If you’re wondering how you should tackle your symptoms of hormonal imbalance, your gut health may be the last thing on your mind. But if you speak with any naturopath, nutritionist or dietitian, you’ll soon realise (after the many questions related to your 💩) that gut health can be the cause of many hormonal complaints, from acne to estrogen dominance. Our gut has a widespread influence on our body as a whole, and if our gut health isn’t in tip top shape, we can feel it in so many ways.
Our gut microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria that take residence in our intestines. While some of these microorganisms can be harmful, the majority are incredibly beneficial for our overall health. This community of bacteria influences almost every body system, from our immune system to our nervous system. This is why the most common signs of poor gut health may seem unrelated to your digestive system. Signs that your gut health may need some TLC include fatigue, skin conditions like acne and eczema, low mood or anxiety and sugar cravings. The old saying that all disease begins in the gut really does ring true, so let’s take a look at some of the most common ways that our gut health can disrupt the balance of our hormones.
Detoxification and hormonal balance
Sluggish detoxification is so often underestimated when it comes to hormone imbalances, and it’s one of the first things that should be considered when tackling any hormonal complaints. Although the liver is our chief detoxification organ, there are many other clever ways the body excretes toxins. Making sure you're moving your bowels regularly is a no-brainer when you think about it, but with our modern lifestyle it’s more common than not for many of us to experience irregular bowel movements. Detoxification begins with our hormones being bound and converted by the liver. After this process, they’re sent to the gut to be safely excreted - so what happens if we’re constipated? Sluggish bowel movements or constipation delays the excretion of our hormones, and can cause hormones like estrogen to stick around longer than we’d like them to. They can hang around so long in fact, that they actually get recycled back into the body to cause some damage (hello estrogen dominance, acne and pms 👋 ).
Those trillions of gut bacteria we mentioned earlier? They have the ability to regulate our hormones and interact specifically with estrogen. When our gut microbiome is out of balance, also known as dysbiosis, it disrupts estrogen metabolism within the gut which can hugely impact our hormones. In the same way that constipation causes estrogen to be recycled and absorbed back into the bloodstream, imbalances within our gut microbiome can activate enzymes that cause this same pattern. Imbalances with our gut bacteria can also lead to increased inflammation, sugar cravings and insulin resistance which only exacerbates underlying hormonal imbalances.
You are what you absorb!
We’ve all heard the term you are what you eat, but in reality we are what we effectively absorb. You might be taking all the right supplements and eating a high quality diet, but if your digestion is off - you might not be absorbing any of it. A common cause of poor digestion is leaky gut, which is a term used to describe increased intestinal permeability. Our digestive tract is lined with tight junctions that allow nutrients and water to pass into the bloodstream in small amounts. With leaky gut, these tight junctions become loose, causing larger substances like toxins and undigested bacteria to pass through and trigger inflammation. As a result, the body struggles to absorb nutrients which can lead to hormonal imbalances - because we all know how important it is to consume those essential nutrients for healthy hormones!
5 ways to support the gut for healthy hormones
- Eat more fiber - both our Hormone Balance & Daily Hormone blends are an incredible source of fiber to encourage regular bowel movements (tip: just make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, because upping your fiber intake without increasing your water can actually cause constipation).
- Reduce processed / inflammatory food - ultra processed foods or foods high in added sugars can reduce our ‘good gut bugs’, and throw the balance of our microbiome out of whack. Follow the 80/20 approach when it comes to nutrition (eating whole, unprocessed foods 80% of the time and allowing yourself to indulge the other 20%).
- Drink more water - most cases of constipation are actually caused by dehydration. Make sure you get in those 2-3 liters each day!
- Reduce stress - stress is one of the greatest factors that contributes to gut dysfunction, so it’s important to consider if stress may be impacting your gut health. Reducing your caffeine intake, cutting back on high intensity training and eating mindfully are all helpful ways to reduce stress for optimal gut health.
- Essential nutrients - glutamine, zinc and vitamin A are all incredible nutrients to help support the gut lining. Digestive soothe is our go-to gut healing blend, full of herbs like marshmallow and slippery elm to soothe the digestive tract.
Learn more about how herbs can support your hormones in our recent blog post - 5 adaptogens for hormonal balance!