Do you know a lot of your health issues can be connected to your gut bacteria and hormone health?
Why do you feel tired, annoyed, sleepy, unproductive or simply unhappy?
This isn’t because of a hard working day or rainy weather. Most likely you have a hormone imbalance and there is a good chance that this is influenced by your gut bacteria.
Hormones constantly travel in our bloodstream carrying messages from endocrine glands where they are produced to cells and organs all around your body. And these invisible chemicals control just about everything: mood, growth, metabolism, sexual function and sleep cycles.
If your hormones are off-balance, your health is at risk.
The good news is that hormones aren’t completely independent and all-mighty. They can be influenced by your gut, to be exact, your gut microbiome. Your intestinal flora balance is a key to your hormonal balance.
In this article you will learn how your gut bacteria and hormones influence your health - and more importantly how to improve this balance.
What Is Your Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome is your intestinal bacteria, in other words, trillions of microbes you host in your stomach.
But please don’t panic.
Although some microbes are pathogens, others are extremely useful. They can help control blood sugar levels, improve metabolism and support your immune system.
Good microbes can turn evil only if they are in the wrong place or significantly increase in number. The dominance of bad bacteria and a decrease in microbe diversity is called dysbiosis. It can greet you with common stomach upset or cause a severe hormonal imbalance.
As long as we take care of our gut microbiome, we keep our hormones in balance and stay full of vigor and vitality. But, if you do not take your gut health seriously, the peace and harmony of your intestinal flora can be easily disrupted and hormones will be automatically thrown off balance.
11 Most Common Hormone Imbalance Symptoms
The body always gives us signs, when positive or negative changes happen to our health. If your body has a lack or excessive amount of any hormones, you will feel it in the form the following symptoms.
These are just the main hormone imbalance symptoms you should not ignore. Apart from these symptoms, there is a great number of other health issues and disorders you may face as the result of dysbiosis and imbalance of this or that hormone.
I tried to briefly describe the connection of the gut microbiome and your hormones below. Having a basic knowledge of the hormones produced in your body and understanding of what to expect if your gut is out of whack, will help you prevent mistakes that may hurt your health and overall well-being.
Keep reading, if you want to find out how your body works, what drains your energy and what can recharge your body battery.
How Your Hormone Health Is Impacted by Your Gut Microbiome
Appetite Hormone: Ghrelin & Leptin
Ghrelin is telling us when it’s time to fuel up yourself with a proper meal. Leptin is sending us a message when it is time to put the fork down.
The imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut influences the levels of ghrelin and leptin. When these two hormones are imbalanced, our brain can receive the wrong message and transform you into compulsive eater.
What happens when ghrelin and leptin are imbalanced?
You probably have already guessed. Unhealthy diet and disrespect to your body will lead to nothing else but obesity which causes a great number of other health issues.
Female Sex Hormones: Estrogen & Progesterone
Estrogen and progesterone closely interact to support physical, mental and emotional health in women. These hormones are of vital importance, they impact menstrual cycles — and the most important — allow a woman to become a mother.
You might ask: “What’s the gut got to do with estrogen and progesterone which are produced mainly in ovaries?” In fact, your gut microbiome helps regulate your estrogen levels. Keeping your gut microbiome healthy, helps to keep your estrogen levels under control.
If you have an issue with your stomach like a leaky gut syndrome, it is extremely hard for your body to remove estrogen. That it is how the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone can occur.
What happens when your levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate?
Constant ups and downs in mood and energy, insomnia, poor memory, and painful menstrual cycles are just a few possible signs of estrogen and progesterone imbalance. If you ignore these symptoms it can also contribute to imbalances in some of the other hormones like thyroid and cortisol.
Male Sex Hormone: Testosterone
Testosterone is produced in both men and women, yet it remains the main male hormone. It enhances libido and stimulates the development of male characteristics in men.
Nothing could be as dramatic as low testosterone for men. And if most of the men just blame aging or environment, in fact, the root of the problem is in the diet. Everything starts in your stomach.
