We don’t know about you, but for us, walking through the supplement section of the health food store can be overwhelming. There is sooo much there! And they kinda all sound awesome. Magnesium to support the pituitary gland? Yes, please. Fish oil for my joints? Don’t see why not. Probiotics for my belly? Super! But what’s the real deal with supplements? Do they actually work? And how do you know which brands to pick? If you are eating a nutrient-rich diet, do you need supplements at all?
Well, we’ve connected with Alisa Vitti of Flo Living to give us some answers! Alisa is a hormone and functional nutrition expert and pioneer in biohacking for those with menstrual cycles. She’s a best selling author of ‘WomanCode’, the Founder of The FLO Living Hormone Center, the world’s first menstrual healthcare platform, and the creator of the MyFLO period app—the first and only functional medicine period tracker!
Alisa is going to walk us through everything we need to know about supplements for hormone balance, healthy endocrine function, and symptom-free periods. Just what we need!
(Please note, the following is being re-published from Alisa Vitti’s blog. Therefore, this article has not undergone the usual protocols for content on the Allbodies site. Allbodies reminds you to always check in with your care team, and your body, whenever you introduce anything new! And, heads up, she does not use gender neutral language. We at Allbodies recognize that not everyone with a period identifies as a women, and you are welcome here!)
The rest of this article is written by Alisa Vitti and the Floliving team.
A little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to supplements. You’ll save money (because you won’t spend it on low-quality or mismatched supplements). You’ll save time (because you won’t have to research which supplements target which symptoms, or which brands are better or worse). And you’ll fast track your healing. Supplements support and amplify every other lifestyle change you make to improve your hormone health. You’ll get to your goal of symptom-free periods faster when high-quality, targeted supplements are part of your protocol.
Do You Need Supplements If You’re Eating the Right Foods?
When it comes to healing your hormones, food is always first. There’s no budging on that. To recalibrate your endocrine system and erase period problems, you have to feed your body a micronutrient-rich diet of hormonally-supportive foods in a phase-based pattern. No single supplement will solve symptoms like bloating, acne, PMS, cramps, heavy or irregular periods, missing periods, mood swings, and fatigue.
That said, adding specific, high-quality supplements to an already-nourishing diet will speed up your healing process and provide support as you bring your body back into balance. I’m a big believer in using supplements selectively and intelligently to help the body heal.
After years of exhaustive research, I have identified which micronutrients are non-negotiable for optimal hormone health. I’ll go into each micronutrient in detail below, but first it’s important to answer a few questions.
Why Aren’t Women Getting Enough Micronutrients?
Phytonutrient-dense whole foods, like leafy green vegetables, avocados, pastured eggs, and omega 3-rich fish like salmon, contain micronutrients that support the endocrine system — micronutrients like magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin D. But we often don’t get enough of these micronutrients in our food, even when we’re eating perfectly.
There are several reasons. One critical factor is that most women are not eating or exercising in ways that support our infradian rhythm, the 28-day hormone cycle that functions as the body’s second clock. Another factor is that many fruits and vegetables are grown in nutrient-depleted soil, so they don’t contain enough of the good stuff to support optimal health. It’s also because a lot of environmental factors — many beyond our control — collude to rob our bodies of precious micronutrients faster than we can take them in. It’s also because of the very real limits of our busy lives. Many of us simply don’t have the time to cook, let alone eat 9 to 11 servings of vegetables a day.
Food comes first when healing your hormones. But sometimes a micronutrient-rich diet of hormonally-supportive foods isn’t enough to achieve optimal hormone health. Sometimes your body needs an extra boost.
What Causes Micronutrient Deficiency?
As I mentioned in the previous section, sometimes micronutrient deficiency just happens, even when you’re doing everything right. There are some habits and practices that might seem healthy (or at least not harmful), but in fact deplete essential micronutrients and make hormone imbalances worse.
Here are 8 common ways you might be unintentionally speeding up micronutrient loss in your body:
- You drink caffeine. Caffeine leaches precious micronutrients from the body.
