats them as foods, not drugs.
Check for the following signs of a high-quality supplement:
- Manufactured at a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) facility
- List a Certificate of Analysis for each ingredients
Avoid other ingredients like:
Fillers – Inert material added to tablets or capsules to increase their bulk
Fillers – Inert material added to tablets or capsules to increase their bulk
- Binders – Substances that give a cohesive quality to powders materials
- Coatings/ Lubricants – Inert material added in small amounts to prevent tablets from sticking to the molds
- Colourings – Food dyes
- Flavourings – Examples are sugar, natural flavouring, sorbitol
- Look for ingredients that are clinically proven to boost health
- Avoid supplements that are at a low price point that’s too good to be true
- Pay attention to the company’s integrity and reputation
- Try to choose supplements derived from natural sources and whole foods rather than synthetic chemicals
With so many concerns regarding supplements, it can raise the question - are supplements beneficial? The answer is yes! In addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle changes, nutritional supplementation may be effective in managing hormone imbalances.
Supplements for Hormonal Imbalances
Did you know that vitamin D is considered a hormone? The “sunshine” hormone precursor is manufactured in the body by the process of the sun’s ultraviolet rays on the skin converting the biological precursor 7-dehydroergosterol into vitamin D3. It has a role in forming calcitriol, which is the hormone that regulates the calcium and phosphorus in the body. The recommended dose for vitamin D3 is 400 IU daily and up to 5,000 IU daily for a therapeutic dose. Higher doses may be recommended by a healthcare practitioner when Vitamin D3 levels have been tested.
This incredible co-factor participates in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Some of the more important functions include transmission of nerve impulses, muscular activity, production of ATP (energy), temperature regulation, detoxification reactions, and calcium formation of healthy bones and teeth. If magnesium levels are low, PMS cramps and migraines due to smooth muscle contractions may arise or worsen. Additionally, if you take oral contraceptives, they make you release excess estrogen and deplete magnesium and tyrosine. Magnesium deficiency reduces insulin sensitivity (ability to handle carbs) and lowers thyroid hormone production. The RDA dose for magnesium is 400mg per day and up to 1,500 mg per day for therapeutic doses.
Dietary iodine is converted to iodide in the gastrointestinal tract, where it’s absorbed and transported to the thyroid gland. Iodine is stored in thyroglobulin. An increase in TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to increase the uptake of iodine and synthesize more thyroid hormones. A deficiency in iodine can cause hypothyroidism, goiter, cretinism, and myxedema. Goitrogens are substances that inhibit the synthesis and secretion of thyroid hormones. The foods that contain goitrogens include: raw cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, soybeans, and peanuts. The RDA for iodine is 150mcg/day and therapeutic dose ranges from 3mg to 6mg daily. Iodine should be avoided in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis due to its ability to worsen an autoimmune attack.
This may be necessary if you take oral contraceptives. OC's make you release excess estrogen, and deplete tyrosine. Being deficient in tyrosine reduces insulin sensitivity (ability to handle carbs) and lowers thyroid hormone production.
B Complex for Hashimoto’s
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that results in hypothyroidism. If there is low thyroid hormone and low stomach acid, then there is a high risk of developing a B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is important because it helps keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells.
Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak.
Additionally Thiamine (B1) helps fight the antibodies that contribute to Hashimoto’s.
Pyridoxine (B6) is involved in liver function, detoxification, gastrointestinal issue, and adrenal fatigue. Each of the symptoms is often linked to Hashimoto’s.
Pantothenic acid (B5) plays a key role in the production of some hormones and neurotransmitters. B5 is a constituent of co-enzyme A (CoA) which plays a role in production of fats, cholesterol (needed for steroid hormones), and bile acids.
Herbs for Hormone Imbalances
Ashwagandha for Thyroid Health
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb found in the nightshade family that works to correct thyroid imbalances resulting from Hashimoto’s, Graves’ and hyperthyroidism. As an option for hypothyroidism, the herb stimulates the thyroid gland to increase T4 production. In hyperthyroidism, Ashwagandha stimulates the thyroid to increase T4 levels, decrease T3 production, and reduce oxidative stress. The recommended dose to regain balance is 500-1,000mg daily.
Astragalus, also known as Milk Vetch, is an adaptogen beneficial for lowering cortisol and for its immune-enhancing properties. This herb inhibits bone marrow depletion, protects against cellular damage in the liver, helps oxygenate the heart, and help improves the body’s response to stress by easing anxiety. Astragalus can also increase insulin sensitivity and protect pancreatic beta cells. Often, the recommended dosage is 250 mg (standardized extract) four times a day.
