The next area of focus is the gut, and again, this is right up there with the HPA axis in terms of its importance. An impaired gut function can mess with hormones in several different ways, so if you have a parasite or a fungal overgrowth or dysbiosis or leaky gut, that causes inflammation.
Inflammation suppresses the function of the hypothalamus and the pituitary in the brain, which produce the stimulating hormones, and then it also suppresses the function of the adrenals and the ovaries, and the gonads in men that produce the actual hormones.
Inflammatory cytokines can also cause hormone resistance, which we talked about just now, where the levels of hormones may be fine but the receptors on the cells aren’t sensitive to those hormones, so you end up getting the same symptoms.
Dysbiosis has been shown to increase the activity of something called beta-glucuronidase, which reverses hormone conjugation in the liver, which means that you get a recirculation of deconjugated hormones like estrogen back into the circulation, and that can cause estrogen dominance.
Dysbiosis also increases the production of certain downstream estrogen metabolites like 4-OH and 16-OH, which are proliferative. That means that they actually can contribute to breast and prostate cancer, and dysbiosis decreases the production of 2-OH, which is protective against those conditions. I mean, this is just a tiny sliver of the ways that gut issues can affect hormone production. We don’t have time to go into all of it but suffice to say that healing your gut is a really crucial part of addressing hormone problems.
The gut is responsible for approximately 80% of our immunity. If the microbiome of the gut is out of balance the ripple effect on our health can be devastating. Because the functions of a healthy gut are so diverse and so critical, any number of symptoms can appear due to dysbiosis (i.e. an unbalanced gut) & leaky gut.
Any of the following can occur due to dysbiosis & leaky gut syndrome:
- Allergies (because our immunity is directly related to a healthy gut, the ability to fight off allergens, pollutants and tolerate dietary proteins can be negatively affected)
- Autoimmune illnesses (e.g. Lupus, Sclerosis, Chron’s Disease, ulcerative colitis)
- Bone Health / Skeletal Health (if the gut is impaired, absorption of crucial minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, Vit D & Vit K can be affected and this has a direct link to the health of our bones and teeth). Prolonged deficiencies can result in conditions such as osteoporosis.
- Brain function - gut health also directly affects the brain via the gut-brain axis. There is an intricate network of neurons and signaling molecules that directly connect the nervous system of the gut with the central nervous system. If this gut-brain axis is negatively affected, this may result in conditions such as autism, ADHD, neurodegenerative diseases, anxiety, and depression.
- Cancer - Gut microbes capable of metabolizing oestrogens influence the body’s oestrogen levels. An imbalance in the gut bacteria may drive the development of oestrogen-sensitive cancers (hormonal cancers). Furthermore, exposure to xeno-oestogens (or oestrogen-like compounds) can completely alter the gut microbiome. These xeno-oestrogens can be absorbed via our foods, certain medications, BPA-containing water bottles & other forms of plastic packaging.
- Cardiovascular Disease - Gut dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome can cause bacteria to move from the gut lumen into the bloodstream. This initiates an inflammatory response that triggers the growth and build-up of arterial plaque, which can cause high blood pressure, cause a heart attack or stroke.
- Diabetes (Type 1 & 2) - Gut dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome allow the leakage of harmful bacterial metabolites into the circulation, inducing chronic inflammation. Constant inflammation of this kind can trigger Type 2 diabetes). This ongoing inflammation can further trigger immune responses which can damage the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (resulting in type 1 diabetes).
- Gastrointestinal Health - an unhealthy gut can lead to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), IBD Inflammatory Bowel Disease, SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
- Immune System - Gut dysbiosis may impair the immune response, increasing the likelihood of gastrointestinal infections and respiratory infections.
- Obesity - Dysbiosis may promote obesity by increasing the amount of energy (calories) obtained from the diet, by promoting leaky gut and systemic inflammation, by increasing appetite, and by inflaming the nervous system, leading to impaired satiety mechanisms
- Skin disorders - Inflammation & inflam-aging can result in any number of skin disorders including acne, rosacea, and melasma.