May is Women’s Health Month. So, we’re hear to chat all about healthy hormones and how we can balance hormones, specifically estrogen, naturally. One of the things that women struggle the most with is managing hormones. Throughout a women’s lifetime, they encounter different sexual development stages that have completely different hormone profiles.
What Are Healthy Hormones?
Hormones are the body’s chemical messangers that have a variety of functions involving metabolism, sexual development, mood, growth and more. When our healthy hormones are out of wack, it can really cause mayhem within our bodies. Some healthy hormones include:
- sex hormones, like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, important for sexual development, regular cycles, and libido;
- thyroid hormones that are responsible for metabolism;
- cortisol that manages stress response, inflammatory processes, and mood control;
- insulin is critical to help your body turn food into energy and control your blood sugar levels;
- melatonin that helps you prep for sleep and so many more!
The Connection Between Estrogen and Gut Health
So, how exactly are our hormones and gut health related? Our gut microbiome and digestive system, especially the liver, actually works to modulate the levels of estrogen in our body.
Specifically, a study found that 40% of their female IBS patients experienced menstruation-related worsening of GI symptoms. Evidence shows there are sex hormone receptors in our gut lining that could explain increased GI symptoms when our sex hormones are most fluctuated during the menstrual cycle.
Additionally, you might have even noticed changes in bowel movements during menstrual cycles (AKA “period poops”). As a result, fluctuations of estrogen & progesterone may lead to constipation, especially during menopause.
Furthermore, the liver & intestines process and eliminate estrogen. Estrogen can have a protective role against chronic liver diseases, but estrogen dominance could be the cause of certain liver diseases (1). Without a healthy liver, your body will have a hard time removing excess estrogen from the body.
The estrobolome, or gut bacteria responsible for metabolizing our body’s circulation estrogen produces an enzyme called, beta-glucuronidase that causes estrogen to be freed up in the intestine and either reabsorbed into the body or eliminated from the body (2). When these gut bacteria are dysbiotic or out of balance, it can lead to excess estrogen being reabsorbed into our system, leading to high estrogen levels or estrogen dominance. That’s why looking at our gut health could be immensely beneficial to balancing our hormone health.
Chronically elevated estrogen levels could also lead to irregular periods, estrogen-related disorders such as PCOS, fibrocystic breast, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or even to certain cancers such as breast cancer; breast tenderness, anxiety, hair loss, increased PMS, weight gain and so much more!
While elevated estrogen levels may not create problems overnight, it has a snowballing effect on body chemistry. The longer it goes on, the greater its influence.
Ways to Gain Healthy Hormones Naturally
There are many ways we can improve our hormone health through nutrition and lifestyle changes. So, pack up your toolbox with these daily habits to get you healthy, balanced hormones!
- Exercise and strength training helps build lean muscle, get you moving, and helps regulate and balance hormones.
- Eating healthy fats, like nuts and olives, are essential for hormone production.
- Daily bowel movements (BMs) and optimal liver function are important for estrogen detox.
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep most nights help restore the body and optimize hormones.
- Indirect morning sunlight to the eyes for 15 minutes within 1 hour of waking help regulate your circadian rhythym and metabolism.
- Focus on healthy gut microbiome by including 30 different fruits and vegetables each week, plus fermented or probiotic-rich foods. Fiber has been found to reduce beta-glucuronidase activity (3).
- Stress management techniques. If your body is survival mode, it’s so focused on managing stress that it won’t be able to divert resources/nutrients to hormone balancing.
Add These Foods to Your Grocery List:
- Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that support estrogen and progesterone production and have anti-inflammatory properties that could help to decrease menstrual pain.
- Flax seeds contain essential omega-3 fatty acids and a phytoestrogen known as lignans that have a balancing effect on estrogen.
- Brussel sprouts, like other cruciferous veggies, contain sulforaphane which also reduces excess estrogen and helps boost antioxidant activity in the body.
- Kale, like other cruciferous vegetables, contain a compound called DIM that can reduce high estrogen levels and support estrogen detox in the liver, which helps balance estrogen levels overall.
It is important to note though that everyone’s body is different and that while these foods are generally helpful for our hormones, health is not one size fits all!
Want to dive even deeper?
Get your stool tested! GI-MAP stool testing looks at beta-glucuronidase levels, which can clue you in on how well your metabolizing estrogen. Find out more on stool testing here or see how Savvy Stummy can help you gain healthy hormones.
(1) Ezhilarasan D. Critical role of estrogen in the progression of chronic liver diseases. Hepatobiliary Pancreat Dis Int. 2020 Oct;19(5):429-434. doi: 10.1016/j.hbpd.2020.03.011. Epub 2020 Apr 8. PMID: 32299655.
(2) Lephart ED, Naftolin F. Estrogen Action and Gut Microbiome Metabolism in Dermal Health. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2022 Jul;12(7):1535-1550. doi: 10.1007/s13555-022-00759-1. Epub 2022 Jun 25. PMID: 35752663; PMCID: PMC9276867.
(3) Sui Y, Wu J, Chen J. The Role of Gut Microbial β-Glucuronidase in Estrogen Reactivation and Breast Cancer. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2021 Aug 12;9:631552. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2021.631552. PMID: 34458248; PMCID: PMC8388929.