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As a woman that’s always struggled with hormonal issues such as acne, fatigue, and low libido, I’ve spent countless hours searching for natural alternatives to prescription drugs and hormone replacement therapy (both of which I’ve tried with little success). Full disclaimer: I have no medical background. Absolutely no qualifications at all. That being said, I’ve gotten some great advice from medical professionals both in person and online. If you’re struggling with any of the hormonal issues that comes with being a woman, I hope this information will provide some alternatives to prescription medication and a starting point for talking to your medical professional about what might help you.
Prior to taking any supplements, have a thorough blood analysis done to determine current hormone and vitamin levels and talking to a doctor about the appropriate supplements and proper dosage for your symptoms.
- Probiotics – Science is still catching up to claims about the healing powers of probiotics, so if you’re searching for a conclusive study to backup their effectiveness, you won’t find one. That being said, there is still a lot of evidence as to how they can help women. For me, I credit probiotics for fewer acne breakouts, less bloating, and keeping me (and my family) from getting sick as often. With so many probiotics on the market, picking a good one can be tricky. Look for one that includes both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two of the most well-studied strains. As for the number of live organisms, supplements with at least 20 billion live organisms per dose are often recommended as the most effective. Probiotics come in the form of powder, pills and liquid, some of which need to be kept refrigerated in order to maintain their effectiveness. If you travel frequently, I’d suggest finding a shelf-stable variety, but the one I like best is a refrigerated version by Natures Way (don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t ship refrigerated as Natures Way has tested to be sure unopened bottles still maintain their effectiveness after being on the road for a few days).
- Chaste Berry (Vitex) – Usually marketed under the name Vitex, Chaste Berry is a supplement that can be incredibly beneficial to women. It is one of the most effective herbal remedies for PMS, irregular periods, infertility and menopause. It also treats hormonally induced acne, which is the main reason I take it.Chaste berry works by encouraging hormonal balance by leveling out the ratio of progesterone to estrogen. While it doesn’t supply hormones to the body, it does act on the hypothalamus and pituitary glads to slightly raise the levels of progesterone in the body. Consider this supplement if you suffer from breakouts around your period and if your periods are erratic or extremely long and/or heavy.
- DIMM – Short for Diindoylymethane , DIM is a food-based compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. It works by helping your body metabolize estrogen to avoid estrogen dominance, which can impact your body’s ability to maintain healthy levels of progesterone and testosterone. As a result, it can help reduce many typical female troubles associated with hormone imbalance, like PMS, period pain, headaches, weight gain and moodiness. Nature’s Way DIM-Plus is a version specifically formulated for estrogen metabolism.
- DHEA – DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced by your body’s adrenal gland that aids in the production of testosterone. Women suffering from low testosterone frequently experience fatigue and lack of energy, loss of sex drive, depression and mood swings. A DHEA supplement can be a great way to boost testosterone production and alleviate these issues, but caution should be used in determining the correct dosage. Taking too much DHEA can cause serious side effects, so it’s extremely important to talk to your doctor and determine where your hormone levels are first.
- Adrenal Support – The combination of ingredients in adrenal support supplements are designed to enhance the adrenal glands and fight against adrenal fatigue, which includes a whole host of symptoms, including fatigue, low immunity, dry skin and hair loss, poor body temperature regulation, etc. Because the adrenal glands are closely tied to the thyroid, there is also often a correlation between adrenal function and hypothyroidism (which has similar symptoms to adrenal fatigue). My doctor recommends Vital Nutrients Adrenal Support, which includes Ashwagandha Root and Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5), which work together to enhance the body’s ability to produce certain adrenal hormones, preventing loss of energy and promoting the body’s immune system.
- Vitamin D – Many people already know that a vitamin D deficiency can cause fatigue and muscle and bone weakness, but many aren’t aware that vitamin D also helps regulate the release of serotonin to the brain. As a result, a lack of vitamin D can also lead to moodiness and depression. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is currently 800 IU, but doctors often recommend much higher dosages (to give you an idea, I’m currently taking 5,000 IU). Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine your current level of vitamin D and recommend the correct supplement dosage.
- Vitamin B complex – Vitamin B complex is a group of vitamins that include eight B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12). This supplement provides a host of benefits, including increased energy, hormone regulation, and mood enhancement. The B vitamins benefit the body in so many different ways that my doctor considers it the one vitamin to never go without. Vital Nutrients Vitamin B Complex accounts for all the B vitamins you need.
- Magnesium – Magnesium deficiency increases anxiety because the set point at which your adrenals kick in and start producing the fight-or flight hormones is lower. As a result, even relatively minor things can cause major anxiety. A magnesium supplement can help you to feel more relaxed and focused. Because of its calming effect, consider taking it at night for a more restful night’s sleep.
- Omega-3 – Some of the lesser known benefits of Omega-3s include anti-inflammatory properties that can be effective in relieving menstrual pain and diminishing acne. Recent research also suggests that it improves brain function, helping with inattentiveness, anxiety, and depression. Of the three different forms of omega-3 fatty acids – alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – DHA and EPA are what our bodies need most. Both are found in fish, making fish oil supplements superior to plant-based supplements, such as flaxseed oil. However, be aware that not all fish oils are created equal. Look for fish oil in triglyceride form that also contains antioxidant preservatives like essential oils to keep them from going rancid (for example, Vital Nutrients Ultra Pure Fish Oil 800 Triglyceride Form).
- Iodine – Iodine deficiency is sometimes touted as the ‘silent epidemic’ because so few people are aware of its effects (symptoms include cold intolerance, depression, dry skin, hair loss, fatigue, infertility, lethargy, menstrual irregularities, early menopause, poor memory or concentration, and weight gain). Iodine is key to a healthy thyroid and metabolism, which can impact us physically and mentally in a variety of ways. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 μg per day, but only about half of the types of multivitamins in the U.S. contain iodine so check labels carefully. Also, if you add table salt to your food, used iodized salt which contains approximately 400 μg iodine per teaspoon.