Balancing Hormones: Vitality Today, Healthspan Tomorrow

By Lane Barsh, February 19, 2024

Balancing Hormone LevelsHormones are essential to the overall health and functioning of both men and women. Imbalances can profoundly disrupt well-being, contributing to fatigue, weight gain, and an increased risk of several conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease. This article explains the importance of hormone balance, identifies signs and symptoms of hormone imbalance, reveals evidence-based strategies to improve hormone levels, and details key hormones to monitor.

Why does hormone balance matter for men and women?

Hormones coordinate practically every body system, from energy and mood to metabolism and reproduction. More specifically, hormones are the body’s chemical messengers, released by various glands to direct complex processes that ultimately control our body’s health. Here are a  few roles that hormones play throughout the body:

  1. Maintains muscle mass and strength: Testosterone helps build and preserve muscle mass and bone strength. Low testosterone is linked to loss of muscle. Imbalance can lead to loss of strength and function.
  2. Supports bone health: Testosterone and estradiol supports bone density and strength. Low levels raise osteoporosis risk and imbalance increases fracture risk.
  3. Affects heart health: Healthy testosterone is correlated with improved cholesterol profiles and blood pressure. Low testosterone increases cardiovascular disease risk. Similarly, in women, estradiol provides a protective effect on the cardiovascular system before menopause. Hormone imbalances can increase the risk of heart disease. Declining estradiol levels raise the risk of developing heart disease in postmenopausal women.
  4. Influences mood and cognition: Testosterone, estradiol, progesterone, cortisol, and thyroid hormones impact neurotransmitters, which affect mood, energy, concentration, and memory. Imbalances are associated with a raised risk of anxiety and depression.
  5. Supports sexual health: Testosterone is essential for libido and erectile function in men. And low testosterone can reduce sex drive and lead to erectile dysfunction. In women, low estradiol levels can also decrease libido and sex drive. 
  6. Regulates menstrual cycle and fertility in women: Balanced estradiol and progesterone levels are needed for regular, healthy menstrual cycles and ovulation. Imbalances can cause irregular periods in premenopausal women and vasomotor symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes in perimenopausal women.
  7. Controls fat distribution: Testosterone and other hormones promote lean body mass and decrease fat. Deficiency leads to increased body fat. Low testosterone results in more belly fat.
  8. Regulates metabolism: Testosterone assists in building muscle and burning fat. Decline leads to slower metabolism. Imbalance makes weight management harder. Lower estradiol levels can also impact blood sugar control. 
  9. Boosts energy: Adequate testosterone is linked to energy, motivation, and vitality in men. Low testosterone causes fatigue. Deficiency can lead to chronic tiredness.
  10. Aids sleep: Testosterone helps regulate circadian rhythms and sleep cycles and low levels can worsen sleep quality and has been linked to insomnia.
  11. Affects inflammation: Testosterone and estradiol have anti-inflammatory properties and low levels are associated with higher inflammation.

Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance in men and women

How do you know that your hormones are imbalanced? There are a myriad of symptoms that overlap in both men and women that can indicate hormone imbalance:

  • Low libido: Low testosterone can lead to reduced sex drive. For women specifically, an imbalance in the hormone DHEAS can also lead to a low libido. [1]
  • Fatigue: Imbalances in thyroid and sex hormones can leave men and women feeling exhausted and depleted. [2]
  • Anxiety and depression: Estradiol, testosterone, and cortisol imbalances influence mood regulation and can contribute to anxiety and depression. [3]
  • Weight gain: Excess cortisol and estradiol can increase abdominal fat storage and weight gain. For men specifically, testosterone levels are associated with weight gain and for women, reproductive hormone concentrations can connected to weight gain. [4,5]
  • Brain fog: Thyroid, estradiol, or progesterone deficiency can impair concentration, memory, and mental clarity. Particularly for menopausal women, fluctuations in sex hormones can affect cognition. [6,7]

Some symptoms, however, apply to hormone imbalance in women and are related to their menopausal status:

  • Irregular periods: Estradiol and progesterone imbalance can lead to irregular, heavy, painful, or missed periods in women. [8] 
  • Hot flashes: Declining estradiol causes hot flashes and night sweats in perimenopausal and menopausal women. [9]
  • Vaginal dryness: Low estradiol levels result in vaginal dryness, irritation, and painful intercourse for women. [10]

How can you improve hormone levels?

Hormone levels naturally shift with age, poor diet, inactivity, chronic stress, and environmental toxins. The good news is—there are strategic nutrition and lifestyle changes that can help restore hormone balances in both men and women.


Nutrient deficiencies exacerbate hormonal issues. For instance, low vitamin D can impact thyroid dysfunction and low testosterone in both sexes. Insufficient calcium and magnesium impair hormonal signaling. Aim to address the gaps in your vitamins and minerals with foods and supplements. 

Manage stress 

Chronic stress elevates cortisol while suppressing testosterone and thyroid hormones. Stress-reducing practices help improve hormone levels. Find a relaxation technique that works for you, whether that’s reading, listening to music, walking in nature, or meditating temper stress hormones.


Hormone imbalances can disturb both sleep patterns and energy levels, consequently influencing changes in blood biomarkers. For men, testosterone levels highly correlate with optimal sleep since the production of testosterone occurs overnight. It's recommended for both men and women to aim for seven to nine hours of sleep for optimal restoration. To achieve this, maintaining a regular sleep schedule and working on optimizing cortisol levels through activities like pilates and meditation can be beneficial. Additionally, incorporating magnesium supplements may help improve sleep patterns. 

