By Emma Belton
Anyone who has seen a nutritional therapist before will know that we are extremely interested in people’s bowel movements! This is because gut health is so important as it has a knock-on effect not just on our digestive health, but also our immune health, our mood, our appetite, food allergies and intolerances and our hormone levels.
Our guts are classed as healthy when there is a diverse range of healthy bacteria and there are more good bacteria than bad bacteria. It is normal to have some bad bacteria in the gut, but our gut bacteria can get out of balance and into a state of dysbiosis, where the number of bad bacteria outweigh the good bacteria. This could be due to several factors such as a diet high in sugar and processed food, stress, lack of exercise or taking antibiotics.
If our gut bacteria get out of balance, this can affect oestrogen levels. Usually, all our used oestrogen ends up in the gut ready to be excreted out of the body. However, if our gut bacteria are out of balance this can increase the activity of an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This enzyme can convert the used oestrogen back into its active form, where it is reabsorbed by the body and re-used again – so increasing oestrogen levels. This can be a problem for people with pre-menstrual syndrome, endometriosis, and fibroids where oestrogen levels are already high.
The other way in which our gut health can affect our hormone levels is if we become constipated or have less than one bowel movement a day. If oestrogen is not being excreted out of the body, this can also result in more oestrogen going back into circulation and so increasing oestrogen levels in the body.
Finally, we need our guts working well to be able to absorb the nutrients we eat in food or in the supplements we take. Vitamins and mineral have an important role to play in hormone balance and alleviating any hormonal symptoms and so it is important that the body is able to make use of them.
So, to keep oestrogen levels balanced we need to keep our bowels moving and make sure we have plenty of good bacteria.
Here are some tips to help keep your gut healthy:
1. Feed your gut plenty of good bacteria through probiotic foods such as live yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and miso.
2. Make sure you are getting the recommended 30 grams of fibre a day in your diet. Fibre helps keep your bowels moving regularly and binds to excess oestrogen, removing it out of the body. Fibre is also a good source of prebiotics, which feed the good bacteria in your gut. Good sources of prebiotics are asparagus, artichokes, onions, and garlic.
3. Our gut likes variety, so to ensure we have a diverse range of healthy bacteria, eat a range of different fruits, vegetables, pulses, and wholegrains. Try not to get stuck on eating the same sorts of food most days.
4. Keep hydrated with at least six to eight glasses of water, herbal teas, smoothies or soups a day. This helps to flush toxins out of the body, soften the stool and reduce constipation.
5. Reduce foods high in sugar as these feed the bad bacteria in the gut and can lead to the bacteria levels getting out of balance.
For more help with getting back in control of your hormones and keeping your gut healthy get in touch for a free discovery consultation to find out more about how nutritional therapy could help you.