A hepatoprotective (or liver protector), milk thistle is also known as Silybum marianum. It is a combination of chemical agents, which includes flavonoids such as silybin, silydianin, and silychristin. These combine to become silymarin. Milk thistle has an important role in protecting the liver from environmental toxins, which in turn helps with the detoxification process. It also prevents certain toxins from entering liver cells and stimulates regeneration of damaged cells. Milk thistle benefits the gastrointestinal system by increasing bile flow. For new mothers who are nursing, milk thistle can stimulate milk flow. The recommended dose is 80mg (standardized extract) three times a day.
Chasteberry, also known as Vitex agnus-castus, increases pituitary sensitivity to produce more luteinizing hormone (LH), which then leads to higher progesterone levels. Vitex also inhibits FSH, supports a normal menstrual cycle, increases prolactin levels in the second half of the menstrual cycle, and improves hormonal interactions and the balancing of hormones. The recommended dose of Vitex is 400mg (standardized extract) daily. Women on hormonal therapy may experience synergistic effects.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening Primrose Oil, also known as Oenothera biennis, is used to build cell membranes, and for hormone and prostaglandin production. High levels of the essential fatty acids gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) decrease inflammation and smooth muscle cramping. To reach optimal benefits, you need to balance out the ratio of Omega-3/Omega-6 by increasing omega-3s. The recommended dosage is 1,500mg (standardized extract) daily.
Additional Supplements for Hormone Imbalances
If you enjoy cold-water fish, nuts, and berries, continue eating them – even upping their intake! These are a great source of omega-3s that fight inflammation, prevent premature aging, reduce LDLs (bad cholesterol), improve insulin resistance, protect against free radical damage, support weight loss, keep the heart and brain healthy, and help combat infertility. It is best to get omega-3 from food, but when not possible, take an omega-3 supplement. They come in three forms: DHA, EPA, and ALA. The adequate intake of omega-3 is 1.6 grams/day for men and 1.1 grams/day for women.
If an individual is struggling with perimenopause, premenstrual syndrome, or an enlarged prostate gland, estrogen levels may be the culprit. DIM is a phytonutrient found in cruciferous vegetables that promotes estrogen metabolism and fat loss, supports prostate health, and helps maintain healthy skin, bones, and hormone balance, especially for estrogen dominant conditions (such as fibrocystic breast tissue and uterine fibroids). Cruciferous vegetables include: broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts, turnip, watercress, and radish. The appropriate dose is determinant on one’s age, health, and any underlying conditions.
DHEA, otherwise known as Dehydroepiandrosterone
DHES is a hormonal precursor to androgenic hormones like testosterone and estrogen. When taken as a supplement, DHEA promotes the synthesis of these new hormones. Since estrogen production declines with age, it's no surprise that DHEA levels in the body also fall. In fact, some studies report that between the age of 30 and the onset of menopause, DHEA levels can be reduced by nearly 60%. If you've encountered age-related estrogen decline, it's entirely possible that supplementing with a DHEA supplement may improve estrogen status and of course, reduce estrogen-related symptoms.
A majority of the immune system is found in the gut, so if the digestive system is malfunctioning, a weak immune system and hormonal imbalances are often the result. The imbalances can also affect the thyroid gland and result in fatigue, joint pain, depression, and many more symptoms. So, how can probiotics help? They are the good bacteria that line the digestive tract, absorb nutrients and fight off invaders. Probiotics help produce B12, kick out the bad bacteria, create fighting enzymes, and secrete IgA and regulatory T-cells. To gain the benefits of probiotics, find a supplement that has 10 or more strains of probiotics with minimum of 15 billion CFUs. Fermented foods and beverages such as some yogurts, kombucha, and kimchi are also a good source of probiotics.
Additional Supplements Specifically for PCOS
Polycistic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance resulting in enlarged ovaries with small cysts that disrupt the reproductive system by an overproduction of androgens.
Similar to a vitamin, inositol is found in plants, animals, and is also made in a lab. Inositol helps lower triglycerides, testosterone, insulin levels, and blood pressure. It also functions to promote ovulation, fertility, and egg production in women with PCOS. The recommended dose for polycystic ovary syndrome is 1,200mg/daily.
New research has indicated Berberine reduces insulin levels, prevents leaky gut syndrome, improves fatty liver disease, fights off cancer, decreases cholesterol levels, boosts fertility, fights off inflammation, reduces testosterone, lowers blood pressure, and promotes weight loss. Research has indicated 500mg of Berberine 3 times per day.
Who would have thought that by keeping your breath minty fresh, you can also help reduce the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome? If you drink 2 to 3 cups of spearmint tea daily, you can reduce androgen levels, excessive body hair, and hirsutism. Spearmint has been shown to reduce testosterone levels, so start drinking that tea!