What You’ll Learn in this Article:
- What is the gut microbiome?
- Lifestyle Factors Associated with an Unhealthy Gut
- Symptoms Associated with an Unhealthy Gut
- Other Diseases & Health Conditions Associated with Poor Gut Health
- The Gut Hormone Connection
- Why is Estrogen So Important?
- Symptoms of High Estrogen
- Symptoms of Low Estrogen
- How Our Microbes Influence Estrogen & Estrogen Related Issues
- Resources to Support Gut Health & Ultimately the Estrogen Balance in Your Body
More and more research is mounting that the health of our gut is not limited to just our digestive health.
Dr. Vincent Pedre, the author of Happy Gut, wrote “When I say it all starts in your gut, I mean almost everything! Headaches, migraines, allergies, autoimmunity, weight gain, acne, skin rashes, yeast infections, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, immune challenges, even the way you sense pain—they all relate to the condition and health of your gut.”
To take that even further, scientists have discovered that:
- Bacteria in the gut impact our metabolism, which can influence our ability to maintain a healthy weight.
- 95% of serotonin is produced and housed in the gut. Serotonin is a chemical that carries signals between neurons in the brain. It has been shown to influence mood, cognition, sleep, and so much more.
- 70% of the immune system is located in the gut. Do you frequently get sick? It’s a sign that your gut could probably use some TLC.
What is wild is that the effect of the gut does not stop there! One of the more recent, and lesser-known, connections is that of gut health and hormonal balance.
Before we dive into that connection, let’s lay the foundation.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
In your gut you have a beautiful community of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other living things. About 90% of these microbes are bacterial.
According to a paper published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, “Humans and microbes have co-evolved a complex intricate relationship to benefit the host while allowing the intestinal microbiota to thrive in a mutually advantageous equilibrium.”
In other words, our good gut bugs help us out! They are essential for optimal health.
In fact, many recent studies have shown a connection between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and cancer.
These little guys are our buddies and we want to do what we can to support them! When we don’t support our gut bugs properly, the detrimental species can overgrow, and cause wide-reaching, negative effects on our health.
Lifestyle Factors Associated with an Unhealthy Gut
There are a few lifestyle factors that often lead to poor gut health. These include:
- Eating heavily processed foods
- Consuming too much sugar, especially refined sugar
- Eating too many low quality, inflammatory fats
- Drinking alcohol too often
- Taking antibiotics numerous times, especially in childhood
Symptoms Associated with an Unhealthy Gut
- Digestive Issues: Frequent gas, bloating, belching, stomach pain, cramping, frequent heartburn, bad breath, constipation, diarrhea, food sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel diseases (like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), leaky gut syndrome, celiac disease
- Skin Issues: Acne, rosacea, eczema, frequent skin reactions
- Brain & Mood Issues: Brain fog, mood disorders (like anxiety & depression), headaches, Parkinson’s disease, dementia
- Allergy-Related Issue: Allergies, sinus congestion, nasal drip, immune system disorders, autoimmune issues
Other associated diseases and health conditions include:
- Colorectal cancer
- Heart disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Liver disease
As you can see, the gut has an impact on every aspect of our health. Today, let’s dive further into the connection between the gut and our hormones.
The Gut Hormone Connection
As you may know, your hormones are the chemical messengers of the body. You produce hormones in different glands throughout your body, and then these hormones are sent into the bloodstream to communicate with different organs and tissues. This network of glands and hormones is called the endocrine system.
Every single cell in the body has hormone receptors that allow it to receive communication from other areas of the body.
Hormones are responsible for all sorts of important functions in the body, including regulating:
- body temperature & metabolism
- cognitive function
- growth and development
- blood glucose levels
- sexual function & reproduction
Without hormones your body would cease to function. It was long believed that the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus was the primary controller of your endocrine system but research is now showing that the gut microbiome is also an important driver of our hormones.
In fact, your gut is able to produce hormones and communicate with endocrine glands to tell them how much of each hormone to produce.
Your gut microbiome affects nearly every hormone in your body. Let’s start by looking at how your gut impacts estrogen levels throughout the body, as estrogen is an incredibly important hormone for women’s health.
Why is Estrogen So Important?
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone in women. It plays a central role in sex drive, mood, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. As you probably know, it’s not uncommon to experience fluctuating mood and energy levels throughout the month as estrogen levels rise and fall.
Estrogen also supports bone health, heart health, and brain function.
It’s clear that estrogen plays many important roles throughout our bodies.
When estrogen is too high in the body, you may experience:
- Breast tenderness
- Lumpy breasts
- Low sex drive
- Irregular menstruation
- Increased PMS symptoms
- Mood swings
- Anxiety & panic
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Sleep troubles
- Memory problems
When estrogen is too low in the body, you may experience:
- Increased incidence of UTIs
- Hot flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular or absent periods
- Trouble focusing
In addition to these uncomfortable symptoms, estrogen imbalance can also result in a variety of diseases within the body, including:
- thyroid diseases
- blood clots
- heart attack
- breast cancer
- ovarian cancer
- metabolism syndrome
- fertility issues
With all these different issues at hand, it’s essential that we arm ourselves with knowledge on the role the gut plays in our hormonal health.
How Our Microbes Influence Estrogen & Estrogen Related Issues
Inside your gut there is a collection of microbes that is able to break down estrogen, this is called the estrobolome.
The microbes in your estrobolome produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase that turns estrogen into its active form. In this form estrogen is able to influence estrogen-dependent functions in the body.
However, when the gut microbiome is out of balance, this can result in the wrong amount of estrogen in the body. When this happens, it can lead to the array of estrogen related issues listed above.
Resources to Support Gut Health & Ultimately the Estrogen Balance in Your Body
When your gut health is flourishing, you are far more likely to experience amazing hormonal health. With that comes a great sex drive, elevated mood, better energy levels, and the absence of so many uncomfortable and worrisome issues.
If you’re curious to learn excellent ways to support your gut health, we’ve got a few articles for you.
First, check out our article on Anxiety & Gut Health. The last section of this article goes into 5 of the biggest ways to improve gut health.
Second, check out our Collagen Creamer for the ultimate gut-healing duo of prebiotics and collagen.