Though the research remains young and isn’t fully decided, a lot of women are looking at natural ways to balance their estrogen levels to maintain good health. Read on to find out which complementary approaches are supported by evidence.
It’s always a good idea to avoid unhealthy habits – such as smoking, fast food, overeating, being under a lot of stress, and drinking too much – that can bring your hormones out of balance. Look to get regular exercise, enough nutrients, sleep, and follow a healthy circadian rhythm.
It is very important to speak with your physician before making any lifestyle changes or taking supplements to balance your hormone levels – especially if your symptoms are significantly impacting your daily life.
Your doctor should diagnose and treat any underlying conditions causing your symptoms.
Have in mind that the research on natural remedies for hormone balance is young and remains an area for further investigation.
Additionally, some of the strategies listed below do not affect estrogen levels. They may increase or decrease estrogen activity, for example, by activating estrogen receptors in a similar way that estrogen does. Phytoestrogens likely do this .
Herbs that are high phytoestrogens like maca and red clover supplements may also increase estradiol activity, according to some research. The evidence to back up their use is still weak, however [2, 3].
Supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. Supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.
Supplement-drug interactions can be dangerous and, in rare cases, even life-threatening. That’s why it’s crucial to consult your doctor before supplementing and let them know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.
Lastly, the strategies listed below should never be used in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.
Eating a diet rich in high-fiber vegetables, fruits, and grains may increase estradiol levels. High dietary fiber intake was associated with higher estradiol levels in one small study on Latina women. Avocado and grapefruit were hypothesized to be the biggest contributors, but this has yet to be confirmed with further research .
Tea contains phytoestrogens and antioxidants. Regularly drinking black tea and green tea was associated with increased estradiol levels in a study of 130 healthy, postmenopausal Chinese women. Larger studies are needed to confirm these results .
A review of 11 studies concluded that red clover may help increase estrogen levels in women undergoing or about to undergo menopause. However, most of the studies had major limitations and flaws. Higher-quality trials are required to confirm this finding .
Black cohosh is traditionally used in Native American folk medicine for hormonal imbalances in women. This herb may contain estrogen-like compounds. Clinical evidence is lacking to support its use, but limited studies suggest that it should be researched further for its potential to help with menopausal symptoms .
Chasteberry also has a traditional history of use for women’s health issues. Research suggests that this herb contains phytoestrogens, but larger trials are needed to determine its effectiveness .
The FDA has approved the use of DHEA only for women with vaginal atrophy. This compound should never be used without the prescription or recommendation of a medical professional.
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that have a similar structure or activity to the estrogens women naturally produce. Thus, certain phytoestrogens mimic some of the effects of estrogen .
According to one theory, the effects of phytoestrogens depend on a person’s estrogen levels. Since these plant compounds are somewhat weaker activators of estrogen receptors than naturally-produced estradiol, they are hypothesized to:
- Increase estrogen activity when estrogen is low (by occupying empty estrogen receptors). Estrogen levels fall after menopause, which is why postmenopausal women are sometimes advised to eat more soy and other foods high in phytoestrogens.
- Reduce estrogen overactivity when estrogen is high (by kicking estrogen out of estrogen receptors and only weakly activating them). PMS, for example, has been linked with high estrogen levels .
However, research on how effective phytoestrogens are remains controversial.
Some safety concerns have also been raised. According to one line of research, phytoestrogens might act as endocrine disruptors, which voices their potential to cause adverse health effects .
At the moment, experts agree that it’s unclear whether any potential benefits of phytoestrogens outweigh their risks. More clinical research is needed .
The following foods are considered to contain phytoestrogens :
- Whole grains
- Leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables
- Alfalfa and clover sprouts
Aromatase is an enzyme that converts male sex hormones (androstenedione and testosterone) into female sex hormones (estrone and estradiol). Thus, reducing the level of aromatase enzyme activity is hypothesized to reduce the level of estradiol in the body .
High aromatase activity is usually an issue in men, especially as they get older. High aromatase and estrogen levels can diminish testosterone and cause gynecomastia in and more belly fat in men .
In women before menopause, aromatase is most active in the ovaries. After menopause, some aromatase activity remains in the skin, fat tissue, and brain. Estrogen produced this way is thought to be particularly important for heart and brain health as women get older .
Overall, women are more likely to suffer from high aromatase activity. For example, women with PCOS seem to be more likely to have low aromatase activity in the ovaries. High aromatase activity has also been linked with estrogen-sensitive cancers, like breast and endometrial cancer [18, 17].
Blocking aromatase activity has mostly been studied in men. These results can’t be applied to women. That said, the following are hypothesized to reduce aromatase activity:
- Losing excess body fat 
- Increasing zinc, selenium, and magnesium intake to inhibit aromatase 
- Increasing the intake of foods containing natural aromatase inhibitors, including mushrooms, celery, carrots, spinach, and grapes 
- Reducing alcohol consumption 
- Reducing carbohydrates, since a high carbohydrate diet may increase estrogen levels 
Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is being researched for potentially contributing to the prevention of cancers that require estrogen to grow, including breast, endometrial, and cervical cancers .
Once in the stomach, I3C releases diindolylmethane (DIM), which is thought to be the active compound .
Aside from being a focus of cancer research, DIM hypothesized to enhance the activity of CYP enzymes, which aid detox. Cell-based experiments suggest that this might reduce the formation of potentially dangerous estrogen compounds that increase oxidative stress .
- Brussels sprouts
- Garden cress
- Mustard greens
Whether or not these veggies and their compounds affect estradiol levels and activity has yet to be determined in large scales. But we know that they are high in nutrients and good for overall health.