By Carla Oates
Dealing with women's health issues like cramps, bloating and breakouts? Your hardworking gut microbes play a big role in hormonal balance.
For many women, managing PMS symptoms means laying low and riding out the general discomfort that signals the arrival of your period. But before you break out the dark chocolate and call it a day, consider this: gut health can have a major impact on your menstrual cycles and sex hormones.
Recent studies show that an imbalanced gut microbiome (known as dysbiosis) can be directly linked to hormonal imbalances. And conversely, hormonal imbalances such excess amounts of estrogen can affect our gut, causing bloating, constipation, fluid retention and slower digestion.
The Gut-Hormone Connection
Once estrogen is produced in our ovaries (and in lesser amounts by our fat tissue post-menopause), it circulates via the bloodstream before arriving at the liver. Here, it is inactivated and sent to our digestive tract for elimination, where gut microbiota produce an enzyme called Beta-glucuronidase that breaks down estrogen into its active form. That’s why if your microbiome isn’t working efficiently, estrogen that should be eliminated will be re-circulated, potentially causing a hormone imbalance.
Along with making us fertile, estrogen affects our metabolism, skin, weight and fat deposition patterns. Plus it has a protective effect on our bone and heart health. Decreased estrogen is the reason our risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis increases post-menopause. Similarly, excess estrogen levels can cause symptoms commonly associated with PMS such as heavier periods, bloating, mood swings, fluid retention, adrenal fatigue, acne and breast tenderness.
Too much naturally occurring estrogen can be made even worse when we introduce xenoestrogens—hormone-mimicking compounds found in everyday items such as contraceptives, plastic, cosmetics and skincare products and non-organic fruits and vegetables. When xenoestrogens build up in our bodies, it can trigger an oestrogen dominance, which some studies have shown to increase our long-term risk of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and breast cancer.
Healthy Gut, Healthy Hormones
We can promote healthy estrogen and hormone levels by supporting our digestive system, gut health, liver and elimination pathways. First and foremost, encourage healthy gut flora and microbial diversity by eating plenty of antioxidant-rich, high fibre vegetables, probiotic supplements (like The Beauty Chef inner beauty powders and elixirs) or lacto-fermented foods—and don’t forget our new GUT PRIMER™ Inner Beauty Support!
Consider reducing your intake of alcohol, refined sugars, additives, MSG and burnt food as they can contribute to dysbiosis and inflammation. It also helps to avoid environmental toxins and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as those found in many cleaning and personal care products, wherever possible (here’s an article on how to reduce your toxic load at home). Finally, given the negative impact of high cortisol on the immune system and microbiome, try to manage your stress levels—here are six easy lifestyle tweaks to get you started.