We’ve long heard of the hormonal issues that women face as they enter into midlife. But it’s only been recently that we’ve begun to hear more about how men are affected as well. We all have hormones, and as we age, their levels can change. This results in fluctuations in energy and libido, as well as affecting our ability to build and retain muscle. You could choose to replenish hormone levels with supplements, but a more natural approach may stem from your gut. That’s right, along with everything else associated with our digestive system, gut health affects hormones as well.
The Role of Hormones
Hormones are messengers in the body, and they dictate many of its activities. Originating in the endocrine glands, hormones are secreted directly into the bloodstream. They travel through the body in search of receptor, sharing their intended message. Hormones are powerful messengers; they control the function of many organs and affect the process of growth, development, sex, and reproduction. Most hormones are derived from proteins, although some are steroids and derived from cholesterol.
Changes in Hormones and Their Effects
Hormones fluctuate naturally during a lifetime, specifically during puberty and again as we enter into our 50s. This midlife change is when men and women experience andropause and menopause. In addition to aging, many other aspects can affect our hormonal balance. These include diet, exercise, toxins in the body, and stress.
During midlife, hormone production moves from the endocrine glands by the adrenal glands, which are seriously affected by diet and stress. When adrenals get run down, we experience a number of negative effects, including loss of bone, muscle mass, and libido. A hormonal imbalance also puts us at risk for chronic illness and autoimmune disease as our immune systems are compromised.
The gut is home to a host of bacteria—some good and some bad. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that help regulate mood, optimize blood sugar, support the immune system, and boost metabolism. Interestingly, probiotics also influence hormones. Nourishing those friendly flora in the gut microbiome helps hormones stay in check, even through the midlife changes we all experience.
There are number of hormones in the body to take note of, many of which can be measured with a simple blood test. Some of the key areas to look at include the following:
Cortisol is released during times of stress and is related to inflammation. Probiotics help keep cortisol in check.
Estrogen levels are affected by digestion, so it’s no surprise that good belly bacteria can have a direct effect.
Insulin regulates blood sugar, and studies show that probiotics promote optimal insulin levels.
Testosterone, like estrogen, is found in both men and women. It affects libido and energy levels, and research shows that essential bacteria can increase testosterone levels.
Control Your Hormones with Improved Gut Health
If you feel that your hormone levels are out of balance, you have many options to take control. Functional medicine subscribes to the idea of dealing with the cause first and then moving to the symptoms. In this case, you should take note of two things: adding a high-quality probiotic and changing your diet.
Keep in mind that probiotics and prebiotics work in harmony together to maintain a smooth working intestinal system. The majority of people cannot achieve their body’s needs with diet alone. The combination of diet and supplements will reap improved results that help your hormones stay in balance through all of life’s changes.
Questions about Gut Health and Hormones?
If you are curious about how gut health affects hormones, we can help. Contact us to schedule your initial consultation and learn more about this important relationship and its influence on your overall health and wellbeing.
Rich Jacobs is a Board Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner who specializes in resolving gut, insomnia, low libido, fatigue and fat issues. He uses a holistic approach and functional lab work to identify root causes such as hormone imbalances or gut pathogens that could be impacting your health.