Remember the American documentary “Super Size Me”? In this documentary, you can clearly see a real example of the effects of diet on testosterone levels. Spurlock, the main character of this documentary, agreed on a 30-day experiment on his body. Following a so-called American standard diet (SAD), devouring McDonald's meal, again and again, burger by burger, Spurlock destroyed his gut microbiome. One of the consequences of such a diet was a significant decrease in testosterone and sexual dysfunction.
So, what happens as a result of testosterone deficiency?
As you see from the example given above, obesity and low sexual drive are the best friends of low testosterone. If you won’t take measures and restore your gut microbiome, it can not only influence your sexual life but cause infertility.
Sleep & Happiness Hormones: Melatonin and Serotonin
Although serotonin is officially recognized as a monoamine neurotransmitter, it is more famous as the happy chemical or happy hormone. Tight cooperation of serotonin and melatonin results in our happiness and good-quality sleep.
Both melatonin and serotonin are produced in brain and gut, and they help us control our sleep-wake cycle by sending messages when it’s time to go to "dream land" or wake up and face the brand-new day.
However, if your gut microbiome is off, so are your serotonin and melatonin levels. Any issue with digestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or leaky gut syndrome impacts your circadian rhythms and sleep quantity and quality.
What happens when melatonin and serotonin levels are different than the norm?
Insomnia and fatigue will follow you, decreasing your productivity, increasing stress levels and eliminating happiness from your daily life. Your immune system will be weaker, and you will be more vulnerable to viruses and diseases around you.
Energy Hormone: Insulin
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, it enables our cells in fat, muscles, and liver to absorb sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream and use it as a source of energy. This hormone helps keep our blood sugar level in balance and fuel up our body with the necessary daily amounts of energy.
Your level of insulin is not an exception and it directly depends on your diet and gut health. A diet high in sugar and processed carbohydrates increase your body’s resistance to insulin - this can lead the body to make more insulin to keep blood glucose levels in balance.
This excess insulin tells the body to store food more readily as fat, this makes losing weight more difficult plus you are often tired because you are not getting the energy from food.
What happens when your level of insulin is far from normal?
There are two common scenarios:
- 1Lack of insulin production leads to low blood sugar level and type 1 diabetes.
- 2If you already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, not sticking to a healthy diet may cause a complication — hyperglycemia — high level of blood sugar level.
Any excessive blood sugar level is dangerous and requires medical intervention - this does not mean drugs that don't address the cause but diet and lifestyle changes.
Stress Hormone: Cortisol
Cortisol is a notorious stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Undoubtedly, it is an important hormone, just like a jigsaw piece without which, the picture won’t be completed. But, excess cortisol or not enough cortisol will lead to many symptoms as well as upsetting the balance of other hormones.
What happens when cortisol takes over?
Extreme cortisol imbalance is usually associated with Addison’s disease (cortisol deficiency) or Cushing’s syndrome (increase in cortisol levels).
Addison’s disease is known as adrenal insufficiency or hypoadrenalism and characterized by fatigue, weight loss, darkening of the skin, low blood sugar, muscle pain, and depression.
As for Cushing’s Syndrome, it is also a jackpot of health issues: starting with rapid gain weight, high blood pressure and finishing with diabetes.
Except for these two diseases which are quite rare, there are many more consequences of cortisol dysfunction. The recent study published in the journal Neurology proves that high levels of cortisol caused by stress influence your gray matter. It impairs your memory and reduces brain volumes.
Love & Cuddle Hormone: Oxytocin
Oxytocin, as well as serotonin, contributes to our happiness, mental and emotional health. It is released when we laugh, hug, during orgasm, expressing our gratitude, playing, singing, reading or just viewing the sunset.
The main mission of oxytocin is to intensify love and help us become parents. Childbirth and male reproduction directly depend on the level of oxytocin. For men, it helps move sperm and produce testosterone. For women, a normal level of oxytocin is über important, as it releases breastmilk, causes labor and triggers bond between mother and baby.
As long as your oxytocin and serotonin levels are in balance, you will feel loved and happy, and you won’t have any problems with increasing your family.
Vitamin, Hormone & Prohormone: Vitamin D
You probably associate Vitamin D with sunbathing. Indeed, the sun is a great source of Vitamin D. But let me break a few myths about Vitamin D.
First of all, it is not a vitamin but a prohormone, a substance that the body converts to a hormone. Secondly, we can get some Vitamin D from our food. In fact, fatty fish, eggs, liver and dairy products will give us Vitamin D.
