The Gut-Hormone Connection: Back in Balance
| Cecilia Kitic
Our gut does some obvious things – digests food, absorbs nutrients, eliminates waste. It also does some other pretty incredible things that influence every other system within the body! Essentially out gut is our second brain as it can function without instructions from the brain.
One very important job the gut contributes to is regulating hormones. Hormones are our chemical messengers that travel in our blood stream to tell tissues of the body what to do. Without them we wouldn’t function. Hormones can be released from the brain, our sex organs and even body fat! These chemical messengers regulate follicle development and uterine lining thickness over the menstrual cycle, influencing our fertility. They also control our appetite, metabolism and sleep. Read on to find out how a healthy gut can help balance our hormones.
There are over 60 species of bacteria living in our gut that regulate oestrogen concentration. This is what is termed our ‘Oestrobolome’, and our oestrobolome is one of the reasons why gut health is so central to fertility! Certain bacteria contain the enzyme β-glucuronidase that breaks down oestrogen to its active form so it is reabsorbed back into the blood stream.
Disruptions in our gut microbiota diversity can cause an imbalance in the bacteria that regulate oestrogen. If you have too many of the bacteria that produce β-glucuronidase, you may have elevated levels of circulating oestrogens which drive conditions including endometriosis.
On the other hand, if there are not enough of the bacteria to recycle oestrogen this can reduce oestrogen levels. Low levels of oestrogen are often seen in obesity and metabolic syndrome.
ß-glucuronidase activity can be modulated by the diet so we really are what we eat as it changes the diversity of our gut mirobiota.
Females produce less testosterone than males but it still plays an important role in keeping our body functioning. When testosterone levels are very low it may impair bone health, increase fatigue and reduce libido. If levels of testosterone are too high, as is often seen in PCOS, periods may be irregular, mental health can be impacted, insulin resistance is increased and our skin and hair affected.
If you have lots of beneficial and lots of diverse microbiota living in your gut, these beneficial microbes can enhance your reproductive health and reduce ovary dysfunction by helping balance testosterone concentrations. Testosterone concentrations also influence other important hormones like insulin, adiponectin and thyroid hormones. Improving the diversity of your gut ecosystem helps balance testosterone levels. This is great for dampening PCOS symptoms and optimising fertility!
So How Do I Balance my Gut Microbiota?
Our gut microbiota play a key role in modulating hormones. Nurturing your gut to grow beneficial microbes is a great therapeutic strategy to get your body back in balance.
Promoting a diverse, healthy gut ecosystem leads to so many benefits including:
💗Increased insulin sensitivity
💗Improved skin and hair
💗Regular menstrual cycles
The diversity of our gut microbial community can be rapidly modified through diet so make sure you are feeding your gut microbes the foods they love!
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