The theory that gut microbes play a significant role in regulating many aspects of human physiology isn't new. Research shows that they're effective for helping with intestinal permeability, immunity and nutrient absorption. Newer and more exciting research shows that gut microbes play a vital role in the body by helping to regulate your estrogen levels. The gut hormone connection is vast, and we're going to explore it in detail below.
Contents:Understanding Normal Estrogen Metabolism What is the Estrobolome? How Does the Estrobolome Impact Your Body's Estrogen Metabolism? Conditions Linked to Estrobolome Dysfunction What Can You Do To Improve Estrobolome Balance
- Eat More Veggies
- Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
- Avoid Antibiotics and Hormonal Contraceptives
- Try to Lose Weight
- Stop Smoking
Understanding Normal Estrogen MetabolismYour ovaries are the primary organs responsible for making estrogen. The estrogen then starts to circulate throughout your body to your breasts, uterus and other organs. Once it reaches your liver, your liver inactivates it before sending it to your intestines. It stays inactivated until it can pass through your intestines and exit your body in your stool. This process is healthy estrogen metabolism.
What is the Estrobolome?There is a collection of microbes located in your gut that work to metabolise estrogens. The estrobolome controls the estrogen's circulation path from the liver to the bile to the small intestine, and it also has a hand in circulating the estrogen levels your body secretes. In the estrobolome, the microbes produce an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase. (1) This enzyme disrupts the inactive estrogen and pushes them to switch to their active forms. Activity from beta-glucuronidase gives you unbound and active estrogen that can easily bind to the estrogen receptors and encourage physiological estrogen-dependent processes. (2)
How Does the Estrobolome Impact Your Body's Estrogen Metabolism?When you have a healthy gut microbiome, your estrobolome will produce the correct amount of betaglucuronidase to keep your estrogen levels balanced. However, when you have gut dysbiosis, it can alter the activity of the beta-glucuronidase in your system. In turn, you end up with either excess or a deficiency of free estrogen in your body. In turn, this can promote the development of pathologies that are estrogen-related. (3) For example, if you have too much beta-glucuronidase in your system, it can boost your estrogen levels too high. If you have too little beta-glucuronidase in your system, it can lower your estrogen levels. Not having enough of this enzyme also has links to lower levels of good bacteria in your system and too much of this enzyme has links to harmful bacteria overgrowth. It's more common to have higher levels than low.
Conditions Linked to Estrobolome DysfunctionSeveral conditions have direct links to estrobolome dysfunction. They can get better or worse, depending on your dysfunction level. They include but are not limited to:
1. Too Much Beta-GlucuronidaseAs we touched on earlier, beta-glucuronidase is an enzyme that causes your inactive estrogen to go active. This active and unbound estrogen can bind to your estrogen receptors, and this can encourage growth of the "bad" bacteria in your gut. In turn, having too much of the "bad" bacteria in your gut can lead to a variety of estrogen-related conditions. (4)
Estrogen DominanceEstrogen dominance is a condition where you have too much estrogen in your body without having adequate levels of progesterone levels to lower it. Progesterone is a steroid hormone that helps ensure you don't get higher than normal levels of estrogen. (5) Having too much beta-glucuronidase causes the levels of free estrogen to go up in your system because it activates your inactive estrogen molecules. It also encourages bacteria growth in your gut, and this can cause further issues with inflammation. Inflammation can lead to further issues for your bacteria and intestinal permeability. (6)
EndometriosisEndometriosis is a medical condition where endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. This is a condition driven by estrogen, and many associate it with having gut dysbiosis. In animal studies, those with endometriosis have shown to have a larger number of bacteria that produces betaglucuronidase. In turn, they had higher estrogen numbers. (7) Dysbiosis of the endometrium and vagina were also common, and this led to a decrease in the amount of Lactobacilli. It also led to an increase in pathogenic gram-negative bacteria. (8)
2. Too Little Beta-GlucuronidaseOn the other end of the spectrum, having too little beta-glucuronidase in your system can also lead to estrobolome dysfunction. Several conditions can cause this to happen, and they're prevalent throughout the world. They include:
PCOSPolycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is another condition that has strong links to estrobolome disruption. Women who have PCOS have a higher amount of androgens when you compare them to the estrogen levels in the body. They also have altered levels of bacteria in their guts. Research supports the theory that the gut bacteria alteration in women with PCOS can encourage higher androgen levels and decreased estrogen levels because it reduces your beta-glucuronidase activity. (9)(10) Researchers found that taking gut bacteria and modulating it FMT (fecal microbiota transplantation) could decrease androgen biosynthesis and improve the estrous cycles in animal models. This shows that modulating your esetrobolome could be useful when it comes to treating PCOS. (11)
OsteoporosisOsteoporosis is a condition where your bones weaken with age and become more prone to fracturing and breaking. This condition becomes even more relevant due to hormonal changes that happen as you age. Once you go past menopause, your levels of estrogen drop and this can cause issues with your levels of beta-glucuronidase. (12) Research and studies show that gut microbia has direct links to hormone levels and fluctuations. In turn, this may contribute to osteoporosis. Studies involving mice showed that introducing Lactobacillus rhamnosus into their diet could boost their levels of beta-glucuronidase. When this happened, it helped to improve the mice's estrogen levels, and this protected against bone loss due to osteoporosis. (13)(14)
