Gut health and hormones are connected deeply. Here is a brief story written by your body to demonstrate how they are connected.
Estrogen: “Hi, I’m estrogen, I’m supposed to be neutralized here, in the gut,” says estrogen.
Gut: “Nope, can’t do it, you ate too much sugar and you don’t have enough probiotics and nutrients to neutralize that estrogen.” says the gut.
Estrogen: “Fine, we’ll go back into the bloodstream and be “extra.” We’ll see how you like that, body!”
Body: “Why am I gaining weight, having mood swings, bloating, acne, and insomnia?”
Gut: “Get me back on track and then we can help fix that estrogen, which is causing all of your problems.”
While this story may seem silly it is true. You see, your gut health dictates a lot about your hormone health. And estrogen isn’t alone. All of your hormones are affected by the balance in your digestive tract.
This alliance that hormones have with the gut is age-old. Prepare to be amazed about the cool ways that the gut and our hormones affect essentially everything in your body, from your appetite to your mood, and even your heart health.
This is one article you won’t want to “digest” lightly! Gut health and hormones are deeply connected and can make or break your health.
Table of Contents
Understanding the Gut Health and Hormones Connection
Our bodies are one big connected web. This web consists of hormones, nutrients, and probiotic bacteria to name a few. Because of this, everything you do affects everything else.
In other words, having a piece of cake during lunch may seem tasty, but a lot is going on behind the scenes to process that cake in the gut.
A disturbance of the gut bacteria caused by the cake and the lack of nutrients it has sends signals back to the brain. The brain then sends out imbalanced chemicals and hormones due to the threat caused in the gut by the seemingly innocent sugar-laden cake you just ate.
On the other hand, if you eat nutrient-rich foods such as wild salmon and Brussels sprouts with sauerkraut for lunch, your gut will send happy brain signals and help balance the hormones produced as a result.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are essentially messengers and are found virtually everywhere in our bodies. They range from sex hormones to growth hormone, thyroid hormone, melatonin, dopamine, and insulin.
All of these types of hormones are affected by the delicate balance in your gut.
These messengers called hormones also affect the gut in return. For example, too little or too much thyroid can cause abnormal bowel movements, altered gut bacteria (microbiome), unhealthy immune responses, and anxious feelings in the gut.
Too much estrogen is caused by gut imbalances. in both men and women, cause a lot of issues too.
For example, too much estrogen can contribute to acne, weight gain, mood swings, menstrual cycle abnormalities, and IBS symptoms. It leads to a condition called estrogen dominance which also increases breast cancer risk.
While all of this seems complicated, getting back to the basics of gut healing is what you may need to get your gut and hormones back on track.
The Hormone Party in Your Gut
Have you ever been at a party where everything was fun at first? But then that one guy had too much to drink and got loud and disruptive, telling everyone off.
The same happens when you party too much with food and drink in the gut.
Hormones want to be balanced in the gut. But in today’s world, there are too many gut-disrupting guests, ie. processed foods and drinks.
Our guts normally can help balance hormones’ feedback loops.
There are appetite-controlling hormones including:
Also, our guts have control over sex hormones and this is part of the microbiome called the estrobolome.
Not only that, an unhealthy microbiome contributes to insulin resistance, which is a root cause of Type 2 diabetes. In other words, maintaining a healthy blood sugar level helps hormones and a healthy gut helps maintain a healthy blood sugar. Pretty nifty, eh?
The Power of Food to Balance Hormones
Some of the bacteria that are part of the estrobolome produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This enzyme converts estrogen back into a form that is readily absorbed into the blood. By doing so, this causes an excess of estrogen levels.
Signs that your gut bacteria are “partying” too much this way are:
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Food sensitivities
- Digestive issues
Over time, too much estrogen because of gut imbalances in the estrobolome can increase the risk of disease, including hormone-sensitive cancers like breast cancer, infertility, obesity, and heart disease.
The hormone-gut connection is real and big.
The Good Guys vs. The Bad Guys: Balancing Hormones for Gut Health
We’ve learned so far that the bad guys in the gut can cause excess estrogen and hunger hormones.
But there is a lot you can do to increase the good guys, which means the healthy bacteria and nutrients in your gut.
For example, you can take probiotics like Lactobacillus plantarum to help break down beta-glucuronidase.
Lactobacillus acidophilus, another common probiotic in foods and supplements helps to neutralize estrogen too because it breaks down beta-glucuronidase.
On the other hand, bad bacteria in the gut can be caused by processed foods, sugar, and overall eating too much junk without enough healthy foods.
