We tend the think about each of our body systems as separate…
The muscles move the limbs…
The brain does the thinking…
The digestive system breaks down and absorbs the nutrients…
And our endocrine systems creates the hormones we need to function.
But we are far more complex than this.
See we humans are complicated and each of our systems communicates with the others to keep us informed and ready to act.
For many years, we weren’t aware of the crucial links between gut health and hormonal imbalance so many women just suffered in silence.
Luckily, times are changing!
How does our gut affect our hormones?
In many ways!
Let’s take a look at three…
The gut and oestrogen
In many women, there is a dysbiosis of the digestive microbiota and gut walls which ‘leak’.
This leaky gut allows toxins destined for excretion to come back through the gut wall and into the body.
When the body needs to remove excess oestrogen, this hormone gets bound into an inactive form and is secreted through the urine and feces.
However, in the digestive system, there are bugs that can produce an enzyme called β-glucuronidase which is able to release oestrogen from its bindings, allowing it to become active again.
When combined with a leaky wall, the free oestrogen in the digestive tract can be reabsorbed into the body and seep into the circulation leading to increased levels of body wide, active oestrogen.
The gut and insulin resistance
Researchers have shown that our microbiota affects insulin sensitivity, too.
When the gut contains greater numbers of LPS-containing bugs, insulin sensitivity decreases leading to resistance and systemic inflammation.
This can change the levels of the hormones, oestradiol, and progesterone, and also reduce our sex hormone binding globule (SHBG), the globule that inactivates sex hormones and stops them from affecting the body.
The gut and our neurotransmitters
Plus while we tend to think about neurotransmitters as brain substances like our happy hormones, the gut bacteria produce serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) too!
How do hormones affect our gut?
Sex hormones, particularly oestrogens, play a significant role in the way the gut works…
This well-known hormone, for example, affects the motor and sensory functions of the gut which, when not working well, can lead to spasm and increased pain…
It can change gut motility and wall permeability…
And long term oestrogen therapy can change the gut microbiome.
This is one of the reasons why irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is more common in women than men.
Every part of the body works synergistically so it really is unsurprising that the gut impacts our hormones and our hormones change our gut.
And there is so much we still have to learn about this topic…
I’ll keep you updated!
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