Happy gut, Happy hormones
Lily Joan (Nutrition & Gut health Expert)
Acne, bloating, PMS, heavy bleeding, irregular periods, PCOS, hair loss, mood swings fatigue, low libido, ...
If these issues look familiar, your hormones might be out of whack.
You might have thought that these things are just something you have to live with, but we have guud news for you! If you start paying attention to your gut, you might see many of these symptoms calm down, or better yet: disappear entirely.
Time to break out the happy dance!
Your Gut and Your Cycle
How often do you think about your gut? Our guess is… not that much.
But your gut is super important to your overall health and wellbeing so it’s worth paying attention to it.
Your gut is home to a whole family of microorganisms, including thousands of types of bacteria. It may sound a little gross, but we promise most of them are the good guys (at least, that's the goal!).
When this system is balanced, everything works better, including your cycle. That’s because your gut has a major impact on your hormones, and if you know anything about your cycle, it’s that your hormones run the show.
How it works
While you’re busy bolting down your lunch or a latte, your gut is working hard, transforming and absorbing nutrients, processing toxins and producing hormones.
These hormones, specifically estrogen, are key for a healthy cycle. Estrogen is the most important female hormone because it impacts:
- Your fertility
- Your mind
- Your skin
- Your weight and ability to breakdown fat
Estrogen + Your Gut
Estrogen is released by your ovaries and swims around your bloodstream, eventually arriving in your liver. Here, your liver gets rid of excess estrogen, mostly through your poop.
Have you heard of the term microbiome? This word refers to the trillions of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, viruses and other single-celled creatures in your gut. Yup, it’s a party in there!
When your microbiome isn’t in top form (called dysbiosis), it can’t break down estrogen the way it needs to, so this means that excess estrogen that should have left your body is just kind of…stuck there.
The result? Wacky hormonal imbalances, which are more formally known as estrogen dominance.
And, we’ve got bad news: the symptoms of estrogen dominance aren’t great. It can cause PMS-like symptoms like heavy periods, bloating, wild moods, fluid retention (ugh), tiredness, spots and sore boobs.
As if that’s not bad enough, changing estrogen levels can also cause diarrhoea or constipation. One of the best indicators of how healthy you feel probably depends on the quality and frequency of your bowel movements.
We know this is probably not something you’re talking about over drinks with your friends, but the reality is that it’s pretty hard to feel your best when you’re cramped up and constipated or dashing off to the bathroom every 20 minutes.
Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
Here are some of the symptoms of an unhealthy gut (also known as dysbiosis):
- Bloating and farting
- Skin problems like psots, rosacea and eczema
- Persistent diarrhoea or constipation (or if you're really unlucky, both!)
- Brain fog, headaches or problems concentrating
- Yeast infections
- Depression or anxiety
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty losing weight
How to Fix Your Gut
It’s not as hard as you might think. Here’s your fool proof guide to a happy, healthy gut…
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
We know, this sounds blindingly obvious, right? But it’s important: if you eat healthily you will most likely have a healthy gut. Regardless of whatever diet you follow, there are a few common rules of thumb to keep your gut functioning in tip top form:
- Eat the rainbow! This means eat a variety of foods in bright colours and vary the brands and products you buy.
- Drink enough water (How much is enough? Strive for 2 litres or more per day)
- Ditch the takeaways and make your own food. While they are convenient, most processed foods or ready meals are low in fibre, full of preservatives and excess sugars. Opt for home-cooked meals whenever you can. No time? Try batch cooking and freezing food for the same convenience as a ready meal but with way more nutrients.
- Chew your food! This may sound silly, but try to eat more mindfully. We know this is tough when you’re running on empty and starving for lunch, but if you eat slowly and chew your food well, your body will absorb the nutrients more easily. This helps prepare your digestive system to the process the food.
Fuel up on Fibre
Fibre is the powerhouse of prebiotics. It is absolutely essential for healthy poops and to balance your hormones.
What exactly is a prebiotic you ask? It’s food for our gut microbiome, and fibre is one of the most important ones.
