Why Is Everyone Talking About ‘Balancing Their Hormones?’

Wake up. Look at the sun. Eat carrot salad. Fix your estrogen levels.
viral raw carrot salad
Illustration: Cathryn Virginia

Wake up. Go outside and stare at the sun for 10 minutes. Go inside. Make breakfast consisting of at least 30 grams of protein. Do not drink coffee until at least half an hour after you’ve completed these steps. 

This is the new morning routine touted across TikTok, in a seemingly endless stream of viral posts on the app. Some mention various supplements. Some recommend light exercise (not too intense). Others say to restrict blue light from technology. All, of course, decent enough wellness advice for general health. But it’s done with a specific intent: “balancing your hormones.” 


“‘Imbalanced hormones’ is not a medical term as much as a general term that some people use to describe having symptoms consistent with low or high hormone levels,” says Amy Killen, medical advisor at Joi Women’s Wellness, an online women’s wellness platform. “Although I understand why it’s used, it can mean many different things, depending on who is saying it! Because hormone levels are so heavily influenced by lifestyle and environment, it is not uncommon for young women to have hormonal problems that contribute to symptoms.” 

Our bodies produce over 50 hormones that regulate and signal various bodily functions. For young women on TikTok, the primary concern seems to be elevated estrogen levels. Estrogen levels naturally fluctuate throughout a person’s menstrual cycle and can be influenced by numerous factors: medications, hormonal birth control, underlying health issues like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or lifestyle aspects such as daily stress. The signs of high estrogen levels, such as bloating, fatigue, or low mood, can be vague and are often similar to those experienced before one’s period.

In other words, while the idea of “balancing” your hormones to some steady state may not be entirely accurate, young women do feel the effects of fluctuations in their hormone levels, regardless of whether these fluctuations fall within the normal range.


“Some people on TikTok are absolutely right about a few things,” says Cory Rice, chief clinical advisor of Biote, a company specializing in hormone health and connecting patients to hormone specialists. For most of us, there isn’t much we can do to change the stress levels of our daily lives. According to Rice, that same basic advice of eating better, going outside, and exercising can at least mitigate some of the effects of stress on our bodies. Among most young people who don’t have an underlying cause of a hormone imbalance, it’s likely the best route. 

Where many hormone-balancing influencers often get off track is when they promote ultra-specific remedies, like that viral carrot salad. As the name suggests, it is essentially just a salad of carrots alone, sliced into long strips and served with apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, and salt. “Raw carrots contain a unique fiber that absorbs excess estrogen and helps to sweep it out of the body,” one video with 90,000 likes says

Even here, there is some truth to the concept. Killen says, “An optimal diet for hormones is minimally processed with lots of fruits and vegetables, high-quality protein, and healthy fats.” Moreover, she says, “adjusting your diet to a low glycemic, whole-foods diet often reverses insulin elevations,” referring to how high insulin levels can potentially elevate estrogen in the body. Obviously, carrot salad fits that bill of providing a whole-food vegetable and is undoubtedly a good contribution to one’s overall diet. 


The problem is that carrots alone won’t fix a problem that requires a holistic solution. Not that this is any carrot salad TikTokers’ intention—in all likelihood, they hope to present it as one of many possible tweaks a person can make in a lifestyle change toward better health, and the carrots aren’t going to hurt anything. But videos like these represent a broader movement on the app of distilling health information into micro-trends with greater consequences, like getting off birth control despite not wanting to get pregnant.

Amid the conversation around reproductive rights and autonomy surrounding the overturning of Roe v. Wade has been a rise in people questioning the pervasiveness of the pill. As VICE first reported in July 2022, content encouraging women to quit birth control has become increasingly common on the app. A recent study from Health Communication further highlights that most videos on social media about hormonal birth control are specifically about getting off it. 

Many TikToks specifically reference getting on hormonal birth control as teenagers without understanding what it could do to their bodies. Increasingly, it seems, the logic of “my body, my choice” extends to the day-to-day medical interventions a young woman can take, all the way down to the hormones themselves. And so, among many of the videos on TikTok about hormones, you find ones that claim you can’t “balance” your hormones while on birth control, videos explaining the “dangers” of birth control, and others promoting the alleged emotional and physical benefits of getting off the pill


While a person’s decision to take or not to take birth control is entirely their own, Rice warns against using TikTok alone to make it. “Birth control is a very powerful synthetic hormone in the majority of cases,” he says. “If you stop it abruptly, it can cause issues, and those issues aren’t going to be solved by somebody on TikTok.” 

Whether it’s a suggestion to eat carrot salad or the promotion of the idea that getting off birth control will “give you your glow back,” a lot of this ties into weight loss: Your imbalanced hormones are making you fat. It rides on the same perennial interest in diet culture, repackaged for a new, more suspicious audience. And it thrives on TikTok specifically because the app can be particularly persuasive in our lives, whether we need health changes or not. 

“While seeing others express themselves on TikTok can be validating, especially when you share a diagnosis or health concern, it’s not the same as receiving medical treatment from a professional, explains Kristen Casey, a clinical psychologist. “People may be persuaded because they truly want answers and want to feel better. We can’t blame ourselves there. We may feel validated that others experience something similar, but we also can feel a sense of anxiety or depression if we don’t have the same health outcomes. From a mental health perspective, it’s a catch-22.” 

Much of the hormone-related advice on TikTok is harmless, even helpful. Trying to get better sleep, eat more protein, and see the sun a bit are good practices for everyone—according to Rice, vitamin D from sunlight or elsewhere plays a significant role in our hormonal health. But when it comes to the bigger problems, like our reproductive choices or addressing underlying conditions, some of these narratives on TikTok might just be getting in the way. If the app helps you feel more motivated to eat fewer processed foods, great. But maybe don’t let it convince you there’s a problem where there isn’t one.