The microbiome is a collection of bacteria located in our colon. A healthy microbiome should be composed of a wide variety of gut bacteria (we're talking over 500 different species!)
How does the microbiome affect hormones? Bacteria can contribute to symptoms of weight gain, bloating, fatigue, headaches, mood swings, depression, and more.
Knowing the link between the microbiome, specifically the estrobolome, and our hormones allows us a tool for treatment. There is so much we can do through nutrition and lifestyle to promote a diverse microbiome, therefore we can use these techniques as part of our treatment for hormone balance. In this article we will focus specifically on the estrobolome.
What is the Estrobolome?
The estrobolome is a collection of bacteria in the microbiome who's primary role is to metabolize estrogens (1). These specific bacteria regulate the excretion and circulation of estrogen back into the body. Therefore, these bacteria play an important role in estrogen levels.
There are three main forms of estrogen produced in the body.
Estradiol (E2) is predominant in non-pregnant women prior to menopause
Estrone (E1) is predominant after menopause
Estriol (E3) is highest during pregnancy
How does our body get rid of estrogen?
Estrogens circulate in the blood in order to travel to tissues and organs for different functions. The liver is in charge of pulling out excess estrogen and estrogen metabolites out of the blood. The estrogens bind to detoxification enzymes, known as conjugation. Conjugated estrogens are excreted in bile, urine, and bowel movements.
Researchers found that a significant amount of conjugated estrogens are actually reabsorbed back into the blood's circulation. Why is this?
What they found was that these conjugated estrogens can be de-conjugated by certain bacterial species that produce ß-glucuronidase, an enzyme. Once the estrogen is de-conjugated it can enter back into circulation (2). A healthy gut microbiome has an estrobolome that produces the right amount of beta-glucuronidase to maintain estrogen balance in the body. When the microbiome becomes imbalanced it can lead to either an increase or decrease of estrogens present in the body.
What does estrogen do in the body?
There are many functions of estrogen, but here are a few of the most important. Estrogen regulates body fat composition, reproductive function in women, cardiovascular health, bone density, and cell growth. An unhealthy microbiome can alter the estrobolome, disrupt estrogen balance, and impair these vital functions in the body.
Well known conditions linked with estrogen imbalance in women include: endometriosis, PCOS, obesity, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and estrogen dominant cancer.
Wondering what you can do to promote a healthy microbiome and estrogen balance?
Foods for a healthy microbiome and estrogen balance.
The microbiome can be affected by diet, lifestyle, medications, exercise, stress, and genetics.
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet as well as a healthy functioning estrobolome. The recommended intake for fiber in the U.S. is 25 grams per day, but I always encourage my clients to aim for at least 30 grams of fiber daily. Fiber should come from whole food, plant sources. Below are some of my favorite high-fiber foods.
Keep in mind when you are increasing fiber in your diet it is extremely important to drink an adequate amount of water. The general rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds you will want to drink 80 ounces of water per day. Water and fiber are also key in the diet for regular, daily bowel movements.
Pumpkin and flax seeds contain phytoestrogens, which are the plant's natural estrogen. Phytoestrogens help to support estrogen balance, as well as help to clear excess estrogen from the body to prevent imbalance. You can add 1-2 tablespoons seeds to your oatmeal, smoothie, yogurt, or just snack on by themselves.
Probiotics are another factor in a healthy estrobolome. When choosing a probiotic, it should be from a reputable company that is third-party tested. A serving should provide at least 5 billion CFUs (colony forming units).
Bacterial strains that are being studied in their relationship to the estrobolome include:
High Fiber Foods:
2 Tbsp. Chia Seeds = 10 g fiber
2 Tbsp. Flaxseed = 6 g fiber
1 cup Raspberries = 8 g fiber
1/2 Avocado = 5 g fiber
1 cup Broccoli = 5 g fiber
1 medium Pear = 5 g fiber
1/4 cup Almonds = 4 g fiber
1/2 cup Lentils = 8 g fiber
1/2 cup Black Beans = 7 g fiber
2 cups Leafy Greens = 3 g fiber
3 cups Popcorn = 4 g fiber
It can feel like our body is working against us, but please know that is never the case!
If you're looking for additional guidance and support, let me know. Now is the time to invest in yourself and your body. You deserve to feel happy, energized, and comfortable in your body! Apply to work with me here
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Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian
works specifically with women's hormones, inflammation, and digestive health. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including bloating, weight gain, anxiety, mood swings, irregular cycles, and other inflammatory symptoms.
Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle. Follow me @moms.hormone.dietitian