Women’s Health - Hormones and Gut Health

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

Optimal hormones for an optimal life.

The key to hormone health is balance. Hormone imbalance in women has become increasingly common in today’s society. Today’s blog focuses on a very common issue called “estrogen dominance.”

What causes estrogen dominance?

Estrogen dominance occurs when the body has excess estrogen compared to progesterone levels and occurs due to a multitude of factors such as exposure to endocrine disruptors called xenoestrogens (found in plastics, fragrances, and household cleaning supplies), gut dysfunction that leads to improper elimination of estrogen, and/or poor liver metabolism (due to poor diet, alcohol intake, chemical exposure, and some medications).

Estrogen dominance can be worsened by lack of unopposed progesterone production. A very common scenario that leads to insufficient progesterone production can be caused by a situation known as “pregnenolone steal.” Pregnenolone is known as the “mother of all hormones” and is the precursor to many hormones including estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol; when the body is under chronic stress, it will forgo production of progesterone in order to make proper amounts of cortisol instead of proper progesterone production.

Cortisol is a necessary hormone in the “fight or flight” response; when under stressful situations, the body prefers production of cortisol over progesterone. Progesterone is responsible for healthy reproduction and normal menstrual cycles so it should be apparent as to why, when the body is under a lot of stress, regular menstrual cycles and fertility fall to the wayside.

What are symptoms of estrogen dominance?

Signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance or progesterone deficiency include: irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, premenstrual symptoms (breast tenderness, irritability, mood swings, headaches, acne, bloating), low libido, poor concentration, fatigue, and weight gain. Patients with excess estrogen may have increased uterine fibroid formation or endometriosis. Long term exposure to excess estrogen and insufficient progesterone levels also increase risk for breast and uterine cancer.

How does gut health affect your hormones?

A healthy gut and a healthy microbiome is the foundation of health with no exception to healthy hormone metabolism. Estrogen (and other hormones) go through a detoxification process that first occurs in the liver, called Phase 1 Detoxification. When the liver is overburdened, the necessary enzymes become depleted, leading to inappropriate hormone metabolism. The necessary enzymes required for healthy hormone metabolism also requires optimal levels of certain micronutrients; this is why a healthy diet of nutrient-rich foods is so important.

After phase 1 detoxification occurs, phase 2 metabolism occurs which causes the drug or hormone, in this example, to become water soluble and readily excreted through the urine and feces. Phase 2 metabolism requires a process called conjugation to occur; when the microbiome is dysbiotic or unbalanced, the unhealthy microbiome can cause a decrease in the amount of conjugated estrogens (or other drugs), leading to decreased excretion and elevated levels of circulating estrogens in the bloodstream.

How do we treat hormonal imbalance?

When it comes to treating any hormonal imbalance, including estrogen dominance, I always start with taking into account the patient’s age, current symptomatology, diet, and health of the gut. Common concerns that typically go along with gut dysfunction include constipation, excess flatulence, belching, abdominal pain or distention, loose stool, undigested food in the stool, heartburn, nausea and more. Treatments for hormonal imbalance vary from herbal and nutritional supplementation to bio-identical hormone replacement.

*Simple At-home recommendations for healthy digestive tract and hormones:

  • Eat a whole foods diet, void of packaged and processed foods that are high in preservatives, hydrogenated oils (trans-fats), and excess sugars.

  • Increase intake of fresh vegetables high in fiber and nutrients. A great source of liver supporting vegetables include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, collard greens, kale, and Brussels sprouts!

  • Eliminate use of plastics in the form of water bottles and food storage containers. Instead, opt for reusable bottles or glass containers.

  • Get adequate sleep. Aim for 8 hours a night. Proper sleep is important for proper hormone regulation and production.

  • Exercise. Aim for at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity 3-4 times a week. Exercise improves muscle tone and helps lower visceral fat. Increased adipose tissue can lead to excess estrogen due to excess aromatization (conversion of testosterone to estrogen).

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, please schedule a free hormone consultation with Dr. Royer today.

Schedule online or call (480) 389-3265.

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