Let’s take a closer look at how to keep the bad guys at bay and how to make a healthier microbiome.
Love Thy Gut: How to Keep It Happy
You can easily show your gut and hormones some love today. Lots of foods help to balance your gut hormones and intestinal cells in the best ways possible.
What Foods are Good for Hormones and Gut Health?
Make your gut feel loved with these foods high in calcium D-glucarate. These foods you should eat more of to balance estrogen are:
Other Food Tips to Balance Hormones in the Gut
Beyond eating calcium d-glucarate foods, there are a lot of diet tips to keep your hormones healthy.
- Eat protein including poultry, cage-free pastured eggs, sardines, wild-caught salmon, grass-fed meats, cultured cottage cheese, and aged cheese
- Include healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, coconut, and fatty fish.
- Avoid processed foods that contain a lot of white flour and sugar, such as crackers, cookies, cakes, pies, candies, energy drinks, and sodas
- Don’t eat after dinner
- Eat fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, unsweetened yogurt, kombucha, cultured cottage cheese, and kimchi
- Eat nutrient-rich organ meats
As a bonus, these same foods can also help reduce fasting insulin levels.
Not only does your gut love these improvements in hormones; but your whole body loves it.
Gut Health and Hormones: Supplements to Try
If you want to take the extra step of helping your body balance hormones and promote estrogen metabolism with supplements, here are a few to consider:
Gut Health and Hormones: Keep Your Life in Balance
Hormones easily get up to mischief when food and your lifestyle are out of balance.
Healthy hormone levels require careful attention to what we put in our bodies.
From this post, you can see that you are what you eat when it comes to hormonal health. Eating a healthy diet supports a healthy microbiome. This healthy microbiome then helps prevent hormonal imbalances, keeps your immune system healthy, and helps to reduce stress too.
You should also limit or avoid alcohol, tobacco, and over-the-counter ibuprofen as much as possible because these drugs increase the levels of estrogen-disrupting beta-glucuronidase.
Other things that help keep your gut and hormones in balance include exercise, reducing stress in your life, and making sure to get adequate sleep. So give yourself some TLC, eat a healthy diet, get some probiotics, and prioritize sleep.
If you still feel like your hormones are out of balance after all of these tips, consider seeking out a functional medicine doctor or nutritionist.
So, there you have it folks – the secret to a happy gut and balanced hormones. It turns out that our bodies are a lot like a well-oiled machine, with the gut playing a starring role in keeping everything running smoothly.
By nourishing our gut with the right foods, avoiding stress-induced binges on junk food, and giving it some TLC through regular exercise, we can keep those hormones in check and bid farewell to those pesky mood swings.
So go ahead and give your gut some love – because after all, who doesn’t want their insides to be as fabulous as their outsides? Cheers to a healthy gut and hormonally harmonious days!
Gut Health and Hormones FAQs
Can probiotics fix hormonal imbalances?
Probiotics may help improve hormone levels, but it is just one of many aspects of your lifestyle that affect hormones.
What hormones are regulated by the gut?
All hormones are affected by gut health because all hormones are made up of the nutrients and metabolism that our gut absorbs and uses.
What are gut hormones?
Some hormones are made in the gut to support digestive function, such as cholecystokinin and secretin. Other hormones are metabolized in the gut, such as estrogen. Imbalances in gut bacteria may also be a cause of testosterone deficiency. Insulin is regulated by gut probiotics as well as reviewed above.
Can gut issues cause hormonal imbalance?
Absolutely. Gut health helps regulate a lot of hormones in the body, including insulin, testosterone, estrogen, thyroid hormone, cortisol, and even vitamin D hormone (calcitriol). This is heavily determined by what you eat. For example, protein helps the body make GLP-1 in the gut, which helps you feel full.
Does gut bacteria affect hormones?
Yes. As reviewed above, gut bacteria regulate how estrogen is broken down.
Are gut health and PCOS related?
Yes. PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is partly a result of bacterial imbalance symptoms, including excess estrogen.
How does gut health affect female hormones?
Female hormones are affected greatly by gut health. Probiotics help make menstrual cycles more regular and can reduce excess testosterone in women with PCOS. Probiotics can even reduce imbalances in bacteria in the vagina called bacterial vaginosis.
How does gut health affect testosterone?
Are leaky gut and hormones connected?
Although more research is needed, a leaky gut may cause inflammation and an increase in the circulation of toxic sex hormones.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. While The Healthy RD’s posts are backed by research, you are unique, so you must seek care from your dietitian or healthcare provider. This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before changing your supplement regimen or lifestyle.