Post-MenopauseWhen you're post-menopausal, estrobolome disruptions have links to various other health conditions like obesity and cardiovascular issues. The reason for this is that estrogen works to regulate adipocyte differentiation, glucose, lipid metabolism and the inflammatory response. When you go through menopause, your natural levels of estrogen start to drop. In turn, it can disrupt these estrogen dependent processes and trigger cardiovascular disease and obesity. (15)(16) Gut dysbiosis can lead to decreased beta-glucuronidase activity. This can make post-menopausal women's low estrogen state much worse. Studies and research shows that it increases your risk of developing chronic diseases. It points out that there is an important relationship between estrogen deficiency, the estrobolome and occurrences of obesity and cardiovascular disease. (17)(18)
What Can You Do To Improve Estrobolome Balance?Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to improve the estrobolome balance in your body. These things are relatively easy to incorporate into your routine, and anyone can benefit from these lifestyle changes. They include:
1. Eat More VeggiesOne of the easiest things you can do to improve your estrobolome balance is to add more vegetables to your daily diet. Veggies are dietary fibre, and this dietary fibre promotes a healthy microbiome by decreasing your system's beta-glucuronidase activity. In particular, broccoli sprouts are helpful in this endeavour because they can detox any excess estrogen out of your body. Broccoli sprouts can do this because they contain sulforaphane. Sulforaphane activates your body's phase two liver detox system, and this flushes excess estrogen out. (19)(20) Veggies can also help improve your microbial diversity by introducing prebiotics into your system and feeding the good types of bacteria. One study took 53 healthy volunteers and split them into five random groups. They collected fecal samples before and after the trial to measure the amount of bacteria present. Each group got different strains of probiotics. At the end of the study, researchers found that the volunteers who consumed lactulose or oligofructose-enriched inulin had lower beta glucuronidase activity. (21)
2. Reduce Your Alcohol IntakePeople who have chronic alcohol intake run the risk of altering their microbiome. One study examined the bacteria in 41 people who had chronic alcohol, and they compared the bacteria levels of ten healthy people who had no or very little alcohol intake. They found that dysbiosis was in 27% of the alcoholic group while none of the ten healthy individuals had it. (22) A second study compared how three different types of alcohol impacted gut health. The study lasted 20 days, and each participant had either 272 mL of red wine, 272 mL of de-alcoholised red wine or 100 mL of gin. The gin lowered the number of good bacteria in the gut, and red wine increased the number of good bacteria. They believed that the increase in good bacteria was due to the red wine's polyphenol content. (23)
3. Avoid Antibiotics and Hormonal ContraceptivesAntibiotics are important medicinal treatments for diseases and infection. They either kill the bacteria causing the infection or disease, or they prevent them from multiplying. However, antibiotics have an impact on both good and bad bacteria. (33)(34) Antibiotics usually make good bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli decline, and they can increase bad bacteria by the name of Clostridium. One study showed that taking even one round of antibiotics can alter your gut bacteria, and it doesn't return to normal. (35)(36) Oral contraceptives can also throw your estrobolome balance off. Oral contraceptives are synthetic hormones, and your body isn't able to metabolise them like they would your natural hormones. This can easily lead to an overload of estrogen in your body, and this can impact your gut bacteria. A review involving 12 studies showed that taking oral contraceptives could quadrupedal the estrogen levels present in your body. (37)
4. Try to Lose WeightPhysical activity is moving your body in ways that burn energy. Cycling, gardening, walking and swimming are all common examples of physical activity. There are several benefits associated with being physically active, including lower stress levels, weight loss and reduced chronic disease risks. (38)(39) Research shows that higher fitness levels have definite links to a larger amount of a short-chain fatty acid call butyrate, and this can boost your levels of bacteria that produce it. A study involving professional rugby players showed that they had a lot more diverse gut flora. They had twice the amount of bacterial families compared to the trial's control groups. (40)(41) A second study took 21 non-active women and 19 active women and compared their gut flora. They found that the active women had higher levels of bacteria that promote good health like Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia. These findings suggest that partaking in physical activity regularly can benefit your gut flora. (42)
5. Stop SmokingTobacco smoke has thousands of chemicals that make it up, and out of these 70 chemicals, there are 70 that can cause cancer. Routine smoking can harm almost every organ in your body, and it makes your risk of developing stroke, heart disease and lung cancer rise the more you smoke. This can cause long-term health problems that negatively impact your gut flora. (43)(44) One study monitored the bacteria levels of people who had stopped smoking to smokers. They found that the people who quit smoking had an increased gut flora diversity compared to the people who didn't quit. (45)
Probiotics May Help Balance Your EstrobolomeProbiotics are essential to helping you restore balance to your estrobolome in several ways.
- Studies involving animals with PCOS showed that giving them a supplement that contains a broad spectrum Lactobacillus probiotic could decrease their testosterone biosynthesis and help to normalise their cycles. (46)
- A mouse study showed that giving the mice a supplement containing Lactobacillus reuteri could help protect against osteoporosis and bone loss due to low estrogen levels. (47)
- Animals with endometriosis received a supplement of Lactobacillus gasseri. These animals had a suppression of their ectopic tissue growth. This is important because this estrogen drives this process. (48)
- Supplementation with Lactobacillus acidophilus can reduce beta-glucuronidase, and this means that it can alter your estrobolome's microbial composition. (49)