Estrogen plays a vital role in women’s health. It is obviously very important in our reproductive health and our fertility but also plays a vital role in cognitive health, bone health, and heart health. However, excessive estrogen, especially in post-menopausal women, can contribute to estrogen-related cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer. So like with everything else in life, balance is the key.
Emerging research is showing that one of the principal regulators for balancing estrogen in the body is the gut microbiome.
We know that the gut microbiome is important for the absorption of nutrients from food, supporting immunity and playing a role in mental health and bone health, but researchers are now finding a link between your gut microbiome and your estrogen levels. This is being referred to as the estrogen-gut microbiome axis. The microbes in your gut can actually influence the levels of estrogen circulating in the body.
Many of the trillions of organisms in your gut microbiome have specific functions. There are certain bacteria in your gut that specialize in metabolizing estrogen called the estrobolome. The estrobolome is a unique collection of bacteria that have special genes that help to process estrogen. The way they do this is to produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. Beta-glucuronidase takes inactive estrogen that has been packaged and ready to be excreted from the body and breaks it down into active, free estrogen again. The active, free estrogen goes back into the bloodstream increasing estrogen levels in the body.
When your gut estrobolome is healthy it can help to regulate just the right amount of estrogen being recirculated in the body. However, gut inflammation or dysbiosis can negatively affect the estrobolome. This can result in too much estrogen being recirculated increasing the risk for estrogen-related conditions, like breast cancer, or too little estrogen exacerbating estrogen-deficient conditions like osteoporosis.
Another reason why your gut health is the foundation for optimal health!
Anything that disrupts the health and the diversity of the gut microbiome is going to affect the health and function of the estrobolome as well. Poor diet and lifestyle, antibiotics, and stress are the most common triggers for damaging the gut leading to inflammation and dysbiosis.
Ways to support your gut microbiome and estrobolome:
Eat a diet rich in fibers such as nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and a variety of vegetables and fruits. Your gut bacteria thrive on fiber!
Eat probiotic-rich foods such as fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir. This will help restore beneficial bacteria and diversity.
Include prebiotic foods in your diet that are rich in fructo-oligosaccharides or inulin. Prebiotic foods like asparagus, garlic, onions, and bananas help to nourish the beneficial bacteria.
Eliminate foods that disrupt the gut microbiome such as processed foods, sugars, alcohol, trans fats, and artificial sweeteners. Studies have shown that sweeteners like aspartame stimulate the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.
Moderate exercise supports gut health by increasing both the abundance and diversity of beneficial bacteria.
Performing daily stress-reducing activities. The ongoing release of cortisol with chronic stress can lead to changes in the composition, diversity, and number of gut microorganisms.
Take antibiotics only when absolutely needed. When taking an antibiotic always take probiotics or eat probiotic-rich foods. Then continue on that probiotic for at least several weeks after finishing the antibiotic.
Just getting rid of the junk we too often put in our body and focusing on clean eating and living healthy will go a long way to keeping your gut microbiome and estrobolome rich and robust! This will in turn help to better balance estrogen levels in your body and reduce your risk of both estrogen drive conditions, like cancers, as well as estrogen-deficient conditions, like osteoporosis.
That is why I feel so strongly about addressing gut health and digestive wellness in women with osteoporosis.
If you want to learn more about how your gut can impact your bones, please check out my 35 min webinar called “Is Your Gut Holding Your Bones Hostage.” It clearly explains what I call the Gut-Bone Connection. How your gut and digestive wellness are closely connected to your bone health.