Gut health and gut bacteria are the most overlooked elements of hormonal balance...
Did you know that our microbiome partly produces and secretes all our hormones? It controls their expression and can inhibit or exacerbate their production like for instance estrogen dominance.
If you don't address your gut health, you will not manage to get your hormones in balance.
Here are some examples:
Serotonin is mainly produced in the gut (80%). It influences the gut-brain connection and can have an effect on our emotional wellbeing, sleep disorders, anxiety, ...
But also Dopamine is produced in the gut, so this will affect our mental wellbeing (depression - addictive behavior)
Pathogenic bacteria will stimulate the release of Epinephrine and Norepinephrine - so you might feel really anxious, on-edge or nervous without any reason, because your body is in a constant fight or flight response.
Our gut produces all three estrogens: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2) & Estriol (E3). Mainly though E3 (our protective estrogen) which is essential for pregnancy and helps with reducing symptoms of menopause and osteoporosis.
Impact of the bacteria on the estrobolome which detoxifies us from the harmful estrogen – these estrogens are the main cause of breast cancers, breast lumps. (The estrobolome is a collection of bacteria in the gut which is capable of metabolizing and modulating the body’s circulating estrogen. It is the bacteria in the gut, and the estrobolome, that affects estrogen levels, which in turn can impact weight, libido and mood.)
Progesterone is also produced in the microbiome which then signals when and how much to produce.
Thyroid hormones regulate digestion and motility. Normal function plays a role in the secretion of hydrochloric acid, pepsin, and secretin to facilitate the breakdown of nutrients and assimilation. The gut bacteria will also influence the conversion of thyroxine (T4- inactive thyroid hormone) into the active form of thyroid hormone, T3. About 20 percent of T4 is converted to T3 in the GI tract by healthy gut bacteria. Intestinal dysbiosis can significantly reduce the conversion of T3 (the result will be a hypo thyroid or under-active thyroid gland, leading to weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, constipation, feeling cold, ...). Inflammation in the gut also reduces T3 by raising cortisol. Cortisol decreases active T3 levels while increasing levels of inactive T3. This is why it is so important to identify food sensitivities and restore GI health. Additionally, the key nutrients that are necessary to support thyroid health are often poorly absorbed if digestive function is not optimal.
A low diversity of bacteria in the gut is linked to an increase of thyroid hormone production which will result in a hyper thyroid condition.
So I hope you believe me now?
The microbiome is now considered an endocrine organ, some consider it to be even more powerful than the other endocrine glands – it controls the production and inhibits or supports hormonal balance.
Most people's microbiome is too alkaline and that leads to overgrowth of pathogens which produce less lactic acid so they continue to grow and even host more pathogenic bacteria. This is typically what happens after taking antibiotics (1 dose of broad spectrum antibiotics can decrease the gut bacteria by up to 90%!). The microbiome needs to have a slight acid milieu to be healthy and support the growth of healthy bacteria.
I guess the main takeaway for you is that you need to have a good diversity of gut bacteria. Consider it as a flowering garden, the more variety and colors, the better it looks, but it's also great for the soil. You're basically cultivating this ecosystem that will support your immune health, hormone balance and overall wellbeing!
How do you achieve this?
eat the rainbow! A variety of local and seasonal vegetables is very important
eat prebiotic fiber! Cold sweet potato, black rice, acacia fiber, plantain bananas or flour will feed the healthy bacteria in your microbiome
eat (or drink) fermented foods! Kimchi, raw sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, miso, tempeh....
avoid synthetic drugs or painkillers