If you’ve struggled with hormone imbalance throughout your life, you know the symptoms all too well. You’re no stranger to mood swings, cramps, irregular cycles, depression, and the list goes on. After years of frustration, it’s time for a change, but you may be unsure of where to begin.
Synthetic birth control or supplements are up for consideration, however, those solutions are like putting a bandaid on a broken bone. You’re attempting to cover up the problem instead of diving deeper into the core cause of the issues you’re having, which is lying in your gut. That’s right, your gut is not only responsible for nutrient-absorption and digestion, but plays a key role in the regulation of hormones as well.
How exactly does our gut play a role in our hormonal well-being?
To put it simply, our microbiome (the millions of bacteria living in our gut) are responsible for a wide range of bodily functions, including the regulation of estrogen, serotonin, progesterone, and more. When we fail to take care of our gut by reducing our stress levels, eating detoxifying, plant-based foods, and getting enough sleep, our microbiome lacks the foundation to do its job properly, therefore causing a downward spiral of the aforementioned, undesirable symptoms of hormone imbalance.
Before you scramble to heal your gut, let’s dive into a few specific hormone horror stories to be mindful of as you start your journey to balance and healing.
High estrogen is a common issue women face and is characterized by having fibroids, cysts, cramps, and PMS. To fully understand how our gut plays a role in estrogen levels, we first need to understand how regulation and circulation of this hormone works.
In a healthy body,
Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, fat cells, and the brain. (As a woman enters menopause, the ovaries play less of a role in estrogen production)
Blood carries estrogen throughout the body and is received by various organs.
Estrogen then reaches the liver where it’s deactivated and broken down.
A part of our microbiome called the estrobolome is responsible for removing the excess estrogen through the stool.
In an unhealthy body, the estrobolome is overgrown and, oddly enough, reabsorbs the already broken down estrogen and redistributes it into our bloodstream at dangerously high levels. This can wreak havoc on our bodies and effectively disrupt other functions of the body.
Estrogen dominance can be cured by cleansing the system of toxins and creating a balanced gut flora. To understand more about this process, read about my clients’ journeys to achieving hormonal regulation.
Progesterone levels are directly linked to what’s known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. If you’ve heard of this illness in passing, but never quite understood what it entails, you’re not alone. Leaky Gut Syndrome is when the bond between cells in your intestines become loose and allow fragments of cell matter to leak into the bloodstream. Though it sounds strange, it’s an especially common phenomenon and can lead to high levels of inflammation in the body.
When the inflammation reaches your ovaries, progesterone projection is put on hold, causing infertility, brain fog, menstrual irregularities, and sugar cravings. Known as the silent killer, inflammation may not present any sudden symptoms, and can go undetected for several years. It’s because of these years of neglecting the proper care for our bodies that we may suddenly become ill and suffer from chronic disease.
Whether it’s butterflies before a first date, the drop in your stomach when you hear of awful news, or the twisting and turning feelings that come with anxiety, it’s no secret your mood and mind share a powerful connection with your gut. So it may come as no surprise that 95% of serotonin, the “happiness” hormone is produced in the microbiome.
This means the food you consume has a direct impact and lasting effects on serotonin production, which explains why you feel so sluggish after inhaling a sleeve of Oreos, despite the sugar high and temporary satisfaction that comes with it. Don’t get me wrong, the occasional splurge is more than okay and can actually be beneficial in keeping us on track with our long-term food choices by eliminating the “binge and restrict” cycle. However, consistent over-consumption of refined sugar decreases our serotonin levels over time, making us prone to sugar cravings and seeking bandaid solutions.
How can I balance my hormones?
When taking strides to balance your hormones, I’ve found the best starting point is to take a holistic approach. This means analyzing and improving these aspects of your life:
Go For the Greens
Your diet should consist of plant-based, detoxifying foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and beans. This isn’t to suggest you should go vegetarian or vegan, but rather to ensure you’re getting essential nutrients to maintain a healthy, optimal gut flora. For a quick, refreshing way to get your greens in, check out our Green Goddess Smoothie recipe.
Catch More Zs
Your lack of sleep is affecting more than your body’s ability to function — it’s also preventing your microbiome from achieving optimal balance. A 2016 Swedish study concluded that only 2 nights of partial sleep deprivation:
Reduces the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut
Changes the composition of microorganisms in the gut that link to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
To combat the damaging effects of sleep deprivation, be sure to practice sleep hygiene. Implement a nighttime routine to allow your body to wind down, avoid screens before bedtime, and try a natural solution such as sleepytime tea or lavender spray to relax.
Channel Your Zen
Lastly, reduce your stress levels. Everyone manages stress in their own unique way, and it’s important to figure out what works best for you. If you’ve been attempting yoga for months with little enjoyment and no results, perhaps going for a run or taking a few jabs at a punching bag works better for you.
Regardless of your choice of stress relief, it’s important to make time for it often. Harboring large amounts of stress overtime isn’t doing our hormonal balance any favors, let alone other aspects of our well-being.