We've heard a lot about the gut, digestion and the microbiome recently. What about the interplay and connections between the gastrointestinal microbiome and estrogen metabolism? There is some current research that shows that our gastrointestinal microbiome affects estrogen levels in our bodies.
The Gut Microbiome and Estrogen Levels
We are learning that one function of the GI microbiome is to regulate circulating estrogen levels. Enter the term "estrobolome" which means the collection of microbes capable of metabolizing estrogens. (Yes I had to add the word "estrobolome" to my spellcheck!)
A little science now - stay with me. Estrone (E1) and Estradiol (E2) are parent estrogens that are metabolized through the liver. Estrogen metabolism produces estrogen metabolites. Metabolites are then excreted into bile, urine or feces (assuming they don't get reabsorbed for example, in the case of constipation). Sometimes certain bacterial species with a certain enzyme called "beta-glucuronidase" allow free estrogen to be reabsorbed and recirculated in the body.
And that's not good. We don't need estrogen on its way out of the party, to come back in!
When the gut microbiome is healthy, the estrobolome produces just the right amount of beta-glucuronidase to maintain estrogen balance. However, when there is an unhealthy gut (gut dysbiosis), beta-glucuronidase activity may be altered. This produces either a deficiency or an excess of free estrogen, thus promoting the development of estrogen-related pathologies.
unhealthy gut > imbalance in beta-glucuronidase > unbalanced estrogen levels
So what we've learned is that estrogen levels (and their metabolites) in the body can be influenced by the health of the gastrointestinal microbiome. The data demonstrate the importance of cultivating a functional, healthy microbiome for healthy estrogen metabolism.
How important is estrogen metabolism? Very. Estrogen metabolism is critical for weight management, control of cardiovascular disease, bone health, blood sugar health, and cholesterol levels.
Many of my clients are shocked to learn that fat produces estrogen. And excess estrogen produces more visceral adipose fat. It can be a vicious cycle and hard for women to know where to start to interrupt this process.
This is why I start with gut health in all chronic illnesses including hormonal disruptions.
Addressing gut health through nutrition, diet and at times, probiotics along with other supportive foods and supplements can help support the body and hormone metabolism.
Now your turn. Have you noticed a connection between your gut and your hormones? Comment below and share your experiences with our community.