And although scientists still argue about the right definition of Vitamin D and whether it is hormone or not, it is proved that our body needs a healthy amount of Vitamin D as any other hormone. It helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, control blood sugar level and regulate adrenaline and serotonin.
What happens when our Vitamin D is thrown off balance?
What suffers first from the lack of Vitamin D is your bone health. If you don’t consume foods high in Vitamin D and don’t expose your skin to the sun, you may increase your risk of skeletal diseases like osteoporosis. What is more, deficiency of Vitamin D can result in cancers, cardiovascular, autoimmune and psychological diseases.
The best way to know if your levels of Vitamin D are optimal is to test and not guess. I like this Vitamin D with K2 the best.
Thyroid Hormones: Thyroxine (T4) And Triiodothyronine (T3)
There are two thyroid hormones that regulate the metabolism of your body. These are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). They are both produced in your thyroid gland. The process to produce thyroid hormones depends on a number of nutrients, your thyroid gland absorbs iodine from the food you eat and convert it into T3 and T4.
You also need selenium, B vitamins, tyrosine, iron, and Vitamin D and this relies on a healthy digestive function.
It is estimated that thyroid conditions affect 12% of the population, with women more so than men experiencing thyroid problems. Very often we blame genetics, pollution or just bad luck. But in fact, our thyroid function is absolutely dependable on our gut health.
As long as you grapple with leaky gut or irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal infections or parasites, you will struggle to achieve the desired thyroid balance.
Let me remind you one more time: everything starts in the stomach.
What’s it like having a thyroid imbalance?
Usually, people suffer from hypothyroidism (when not enough of thyroid hormones are produced) or hyperthyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormones).
Hypothyroidism causes poor concentration, depression, weight gain, and tiredness.
With hyperthyroidism, you can experience a sort of emotional rollercoaster, an unexplained loss of weight, increased perspiration and a racing heart.
None of the diseases is less serious or easier to heal. That is why it is better to focus on your gut health right now and prevent such consequences of gut disorders as thyroid imbalance.
Best Foods to Boost Your Gut Health
I have covered in details the strong connection of your gut microbiome and hormones, the diseases you may acquire as a result of poor gut health and hormonal imbalance.
Now it is time to reveal the information on how to maintain a healthy digestive system and keep all the hormones in balance.
Check out below a brief list of foods you should add to your hormone-balancing diet.
Enrich your diet with anti-inflammatory foods that nourish your body, reduce pain and heal your gut. These are green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, fruits and olive oil. Forget or at least try to reduce unhealthy snacks like chips and cookies and all the processed food.
To protect your cells from damage and the whole body from various diseases and aging, increasing your antioxidant intake is a must. Lots of berries like cherries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are especially rich in antioxidants and delicious at the same time. You can also find antioxidants in some veggies and nuts like pecans and walnuts.
Fiber is one more fuel to help your cells function properly. Different berries, nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, leafy and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, swiss chard, and spinach, are the best sources of fiber. Not everyone tolerates fiber well, if it makes your symptoms worse it may indicate that you have a bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
Nutrient deficiency can significantly impact our gut health. To cultivate the good gut bacteria and reduce depression, our body requires foods high in nutrients. Your healthy diet will be incomplete without fatty fish (omega-3s fatty acids), shellfish (vitamin B12 and zinc) and seaweed ( iodine).
There are some other nutrient-rich foods available almost in any market: eggs dark chocolate, liver, and garlic. By the way, the recent studies show that people who eat garlic have a much lower risk of cancers of the colon and stomach.
Fermented & Probiotic-rich Foods
Fermented foods contain probiotics and live microorganisms that help improve digestion, maintain a healthy weight and strengthen our immune system. Kefir (fermented milk) and yogurt are two the most popular sources of probiotics.
You can also find a healthy dose of probiotics in raw cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, sauerkraut, and kombucha. If you are a lover of Korean, Japanese and Indonesian cuisine, you can also add to your diet kimchi, miso, natto, and tempeh.
Prebiotics is the food for human microflora and fuel for the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Raw chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion roots, asparagus, onions, leeks contain a great amount of prebiotic fiber that can boost your gut health.
