woman making heart with hands on stomach
May 8, 2024

The gut is intrinsically linked to a variety of body systems, including digestion, immune system, mental health, sleep, skin, cardiovascular system, and others. For women, the link between gut health and hormones is especially strong. Optimizing gut health is key to keeping hormones in balance. You can’t have balanced hormones without a healthy gut, and you can’t have a healthy gut with imbalanced hormones. Keep reading to find out more about the link between gut health and hormones.

What Is the Estrobolome?

The gut refers to the gastrointestinal tract, and trillions of bacteria reside in it, forming the gut microbiome. Certain bacteria in the microbiome are capable of metabolizing and regulating the body’s estrogen levels. This collection of bacteria is known as the estrobolome. The estrobolome is essential in keeping your estrogen levels just right, even through monthly fluctuations. Throughout the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and even into menopause, women’s bodies produce and use estrogen every day. After the estrogen circulates throughout your body doing its job, it ends up in the liver where it is broken down into estrogen metabolites. These metabolites are then sent to your intestines. Here, the estrogen is either eliminated or reabsorbed and recirculated throughout the body to maintain hormonal balance.

How Gut Health Affects Hormones

diagram of uterus

A healthy gut microbiome is made up of balanced amounts of a wide variety of microorganisms. Issues can arise when there is an imbalance in the microbiome. If your gut has an overgrowth of certain bacteria in the estrobolome, this can elevate circulating estrogen levels excessively, resulting in estrogen dominance. This can lead to problems such as heavy periods, mood swings, painful cramps, infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), chronic vaginal infections, monthly breast pain, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and more.

The gut may also experience an imbalance in the form of low microbial diversity. If there aren’t enough of the right kinds of bacteria in your gut to metabolize estrogen, your estrobolome won’t be able to metabolize and circulate enough estrogen back into the bloodstream. This can lead to low levels of estrogen throughout the body, which means it can’t perform all of its important functions. Unfortunately, gut imbalance is very common. The balance of the microbiome and estrobolome can be affected by a variety of factors, including genetics, diet, environmental toxins, age, weight, alcohol, antibiotics, and more.

How Hormones Affect Gut Health

Gut health and hormones are related in the opposite way as well. Hormones can impact your gut in a variety of ways. Fluctuating estrogen levels may cause certain gastrointestinal issues. High estrogen typically leads to high water retention, which increases your chances of bloating. Changes in estrogen levels can also cause spasms in the digestive tract, which may contribute to an increase in bowel movements. Progesterone is another female hormone that can affect your gut. This hormone is closely tied to the rate at which food moves through your digestive system. Higher levels of progesterone can slow down this transit time, resulting in bloating and constipation. This often occurs before you get your period. When menstruation begins, these levels drop, causing an increase in bowel movements and sometimes diarrhea. The hormonal fluctuations women undergo throughout pregnancy phases also significantly impact the gut and can cause digestive distress.

Test Your Gut Health and Hormones at Home

GI-MAP Test kit

You can gain a better understanding of the state of your gut health and hormone health with various at-home tests. The DUTCH Complete test analyzes sex hormones and their metabolites, cortisol patterns, nutritional deficiencies, gut imbalance, and more. This is a valuable tool to help you address hormone imbalances and optimize hormone health. Another great test is the GI-MAP (GI Microbial Assay Plus). This at-home test quantitatively assesses your gut microbiome with attention to bacterial, parasitic, and viral pathogens that can disrupt microbial balance and contribute to GI illness. Finally, the ZRT Saliva Profile is a simple and convenient test to evaluate your hormone health. You’ll take a few saliva collections throughout the day to provide a complete evaluation of adrenal function.

If you have any questions about testing your gut health and hormones or you want to learn more about ways to improve various aspects of your health, please reach out to us at Magnolia Pharmacy and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help!