Fibre produces something called short-chain fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory. They also contribute to a healthy brain, immune and metabolic system.
How can you add more fibre to your life? Easy!
You can find fibre that produces short-chain fatty acids in:
- Dark leafy veggies
- Legumes like peas, chickpeas, lentil and beans
- Whole-wheat products
- Seeds and nuts
Natural Sugar For the Win
Colourful fruits and veggies are super good for you. Not only are they a good source of fibre, they also fight inflammation and regulate your immune function.
Think: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, dark leafy greens, rosemary, berries and pomegranates.
If your fruit bowl is looking a little sparse, you can still make your gut a little happier with herbs.
Herbs and seasonings like onions, leeks, garlic, ginger and turmeric have similar anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties to fruits and veggies, so it’s time to get in on the herby goodness.
And try to get some turmeric in your dishes- this comes out top in every way against inflammation!
Say Guudbye to Coffee and Alcohol
We know, we know… this is not what you want to hear, but there are several reasons why coffee and alcohol cause drama with your gut, and ultimately, your hormones.
Coffee may be a well-established part of your morning routine, but it’s high acidity causes problems with your intestines as well as causing dehydration and unnecessary pressure on your liver.
Alcohol makes your liver work overtime, so it doesn’t have time to process estrogen. And, as we said before, when estrogen isn’t processed, it goes back in your bloodstream and this can cause a whole host of symptoms that no one really wants.
Fill up on Fermented Foods
More than 150 different types of bacteria are having a party in a healthy gut. And, one of the simplest ways to ensure these party guests are as diverse as possible is to eat fermented foods.
What exactly is a fermented food, you ask? This is when bacteria change the acidity, smell, taste and look of food through fermentation. Sounds exotic, but you are probably eating fermented foods without knowing it! Some tasty examples include chocolate, cheese, yoghurt and wine- all results of fermentation! But the truly active ones we want are things like sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kombucha and kefir. Yum!
Eating fermented foods help good bacteria in your gut and often contain natural probiotics. That’s because fermented foods are easier to digest. They also have loads of extra vitamins because sugar in the foods is transformed into alcohol, acids or gases during fermentation. This provides a boost of vitamins B, C and K, as well as antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids.
Want to learn more about heathy eating? Sign up for our newsletter and get 12 recipes that are perfectly matched to your cycle!
Beware of Stress
We can all agree that stress is bad, but did you know that stress not only affects your cycle but also impacts your gut health? Long periods of stress or lack of sleep really upset your microbiome.
Some stress is an unavoidable part of life, but if you’re stressed for weeks or months on end, it’s time to do something about it by both becoming aware of and reducing the triggers that cause you stress in the first place, and finding ways to channel and tone down your stress once you are.
Try introducing any kind of exercise into your daily routine, meditate, go outside regularly and really prioritise self-care. Your gut (and mind) will thank you!
Three Reasons to Love Your Gut
If you’ve read this far and you’re still not convinced, here are even more reasons why your gut deserves some love.
🤩 Glowing Skin
There are dozens of studies showing that good gut health gives you radiant skin, and who doesn’t want that, right?! If your gut is inflamed, your skin might be too. If you suffer from acne, rosacea, or eczema, your gut might be the source of the problem. Studies show that people with these skin issues could be experiencing symptoms of SIBO or another intestinal issue. So, love your gut and watch your skin glow!
😴 Better Snoozing
Healthy insides ensure a good night’s sleep, and a good night’s sleep help ensure healthy insides. It’s a win-win!
Research shows that a healthy gut can have a major impact on our sleep. In fact, your microbiome has its own internal clock and if those rhythms are off, mainly controlled by hormones, it can make a mess of your sleep-wake cycles.
But, if your gut is healthy and your microbiome is balanced, you’re much more likely to have peaceful slumber.
🧠 Brain Power
Not only is your gut directly connected to your brain via its own enteric nervous system, but the chemicals produced (or not produced) in your gut end up in your brain via your blood. Meaning, the healthier your gut, the healthier your mind will be too!
Still have questions about your menstrual cycle? Get in touch. We can help!