How Gut Microbes Tell Your Hormones What to Do
Imbalances In Your Gut Flora
Female hormones are complex and beautifully made. But take those hormones and ignore them, and they will get your attention through symptoms of discomfort that can lead to disease and believe you me, they can wreak havoc on your life. A woman’s ovaries are responsible for making the hormones progesterone and estrogen. If the bacteria in your system that live near your reproductive organs change to harmful pathogenic types of bacteria, your ovaries are likely to become hindered and may under-produce or over-produce a certain hormone causing all kinds of hormonal imbalances. Your blood sugar, sex hormones, and adrenals are a three-legged stool and when one struggles, so do the other two. They all work together and you need all of them in sync to feel good.1
So, let's say you have some imbalances in your gut flora. You are 100 trillion bacteria and when they become unbalanced by not having enough of the "good guy" bacteria, then harmful pathogenic bacteria and yeasts (such as candida) start to spread and grow in your gut. The good bacteria are diminished and then your body's detoxification system becomes hindered. Hormones that are normally eliminated via the gut and liver stay circulating in your system, and then you end up with hormonal imbalances that make you miserable.
Hormones are broken down and detoxified in two ways in the body: first in the liver, and then in the colon. When the digestive tract is out of balance, your estrogens, especially, are not detoxed properly, leading to symptoms of estrogen dominance. The most important step you can take to support gastrointestinal function is to rebalance your gut flora - especially clearing out yeast. I have found this step to be the most profound in dealing with any hormonal imbalance - especially PMS.
Eating probiotic foods will help keep out pathogens, parasites, bacteria and viruses, especially Gardnerella, Proteus, Chlamydia, Campylobacter, Neisseria, Treponema, and Salmonella.2 These are also the urinary tract bacteria that cause yeast infections and bladder infections. These infections are common when you have hormonal imbalance!
Let's Talk About Stress And Your Hormones.
It's really important to eat properly in order to help bring your body into balance. Think of this as a science project. Your body will give you feedback and let you know how you're doing, so pay attention. I encourage you to make this a lifelong way of living. Your body is a reflection of what you're thinking, what food you're putting into your body, and how you're handling stress on a daily basis in your life. It talks to you every day and I love this so much. For instance, when I start focusing on something that upsets me and I do it long enough, I will send a signal to my vagus nerve to create stress hormones and then I start creating disease in my body.
The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve. It travels down the neck and then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart, and lungs. This nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system - the "rest and digest" part of the nervous system. Opposite to this is the sympathetic nervous system - the "fight or flight" part of the system. One of the most interesting roles of the vagus nerve is that it essentially reads the gut microbiome and initiates a response to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an effect on your mood, stress levels, and overall inflammation.
Perimenopause And Menopause
After your body starts to slow down and you start to go into perimenopause or menopause and the ovaries are done with their cycles of estrogen and progesterone production, the adrenal glands' hormone production is meant to “kick in” and make up any deficit. After this ends, your adrenals can still keep your hormone levels regulated. So your adrenals work harder and if you have worn them out, you're going to have a hard time.
I have noted quite frequently that women who have a lot of problems with hot flashes and menopause (or perimenopause) symptoms almost always have a messed up gut. They harbor parasites, harmful bacteria and viruses, and candida. Here’s how it works. Your body cannot regulate your hormones if your gut is messed up and doesn’t allow it to detoxify those excess hormones. Fifty percent of your excess hormones are going to be eliminated through your gut. During these phases of your life, you'll need extra help detoxifying. Kefir, kombucha, and cultured veggies have been a lifesaver for me. I just up my doses of these foods when I have symptoms and my microbes do the rest.
There is no giant step that accomplishes this, just a lot of little steps that can make all the difference.
I consume kefir every day. It usually consists of a cup of kefir for breakfast and I change it up all the time. Lately I've been enjoying a raspberry smoothie with protein powder that tastes like a milkshake. Recipe below!
I take sixteen ounces of kombucha every day. I consume it at different times of the day and this greatly assists my liver in detoxification. I especially notice that it's helped me through menopause. Pumpkin kombucha has been my favorite lately. Recipe below!
And I always make sure to consume (daily) my yummy cultured veggies. I have them by the spoonful or mixed into kefir cheese. Cultured celery filled with nut butter is my current afternoon snack. Recipe below!
Einkorn and sourdough bread are everyday staples. I love toasted lemon sourdough bread with kefir cheese - topped with kimchi. It's a family favorite. Recipe below!
All of this will flush extra estrogen and help regulate your hormones. It is important to eat a lot of prebiotic foods (veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds) to feed your microbes and make them grow, crowding out pathogens and allowing your body to do what it normally does every day of your life. Don't eat processed foods. Eat real, whole foods. Here is something I do that has really helped me. I buy a lot of produce and I make sure I have 6-8 ounces of veggies at lunch and dinner. I have fruit with breakfast and lunch and I try to eat up the produce before everything else so I don't waste it. What's pretty amazing is your microbiome completely resets. All the fiber feeds the good microbes and they go to work eliminating the pathogenic bacteria and yeasts. This can cause a healing crisis to occur in the beginning, but you want this! Don't despair. It's your body's way of resetting itself and then the most amazing thing happens. You will only desire these types of food. Your microbes shift and you naturally crave the foods your body loves. Probiotic foods and prebiotic foods will do the work for you and you will reap the benefits!
I’ve had my share of tears, sickness, and disease; and with a thankful heart, I’ve found incredible wellness. I’ve struggled to find answers to health problems that perplexed my family and me. Then I tuned my mind and actions to wellness and watched the answers I was seeking come to me. Those answers came to me in the most surprising way. As a woman who feels too much (and as my dad told me constantly, ”You're too sensitive for your own good!”) I think it is this sensitivity that has helped me find the secrets that live inside of me that hold the answers to wellness. Wellness is such a blessing and one that I will spend the rest of my life helping people obtain. I’m addicted to feeling good and helping you find that too. Make it a way of life — and watch what happens.
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Hormones can rule the day! Help your hormones out when things get out of whack by keeping your gut in check. Learn how to keep things in balance with the help of your microbes.
- Hawrelak J. Giardiasis: pathophysiology and management. Alternative Medicine Review. 2003;8(2):129–142
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