The Impact Of Food and Stress On EstrogenAug 31, 2022 10:00AM ● By Veena Verma-Dzik
Beginning at the core of almost every aspect of our health is the gut microbiome. As we already know, our gut flora is a key player in our immune, gastrointestinal and mental health. Any change in our microbiome can lead to an increased risk for developing inflammatory, mental health and autoimmune conditions. Within the microbiome is a group of enteric bacterial genes that are emerging in more studies and finally being more recognized in women’s health. This component of the gut microbiome is known as your estrobolome.
Findings in many studies have found that levels of estrogen and differences in metabolism are associated with the gut’s microbial diversity. The bacteria of the estrobolome is responsible for the modulation of systemic estrogens, by the production of an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. Beta-glucuronidase converts estrogen into its active forms, which then bind to estrogen receptors within the body to perform estrogen-dependent processes. Any alteration within the microbiome will impact levels of this enzyme, and, thus the circulation and reabsorption of the different forms of estrogen.
If the microbiome is altered, then the levels of the different forms of estrogen are impacted, causing either estrogen excess or deficiency and giving way to illnesses and conditions linked to estrogen imbalance.
The Role of Nutrition
How does nutrition impact estrogen levels? Now that you know that estrogen is metabolized by bacteria within the gut, the estrobolome, anything that hinders the growth of your good gut bacteria will alter your body’s ability to process estrogen effectively. Fortunately, you do not have to just rely on taking a probiotic pill.
There are so many foods that you can consume to help healthy bacteria flourish, including avocado, nuts, seeds, legumes and other sources of plant-based fiber. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale and cabbage, are highly nutritious and beneficial to your health. Not only do these foods provide fiber to feed our good bacteria, but these foods produce a key phytochemical called indole-3-carbinol, which supports liver detoxification and balancing of estrogens.
Kimchi and other fermented vegetables and foods, such as kefir, and olives help improve healthy gut bacterial diversity. If you have to pick a diet to focus on, stick with a low-inflammatory, plant-based diet, avoiding processed, high-glycemic foods and fried foods that promote inflammation. Healthy fats are an essential part of nutrition, as omega-3s exert anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Be sure to consume protein with each meal, as this will help balance insulin and blood sugar levels, lowering inflammation.
Any time there is inflammation in the body, significant hormonal imbalances develop, leading to conditions such as PCOS, PMDD, uterine fibroids, worsening of menopausal symptoms and more.
Stress and Estrogen
Stress is absolutely our worst enemy. It greatly affects all aspects of our health, mentally, physically and emotionally. Chronic stress alters levels of cortisol, which then dominoes into more inflammation, fatigue, poor sleep, brain fog, anxiety, depression, weight gain, chronic illness—the list goes on. When it comes to our female hormones, any fluctuation in cortisol will cause an imbalance, not only in estrogen, but also progesterone. Let’s not forget about some of the other key hormones that play a vital role in our health, like thyroid hormones, melatonin, serotonin, ghrelin, leptin and insulin—all of which are linked to many of the health conditions women face.
When it comes to the health of your microbiome, many studies have proven the negative effect stress has on our gut. When chronic stress ensues, inflammation accompanies it, giving way to less good bacteria and more bad bacteria within the gut, leading to dysbiosis and leaky gut. If your microbiome is not in a healthy state, how can estrogen be properly metabolized and in a healthy balance?
Obviously, stress will take a toll on our estrogen levels if it persists for too long and we do not get a handle on it. Managing stress is a major part of creating a healthy lifestyle. We are not immune to stress. Life just happens. Not only will establishing ways to decompress be highly beneficial, but so will seeking necessary support to help you get through difficult times.
Other Things to Consider
Not only do stress, nutrition and gut health affect our female hormones, but also many environmental and genetic factors. Be aware of what products you use at home. Many skincare and household products contain xenoestrogens, which can mimic estrogen and alter our microbiome. Mold and chemical toxicities cause a disturbance in many of our hormones, along with symptoms associated with these conditions. MTHFR, a common genetic condition, will determine how effectively your body is able to detoxify hormones and chemicals. Medications also alter your microbiome and estrobolome.
Whatever the case may be, the health of your hormones and overall well-being can be addressed and supported down a healthy path.
Dr. Veena Verma-Dzik, ND, FIAMA practices at Insight Counseling, located at 105 Danbury Rd, Ridgefield, where she will be hosting a five-part female health series this fall. For more information and to sign up, call 203-431-9726. Connect at InsightCounselingLLC.com or DoctorVeena.com. See ad, page 15.
Liz Jorgensen has 30 year’s experience with adolescent and adult psychotherapy and counseling. She is a nationally recognized expert in counseling, particularly in engaging resistant tee... Read More »
Dr. Verma specializes in treating patients with Lyme disease and other vector-borne infections, women’s health, ADD/ADHD, GI conditions, MTHFR, mood imbalances, allergies, fatigue and hor... Read More »