How does an imbalanced gut effect our hormones?
Signs of gut imbalances are vast and variable and may include IBS, Bloating, Nausea, Brain fog, Anxiety, Depression, PMS, Weight issues, Constipation, GERD, Gastritis, Candida, SIBO, Skin issues, Allergies, Asthma, Period difficulties, Insomnia, Autoimmunity, PCOS, Food & chemical sensitivities and headaches/ migraines.
Whilst not all these health conditions are solely down to gut health it is clear that gut distress is certainly associated with their development and that the gut microbiome (our own population of gut microbes) plays a pivotal role in the regulation of our hormones.
Oestrogen Oestrogen balance is managed by a specific colony of gut bacteria called the ‘estrobolome’. These gut bacteria metabolise and modulate circulating oestrogen via specialised gut enzymes called ‘beta-glucoronidases’. When the gut microbiome is out of balance then oestrogen levels can be driven to excess which predisposes mood disorders, weight gain, low libido, PMS, thyroid problems, reproductive issues, endometriosis, autoimmunity and even oestrogen related cancers. Oestrogen imbalance also affects men!!
Thyroid hormones The thyroid is a butterfly shaped organ producing hormones that regulate metabolism (the breaking down of food for energy) - critical for every organ system in the body. Thyroid metabolism is reliant on friendly gut microbes to convert the thyroid hormone T4 into T3 which is the readily available form which can be immediately delivered to cells for energy, menstruation, temperature management and fat & carbohydrate metabolism to name a few. An unhealthy microbiome jeopardises this conversion of thyroid hormones and also depletes key thyroid hormone nutrients; iodine, selenium and zinc since friendly gut microbes are essential for absorption of these nutrients. Lastly gut imbalances drive inflammation which slows down bile production from the gallbladder and bile is an essential component for thyroid hormone conversion.
Testosterone & Progesterone Gut imbalance linking to thyroid hormone disturbance and impaired cholesterol disrupts testosterone and progesterone. Testosterone production is essential for mood, bone mass, muscle mass & strength, red blood cells, sperm and libido and affects women too. Whilst healthy progesterone influences mood, energy, fertility, hair and skin and affects men too.
Cortisol and Adrenaline Gut imbalance has a major impact on our stress hormones and indeed our mood and level of anxiety. The microbiome firstly helps to optimise the body’s response to stress with gut bacteria playing a role in moderating cortisol levels. Secondly, friendly gut bacteria also produce and respond to key neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, melatonin and GABA; key regulators of mood and cognition. The vagus nerve serves as the circuit for a feedback loop (the gut -brain axis) which in the case of gut imbalances can perpetuate a vicious circle of stress hormone release with far reaching symptoms of dis-ease in the body.
Ghrelin, Leptin and Insulin Good bacteria in the gut help to regulate our hunger hormones influencing the clarity of the messages from ghrelin (our hunger hormone) and leptin (our satiety hormone) providing us with signals to eat when we need to or keeping us satisfied and therefore not feeling hungry at other times (satiety state). These hormones when they are working well keep the body in balance with hunger behaviour and regulate body weight. Similarly, gut imbalance can impair Insulin signalling, the hormone that balances our blood sugar ( a predisposing factor in diabetes and hypoglycaemia) affecting eating patterns, cravings, energy and mood.
From this we can see there is a very clear connection between our gut microbiome, our hormones and overall health. It really does all start in the gut. Gut imbalance affects every area of health and symptoms are diverse and far-reaching and may not at first glance seem gut-related.
Rebuilding gut health can seem an overwhelming task, it does take a bit of time and commitment but it is a hugely rewarding journey and one that I can help you with every step of the way.
Nutritional therapy is focused on disease prevention rather than waiting for disease to happen before making changes. The focus is on treating the cause rather than suppressing symptoms.
If you are interested in more information on my May Gut Reset Programme or if you would like to join my Gut Reset Facebook Support Group which offers information on how to cultivate a healthy microbiome then do private message me.