Hormones Not Behaving? Why Your Gut is Likely to Blame

Updated: May 9



If we take a minute to consider the state of our current environment and the impact it's having on our health it's enough to make anyone feel angry and even perhaps a little defeated.


Infertility, reproductive cancers, estrogen dominant conditions, thyroid imbalances, and autoimmunity are just a few of the problems that are strongly associated with environmental toxins.


To make matters worse, medicine is still so behind the current science (about 17 years to be exact) of what's creating these problems let alone how to address them properly. Sadly, for this reason, many people either go un-diagnosed, dismissed entirely, or are left to depend on synthetic medications to manage their symptoms. This is especially true when it comes to estrogen-related conditions. Medicine often treats these conditions as diseases instead of symptoms with a root cause.


This is one of the many reasons why I'm a huge advocate for personal advocacy and responsibility when it comes to one's health and body. There are many philosophies when it comes to healing, which is why it's best to stay open to all instead of limiting ourselves to just one approach.


The emerging information on the gut-hormone connection is exciting to say the least. We are beginning to uncover the importance of bacteria and the role it plays in hormone-related conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS as well as reproductive cancers.

The question is, why is everyone experiencing the effects of poor gut health these days? Why are we constantly hearing about probiotics and leaky gut when these things were hardly discussed 15 years ago?


Well, it may come down to everyday exposures known as hormone disrupters. What are they exactly? They are chemicals and toxins that can lock onto estrogen receptors and contribute to the increased effects of the estrogen both in the gut, vagina and how those signals affect function in the body.


They include:

  • Estrogenic Pesticides and xenoestrogens

  • HRT and birth control pills

  • Phthalates and BPA (help make plastics soft, cash register receipts)

  • Poly-and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) –non-stick pans

  • Cosmetics –parabens, triclosan, resorcinol

  • Unfiltered water

  • Some heavy metals


The issue is not necessarily with the toxins themselves but how our bacteria deal with them and eliminate them. The issue is that many of these same chemicals and toxins actually degrade our good bacteria preventing these things from leaving our bodies, which is not what we want.


The gut-hormone relationship:


Progesterone:

We need healthy hormone function to keep our intestinal lining healthy and to prevent permeability (leaky gut). For example; we have progesterone receptors in the gut – it’s suggested that some progesterone is actually produced in the gut. Progesterone helps protect the lining by keeping junctions tight. Bad bacteria has an inverse relationship with progesterone in the blood.


Estrogen:

One study also found that women with more diverse microbes had a better ratio of estrogen and estrogen metabolites – with gut bacteria deciding if the estrogen metabolites are left behind or excreted in the urine or colon. Estrogen modulates permeability and keeps the junctions tight. Too much stress shuts down digestion and creates inflammation in the gut. Chronic stress and inflammation consume progesterone to make cortisol which leaves us estrogen dominant.


Testosterone:

Lack of testosterone delays intestinal healing. We have androgen receptors in the gut and good bacteria can convert androgens to testosterone. Altered gut bacteria can result in excess androgen biosynthesis which means more testosterone and is seen in PCOS.


What to do if you suspect estrogen disruption/dominance:


Probiotics:

It's time to make friends with bacteria. Different bacterial strains offer different benefits making it critical to create a diverse environment in your gut. For example, L. Gasseri can help suppress ectopic-tissue formation in endometriosis and L.Reuteri helps with preventing bone loss and degrading BPA.


Phytoestrogens:

These are foods containing isoflavones, coumestans, lignans, stilbenoid, flavonoids and ellagitannins. They are called this because of their ability to lock onto estrogen receptor sites and trigger a beneficial response. By locking onto the receptors, they force the detoxification of real estrogen (estradiol). Phytoestrogens are acted upon by gut bacteria to create beneficial metabolites (anticancer). Many people are still afraid of phytoestrogens, mainly soy, but negative studies were conducted in vitro using isolated compounds, mainly genistein not in food and not with good bacteria present which plays a key role in how they are used. Soy also has aromatase-inhibiting properties which often gets left out of soy-demonizing conversations.


Eat your fibre:

A diet deprived of fibre degrades the intestinal mucus barrier and enhances pathogen susceptibility. I can't tell you how much I cringe when I see women adopting a high-fat low-carb diet. I love my fats, the right fats are important for hormones, but fats especially the bad ones are also acidic making your body work harder than it has to. Going too low-carb can deprive your beneficial microbes of the food they need to grow and slow down elimination.


Finally, consider working with a practitioner who has an understanding of the gut and can customize a hormone-balancing plan for you.


It's important to remember that hormone-balancing requires a multi-step approach and can take time. There is no magic pill out there that can erase years of poor habits.


To get started on your hormone-balancing journey grab one of my free health guides HERE!










References:

Bisphenol A alters gut microbiome: Comparative metagenomics analysis, Keng-Po Lai et al, Environmental Pollution, Volume 218, November 2016, Pages 923-930


Degradation potential of bisphenol A by Lactobacillus reuteri, Jian Ju et al, LWT Volume 106, June 2019, Pages 7-14


Androgen Receptor Expression in Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor, Lopes, Lisandro F. MD, PhD; Bacchi, Carlos E. MD, PhD, Applied Immunohistochemistry & Molecular Morphology: March 2009 -Volume 17 -Issue 2 -p 146-150


Progesterone decreases gut permeability through upregulating occludin expression in primary human gut tissues and Caco-2 cells, Zejun Shou et al, Scientific Reports volume9, Article number: 8367 (2019)


Degradation potential of bisphenol A by Lactobacillus reuteri, Jian Ju et al, LWT Volume 106, June 2019, Pages 7-14


Sex steroid deficiency–associated bone loss is microbiota dependent and prevented by probiotics, Jau-Yi Li et al, J Clin Invest. 2016;126(6):2049–2063


The Intestinal Microbiome and Estrogen Receptor-Positive Female Breast Cancer. Kwa M1 et, J Natl Cancer Inst. 2016 Apr 22;108(8)


Endometriosis is associated with an altered profile of intestinal microflora in female rhesus monkeys. Bailey MT et al, Hum Reprod. 2002 Jul;17(7):1704-8


The potential health effects of dietary phytoestrogens. Rietjens IMCMet al, Br J Pharmacol. 2017 Jun;174(11):1263-1280

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