Why is it important for your gut to be healthy? And especially, how does your gut health affect your hormones?
Focusing on gut health is very popular now.
With the majority of the focus being on making sure that you have enough probiotics in your diet. But there’s more to it than just friendly bacteria.
Your gut is the doorway for nutrition to get into your body so that you can produce all of your important biochemicals. Biochemicals including hormones, neurotransmitters and cytokines to run your body optimally. The gut is part of your neuroendocrine system.Mmeaning that it affects and is controlled by the brain, specifically the hypothalamus.
Your hypothalamus directs your hunger, satiety, digestion, absorption, and how your gut functions.Your gut is out of balance, it means that you are not digesting and absorbing your nutrients properly. This is all because you have pathogens in your gut or you don’t have enough beneficial bacteria.Oor you have leaky gut syndrome. Therefore, your hypothalamus does not get the support it needs.
Plus, there’s so much inflammation deriving from the gut, that your body is on high alert and your immune system can actually start attacking you, which is called autoimmunity. So, your gut health is key to how your body functions.
Your gut health is key to how your hormones function.
Your gut helps detoxify your hormones. When you’re done with your circulating hormones, they are conjugated in your liver then released through your gut. Hepatic conjugation is like chemical handcuffs on toxins. If your gut is healthy it’s the home to beneficial bacteria. Which help you get rid of toxins including hormones you no longer need.
If your gut is out of balance, then you produce enzymes that break the handcuffs on the toxins. They then get reabsorbed into your body. Recycling hormones can put you in a hormonally imbalanced state. The enzyme is called betaglucaronidase and can be measured on a stool analysis. If it’s high it’s a reflection of intestinal dysbiosis – or imbalanced gut flora – meaning not enough beneficial bacteria and possible pathogens.
I see more recycling of hormones in people with high cortisol levels and high estrogen levels. High cortisol creates a catabolic effect literally eating away of the epithelium lining of the gut. And that will lead to leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome means that the spaces between the gut cells called enterocytes are too wide. These cells are supposed to be close proximity to one another. Close enough to allow water to pass through, but to keep toxins in the bowel.
So how does a healthy gut function?
When you eat food, it’s masticated or chewed in your mouth allowing salivary enzymes to begin breaking it down. The food passes down the esophagus into the stomach where hydrochloric acid starts to break down protein and fat molecules. The food then is called chyme which is dumped into the small intestine, where it’s immediately met by bile released by your gallbladder.
Bile salts neutralize the acid so that you don’t burn a hole in your small intestine. Neutralizing the pH allows your pancreatic enzymes to function. Enzymes need a neutral pH between about 6.8 and 7.2. So it’s super important that your gallbladder dumps enough bile to counterbalance your stomach content.
If your gallbladder was surgically removed, your bile ducts can store some bile but oftentimes not enough if you consume a particularly large meal. Bile breaks down fat molecules from big triglycerides into long chain fatty acids and the pancreatic lipase enzymes break down fats into fatty acids to be absorbed in your small intestine and used as building blocks for hormones and cell membranes.
Your pancreas produces protease enzymes that break down protein into peptides and amino acids that are the building blocks for your body tissues, as well as biochemicals like hormones and neurotransmitters. And then your pancreas breaks down carbohydrates into polysaccharides.
The cells in your intestine called enterocytes further break down these carbohydrates into simple sugars – eventually into glucose which is the main fuel for your body.
Nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine. The remaining waste is passed through the ileocecal valve into the colon. Your colon then draws the water out of the food waste but keeps toxins so you can pass a formed stool that can be passed through the colon. Your healthy gut bacteria produce short chain fatty acids that help modulate your intestinal immunity.
The whole process of digestion takes about eight to 12 hours.
A great way to test if you have a normal bowel transit time is to eat beets. Beets have a particular pink dye in them, that should show up eight to 12 hours after you eat them. I usually recommend eating beets at night. They can be raw or they could be cooked. I prefer to roast them.
If you do not see pink in your stool the next morning after eating beets the night before then you have a slow transit time and toxins are building up. If you see pink in your stool just a few hours after you eat beets, then you have a rapid transit time, meaning your gut doesn’t have time to absorb all the nutrients you need.
I love the beet test as a way to check to see what’s going on with your gut. I have patients all the time that come to me to say that and say that their bowel movements are regular and I say well, let’s see if you’re actually cleaning house and do a beet test.
Gut health is super important to the health of your body, and especially to the health of your hormones.
Your hypothalamus is in direct communication with your gut. I like to think of your gut as your second brain, your first is your heart, your third is the one in your head and your gut is your second brain. Your gut is so important to your overall health. If you’d like to learn more about how to keep your gut healthy and balance your hormones, please join my free Hormone Reboot Training.