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Hormone Charades: 5 Ways Gut Health Leads to Hormone Imbalance

Apr 10, 2023
Hormone imbalance, PMS, gut health, hypothyroid causes, gluten, leaky gut, estrogen, progesterone, fertility

5 Ways Gut Health Leads to Hormone Imbalance

Does your monthly moon leave you feeling out of whack?  Maybe you find yourself tearful and down, wondering why nothing seems to make you happy. Or wiped out, like you need to find a cave to nap in and cut off all the stimulation of the world.  Maybe you morph into Jekyll and Hyde aligned with your monthly cycle with your partner or kids bearing the brunt of unpredictable and catastrophic moods. 

On the surface, you know that your hormones are off.  Maybe your doctors think so too and to "regulate" your hormones they've recommended oral hormone replacement therapy. It's easy for hormones to take the blame here since it's clear that they are acting out of normal.

However, hormones act like canaries.  Hormone imbalances are often loud signals of more insidious changes.  

I often tell my clients this: It's not your hormones fault.  It's true- if you are experiencing those symptoms (or a litany of others), your hormones are probably out of balance. You can take my free Hormone Harmony Quiz to find out if hormone imbalance may be playing a role in your wellness. 

But if you want to restore order naturally, you'll have to dig deeper into the root causes of hormone imbalance.

One of the biggest culprits that gets commonly overlooked is the gut.  Here are 5 ways that imbalances in the gut may lead to hormone imbalance. 

1. Slow pipe syndrome- aka constipation...

Well 💩... This is likely a topic you'd like to gloss over.  I get it.  Yet it is one of the most common symptoms people experience with nearly everyone experiencing it at some point in their lifetime (Warraich, 2017).  Stool is the body's mode of taking out the trash and is the way it removes estrogen from the body.  When the trash isn't taken out regularly (as in every day), then estrogen sticks around in the body and can contribute to a situation known as Estrogen Dominance. Additionally, some research suggests that estrogen levels may also contribute to constipation, especially in the form of oral estrogen (👀 oral contraceptives anyone?).  Naturally supporting regular bowel movements through plenty of fiber, bitter foods, and fluids may promote estrogen detoxification and hormone balance.

2. A sticky subject- gluten and cross-reactivity

Another culprit of hormone imbalance may come through a leaky gut lining.  The intestinal lining is meant to be very selective about what enters the body.  However, injury to the intestinal walls may lead to food particles entering the blood stream.  These food particles are then picked up by the immune system, which then turns on its alert system to go looking for more of these particles to dispose of.  This is a beautiful and complex process and your thyroid can get caught in the cross hairs. This specifically happens with gluten by the immune system grabbing onto gliadin, a protein in gluten. Gliadin looks very similar to transglutaminase, which is a protein that your body creates in the thyroid.  So when gluten comes knocking on your gut's door and slips in, your immune system steps in to remove it and does the same to the thyroid; this process is called molecular mimicry and can do significant damage to the thyroid leading to disruptions in thyroid hormone levels. 

Thyroid hormone lives in close relationship with cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.  Disruptions in thyroid hormones lead to ripples in the balance of your other hormones too.  

3. To burn or not to burn- the quandary of stomach acid and nutrient insufficiencies

Heart burn is a frequent complaint. An overlooked cause of indigestion can actually be low stomach acid.  Stomach acid plays an essential role in your body's ability to absorb nutrients. When there is insufficient stomach acid, foods are not as readily broken down in the stomach and foods move into the small intestine as large chunks or particles.  Nutrients cannot be absorbed by the cells along the small intestine when they are still locked in the matrix of the foods you've eaten.

Some common vitamin insufficiencies that may be seen from low stomach acid include Vitamin B 12, iron, and calcium.  These vitamins and minerals play an essential role in hormone balance. For instance, some studies have found links between Vitamin B12 deficiency and estrogen levels to the point that it interferes with fertility. There are many vitamins and minerals that play a role in hormone balance so supporting adequate nutrient absorption through sufficient stomach acid may play a key role in untangling hormonal imbalances. 

4. Fat facts- low fat absorption and hormone imbalances

Did you know that some of the major hormones that your body makes are made from fat? Hormones like progesterone, cortisol, testosterone, and estrogens are a few examples of steroid hormones.  The main building block for steroid hormones is fat.  The body absorbs fat into your blood stream through the foods you eat.  An essential element in this process is digestive enzymes, in particular one called lipase. Without digestive enzymes, your body will not be able to let fat in the door to build proper hormones. Poor breakdown and absorption of fat may be a root cause of hormone imbalances such as estrogen dominance. 

5. Hormone balance with a dash of germs- the case of beta-glucuronidase

As mentioned before, your body gets rid of excess estrogen through your stool.  And that's not the end of the story.  Once in your stool, estrogen, bound up by bile from the liver, has a journey to cover before its out of the body. In this stage, it's essentially in the trash bag but hasn't yet made it to the trash can.  Along the way, it will interact with the germs that live in your gut.  There are a few species of bacteria (such as E. coli and Bacteroides species) that produce an agent called beta-glucuronidase, let's call it BG for short.  When BG comes into contact with the estrogen that's been bound up with bile meant to be delivered to the trash can, it breaks the bond between the bile and estrogen, allowing estrogen to float freely and be re-absorbed back into your body.  So instead of estrogen being taken out with the rest of the trash, it re-enters the blood stream, resulting in hormone imbalances.  BG produced by microbes in the gut has been implicated in the development of various hormone mediated diseases such as breast cancer.

These are a few examples of how hormone imbalance may be a signal of gut issues.  

Getting to the roots of hormone imbalances may help to naturally dissolve the symptoms that interrupt our lives and relationships.  Instead of fighting against your body with whack-a-mole "solutions", frustrated with problems that keep popping up no matter how hard you try, digging deeper into the causes of hormone imbalance will allow you to more naturally and elegantly restore balance and harmony.  Then you can focus your precious time and energy on the things that matter most to you. 

May you have everything you need for healing,

Christine Simons

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