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Can Gut Health Affect Hormonal Balance?

Your gut microbiome is responsible not just for your digestive health, but also for your body’s hormonal balance. A nutrition and lifestyle coach shares how your gut health can affect estrogen balance.

By Shreya Maji
20 Mar 2022

The bacteria residing in your gut, known as the microbiome, has extensive influence on your overall health. The microbiome is a mixture of “good” (which in optimal state should make up about 90 per cent of the microbes) and “bad” bacteria (about 10 per cent). They affect everything from digestion of food to the functioning of your immune system and bodily processes, and the synthesis of hormones and maintenance of hormonal balance.


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“The gut is responsible for absorbing the nutrients from your food. This in turn helps you synthesise the hormones your body needs, and break down and get rid of the hormones you don’t,” says Vinita Contractor, lifestyle and nutrition coach based in Mumbai. “Thus, your gut microbiome affects nearly every hormone in the body. When gut health isn't optimal, hormones become imbalanced. Hormones help maintain body temperature, metabolism, cognitive function, blood glucose levels, sexual function, and much more. Without them, your body couldn't function.” The imbalance of gut microbiota, a condition known as gut dysbiosis, can thus have detrimental effects on your health.


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What is the link between gut microbiome and estrogen?

Estrogen is a sex hormone responsible for the proper functioning of primary and secondary sex organs in women. Says Vinita, “In women, estrogen circulates in the bloodstream, and binds to estrogen receptors on cells in targeted tissues. One of the principal regulators of circulating estrogens is the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome regulates estrogens through secretion of β-glucuronidase, an enzyme that binds estrogens into their active forms. When this process is weakened through dysbiosis of the gut microbiome, the decrease in binding results in a reduction of circulating estrogens.” This can lead to an imbalance of estrogen in the body.


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What can happen due to an imbalance of estrogen?

Estrogen is not only connected to the health of the reproductive system, but also bone health, heart health and insulin sensitivity. According to a study published in the journal Maturitas in 2017, the disturbance of the delicate balance between gut microbiome and estrogen regulation can cause certain estrogen-modulated health conditions. “Poor gut health increases the risk of conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, infertility, breast cancer and heart disease, and could also contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis,” says Vinita Contractor.


How can we improve and maintain our gut health?

To maintain your hormonal balance, the key is to optimise your gut health. A healthy plant-based diet full of anti-inflammatory foods is ideal for supporting gut health, according to Vinita Contractor. She gives the following nutritional advice on maintaining your microbiome.

1. Have a diet consisting of different colours of seasonal and locally sourced fruits and vegetables.

2. Avoid packaged and processed foods and consumption of refined oils, flours and sugars.

3. Eat prebiotic foods like garlic, onion, banana, oats, flaxseeds, apples, etc. which are considered as food for the friendly probiotics in your gut.

4. Have probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kanji (a fermented Indian drink similar to kombucha), plant-based homemade curd and other fermented foods which promote healthier gut microbiomes.

5. Limit use of antibiotics and alcohol intake, and practice stress management to help with maintaining good gut health.





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