If you pay attention to the health headlines, you’ve probably heard about the gut microbiome, or the collection of good and bad bugs that live in the GI tract and have an outsized influence on health.
But here’s something you might not know: the gut microbiome has a direct and powerful effect on hormones. A group of bacteria in the gut known as the estrobolome metabolizes and eliminates estrogen from the body. But that’s not all. A healthy gut helps hormones in other ways, too: a balanced microbiome lowers inflammation, which promotes hormone balance (and may be especially helpful for hormonal acne), and supports balanced blood sugar, which is essential for healing hormones. A healthy gut also allows our bodies to extract the nutrients we need for hormone healing from our food and supplements.
If you suffer from hormone-related health issues, like acne, bloating, PMS, heavy or irregular periods, PCOS, ovarian cysts, hair loss, mood swings, fatigue, or low libido, you’re suffering from an underlying hormone imbalance — and you can help heal your symptoms by addressing gut health. A healthy gut is directly linked to healthy hormones.
The Gut-Hormone Connection (And What Causes Poor Gut Health)
The estrobolome, which is a collection of bugs in the gut that are devoted to processing and eliminating estrogen from the body, helps protect against a common condition called estrogen dominance, in which your estrogen levels are high relative to progesterone.
Estrogen dominance is triggered by a perfect storm of modern-day lifestyle factors: the foods we eat, the (toxic) products we use, stress, poor sleep, exposure to environmental toxins, and more. The condition is compounded by a sluggish detoxification system — and that’s where the estrobolome comes in. If it’s in poor shape — if the balance of bugs in the estrobolome is off — your ability to detox estrogen will be compromised. (There are other factors in subpar detoxification, like liver health, but the estrobolome is one of the most essential players.)
Poor gut health and subpar detoxification are triggered by poor diet, micronutrient deficiencies, and toxin overload.
It’s essential to support your gut health to truly heal your hormones (and solve your rotten hormone-related symptoms).
Signs and Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut
The term practitioners use to describe an imbalanced microbiome is “dysbiosis.” Here are some key symptoms of dysbiosis:
- Hormone imbalances
- Bloating and gas
- Acne or other skin issues like rosacea or eczema
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation (or both)
- Brain fog, inability to concentrate
- Frequent illness, from colds to yeast infections
- Feelings of chronic fatigue
- Difficulty losing weight
That’s right: Studies show that individuals with obesity have a less diverse microbiome than those who are slimmer, and as people who are obese slim down, their gut flora changes. You need healthy gut flora to break down fats and sugars and get them in transit out of your body, just like you need your gut flora to eliminate excess hormones.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are also linked to gut dysbiosis, thanks to the outsized influence of the gut-brain axis on overall health.
How to Heal Your Gut And Solve Your Hormone Problems
To heal your hormones, you must also heal your gut. These are the steps I recommend:
1 Say goodbye to white foods. That’s dairy, sugar and gluten. Research has linked sugar to disruptions in the gut microbiome. Likewise, lower intake of dairy products has been associated with better gut health. Gluten aggravates the lining of the gut, triggering to a whole bunch of overall health and hormone problems.
2 Sneak in more blood-sugar balancing foods. A healthy gut helps balance blood sugar and a blood sugar-balancing diet helps support a healthy gut. It’s a positive upward spiral, and a win-win for your hormones! Emphasize low-glycemic, high-phytonutrient foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and salmon.
3 Eat fermented foods. Just a couple of tablespoons a day of fermented foods rich in probiotics, like kimchi and sauerkraut, can make a major difference in gut health.
4 Live a low-inflammation lifestyle. Inflammation is bad for the gut (and bad for overall health). Eat low-glycemic foods, avoid toxic exposures, get enough sleep and exercise, and engage in phase-based self care to keep inflammation low.
5 Take a trusted probiotic supplement. Most probiotics don’t make it past the stomach acid (the powerful acid in the stomach destroys the live cultures before they can reach our intestines and work their magic). Look for trusted brands, like the probiotic I formulated for my Balance supplements.
6 Limit antibiotic exposure. Antibiotics are hard on the gut because they kill off ALL bacteria, not just the bad bugs. So make sure you take antibiotics only when necessary (always talk to a trusted healthcare provider about the decision) and avoid eating meat from animals that have been raised on antibiotics.
7 Rethink the pill. Like antibiotics, hormonal birth control erodes the balance of good and bad bugs in the gut. Studies suggest that using the pill increases the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. If you’re on the pill now and want to quit, you can take a systemic approach to coming off the pill without symptoms. (And always consult a trusted healthcare provider when making medicine changes.)
8 Up your intake of healing micronutrients. There’s increasing evidence that sufficient micronutrient intake is important for gut health, and that micronutrient deficiency can have a negative effect on the gut flora. Here’s what the research says about some specific nutrients:
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in shaping gut microbial communities, according to research.
Studies show that magnesium deficiency changes the amount of bifidobacteria in the gut.
Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency changes the microbiome in ways that can trigger inflammation.
Zinc deficiency is associated with a less diverse microbiome and less bacterial activity, say experts.
Studies show that having sufficient levels of selenium is associated with increases in bifidobacterium in the gut.
It’s important to note that even if you eat a healthy diet, you may still be deficient in these key micronutrients. Environmental factors beyond our control, from the mineral-depleted soil in which most of our food is now grown to shifts in growing practices that have reduced the number of vitamins and minerals in various foods, can leave us eating a perfect diet… and still micronutrient deficient. It’s important to make high-quality supplements part of your daily routine.
Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you. You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
BALANCE by FLO Living Hormone Supplement Kit
Because you’ve asked for hormone-friendly supplement recommendations, I created a solution that I am so thrilled to be able to offer to you on your hormonal balancing journey:
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This article is really helping, thank you
Great information!Very good points everyone should know.
Thank you for the helpful tips
Savannah Kruger says
Thank you for this! I just started the #30plantsaday challenge and am doing my best to sync it with which foods are best for the phase I’m in. I’m really excited about what’s going to happen in my gut as a result. ♥️