5 Healthy Habits for Your Happy Stomach
If you want to optimize your gut health and achieve hormonal balance, it is highly recommended to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet. I do not mean that you should not drink coffee ever again. However, if you struggle with hormonal problems, or gut issues trial a short term elimination of coffee.
Consider Going Off the Pill
Break up with your birth control, if you want to make friends with hormones. The synthetic hormones, pills or injections, may influence your digestive system and hormones.
This is not an option for everyone, but it is something to consider if you have chronic gut problems.
Have A Good Night’s Sleep
Are you getting enough Zzzz’s? Very often we underestimate the importance of sleep, stay late at night studying, working or just watching Netflix. Then we have to wake up early and face a new busy day but instead we snooze alarm, again and again, feel extremely tired and sleepy, and simply cannot function without an addictive cup of coffee.
Such a lifestyle will negatively influence your gut flora and hormonal balance. Seven or ideally eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is not advice but a must if you do not want to deal with various kinds of health disorders.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and it not only keeps you in shape but benefits your gut flora. A well-thought-out exercise plan can cause gut bacteria diversity and a visible increase in healthy bacteria.
Try to find a sport you enjoy not only watching but playing. Stay active and spend less time sitting on the couch. As well as a well-balanced diet, it will help you keep fit and full of energy.
Almost every day we experience some stressful situations that influence our physical and mental health. Stress can alter the level of healthy bacteria in your gut and provoke hormonal imbalance.
You have to find a way to cope with stress and make relaxation a part of your daily regimen. For instance, you can try yoga, meditation or deep breathing. These are perfect ways to restore energy and mind-body balance.
Not Sure Whether Your Gut Bacteria and Hormones Are In Balance?
If you stick to the healthy diet, exercise on a regular basis and don’t experience any of the common symptoms of hormonal imbalance I have mentioned at the beginning of the article, they might be safe to assume that your intestinal flora and hormones are balanced.
However, if that’s not the case and you’re experiencing symptoms of hormone or digestion imbalance despite doing all of the right things, it is best to “test and not guess” to find out the underlying cause.
There are three main tests to find out exactly what is going on and detect problems with your gut bacteria and hormones:
G.I Map Stool Test
It is better to start with the comprehensive G.I Map DNA stool test approved by the F.D.A. It will eliminate all the guesswork from the process and help identify all the pathogenic microorganism such as yeast, parasites, and viruses that disrupt normal microbial and hormonal balance.
By doing this test you can find out the hidden reasons for your health issues and prevent a cascade of negative effects on your immune system.
The test can be done at any age and without you attending the lab. The team of Planet Naturopath will send you an at-home kit to do the test in absolute privacy. To assess your gut microbiome, we need only one stool sample from you.
Within 10-15 days, you will have your results and a link to schedule the remote consultation with Planet Naturopath at a convenient time.
I will provide you with a treatment plan, recommendations on how to improve and maintain your digestive and hormonal health, and, of course, will answer all your questions.
Dutch test is a cutting-edge way to measure your hormone metabolites from dried urine samples. It’s a must if you want to reveal the real reasons for your fatigue, mood changes, obesity, headache and a number of other symptoms that bother you.
Unlike blood test, it can provide you with much more detailed information on your hormonal health: cortisol rhythms, sex hormone metabolism, melatonin levels and many more.
The biggest advantage of this test is that you can perform it from the comfort of your home, and then simply send us your samples and receive the results via email within 10-12 days.
We’ll let you know if anything is out of balance. Once your results are ready you can schedule a consultation and I will explain the results to you in an easy to understand way and help you with a treatment plan to get your hormones back on track.
Viome is one simpler and more reliable test to look inside your stomach and found out what is going on there.
You will be sent a kit to collect your sample for further analysis. As soon as the specialists receive your sample, it will be carefully analysed with the help of AI-powered technologies.
The Viome team will identify all the organisms including viruses that inhabit your gut and determine whether they produce nutrients or toxins.
On the basis of this analysis, you will receive detailed recommendations on the food you should eat and food you should reduce or even eliminate from your diet.
Share your concerns with me and let’s create your personal diet and fast-acting strategy against your health issues together.