Written by Dianna Bedran (BHlthSc, AdvDip Nat & Nut, Remedial therapies, Cert Hatha Yoga & Ayurveda).
We've heard it all before, a healthy gut microbiome (which is the home to all of our microorganisms such as bacteria) is essential for maintaining a strong gut wall and protecting the cells within. It's also important for our immune system as the majority of our immune cells actually live in the gastrointestinal tract - AND we need a healthy gut to ensure we are absorbing all of our nutrients.
But there's more to a healthy gut than just that! It has also been discovered to have a connection with women's hormones, particularly estrogen. Why is this crucial? Well, an imbalance of estrogen relates to a wide range of conditions that affect a large portion of women. This includes those with PCOS, endometriosis, breast cancer, pre-menstrual disorders such as severe pain, breast tenderness, mood swings, menstrual migraines, and any other estrogenic dependant condition. Estrogen has also been found to have an influence on prostate cancer, so it's not even entirely exclusive to females.
New scientific research has emerged revealing a link between inflammatory conditions such as endometriosis and lower levels of Lactobacilli (1), which is a particular family of bacteria that has wide-ranging benefits in the body, not just limited to the gut. What do we mean it's not just limited to the gut?? Well, did you know we don't just have a microbiome in the digestive tract? We also have an environment of bacteria in the female reproductive tract, so protecting the health of bacterias that can work outside of the gut, particularly the vagina, is just as important (2).
Now let's introduce estrobolome.
These guys are a collection of genes that are found within our gut microbes, that have a unique ability to metabolise estrogens (3). They do this by modulating the circulation of estrogen within the liver, which then affects the amount of estrogen circulating throughout the body.
A healthy gut produces a perfect amount of estrobolome genes, but modern day living exposes us to a number of factors that compromise our gut health and it would be unrealistic to suggest anyone has a perfectly functioning unaltered gut. Estrobolome are not only necessary for modulating the circulation of estrogen’s, they also impact its excretion. This means that if gut health is less than optimal, an excess of estrogen can occur which then aids the promotion of estrogen connected conditions. Now it's not all bad news - estrogen plays a beneficial role in many functions of the body, particularly cardiovascular, reproductive, cell replication, bone health, and fat deposition. So ideally, we want the correct balance of it. Estrogen is always needs to be considered in someone's health as its role extends beyond a women's cycle.
So, what to do?
Diet and lifestyle have a huge influence on the health of our microorganisms and related genes. Over use of antibiotics, the oral contraceptive pill, and lack of proper nutrition have a negative impact on our hormonal balance. As does stress on our microbiome such as refined carbohydrates, refined sugar, smoking, alcohol, preservatives/vegetable oils, lack of exercise and improper sleep. Reducing contributing factors and adding in gut supporting foods has shown to be promising. Eating fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and pot set yogurt with live cultures (can be coconut yogurt) will boost your microbiome and help to start creating a healthy gut.
Supplementing with a broad spectrum Lactobacillus probiotic has also shown positive improvement because probiotics can assist in eliminating bad bacteria and correcting the balance with more good bacteria. This is linked to women's hormones because now we know that improper elimination of bad bacteria can contribute to estrogen excess.
Prebiotic fibres are also important, as part of their role is to create a perfect environment for your own microbiome to thrive. That's where fibre comes in. Magical for so many reasons, one of them is that it clears excess estrogen (4) as well as stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria in our microbiome (5). Great fibre sources include chia seeds, berries, avocados, oatmeal, brown rice, nuts, hemp seeds and psyllium.
These days we have so much accessible knowledge at our fingertips, but authentic reliable sources highlight a very similar solution: A well functioning digestive system, less internal and external stress, proper nutrition and good quality sleep is the key to good health. A balanced lifestyle is also key.
More on gut health to come, as it's a universe of life within us. Hippocrates (460BCE-375BCE), said it over 2000 years ago- "All disease begins in the gut". He was definitely onto something. . .
1. Bailey, M.T., and Coe, C.L. (2002). Endometriosis is associated with an altered profile of intestinal microflora in female rhesus monkeys. Human Reproduction Journal 17(7):1704-8. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/120938272.
2. Puca, J., and Hoyne, F.G. (2017). Microbial dysbiosis and disease pathogenesis of endometriosis, could there be a link? Allied Journal of Medical Research 1(1). Retrieved fromhttp://www.alliedacademies.org/articles/microbial-dysbiosis-and-disease-pathogenesis-of-endometriosis-could-therebe-a-link-6652.html3.
3. Kwa ,M., Plottel, C.S., Blaser, M.J., Adams, S. (2016). The Intestinal Microbiome and Estrogen Receptor-Positive Female Breast Cancer. Journal National Cancer Institue, 108(8). doi: 10.1093/jnci/djw029.4.
4. Hechtman, L. (2012). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Sydney, Australia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, p. 801.5.
5. Trickey, R. (2011). Women, Hormones, & the Menstrual Cycle. Melbourne, Australia: Holistic Health Group, p. 693.