When your hormones are imbalanced, it’s a sure sign that something else is not working right. Prescribing artificial hormones is NOT the answer. We need to find the root cause of why we have a hormonal imbalance, and often it is due to gut health dysfunction.
Females, did you ever notice how your bowel patterns will change before and during your menstrual cycle? Your gut health is closely tied to your hormones.
Both estrogen and progesterone impact gut motility and peristalsis (the rhythmic movement of the intestines that moves from your stomach down through your intestines and eventually out of your body).
Progesterone: slows down motility by relaxing your gut. This is why women will feel mildly constipated or bloated the week before their period – progesterone is at its peak.
Estrogen: increases contraction of the smooth muscle in the intestines. Healthy estrogen levels keep things moving. It also increases the diversity of the microbiome, which is a good thing for your immune health.
When estrogen and progesterone are in healthy harmony, you’ll tend to have fairly normal motility – no constipation or diarrhea.
Let’s review the estrogen cycle
- It’s produced in the ovaries (also in adrenal glands and adipose tissue), secreted by the adrenal glands and by the testes in males
- It circulates in the blood, making its way to tissues in the breasts, brain, bones, uterus, etc.
- It eventually makes its way to the liver where the three forms of estrogen are broken down and deactivated
- Detoxified estrogens are deposited in bile, which is secreted into the intestines and exits the body with the stool (you poop it out!)
What happens in an unhealthy microbiome?
- Some estrogen exits the body but most estrogen goes back to the body. Estrogen dominance creates all kinds of chaos such as PMS, cramps, fibroids, cysts, endometriosis, PCOS, heavy bleeding, infertility, reduced sex drive, and weight gain.
- When certain intestinal bacteria are present, something very different happens. Unfriendly bacteria make an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase, which re-activates estrogen in your gut. This re-activated estrogen then re-enters the body and causes excess estrogen. When we don’t have a healthy gut, beta-glucuronidase activity may be altered, leading to either a deficiency or an excess of free estrogen, thus promoting the development of estrogen-related pathologies.
In males, low testosterone can certainly drain sex drive, but a deficiency can also increase body fat, decrease muscle and bone mass, crash your energy levels, impair cognitive function and increased symptoms of depression.
Imbalanced hormones cause gut problems, and gut problems cause imbalanced hormones.
Common ways the microbiome gets damaged
Stress: High amounts of stress (physical or mental) favor the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut and can lead to widespread inflammation.
Poor diet: Eating a low fiber diet with little resistance starch will decrease the diversity of the microbiome – these foods keep the healthy bugs alive! Highly processed foods and refined sugars promote an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the gut.
Antibiotics: Just one prescription of Augmentin can kill off up to 90% of your gut flora. Gut flora can regrow, but it can take up to a year.
Toxins: Pesticides, glyphosate from GMO corn and other foods, herbicides, environmental chemicals, and infections.
Hormonal birth control: Contraceptive pills damage your microbiome as much as antibiotics do! The pill is known to promote candida overgrowth and SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) as well. Recent research has linked oral contraceptive use to development of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
How to improve hormone metabolism through your gut health
Eat more vegetables: Fiber feeds healthy bacteria, keeps your bowels moving, and decreases the activity of the enzyme beta-glucuronidase.
Reduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol is a toxin. Even 1 drink per day can affect the hormonal system. Alcohol consumption has been associated with lowered testosterone and higher estrogen levels in men and increased testosterone and estrogen levels in women.
Consume probiotics: Once study showed that oral supplementation of lactobacillus acidophilus decreased the activity of beta-glucuronidase. Take a megasporebiotic if you must take antibiotics.
Re-consider birth control: Barrier methods, such as the condom, sponge, cervical cap, or diaphragm, spermicide, the copper IUD, and natural family planning are all hormone-free methods of birth control.
Stress reduction: Self-care doesn’t have to be bubble baths and massages. Taking a few minutes per day to take a few deep breaths, taking time away from your electronics, and mixing in lower intensity physical activity like yoga or walking can go a long way.
Note: Please consult with your practitioner if you are pregnant or nursing before trying any of these tips.
In great health,
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- Reddy BS, Engle A, Simi B, Goldman M. Effect of dietary fiber on colonic bacterial enzymes and bile acids in relation to colon cancer. Gastroenterology.
- Colonic Crohn’s disease and use of oral contraception.Rhodes JM, Cockel R, Allan RN, Hawker PC, Dawson J, Elias EBr Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1984 Feb 25; 288(6417):595-6.
- Small intestinal disease, folate deficiency anemia, and oral contraceptive agents.Johnson GK, Geenen JE, Hensley GT, Soergel KH Am J Dig Dis. 1973 Mar; 18(3):185-90.
- Exposure to oral contraceptives increases the risk for development of inflammatory bowel disease: a meta-analysis of case-controlled and cohort studies. Ortizo R1, Lee SY, Nguyen ET, Jamal MM, Bechtold MM, Nguyen DL.