People are suffering from hormonal imbalances more than ever. Dysfunctional levels of hormones can lead to fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, and insomnia. More often than not, the solution to hormonal issues is to take the pill or hormone replacement therapy. An often overlooked aspect of hormonal health is the impact of the gut.
There’s a significant connection between gut health and your hormones. More specifically, gut health affects the adrenal glands which in turn impact sex hormones. When there’s an imbalance of bacteria or the body is dealing with an overgrowth of bad guys, this is interpreted by your body as stress. The adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol. It’s designed to help you deal with stress.
Stress physiology is the same whether it’s a bear chasing you or your boss yelling at you. Stress can be in the form of mental, emotional and physical stress. The difference between gut stress and other forms of stress is you never get a break from gut stress. You get a break from your boss, kids, family and job but your digestive system is not off the hook!
A dysfunctional gut becomes a twenty-four hour, seven day a week stress. The body is actively trying to fix the gut. Even when you’re sleeping, the gut is working to get rid of the bad guys. Not a good situation.
Since the bad guys are stressors, the body will produce cortisol when you sleep. This creates a hormonal nightmare (literally) because cortisol should be low at night. Since cortisol is a stimulating hormone many people wake up at one o’clock in the morning and wonder why they’re up.
To make matters worse, the elevated cortisol inhibits melatonin production. The lack of melatonin further disrupts sleep and recovery. It gets worse! Since sleep is disturbed, the output of growth hormone (GH) is decreased. Remember GH is your fat burning hormone. This is one of the reasons why people end up tired and fat when they have gut issues.
A dysfunctional gut is like being chased by a bear all day long, your body is not safe. There’s a part of the brain called the limbic system. One of the many functions of the limbic system is the mechanism to keep us safe. If you’re constantly stressed (i.e not safe) the brain thinks survival and safety is of utmost priority.
Think of a rabbit in nature. The priority of the rabbit is to be safe first and not be eaten. The second priority is sustenance: food. The last thing on the rabbit’s mind is to procreate (i.e have sex). Same thing goes for a women that is stressed out to the max. The last thing on her mind is sex!
As humans our limbic system is much the same. If you’re stressed all day (not safe) and eat inappropriately (no sustenance) then the body thinks that making a baby (sex) is the last priority. The production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are not produced in physiological amounts.
The body doesn’t have the capacity to produce them. Thus you have females suffering with PCOS, PMS, menopausal symptoms, etc. Males suffer too. Men are suffering from erectile dysfunction, fatigue and low testosterone.
A hormonal issue isn’t always a hormone issue. The resolution to the hormone issue is to assess the gut first then to look at the stress level of the individual. If gut health is established and stress levels are managed, sex hormones bounce back and many hormonal symptoms disappear.