How your gut health may determine your hormone levels!
Emerging research is shedding light on specific microbes within your gut microbiome, which play a central role in regulating hormones such as oestrogen within the body. This so-called oestrobolome influences the metabolism of various forms of oestrogen and, therefore, the risk of developing oestrogen-related diseases such as endometriosis, breast and for males, prostate cancer.
The collection of bacteria and fungi found in the gut is capable of metabolising and modulating levels of oestrogen in our body, supporting key processes including mood regulation, cognitive function, bone, skin and hair health, and protecting against heart disease.
The menopause can be an unsettling change for women, but the gut helps to balance hormone levels throughout the body. When the gut microbiome is healthy, the oestrobolome produces optimal levels of the enzyme beta glucuronidase, helping to effectively excrete oestrogen from the body as waste to balance hormone levels. The gut microbes are responsible for producing beta-glucuronidase, but if we have too much, this can impact our ability to detoxify and eliminate oestrogen from the body, allowing for oestrogen to be recirculated back into our blood supply, and increasing the overall levels in the body.
Whilst progesterone and testosterone both decline during menopause oestrogen remain high if they are not effectively broken down. This can lead to a myriad of symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and even depression as well as a rise in cortisol levels, putting the body under additional stress.
Working to encourage microbiome diversity can be incredibly helpful for balancing hormones and reducing symptoms. This can be achieved by eating a diet rich in plant based foods, moderating alcohol intake, staying well hydrated, exercising and supplementing with specific scientifically backed probiotics.
Many women also experience symptoms of IBS during the menopause, as fluctuations in ovarian hormones can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Multiple studies have shown that hormones may influence the occurrence, or worsening, of abdominal pain and discomfort during menopause, with symptoms fluctuating depending on female hormone levels. Both oestrogen and progesterone impact the motility in the intestine and the inflammation of the intestinal lining, which can affect its functionality, due to increased permeability or ‘leaky gut’.
The composition of your oestrobolome is influenced by genetics, diet, alcohol consumption, environmental exposures and medications, especially anti-biotics. Therefore, you can support a healthy oestrobolome and balance of oestrogen in your body through a combination of detoxification, diet, and supplementation to encourage the body to restore this delicate balance.
Several dietary factors may have a positive impact on the oestrobolome.
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kvass help to rebalance gut bacteria and increase diversity.
- Probiotics strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and plantarum can help decrease bacteria that produce beta-glucuronidase.
- Prebiotic foods that are rich in fructo-oligosaccharides or inulin help to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. These include chicory, asparagus, garlic, and banana.
- Plant-based foods high in dietary fiber (think nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and a variety of vegetables) support healthy gut bacteria and lead to more balanced levels of oestrogen. In this study, avocado and grapefruit were particular standouts.
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale are helpful in regulating beneficial gut bacteria, supplying fiber to keep the gut healthy and supporting healthy detoxification of hormones including oestrogen.