- Your digestive tract has connections to many body systems, such as hormones, mood, and immunity. Ensuring proper function allows your entire body to operate optimally.
- Inflammation in the gut causes malabsorption of nutrients or improper elimination of toxins, which can affect your hormones and how your experience your cycle.
- These 5 diet and lifestyle changes can support your hormones through you gut.
Sophie Shepherd ∙ FDN-P, INHC
Examining your gut can be an absolute game changer for your health and well-being!
Common symptoms of hormonal imbalance like acne, painful periods, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, and moodiness, and even difficulty to lose weight could be linked to the digestive tract.
Your digestive system is responsible for many key bodily functions including absorbing nutrients. Your gut absorbs nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids and amino acids (found in proteins) which in turn create your hormones. Additionally, your digestive system supports the elimination phase of any unwanted toxins and chemicals which also includes excess hormones.
This is where nutrient absorption is essential! First, you need to consume the necessary nutrients in order to synthesize the hormones, and then we need the gut to help us absorb those nutrients. It’s not what you eat but how well you absorb it.
The digestive system is critical not only for creating the hormones we need, but also in excreting the ones we don’t (example: disposing of estrogen molecules once they've done their job). To top things off, 70-80% of your immune system is held in your gut!
What researchers now know is that inflammation in the digestive track can cause leaky gut and eventually lead to autoimmunity. This is precisely what happened to me when I developed Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (hence why I am committed to helping you heal).
This means that in order to have properly balanced hormones, a functioning immune system, and other areas of general health, we must make sure our digestive system is taken care of.
Let’s dive into this connection a bit deeper.
The digestive lining
Our digestive system consists of an extensive intestinal lining covering more than 4,000 square feet of surface area. When working properly, it forms a barrier that controls what gets absorbed into the bloodstream. When that gut lining is more permeable, it can allow partially digested food and toxins to penetrate the tissues underneath it. This can be triggered by inflammatory food particles or allergies, NSAID’s, antibiotic use, birth control pills, chronic stress, high sugar diets, lower fiber diets, and other toxins.
A Leaky Gut
The job of the digestive system, specifically the mucosa or intestinal lining of the small intestine is to allow nutrients to pass through for absorption and utilization in the body.
At the same time, it should keep harmful proteins from entering. In the cases of a leaky gut, these proteins are able to cross this protective barrier and trigger an inflammatory response.
At this point, the immune system can kick in and create antibodies, which are intended to find foreign proteins for destruction. If the immune system gets confused, it starts to attack bodily tissues, confusing them for foreign invaders. This process causes widespread inflammation.
How does that affect my hormones?
This kind of chronic inflammation can be a major factor in your period health. Inflammation can slow the response of your ovarian follicles to FSH; it impedes ovulation, impairs progesterone production, and can overstimulate estrogen and testosterone receptors all while blocking receptors for crucial hormones like the thyroid hormone. Without these hormones working properly, cycles can become irregular, skipped, heavy, or painful and other symptoms such as acne, mood swings, or breast tenderness might show up.
This can also affect estrogen levels
The gut is also responsible for excreting hormones and toxins that we don’t need. This comes into play with our menstrual health most critically in the regulation of estrogen. Excessive estrogen in the body may cause estrogen dominance or estrogen dominant symptoms such as: painful periods, PMS, moodiness, difficulty with weight loss, painful breasts, and in some cases endometriosis, PCOS, or even ties to breast cancer.
When the gut microbiome is overgrown with more bad bacteria than good bacteria, there’s a collection of microbes that can proliferate that produce an enzyme called betaglucoronidase. This enzyme will actually de-conjugate estrogen and recirculate it. This means that your liver does all the work to bind up the extra estrogen but then the digestive tract just allows it to get recirculated! This creates a confusing process in the body and therefore can create a host of unfavorable symptoms.
What can I do to support my hormones through my gut?
1.Get enough of the raw beneficial materials – aka nutrient dense foods.
Make sure you get an intake of at least 25 grams of antioxidant rich fiber daily through leafy greens, fruits, and veggies. This will help remove waste and excess hormones in order to restore a healthy bacteria balance in the gut. Consume healthy fats from fatty fish, avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and protein (both plant and animal) from good quality sources. If you skimp on any of these, you will also skimp on your hormones!
2. Test, don’t guess
Do root cause testing with a practitioner like myself for conditions like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), bacterial dysbiosis, leaky gut and parasites which can be the key to getting your hormones and your gut back on track.
3. Eat Organic Foods
Pesticides used on non-organic farms can disrupt the microbiome. In addition, one compound in pesticides, called xenoestrogen, mimics the natural estrogen in your system and can cause symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
4. Skip the SAD Diet
The Standard American Diet is rich in inflammatory foods like processed junk food, microwave dinners, partially hydrogenated oils, and both artificial and real sweeteners. All of this is a fast track to disease, including hormone disruption.
5. Add Probiotic & Prebiotic rich foods
This includes food such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, raw dandelion greens, cooked onion, and asparagus. Probiotics implant the gut with a plethora of healthy bacteria and prebiotics are the food for those good bacteria.
Your health truly is in your hands! Especially nowadays, it’s so important to minimize inflammation as possible. Your immune system, digestive system, hormones, and quality of life will greatly thank you.
Curious if Elix can help your hormonal symptoms and repair your cycle? Click here to take our online health assessment today!
Sophie Shepherd is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and Founder of SHE and the 10 Day Digestive & Hormone Reboot. Sophie works with women 1:1 and in groups on restoring optimal menstrual health through the use of root cause diagnostic testing and health coaching to implement lasting lifestyle and dietary changes.