- You drink alcohol regularly. Regular alcohol consumption bleeds the body of micronutrients, too.
- You take the pill (or you have in the past). Same problem as caffeine. The pill causes your body to jettison micronutrients faster than you can replace them.
- You engage in extreme diets. Maybe you only eat one or two types of food, or you are following a protocol that has you cut out some macronutrients all together (like carbs). Restrictive diets can’t give you the wide breadth of micronutrients you need for optimal hormone health, no matter how healthy the foods you’re eating are. Same goes if you don’t eat enough calories each day. Eating too few calories can present separate challenges for hormonal health, but not getting ample micronutrients is one of them.
- You exercise too much. Over-exercise depletes the body of essential micronutrients faster than you can replace them.
- You use conventional health and body care products. These products are full of toxins that tax the endocrine system and prevent optimal micronutrient levels.
- You use conventional house-cleaning products. Same deal as using conventional health and body care products.
- You experience chronic, unremitting stress. Emotional stress taxes the body and works against optimal micronutrient levels.
Luckily, some high-quality targeted supplements can help replenish your micronutrient stores.
The 5 Essential Supplements for Hormones
Luckily, some high-quality targeted supplements can help replenish your micronutrient stores.
I can’t say enough good things about B-vitamins. They’re necessary for good health and many women just don’t get enough. A deficiency in B vitamins can cause low energy and fatigue since they’re crucial for so many metabolic functions. B6 is a particularly important vitamin for boosting progesterone production to counteract excess estrogen (a top cause of hormonal dysfunction). B6 supports the development of the corpus luteum, which is where all your progesterone originates, and it supports liver function as the liver works to remove excess estrogen from the body. It’s great for the immune system, too.
Magnesium helps support the pituitary gland. Without it, we produce less FSH (follicular stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Low levels of those foundational hormones can cause irregular ovulation and thyroid problems, which can lead to bigger hormonal issues. Magnesium is involved in over 300 catalytic reactions in the body and most women are magnesium deficient. Bloating, headaches, and muscle tension (among other symptoms) can be a sign of magnesium deficiency.
3. Liver detoxifier/estrogen metabolizer
Your liver is your main organ for detoxification and it plays a critical role in maintaining hormonal balance and keeping symptoms at bay. To do its work properly, the liver needs a full supply of micronutrients and antioxidants, which we can get in part from food — but, as I mentioned earlier in the post, we often don’t get enough of. The liver especially needs micronutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, turmeric and selenium. When your liver is well nourished, it can efficiently break down excess estrogen and help keep estrogen and progesterone in balance, which is a critical factor in keeping period problems at bay. If your body can’t efficiently process toxins like excess hormones, you’ll be more likely to develop menstrual, fertility, and libido problems.
A healthy microbiome is essential for maintaining hormone balance and staving off symptoms. There’s a community of bacteria in the gut called the estrobolome. The estrobolome produces an enzyme that supports the metabolization of estrogen. This makes the gut an important part of the elimination system that ushers hormones out of the body. Give the hard-working bugs in your gut a boost with a probiotic, which is food for the gut bugs that live in the GI tract. This can do wonders for your endocrine health.
5. D3-Omega-3 blend
Studies have shown that 93% of women dealing with infertility issues are vitamin D3 deficient, and women with higher vitamin D3 levels are four times more likely to conceive via IVF than women with low levels. The reason? Vitamin D3 acts like a master hormone in the body and a low concentration of vitamin D3 can throw off the tightly choreographed dance that all our bodies’ hormones do with each other. Specifically, low vitamin D can add fuel to the fire of estrogen dominance, which can lead to a host of hormonal issues. Omega-3 fats are good for mood stabilization and reducing cramps. My formulation also includes vitamins K1 and K2 for bone and heart health and collagen for skin and hair.
I consider these the five essential supplements that every woman needs to heal her hormones and erase period problems.
What Supplement Brand is Best?
