Odds are you probably spent years thinking your gut and digestive system are related to food, stomach aches, or maybe even weight. Have you ever stopped to think about what else your gut might be connected to? We recently explored the brain-gut connection, and we’re not about to stop there. Next up on the itinerary: How your hormones and your gut are connected.
We’re on a mission to keep our readers informed on all the roles gut health plays in our lives, and your gut and hormones are hugely interconnected.
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
You know what it’s like. Your skin starts breaking out uncontrollably, you start having trouble losing weight, or you start feeling sad for no reason. Ladies, your PMS symptoms might get worse, or you start skipping periods altogether. Gentlemen, you might be experiencing problems with erectile dysfunction, reduced muscle mass, or low libido. These are all symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
The most important thing to recognize is that hormonal imbalance is usually a secondary medical condition, meaning that it results from another underlying problem.
Hormones and Your Gut
Did you know that your intestines have hormone receptors? Hormones play an essential role in signaling movement in your gut, helping food make its way through your digestive tract. Throughout this process, your body absorbs the nutrients it needs and gets ready to rid itself of all the rest.
Our digestive systems can’t process food correctly if our hormones aren’t communicating properly with our gut, which can lead to serious side effects.
Key Players in the Gut-Hormone Connection
Three main hormones are crucial to gut health, and they’re present in both men and women. You might be surprised at the effect each can have on your digestive system.
Higher levels of progesterone, which is a hormone present in both women and men despite widespread knowledge, are shown to slow down your digestive system, causing constipation. When progesterone levels are at its peak during women’s menstrual cycles, they often feel bloated.
Men have much lower levels of progesterone than women do naturally, so when the hormone rises in their bodies, it can cause significant problems in the gut. Increased progesterone in men often leads to weight gain, among other symptoms.
Estrogen is another hormone in both men and women that plays an essential role in gut health. It’s connected to the gallbladder, the organ in our bodies that stores bile. Bile is utilized for digesting fatty foods in the small intestine. Heightened levels of estrogen can cause bile to thicken, which can lead to gallstones.
Gallstones cause nausea, vomiting, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, and severe pain in the stomach and upper back. The most common cause of treatment for the stones is surgery and removal of the gallbladder.
But the connection between gut health and estrogen goes even one step further. It’s been shown that when the gut flora is out-of-whack in women, the risk of developing a serious condition increases. These diseases include endometriosis, PCOS, and breast cancer. In men, it’s been linked to prostate cancer.
Testosterone is commonly known as a male hormone, though women have low levels of testosterone in their bodies too. The primary connection between testosterone and gut health is the opposite of what we’ve discussed above. It’s not the effect that the hormone has on the gut, but the effect that the gut has on the hormone.
An imbalance in gut flora can lead to leaky gut, which enables bacteria to pass through the intestinal wall and into your body. This leads to lower testosterone production in men.
Conversely, high levels of testosterone in women can lead to weight gain.
Eating Well as a Method of Prevention
As we mentioned earlier, hormonal imbalances are secondary medical conditions that arise from other health issues. Some of these issues are out of our control, such as aging. However, there are steps we can take to ensure our gut stays at its healthiest so that it can work in tandem with our hormones.
It’s been shown that certain dietary habits can have positive effects on both gut health and hormones. One study shows that cutting down on sugar can help regulate hormone levels, while another suggests that olive oil may help as well. Other foods with gut-hormone connections include avocados, broccoli, salmon, and leafy greens.
Incorporate more of these healthy foods into your meal plan to help regulate hormone levels before a problem arises.
What to Do if You’re Experiencing Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
If you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of a hormonal imbalance, see a doctor right away. There are simple blood tests that can quickly and easily determine if your hormones are out of whack, and doctors can recommend the best course of treatment.
Stay tuned as we continue to discuss the role gut health plays in our lives here at GR8NESS.