Maintaining your gut health goes beyond keeping your digestion happy. Your gut affects your hormones—specifically, your estrogen levels—which in turn affects weight, libido, and mood.
The microbiome has been receiving increasing attention with regards to health. This collection of microbes on and within your body has a wide-reaching impact on your wellness, influencing everything from the absorption of nutrients and mood to metabolism and immunity.
Research is shedding light on specific microbes within your gut microbiome, which play a central role in the regulation of hormones—such as estrogen—within the body. These microbes are referred to collectively as the estrobolome, which influences the metabolism of various forms of estrogen and, therefore, the risk of developing estrogen-related diseases such as endometriosis, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.
The gut-hormone connection and the estrobolome
This group of microbes (the estrobolome) within the gastrointestinal tract impacts:
- The metabolism of the various forms of estrogens
- The balance of circulating and excreted hormone levels
Microbes in the estrobolome produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This enzyme alters estrogens into their active forms, which can bind to estrogen receptors and influence estrogen-dependent physiological processes. In general, the more beta-glucuronidase that the microbes in your gut produce, the less estrogen is excreted out of the body. This means that more remains within the body to be recirculated, bind to receptors, and influence various physiologic processes.
When the gut microbes are out of balance (a state known as dysbiosis), beta-glucuronidase activity may be altered, affecting the balance of estrogens circulating in the body (overall intestinal microbial richness also influences this balance).
Dysbiosis can lead to:
- A deficiency or an excess of free estrogen
- Imbalances between the various forms of estrogen and other hormones
Both of which may promote the development of estrogen-related pathologies and chronic diseases.
Dysbiosis of the estrobolome and chronic disease
Given the various roles that estrogen plays in the human body, it is not surprising that this imbalance of gut microbes (or dysbiosis of the estrobolome) has been associated with the development of several chronic diseases. Overall, some of the most common signs of imbalanced estrogen and other hormones include:
- Bloating and digestive upset
- Low libido
- Heavy, light, or irregular periods
- Tender, swollen, and/or fibrocystic breasts
- Weight gain
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Cancers of the breast, ovaries, or prostate
Here are a few examples of how an imbalanced estrobolome affects specific issues:
Menopause: Estrobolome disruption in postmenopausal women is associated with an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and loss of bone density, as seen in osteoporosis.
Endometriosis: Some research suggests that the estrobolome of both the gastrointestinal tract and vagina in women with endometriosis may have larger numbers of beta-glucuronidase–producing bacteria, leading to increased levels of circulating estrogens and inflammation that drive endometriosis.
Polycystic ovary syndrome: PCOS is another condition that seems to be influenced by the balance of microbes in the estrobolome. Studies suggest that imbalanced gut microbiota may promote increased androgen biosynthesis and decreased estrogen levels through lowered beta-glucuronidase activity, contributing to the hormonal imbalances characteristic of PCOS.
Cancer: Emerging research also links dysbiosis of the estrobolome to various forms of cancer. This altered balance of gut microbes leads to increased levels of circulating active estrogens, which promote cell proliferation in estrogen-sensitive tissues such as the breasts, endometrium, cervix and ovaries.
Balancing your estrobolome
The composition of your estrobolome is influenced by many factors, including genetics, diet, alcohol intake, environmental exposures and medications—especially antibiotics. Therefore, you can support a healthy estrobolome and balance of estrogen in your body through a combination of detoxification, diet, and supplementation.
Eat a hormone-balancing diet
- Diet strongly influences the composition of the estrobolome. Several dietary factors may have a positive impact on the estrobolome.
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kvass help to rebalance gut bacteria and increase diversity.
- Probiotics such as Lactospore® can help decrease bacteria that produce beta-glucuronidase (Supercelery Digestion provides 1 billion CFU Lactospore® per serving)
- Prebiotic foods that are rich in fructo-oligosaccharides or inulin help to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. These include chicory, asparagus, garlic, and banana. (Fructo-oligosaccharides are high FODMAP fibres (not suitable for IBS/Leaky Gut). Our Fibregum™ is a Low FODMAP fibre and is suitable for IBS/Leaky Gut. Fibregum™ is in both our SuperSterol® Immune and Supercelery Digestion powders.)
- Plant-based foods high in dietary fibre (think nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and a variety of vegetables) support healthy gut bacteria and lead to more balanced levels of estrogen. (Supercelery Digestion is rich in celery and ginger—both high fibre—plus we have added Fibregum™ to prove a total of 5.1g fibre per serving.)
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale (featured in SuperSterol® Immune) are helpful in regulating beneficial gut bacteria, supplying fibre to keep the gut healthy and supporting healthy detoxification of hormones, including estrogen.
Many manmade compounds, the xenoestrogens, can mimic natural estrogens in the body as well as alter the composition of the microbiome. There are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens in everyday life.
- Minimise your use of plastics such as plastic water bottles and food containers, especially when heated.
- Be mindful of what you put on and in your body when it comes to personal care products. Avoid synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and parabens, which can impact estrogen balance.
- Use all-natural, biodegradable laundry and household cleaning products.
- Choose unbleached chlorine-free products such as coffee filters, tea bags, sanitary products, toilet paper, and paper towels or switch to reusable organic cotton options when possible.
- Opt for organic food whenever possible.
Exercise for hormone health
- Exercise is another great way to support detoxification and reduce stress to keep your hormones balanced. Physical activity helps to balance circulating levels of estrogen in both the short and long term.
- Studies suggest that maintaining an active lifestyle throughout life beginning during adolescence may reduce the risk of breast cancer. In addition, regular moderate-intensity exercise can lower levels of circulating estrogens.
- When it comes to exercise, more isn’t always better. Be mindful of what works best for your body and don’t overdo it. Stress, even from positive habits like exercise, can trigger hormonal imbalances as well. Listen to your body, take time for recovery in between workouts, and balance rest with mindful activity.
Lifestyle, nutrition, physical activity, and stress management are all linked to the balance of your hormones. These lifestyle and dietary habits can help you balance your estrobolome and keep your hormones healthy!