The Gut-Hormone Connection
Most people are keenly aware of how hormones effect their body, particularly women. However, what many people don’t realize, is that there is a direct connection between gut health and hormone balance. This means that our diet plays an important role in this balance as well.
As discussed in a previous blog post (https://www.vitasananutrition.com/post/happy-microbiome-healthy-you), our gut contains millions of tiny microorganisms called the microbiome. The health and appropriate balance of this little ecosystem has a tremendous effect on our health, especially with regard to digestion, metabolism, maintenance of a healthy weight and also keeping our hormones balanced.
So how is the gut linked to our hormones?
Hormones are incredibly important messenger chemicals which control a of number of bodily functions such as digestion, reproduction, mood, as well as many others. The gut is not only is responsible for how we metabolize hormones, it also produces key messenger chemicals itself. The gut produces nearly 90% of all the serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, commonly referred to as the “happy hormone.” Deficiencies in this hormone are commonly seen in people who suffer from mental illness such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and others. Serotonin also has other key functions. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, which controls sleep. Therefore, deficiencies in serotonin can result in sleep disorders. Additionally, serotonin controls gut peristalsis and food transport time. Too much serotonin can result in diarrhea, whereas a deficiency can result in constipation.
Gut health is also crucial to the proper metabolism and excretion of estrogen and its metabolites. This ensures the proper balance of circulating levels of estrogen throughout the body. As most people know, estrogen is crucial for reproductive health in women, however it also plays a key role in bone health, cardiovascular health, as well as the regulation of fat metabolism. An improper balance of this microbiome or an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria impacts the ability of the body to maintain proper circulating levels of estrogen, which can lead to a number of chronic health conditions such as osteoporosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), cardiovascular disorders and even cancer.
A number of things can result in this imbalance of gut microorganisms, also known as gut dysbiosis. These include antibiotics, birth control pills and other medications, as well as a poor diet. Further, certain health conditions that can cause damage and inflammation within the digestive tract, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s Disease, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and food allergies/sensitivities can also result in dysbiosis.
Diet is crucial to our overall health and well-being, which means ensuring that our tiny little microorganism community is well fed and healthy as well.