Learn how your gut health impacts your hormones and your waistline — and what you can do about it.
I’m sure many of you have heard the buzz about “gut health” and its impact on our health and fitness success. As women, we all want our efforts in and out of the gym to be optimized. I don’t know about you, but my main reason for spending time in the gym and kitchen is to ultimately feel my best and be as healthy as possible.
Piqued interest surrounding the importance of “gut health” has many talking about its role in chronic diseases. Modern medicine has finally begun to recognize the digestive system as a core component to the overall good health puzzle. Recent studies have shown a cause-and-effect relationship between the gut and many of our other systems (immune, neurological, endocrine, cardiovascular, etc.).
Could this be the missing piece of information surrounding the rise in hormone-related disease and obesity? The reality is our hormones play a large part in our ability to gain and lose body fat. Elevated estrogen has specifically been linked to increased body fat and hormone-related disease. Only in recent years have hormones and the gut been linked.
One of the most common causes of weight gain and estrogen-dominate diseases could be a condition called leaky gut. Despite the forthcoming research, nutritionists and physicians often overlook the link between unsuccessful fat loss, imbalanced hormones and gut health. Read between the lines: We end up having to do our own research!
For the 411 on leaky gut syndrome, check out this article.
Leaky Gut and Estrobolome
Now, hang with me as I get a little nerdy! When the gut is stressed or damaged, it’s no longer able to function efficiently. The lining of the gut becomes porous and is unable to act as a “micro-filter.” Large particles begin to seep back into the bloodstream, creating chaos and inflammation.
An important part of our gut function is dependent on the health of our microbiome. This is our own unique “ecosystem” of bacteria that is much like our genetic fingerprint. When the good bacteria are disrupted, it creates a dysbiosis (bacteria imbalance) and is a major cause of leaky gut. All the bacteria within the digestive tract play an important role to keep the body functioning properly.
If leaky gut is present, it can negatively impact the hormone balance, specifically estrogen levels. When discussing estrogen dominance, there is a specific subset of bacteria to consider called estrobolome. This group of microbes are responsible for metabolizing estrogen. When dysbiosis occurs among these microbes, it may affect the body’s ability to excrete excess estrogen, which is then reabsorbed into the bloodstream, therefore, increasing circulating estrogen levels.
When balanced, estrogen plays an important role in fat deposition, bone cell turnover, glucose and lipid metabolism. On the flip side, elevated levels of estrogen in the body can be an increased risk of endometriosis, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer and obesity.
What Can Alter Estrobolome?
The gut microbiome and estrobolome can be affected by many factors, both internal and external. It’s important to keep a happy gut to have a healthy body. Here are a few specific items that can trigger dysbiosis and leaky gut.
- Excess processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Excess sugar
Is This Me?
If you’re now wondering about your own estrogen, here are 10 common signs you could be experiencing elevated levels. If you’re saying “yes” to any of the symptoms below, you may want to see a licensed medical practitioner to have your estrogen checked.
10 Signs and Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
- Irregular or abnormal periods
- Abdominal bloating or generalized water retention
- Mood swings
- Exaggerated premenstrual symptoms
- Swollen or tender breasts outside of PMS
- Hair loss
- Trouble sleeping and fatigue
- Decreased sex drive
- Weight gain
Tips to Balance Estrogen Levels Naturally
If you’re suffering from hormonal imbalances specific to estrogen, there are ways you can help yourself come back to balance naturally. It’s recommended that you first consult a physician, but the following are complementary approaches to ensure the body is functioning optimally.
- Keep the gut healthy and balanced.
- Partake in regular exercise 20 to 30 minutes four times per week.
- Consume healthy fats (avocado, nuts, coconut oil, salmon, etc.).
- Increase daily fiber to 25 to 30 grams per day.
- Limit processed sugars.
- Manage stress.
- Consume a balanced diet for lifestyle (no overeating or undereating).
For foods that feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, check out this article.
Making lifestyle changes beyond your regular food and exercise routine can be scary and frustrating — no matter how you look, how much you can lift or how many times you hit the gym per week. If you’re suffering from estrogen dominance symptoms, the journey can be even more difficult. But taking charge of your health is always worth it.
As women, it’s important that we ensure our hormones and gut health are in check. Remember the value of balancing and nourishing your body, mind and gut to live your healthiest life possible.