Unlocking the Secrets of Female Hormones and Gut Health through the Gut Microbiome

Did you know female hormones and gut health are connected? Did you know that your gut microbiome can impact your hormone health? A recent study found that the gut microbiome may play a role in how the body metabolizes hormones. This is because the gut microbiome is responsible for producing enzymes that can break down hormones. In addition, the gut microbiome can also influence the body’s hormone levels by producing hormones themselves. This means that the gut microbiome could be responsible for things like PMS and other hormone-related issues. Let’s dive in. 

What is the gut microbiome? 

The gut microbiome is a collection of microbes that live in the gastrointestinal tract. They play a role in digestion, immunity, and nutrient absorption. Your gut microbiome is unique and can be influenced by diet, lifestyle, and medications.

Hormones are chemical messenger molecules that regulate various bodily processes, including metabolism, reproduction, and mood. Hormone levels are tightly regulated by the body, and even small changes can have profound effects. The gut microbiome influences hormone levels by producing metabolites that can either increase or decrease hormone levels. For example, gut bacteria can produce short-chain fatty acids that can bind to and activate or inhibit hormone receptors. In addition, gut bacteria can metabolize hormones into other compounds that can either increase or decrease their activity.

Female hormones and gut health 

The gastrointestinal tract acts as the largest endocrine organ in our body, with over 30 hormone genes. The gut produces more than 30 neurotransmitters that communicate with the brain. About 70% of our immune cells are found in our gut. This is called the GALT or Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue and is part of the innate immune system. Our digestive system is intimately involved with all the systems within our body, and its effects are far-reaching to all our organs and not just through the food and nutrients we intake but also through the production of its own chemicals, enzymes, and hormones.

The body, especially our gut, is its own ecosystem. The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, archaea (single-celled organisms), and microbial eukaryotes. There are 150-200 times more microbial genes than human cellular genes in the body. In terms of genes, humans are only 1% human and 99% microbial. Although there’s a microbial commonality between humans, each of us has a distinct microbial composition that acts as our own unique fingerprint.

What is estrogen? How does it affect hormones? 

Estrogen is a collection of three chemically similar molecules that work alongside the reproductive system in female genders. Estrogen circulates throughout your body (doing “all the things” it needs to do). It becomes estrogen metabolites in the liver where it breaks down. Once inside, it can either be eliminated or reabsored. The estrobolome bacteria is in control of all of this. 

Have too much estrogen? You might also have mood swings, irregular periods, weight gain or less, acne and more. Don’t have enough estrogen? You might have sleep problems, mood disorders, UTIs, low libido and bone density loss. So whose job is it to regulate all of this estrogen? The estrobolome! It’s dedicated to the task of regulating your estrogen levels. 

Estrobolome (bacteria in the gut) helps us to keep the balance of our estrogen in check. And healthy estrogen levels, in turn, support healthy gut function. Your estrobolome works correctly when your gut microbiome is functioning and working correctly. Your gut needs to have the right type and diversity of microorganisms. And when the microbiome is unhealthy, it can throw off not just digestion but also the delicate balance of estrogen in the body. 

  • Estrone E1 – It is primarily manufactured in the ovaries. It continues to be made after menopause when periods stop. 
  • Estradiol E2 – It is the most abundant one we produce during our reproductive years. It plays a role in breast development; it is important for maintaining reproductive tissue health. 
  • Estriol E3 – Mostly seen in pregnancy and the least potent. 

Female hormones and gut health and estrogen

The gut plays a big role in estrogen regulation. In a healthy microbiome, most estrogen exits the body, and some estrogen goes back to the body. Inactivated estrogen is sent to the intestine so it can exit the body through the stool. In an unhealthy microbiome, some estrogen exits the body, and most estrogen goes back to the body. Unfriendly bacteria make an enzyme that reactivates estrogen in your gut. Reactivated estrogen then re-enters your body and causes excess estrogen. 

