These are two very big topics in their own right, but in this article, we are looking specifically at the connection between the gut and oestrogen, for women.
At some point in your life, it’s likely that you’ve noticed a connection between your digestive system and your hormones, probably in the form of annoying or uncomfortable premenstrual bloating, or the loose stools.
Oestrogen is made in the ovaries and adrenal glands and there are three different types which have different roles in the body. In women they help regulate body fat, are essential to reproductive function, cardiovascular health, bone health and brain function including memory.
There is a collection of bacteria in the gut called the estrobolome which essentially regulates the body’s circulating oestrogen. It’s a unique microbiome within your gut microbiome made up of a collection of bacteria with special genes that help you metabolise oestrogen. The estrobolome is central to keeping your oestrogen levels, which are ever dynamic throughout your monthly menstrual cycles – and life cycles – just right.
The liver metabolises oestrogen which is then passed into the gut for excretion. When the gut microbiome is healthy the estrobolome produces optimal enzymes and so there is minimal reabsorption of this oestrogen back into the body which is removed via stools or urine.
However gut dysbiosis (when the gut isn’t functioning properly) means that these enzymes are not optimal and results in oestrogen being reabsorbed into the bloodstream leading to oestrogen dominance or not enough, leading to low oestrogen.
Excess oestrogen can cause irregular periods, mood swings, weight struggles, headaches, acne, bloating, and other digestive symptoms. And when oestrogen levels remain too high for too long, this can play a role in conditions like endometriosis, fibroids, and reproductive cancers.
When oestrogen is too low, it can lead to problems with sleep, mood, vaginal dryness, urinary tract irritation, low libido, loss of bone density, and worsened perimenopausal symptoms, for example.
- So this is just another reason to maintain a health microbiome, which we can do by;
- consuming a whole food diet, low in processed foods;
- minimising stress and anxiety;
- getting enough good quality sleep;
- moving your body daily, even walking is very helpful to support your gut;
- taking a probiotic daily and eating probiotic foods; and
- staying hydrated.
It is also worth a look at environmental hormone disruptors such as chemicals in cleaning and beauty products and how we store and consume food and drinks. Plastics for example have potentially harmful xenoestrogens in them. These xenoestrogens are also found in pesticides on non-organic foods. Xenoestrogens can change the balance of oestrogen in the body because the gut cannot process these xenoestogens and this leads to hormone imbalances.
It’s important to note that while there is a growing body of research indicating this gut-hormones connection, the field is complex and not fully understood. The interplay between the gut and hormones, including oestrogen, involves various factors and mechanisms that are still being explored. However, there is a bidirectional relationship between gut health and hormonal regulation, so it is critical to keep a healthy gut to aid in overall hormone balance.