Anxiety, painful periods and low immunity? Let's talk gut health
Did you know that we each have roughly around 40 trillion bacteria inside our bodies, most of which are in our gut! The state of your digestive system affects far more than what you might think…
Your gut bacteria (a.k.a. 'the microbiome') can affect our bodies in many ways, including;
- how well you absorb the nutrients from your food
- how regular your bowel movements are (more on that below!)
- the strength of your immune system
- your metabolism and your ability to lose weight
- your mood
If that wasn’t enough, research suggests that gut bacteria play a crucial role in controlling hormones such as oestrogen.
Oestrogen is your main sex hormone (it is what gives us ladies breast and hips), and is vital for great hormonal health. Once it’s done its job, oestrogen is transported to the liver where it is broken down into an inactivated form and then excreted through the bowel.
However, an overgrowth of bad bacteria can really slow things down, and if you’re constantly struggling with constipation, your body might not be able to break down and get rid of all of your old oestrogen which means it can get reabsorbed back into your system.
This can lead to something called oestrogen dominance which has been linked to issues such as acne, breast tenderness, weight gain, heavy periods, PMS, painful periods and mood swings, to name but a few! Excess oestrogen has also been shown to contribute to a higher risk of conditions such as uterine fibroids and breast cancer. (1)
What does this mean? You need to be pooping DAILY in order to help balance oestrogen!
So, what other things can compromise our gut health?
Other than constipation, other factors which can negatively affect your digestive system include;
- chronic stress
- poor diet - especially a diet that includes inflammatory foods
- antibiotic use
- chronic use of NSAID’s/painkillers such as ibuprofen
- oral contraceptive use
What are the signs that suggest your gut bacteria have become imbalanced?
Bloating, constipation or acid reflux are all signs that your gut has become unbalanced and could use some TLC. Other signs include IBS, food intolerances, autoimmune disease, thyroid problems, nutrient absorption problems, acne, and even mood issues!
My top tips for supporting gut (and therefore hormonal!) health include;
1) Reduce any food triggers that damage the gut. The big ones include sugar, conventional dairy, and artificial sweeteners.
2) Increase your intake of fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha, as well as natural yoghurt (full fat all the way!) to boost levels of good bacteria.
3) Increase intake of anti-inflammatory foods such as salmon, green leafy vegetables, and chia seeds.
4) Chew your food! It might sound easy, but your body finds it so much easier to absorb the nutrients from your food when chewed in smaller sizes.
5) Consider a course of probiotics following any course of antibiotics to help keep bad bacteria at bay and to improve transit time (always speak to your GP about introducing any new supplements into your daily regime).
1) Kwa M, Plottel CS, Blaser MJ, Adams S. The Intestinal Microbiome and Estrogen Receptor–Positive Female Breast Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2016 Aug 1;108(8):djw029.