Gut health and ovulation 

When progesterone, also known as the pregnancy hormone, levels start to rise following ovulation, it may cause constipation and a build-up of gas. Heartburn is also called acid indigestion or acid reflux and is mostly caused by progesterone which rises after ovulation. 

Progesterone is closely tied to transit time, also known as gut motility or the rate at which your food moves through the digestive tract. High progesterone levels can slow down transit time, which can lead to delayed gastric emptying. An excess of progesterone can cause the sphincter to relax when it should be contracted, resulting in the backflow of acid. This can cause acid reflux which may worsen and become GERD. 

Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone during your period could impact your body and behavior.⁣ Constipation and heartburn are common symptoms mostly caused by progesterone rising after ovulation.⁣

Gut health and menstruation

The gut microbiome plays a role in various hormone-related issues, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Studies have shown that the composition of the gut microbiome can impact hormone levels and metabolism, which can, in turn, affect PMS symptoms. Women with higher levels of certain types of gut bacteria were more likely to experience PMS symptoms according to one study. It is still unclear exactly how the gut microbiome affects PMS, but it is thought that the bacteria may influence the production or metabolism of hormones involved in the condition. For example, one theory is that certain types of bacteria may contribute to higher levels of inflammation, which has been linked to PMS symptoms.

Changes in hormone levels can cause gut-related issues during the menstrual period. Progesterone reduced levels during the menstrual period may lead to increased bowel activity, causing diarrhea and bloating. Having too much estrogen in the body can cause cramping, pain in the lower abdomen, bloating, and other digestive and PMS symptoms. Constipation, diarrhea, and bloating can be caused by hormonal imbalances during ovulation, menstruation, and pregnancy. 

Does pregnancy affect IBS?

High progesterone during pregnancy slows down motility, worsening constipation.⁣ The changes in the pelvic floor during pregnancy can also affect bowel movement in IBS. ⁣

Mast cell activation can occur as a result of emotional or physical stress increasing IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting. The rise in estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy alters gut function and microbiome composition, increasing vulnerability to pathogens. Sex hormones influence the regulatory mechanisms of the brain-gut axis. This may contribute to the alterations in the intestinal mucosa that trigger IBS symptoms.  

Progesterone can also affect sphincter function leading to gastroesophageal reflux disease and heartburn. The hormonal changes during pregnancy alter the function and microbiome composition. ⁣If you are living with IBS and you are pregnant, make sure to talk to your trusted physician to get the support you need.⁣

The dangers of an imbalanced microbiome

Hormones are responsible for regulating bodily functions, and when they are out of balance, they can lead to a variety of health problems. One study found that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can disrupt the normal function of hormones and that this can lead to a variety of health problems. An imbalanced microbiome has been correlated with hormonal imbalances. It’s no secret the microbiome plays a big role in estrogen regulation. When our gut microbiome is balanced, the estrobolome can regulate the right level of estrogen within the body, but when imbalanced, gut dysbiosis can cause excess estrogen. 

This research suggests that EDCs may be a major contributing factor to the rising rates of hormone-related health problems we see in the population. This is especially worrisome given the widespread use of EDCs in many common household products.

How to balance female hormones and gut health 

How to balance your hormones? Here’s what to do. First, remove triggers of bacterial overgrowth, feed your flora with plant diversity and reseed your gut with fermented foods. It’s important to cultivate good habits such as stress management, connecting with loved ones, engaging in regular exercise, and spending time outdoors. Dig your hands into that dirt, get into nature, and spend time with your pets! Doing so increases your opportunity for exposure to microbial diversity. 

Concerned about your exposure to EDC? Reducing your risk by avoiding products that contain EDCs is one way to reduce your exposure. You can also take steps to further reduce your overall exposure to toxins by avoiding tobacco smoke and other air pollution.

P.S. Don’t forget to visit my shop page for more, including my very own ebooks to get you started on your gut health journey!


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