Stay active 

Aerobic and resistance exercise balance key hormones. Cardio exercise normalizes cortisol rhythms. As little as 10 minutes of walking can reduce anxiety. Strength training boosts testosterone and growth hormone, while lowering cortisol. Lift weights at least twice per week. Yoga lowers cortisol and alleviates anxiety. Deep breathing stimulates the relaxation response. Aim for a weekly mix: Aerobic activity, resistance training, mobility work, and active recovery.

What hormones should men and women regularly measure?

Regularly monitoring hormone levels is critical in diagnosing hormone imbalances,  and is crucial for ensuring optimal logical function and vitality. This comprehensive guide details the essential hormones to measure. 

Hormones to measure in both men and women:

  • TSH: Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is a marker of thyroid function. It controls the activity of thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism, body temperature, bone growth, nervous system development, and blood pressure regulation. [11]
  • Calcium: Calcium is a mineral your body needs to build and maintain strong bones and to carry out many important functions. This abundant mineral is needed for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between your brain and every part of your body. Calcium also helps blood vessels move blood throughout your body and helps release hormones that affect many functions. [12]
  • Vitamin D: Once activated, vitamin D helps regulate calcium and phosphorus levels, contributes to bone growth and remodeling, reduces inflammation, and participates in other bodily processes, such as cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and glucose metabolism. There is also an independent association between vitamin D and total testosterone levels and free testosterone. [13]
  • RBC magnesium: RBC magnesium measures the amount of magnesium in your red blood cells (RBC) and is a more sensitive measure of magnesium in the body. As serum magnesium decreases, magnesium is pulled out of the red blood cells to compensate for the decrease. As a result, serum magnesium often remains normal even as magnesium levels in the bone and tissue fluctuate. [14]
  • Magnesium: Magnesium helps to regulate the central nervous system. Magnesium helps improve sleep, cortisol, and calcium levels. A lack of magnesium can trigger depression. Inadequate intake of magnesium can also increase inflammation levels. [14]
  • RHR: Resting heart rate (RHR) is controlled in part by the autonomic nervous system, which is influenced by hormones that regulate sympathetic ("fight or flight") and parasympathetic ("rest and digest") activity. Stress hormones like cortisol raise RHR, while relaxation hormones lower. RHR provides insight into autonomic balance and, indirectly, the body's hormone levels. [15]
  • Cortisol: Cortisol is a hormone that the body releases in response to physical and emotional stress. It performs many important functions, like regulating energy, metabolism, and immune function. Optimal cortisol levels contribute to better quality sleep, good digestion, healthy bones and muscle tissues, well-regulated blood sugar, healthy blood pressure, and a strengthened immune system. [16]
  • Insulin: Insulin is a hormone that allows you to use glucose (sugar) as fuel or save it as energy. Insulin brings glucose into the cells to be stored and utilized by your liver, muscle, and fat tissue. As glucose enters your cells, blood glucose returns to its baseline level, and blood insulin levels follow suit. Additionally, insulin promotes the growth of bone, skeletal muscle, and tissue. Insulin also supports normal sex hormone function, muscle protein production, and vascular function. [17]
  • Testosterone: Testosterone is a sex hormone that supports bone health (bone formation, growth, and strength), cognitive health, sex drive, muscle mass, and strength. Low testosterone can lead to a variety of cardiovascular diseases and mental health concerns such as depression. It is critical for performance because it facilitates recovery processes, and low levels lead to poor recovery, poorer fitness gains, and an increased chance of injury. [18] 
  • SHBG: Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) binds to three sex hormones in both men and women: estrogen, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and testosterone. Optimized SHBG levels are associated with strong bones and a healthy heart. In women, SHBG plays a significant role in maintaining a balance between estrogen and testosterone and optimal SHBG levels are associated with a decreased risk of PCOS, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. [19,20]

Hormones to measure specifically in women as they are critical to women's reproductive health:

  • DHEAS: DHEAS, a sex hormone, acts as a precursor for both estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen plays a vital role in reproduction as it is needed for ovulation. Lower DHEAS can result in lower estrogen and difficulty getting pregnant. Increased stress levels, over-exercise, and insufficient calories (especially fats) can lead to below-optimal DHEAS levels. Stress-reducing techniques, adequate nutrition, and regular exercise of moderate intensity can all help increase DHEAS levels. It is important to note that DHEAS in women naturally peaks in the mid-20s before slowly declining with age. [21] 
  • Estradiol: Estradiol is a potent form of the female sex hormone, estrogen. Estradiol helps regulate lipid and glucose metabolism, body fat distribution, inflammation, cognition, and more. Suboptimal estradiol is associated with an increased likelihood of age-related conditions like bone mineral density decline, poor cardiovascular health, and can also impact vascular and mental health. [22]
  • Progesterone: Progesterone is a steroid hormone vital to women's reproductive health. Progesterone is critical in the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and embryogenesis. It fluctuates readily throughout a woman's cycle. Due to its role in menstruation and pregnancy, progesterone levels tend to naturally decline as women near the end of their reproductive years and enter menopause. [23]

Need help managing your hormones?

This article explored the role that hormones play in bodily health and optimal functioning. While hormone imbalances can be detrimental to one’s health, testing key hormones and making nutrition and lifestyle adjustments can help to bring hormones back into balance. 

Using InsideTracker's app and web dashboard, you will receive science-backed nutrition, supplement, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations to improve possible hormone imbalances. With InsideTracker, you receive actionable steps to improve your hormones for a healthier, longer life.  



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