In the past I’ve recommended products available at health food stores, but I always dreamed of formulating my own supplements that met my extremely high standards. I finally decided to do it when, a few years ago, some of the supplements sold at big-box retailers were outed for not containing the ingredients listed on the label.
I really get peeved when women waste money on health-promoting products that don’t work, because that happened to me at the beginning of my hormonal health journey. It’s almost impossible to know which brands to trust, and once you find a reliable source, then it’s time to decide which of their million products to actually purchase.
I’d finally had enough of the confusion. So I created Balance by FLO Living, the first and only cycle-syncing supplement set.
The five formulations in Balance by FLO Living provide the essential micronutrient support that you need to balance your hormones. Think of them as your personal “insurance policy” against endocrine disruptors like stress, coffee, environmental toxins, lack of sleep, and plain-old modern life.
You no longer have to waste money on low-quality supplements or supplements that don’t target your unique hormonal profile. I’ve formulated all the essential supplements you need to heal your hormones with the highest quality ingredients. The Balance by FLO supplement kit is thoroughly researched, rigorously tested, and perfectly suited to meet your needs.
Adaptogens help your body respond to stress, which is exquisitely important when you are working to heal your hormones.
Taking adaptogenic herbs is a generally safe practice that can ease symptoms and improve quality of life. But herbs should only be part of your stress-reduction and hormone-balancing strategy after you’ve addressed some of the bigger lifestyle factors that drive hormone issues, like sleep deprivation, exposure to chronic stressors, exposure to toxins, and being out of touch with your natural hormone cycle. If your tank is running on empty, and has been for a while, start with the big stuff. When you’ve made progress in those areas, it might be time to consider an adaptogen.
Adaptogens that I like include:
This well-researched herb has been shown to reduce oxidative stress (also known as the internal process that contributes to cell damage and accelerated aging) and support a healthy stress response. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, ashwagandha was shown to improve stress resistance and participants’ self-assessed quality of life. When it comes to hormones, ashwagandha has been shown to improve sexual function and low libido for some women (perhaps because it supports healthy testosterone production). Other studies suggest that this herb can dramatically slow down cell division in estrogen-receptor positive breast cancers. I recommend ashwagandha if you struggle with anxiety and/or if you’re wrestling with low libido.
2. Holy Basil
Research suggests that holy basil may help support liver function. The liver detoxes excess hormones from the body and helps prevent estrogen dominance. For healthy hormones, you need a healthy liver. Holy basil may also help stabilize blood sugar. I recommend holy basil if stress and anxiety are an issue and you also wrestle with imbalanced blood sugar. If you have a history of taking over-the-counter or prescription medications, you may consider taking holy basil for liver and detox support.
3. Reishi Mushroom
Reishi is a powerful adaptogen that is also chock full of antioxidants. These mushrooms have been lauded for their anti-tumor, anti-androgenic, anti-aging, and immune-boosting effects. I don’t believe in superfoods as such — no one food or single intervention can be a miracle cure on its own — but if any plant comes close to deserving the title of a superfood, I’d nominate reishi mushrooms. The antioxidant and chemopreventive benefits of reishi are well-studied, and when it comes to hormones, studies show that reishi (and other cordyceps mushrooms) may help ease symptoms of PCOS, hirsutism, and acne by exerting an anti-androgenic effect in the body. I recommend reishi mushrooms if you’re struggling with acne, unwanted hair growth, or symptoms related to PCOS.
Digestive enzymes help you break down the food you eat and absorb nutrients better. If you experience indigestion, gas, or bloating, or if you suspect you have a nutrient deficiency, try them out! Rainbow Light is one of my favorite brands. But don’t take this brand while pregnant as it contains bromelain, which is not safe for pregnancy.
Don’t forget that supplements are exactly what the word suggests: supplemental boosts to an already balanced diet. If your diet is not working for you, supplements will have little effect.
Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you. You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
Written by: Alisa Vitti + the Flo Living Team
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