How Your Digestion Impacts Hormone Imbalances + 8 Natural Tips to Balance Your Hormones
Ever since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease I've been obsessed with healing my gut in every way possible. During my hunt for gut healing resources, I became seriously aware that an unhealthy digestive tract can be a major contributor to hormonal imbalances in our body. From weight gain to hair loss to mood swings- your gut may be to blame! If you're suffering from any of the symptoms below, you may have a hormonal imbalance caused by an unhealthy gut:
Hormone Imbalance Symptoms
- Infertility and irregular periods
- Asthma, hay fever, eczema or other food allergies
- Unexplained Weight gain or weight loss
- Headaches and migraines
- Depression and anxiety
- Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia
- Low libido
- Changes in appetite
- Digestive issues
- Hair loss and hair thinning
Below I've listed a few of the most common hormonal imbalances with the hopes of giving you a more holistic understanding of how your gut health and hormone health are intertwined.
How Your Gut Can Negatively Affect Your Hormone Health
- The hormones that control your appetite are affected when your gut is unhealthy because it promotes the growth of unhealthy bacteria. This imbalance between good bacteria and bad bacteria alters the levels of ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is like an alarm that rings every time you're hungry and it's time to eat, and leptin lets you know you're full and it's time to put the fork down. Interestingly an imbalance between healthy and unhealthy bacteria in your gut also affects which foods you crave and what foods you enjoy eating.
- Did you know that around 80% of serotonin and melatonin in your body are made in your gut? An imbalance in serotonin (the happiness hormone) and melatonin (which optimizes sleep) get completely out of whack when you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Leaky Gut Syndrome or other complications with your digestive tract. An imbalance in the hormones directly responsible for your happiness and quality of sleep may result in feelings of depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping and more.
- Suffering from leaky gut syndrome or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also causes your inflamed gut to create an increased stress response in your body. You become easily triggered increasing cortisol levels. Many studies have shown that taking probiotics daily can lower your cortisol levels and reduce your stress response.
- When your gut health is off, so are your Estrogen levels. When you suffer from IBS or leaky gut syndrome it's impossible for your body to effectively remove estrogen from your body keeping it in circulation which causes an Estrogen Dominance. A dominance in estrogen causes an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone which need to be in perfect balance in order for your body to properly support menstrual functions, promote fat burning and lower fluid retention. Estrogen dominance also alters your weight, stress levels, sleep patterns, appetite, and slows your metabolism.
- If your gut is unhealthy your bodies ability to convert the T4 thyroid hormone into the more effective T3 form is compromised because this function occurs in your gut. This explains why many women with digestive issues that take Synthroid, a synthetic type of the T4 hormone, often have issues converting it into T3. Additionally, diseases such as hyperthyroidism, caused by an imbalance in the thyroid, can result in symptoms such as anxiety, thinning of the hair, slowed metabolism, irregular periods, sporadic weight loss or weight gain, insomnia and more.
- Your blood glucose level is also directly related to the health of your digestive tract. The healthier your gut is the more stable your blood glucose level, the less sugar and sweets you crave, and the less insulin you release. Inversely, an unhealthy gut can create an insulin resistance lowering your bodies fat burning ability. Unsurprisingly, an unhealthy gut can also be to blame for diabetes, vision loss, fatigue, weight gain, skin problems, etc.
Now that you're aware of some the ways your gut health can negatively impact your hormone balance, let's talk about the simple steps we can take to heal our hormones!
8 Natural Ways to Balance Hormones
- Stay away from Birth Control: This shouldn't come as a surprise but your birth control, and other prescribed medications, alter your hormones levels. Birth control, specifically the pill, raises your estrogen levels and studies have shown that long-term use of the pill can cause breast cancer, heart attacks, mood swings and more.
- Eat Healthy Fats & Ditch Carbs: Healthy fats, unlike refined carbohydrates, play a fundamental role in balancing your hormones. Healthy fats lower inflammation, control your appetite, and contribute to your daily fiber intake. The key is to consume a 50:50 ratio of Omega-6 fats and Omega-3 fats. Studies have shown that in the Standard American Diet we consume about 3 times more Omega-6 fats throwing off this delicate balance. It's recommended that we consume foods high in healthy fats such as chiaseeds, flax seeds, coconut oil, avocados, wild caught salmon and grass-fed animals on a daily basis.
- Eat Supplements: Supplements have gotten a bad reputation over time but I believe that if you consume them wisely and to fill in the gaps in your health it can be extremely helpful in healing your gut and balancing your hormones. Here are examples of supplements we can take to optimize our hormone health: Vitamin D mimics hormones by keeping inflammation low and symptoms of seasonal depression at bay. Probiotics lower cortisol levels and balance your hormones by healing the gut lining and allowing it to function properly by keeping food particles from entering the bloodstream. Women who drink or eat Maca (a food found in Peru that's in the radish family that is a good source of minerals and essential fatty acids) experience increased fertility, a reduction in menstrual symptoms, and have softer skin and healthier hair.
- Support Digestive Health: Supporting your gut health is key to maintaining healthy and balanced hormones. Here is a FREE and extremely thorough video program that details not only the science of healing your gut but provides amazing resources and insights on how to do so.
- Exercise Regularly: Studies have shown that exercising 300-minutes per week lowers your estrogen levels. As I mentioned before an estrogen dominance can be responsible for increased weight and stress, but it can also cause breast and ovarian cancer. Please note that intense extended periods of exercise might actually make the situation worse. Short exercises with bursts of energy are recommended like heavy weight lifting.
- Avoid Toxic Chemicals: As an organic skin-care artisan and health coach, I am keenly aware of the negative affects toxic chemicals in skin care products, cleaning supplies and air fresheners can have on our health. Toxic chemicals found in plastics, skin-care, detergents, and even in our clothing can contain disruptive chemicals that mimic our bodies hormones which prevent us from producing real hormones. Additionally, many of the products we use on a daily basis contain thousands of chemicals that are unregulated by the FDA and that are known carcinogens. Click here to learn more about how to transition to natural beauty products, natural deodorants and households toxins.
- Apply Essential Oils: We all love how our conventional skin-care products smell but the fragrances used in them can be extremely harmful to our bodies and hormones. If you're seeking an alternative, using products scented with ingredients that not only smell amazing but have a ton of healing properties like essential oils are a must! A few essential oils that are particularly healing for hormonal imbalances are clary sage, fennel, lavender, sandalwood and thyme.
- Sleep! We all know the importance of sleep, even if some of us claim to function properly with less than 7 hours. But did you know that your hormones run on a cycle and that if you go to bed late or don't receive at least 7-8 hours of sleep your hormones are totally thrown off? Your stress levels in particular suffer because cortisol is regulated at mid-night and if you're not asleep your body never gets to truly reset and rest. When your stress isn't managed due to poor sleep you're more likely to be unproductive, anxious, depressed, have a lower immunity and increased weight gain. Try preparing for bed around 10 PM by taking a hot Epsom salt bath, applying essential oils like lavender or body balms containing soothing essential oils, and practicing breath work techniques to calm the body.
There are a ton of natural remedies and steps that you can utilize in your day-to-day to help balance your hormones. But if you suspect that you're suffering from a hormonal imbalance or digestive issues you should seek medical care immediately, and remember- you are not alone! Hormonal imbalances affect millions of people in the form of preventable and common disorders like PMS, estrogen dominance, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and infertility.
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