A Functional MD's 3 Daily Tips For Hormone Balance (One Might Surprise You)
In the well-being space, we've made great strides when it comes to hormones—there's much more awareness and appreciation that hormones are, in fact, a key component of overall health. And yet, we're still not quite there with how to keep them balanced; after all, your hormones are involved in pretty much every bodily function, so it can be difficult to pinpoint which exact ones are giving you grief.
That's why true hormone balance takes a daily commitment. As functional medicine doctor and mbg Collective member Taz Bhatia, M.D., shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, lifestyle interventions can help support and/or reset hormone levels—you just have to stay consistent so they actually work. Here, she shares the habits she sticks to every single day for hormone balance:
Eat a fiber-filled breakfast.
When we asked Bhatia about her go-to foods for hormone balance, she gave no hesitation: "Everybody needs to get a lot more fiber," she says. "[People are] falling really short of the 40 grams of fiber per day that we're recommending across the board, and specifically for hormone balance." See, fiber plays a critical role in estrogen balance, as it helps to excrete estrogen so it doesn't keep circulating in your body.
To get your fill of fiber, Bhatia recommends getting six servings of fruits and vegetables per day. "And the way to do that is at every meal, half of your plate needs to really consist of that," she explains. Yes, even your breakfasts: Bhatia is a fan of the morning smoothie (she uses flaxseeds and chia seeds to give the concoction an extra punch of fiber), and she cooks veggie-packed omelets or breakfast casseroles when she has a little more time.
"Some protein sources are also fiber sources," she says. "So getting in the beans, lentils, chickpeas—all of those things have fiber in them that can help your hormone balance."
Prioritize 20 minutes of mindfulness.
According to Bhatia, mindfulness plays a very big role in hormone balance. It's a concept that originates from traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine: "Stress, anger, and trauma all live within our cells and, more specifically, within certain organs," she explains. "If you're angry about something, it's going to sit in your liver, and the liver is one of the most important hormone organs. It helps us break down [waste] and helps us detox. As that emotion accumulates, it's almost like a mass congealing there and blocking energy. So then your hormones no longer do what they're supposed to do."
That said, it's important to release those emotions any way you can—meditation, journaling, breathwork, what have you. "Some ritual in the morning where you can hole away for 20 minutes and just have your time before you look at the phone, check email, and interact with everybody else—that really does indeed set the tone for the day," says Bhatia. In fact, early research shows that mindfulness-based interventions like meditation can actually lower cortisol1 (the famous stress hormone) in your body. "Whatever it is for you, I think dumping these emotions out is a critical part of balancing your hormones," she adds.
Skip the midday coffee.
We know—we were bummed, too. Yes, you can still have your morning cup of joe, but according to Bhatia, the midday coffee actually isn't doing you any favors for sustained energy. When you feel sluggish in the afternoon, it's likely because of a blood sugar slump, and that second cup of coffee only acts as a Band-Aid.
"You are artificially elevating your blood sugar and insulin levels, then crashing back down," she explains. "Every time you reach for coffee to stimulate you that way, you're jumping on this merry-go-round of feeling better for an hour to two hours, then you're going to come back down again." And so you might reach for another cup—and the cycle continues.
Rather, Bhatia recommends "leveling off that energy" but getting your nutrients optimized (so you don't experience that blood sugar dip midday). Again, let's circle back to the fiber point above, as a fiber-filled breakfast is top-notch for balancing blood sugar. (See here for recipe inspiration.) "Maybe [use] adrenal adaptogens that indirectly support cortisol balance," offers Bhatia, like ashwagandha and holy basil. "That might be a better option to keep you off this train of a big spike in insulin with a cup of coffee and then a big drop in blood sugar."
Everyone's hormone-balancing journey ultimately looks different, but Bhatia's daily tips are simple enough to test for yourself. Just know that lifestyle interventions do take some time—it might take three months to see noticeable changes, says Bhatia. "It really takes that amount of time to reset hormone levels and change the wiring in the body," she notes. "You have to be patient with yourself."