GUT BUGS AND OESTROGEN METABOLISM: IS THERE A LINK?

GUT BUGS AND OESTROGEN METABOLISM: IS THERE A LINK?

The role of the human microbiome (our gut bugs) on body functions apart from gut health is currently the focus of much fascinating research. One such area is how these gut bugs influence levels of the female hormone oestrogen.

What is a microbiome?

Within the human gut (and other parts of the body including the vaginal tract and breast tissue) there are groups of different types of gut bugs (bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses). Together they are called a ‘microbiome’.

These bugs are not just along for the ride – they have jobs to do! These jobs include having a significant influence on many body processes including those relating to digestive, metabolic, immune, mental/emotional and hormonal functions/health.

Across the human population, the groups of bacteria that make up the microbiome are somewhat similar, but once you get down to different species or strains, these can be very different between one person and another.

So why does that matter? Because different types of bacteria perform different jobs, so the types of bugs in your gut will influence how effectively your body can digest/metabolise/process certain substances. Like hormones.

How is this related to oestrogen levels?

The role of the human microbiome (our gut bugs) on body functions apart from gut health is currently the focus of much fascinating research. One such area is how these gut bugs influence levels of the female hormone oestrogen.

What is a microbiome?

Within the human gut (and other parts of the body including the vaginal tract and breast tissue) there are groups of different types of gut bugs (bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses). Together they are called a ‘microbiome’.

These bugs are not just along for the ride – they have jobs to do! These jobs include having a significant influence on many body processes including those relating to digestive, metabolic, immune, mental/emotional and hormonal functions/health.

Across the human population, the groups of bacteria that make up the microbiome are somewhat similar, but once you get down to different species or strains, these can be very different between one person and another.

So why does that matter? Because different types of bacteria perform different jobs, so the types of bugs in your gut will influence how effectively your body can digest/metabolise/process certain substances. Like hormones.

How is this related to oestrogen levels?

One of the jobs of some of these gut bacteria is the metabolism of oestrogen –such bacteria together are called the ‘estrobolome’ (= gut bacteria that process or metabolise oestrogens). And this can have a significant impact on the oestrogen levels in the body.

There are two main types of oestrogen – oestrone (E1) and oestradiol (E2), which are parent oestrogens that can be converted by phase I liver metabolism to many oestrogen metabolites.

Oestrogen metabolites can then be further conjugated (meaning oestrogen is joined to something else) through liver phase II processes (glucuronidation or sulfonation reactions and excreted into bile, urine or faeces.

In the gut, some of these conjugated oestrogens in bile can be deconjugated (or broken apart) by certain intestinal bacterial species with beta-glucuronidase and beta- glucosidase enzyme activity, and the free oestrogens can be reabsorbed.

Consequently, non-ovarian oestrogen levels, which are highly variable between individuals, can be significantly influenced by the composition of the our gut bugs.

So what does this mean?

Many women experience issues associated with oestrogen imbalance (i.e. too high or too low) such as irregular periods, absent periods, bloating, mood imbalances, breast pain, low libido, weight gain, low energy levels, sleep issues, PMS, urinary tract infections – to name a few!

So along with other strategies, improving gut health (as well as diet, liver and thyroid health) are a vital step to balancing your hormones (and as a result, the health issues or symptoms such hormone imbalance is causing).

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