The No. 1 key to balancing your hormones

Published: 8/8/2019 10:40:38 AM

Simply put, hormones are chemical messengers. They travel in your bloodstream to tissues and organs in your body. This is how one part of your body can communicate with another part. When your hormones are balanced, all feels right with the world

But if you suffer from hormone imbalance, you can feel miserable. Some of the more common symptoms include fatigue, mood issues, weight loss resistance, abdominal pain, other gut issues, brain fog, headaches and sleeplessness.

Many people believe that hormone issues are only a female phenomenon. But this is not true. There is an epidemic of hormone imbalance occurring right now and men are just as vulnerable as women. Hormone imbalances such as too much insulin, too much cortisol and too little thyroid are just as important for men as for women.

But just as important, new research indicates that your digestive system plays a major role in controlling hormones. Here is why – it’s your microbiome. Some 100 trillion organisms reside in your gut, your mouth, and on your skin. The microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses – that live on and inside the human body. This microbiome helps us to digest food, protect our immune system and brain, protect us against unhealthy bacteria, and helps to balance hormones.

Did you know that your microbiome is considered an organ all by itself? And, that it is more powerful than all your hormone glands put together.

The microbiome produces and secretes hormones and regulates the expression of your genes. If you feel that your hormones could be creating symptoms such as fatigue, mood, weight loss resistance, hot flashes, night sweats, or all the aggravating symptoms that we associate with hormone imbalance, it’s important to know that you won’t get far in balancing those errant hormones unless you address the health of your gut.

Here are some good examples of how the gut influences how we look and feel. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, is produced in the digestive tract. In fact, 90% of all serotonin produced in our body comes from the gut. That’s right – 90%! Serotonin helps to regulate communication between the gut and the brain. It alters our parasympathetic nervous system which can impact our sleep and ability to relax. Serotonin also plays a role in the movement within our gut. So, it can be a factor in such issues as indigestion and constipation.

Another neurotransmitter affected by the gut is dopamine. Dopamine is linked to the reward centers in the brain. When levels of dopamine are low this can have a profound impact on your mood.

In addition, for women, a certain set of your gut bacteria are responsible for metabolizing estrogen. This is called the estrobolome. When your estrobolome is unbalanced, it leads to excess estrogen which is associated with estrogen dominance and increased risk for breast cancer.

These are just a few examples of how your gut acts like an endocrine (hormone) gland. I think it is fair to say that it is practically impossible in the modern world with our exposure to stress, toxins, genetically modified foods and sometimes poor food choices to maintain a health gut microbiome. The key is to make sure you have a higher ratio of healthy bacteria (known as probiotics) to unhealthy bacteria such as E. coli and C. diff. And that you have lots of diversity when it comes to your healthy bacteria. This takes some work!

One of the most important steps in improving your gut health is to remove refined carbs and sugar from your diet and replace with fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans and whole grains to increase your fiber intake. But don’t stop there! Check out my blog at smartnutritionllc.com/tend-gut-boost-immune-system/ for more tips on how to improve your microbiome.

Ruth Clark is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a master’s in Public Health and over 35 years of experience. She lives in Sharon with an office in Peterborough. Ruth specializes in mid-life women who are struggling with weight, mood and fatigue to regain their energy and vitality. You can reach her at RuthRD@SmartNutritionLLC.com.


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