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What Hormonal Ups And Downs Can Do To Your Gut

Written by Dr. Kirilyuk Inna Anatolyivna on Wed, 16 November 2022

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Hormones are like magic potions that brew in our bodies bringing about transformations in us from birth to death. Hormones play a vital role in our well-being but they tend to be sensitive to changes around them like age, stress, diet, sleep, medication, pregnancy, and so on. They are often blamed for our mad tantrums and food cravings. Who would have thought gut health and hormone imbalance have a connection? Hormone imbalance can cause a lot of problems in our bodies, GI problems are one of those. It is necessary to keep in mind the importance of a healthy gut. Here's how a few of our most important hormones can affect our digestion.

Insulin: The glucose police

Our taste buds are slaves of those sweet pastries, desserts, and food in general. Without the hormone insulin, these foods would never get digested! Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that breaks down the sugar in our bodies. If insulin ever decided to take a vacation, our bodies would go haywire and slowly shut down.

The levels of this hormone can have a huge effect on our well-being and people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can vouch for this!

Imagine having a million bucks but not being able to spend even a single penny. Well, insulin resistance is something like that. Our body uses glucose for producing energy and insulin is the hormone that helps in utilizing it. Unused glucose is stored in the liver in the form of glycogen. This glycogen is then converted to glucose and used by bodily tissues. But when the body's cells are filled with glycogen and are unable to use it for their day-to-day activities, it leads to the build-up of high amounts of unused sugar in our blood which can put our health in danger.

Having consistently high blood sugar as seen in those with diabetes can lead to a gastrointestinal issue called gastroparesis. Diabetic gastroparesis manifests as delayed stomach gastric emptying, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite.

Estrogen: The growth potion

Estrogen is one of the Lady hormones that are important for growth and development in females. It is also needed in males for the maturation of sperm cells. Other than being a primary sex hormone, estrogen also has an effect on gut health!

It is interesting to note that estrogen receptors are found in the gastrointestinal tract. Estrogen and its receptors may contribute to the progression of several GI diseases, including gastroesophageal reflux, esophageal cancer, peptic ulcers, gastric cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and colon cancer.

There are some good bacteria in the gut which have a special talent! They're called Estrobolome and they can regulate the estrogen in the blood. This is another reason to focus on our gut health as its effect on our hormones is eminent.

Progesterone: The maternity hormone

Progesterone is the other lady hormone that has major functions in female growth and pregnancy. Progesterone is also essential in men for the production and maturation of sperm cells.

Talking about gut health, fluctuating levels of progesterone can cause slow digestion, constipation, and gas. This hormone affects our gut and its movements. More progesterone in the body can make your gut slower causing constipation and other digestive problems.

Testesterone: Not just a reproductive hormone

Most of us think that testosterone is only present in males and that its functions revolve only around masculine characters and male reproductive health. But this is not the truth at all. Testosterone is an important hormone present both in males as well as females in varying degrees. Testosterone plays a vital role in our digestive health. There is a link between testosterone and digestive health. Decreased levels of testosterone can cause leaky gut syndrome, inflammation, Stomach pain due to SIBO, etc.

Keeping your testosterone levels under check is essential for your digestive health.

THYROID HORMONES: The growth regulating twins

T3 and T4 are the twin hormones of the thyroid gland. It doesn't matter if we're at the beach or in snow-clad mountains, our body temperature is always constant. It is because these hormones regulate our body's temperature. They also bring about normal growth and play a role in maintaining the immunity and mood.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is underactive. It slows down the movement of food through your stomach and intestines. Slowed digestion can lead to symptoms like heartburn, constipation, and bloating. Hyperthyroidism on the other hand is a disorder in which the thyroid gland is overactive producing more hormones than required. Hyperthyroidism causes symptoms like diarrhea and an increase in BMR.

Cortisol: The stress manager

Ever wondered what those cap-like structures are on top of kidneys? They might look like party hats but they are our adrenal glands which secrete the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is the most important hormone when our bodies are under stress. Normal levels of it are essential for our well-being but an excess of it can cause an array of problems like increased blood pressure, insulin resistance, and Cushing's Syndrome.

Increased stress levels can negatively impact our digestive system in many ways. It can cause an imbalance in gut bacteria and inflammation. These symptoms can further develop into gastrointestinal (GI) disorders including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), peptic ulcers, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Keep it balanced

We can conclude that the gut truly holds many secrets within its folds! So, it is important to start with your gut health to keep a track of your hormones. Imbalanced hormones can have an effect on the gut microbiota and in turn your gut health.

We can try to maintain the balance by:

  • Eating right
  • Exercising
  • Getting enough rest
  • Avoiding unnecessary medications
  • Practicing that meditation
  • Avoiding stress.

Now, that you have a ready reckoner to what hormones can do to your gut, let's make an effort to keep our hormones balanced and our lives healthy.

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Dr. Kirilyuk Inna Anatolyivna

She is graduated from Vinnytsia National Medical University, in 2008.
2008-2010 resident, family practice.
2010-2015 General practitioner, family practice doctor.

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