Gut Health and Hormones

Exploring the relationship between gut health and hormones.

Article by Krissy Nevero | September 13, 2023

If you’re into wellness, you’ve probably heard the buzz around gut health. You likely know that your gut plays a pivotal role in digestion, nutrient absorption and immunity. But here’s a fun fact: your gut health is deeply linked to those hormonal ups and downs we experience during perimenopause and menopause. So, if you’re of that age and suddenly find yourself suffering from symptoms that you haven’t before, read on.

Let’s start with some basics.

The gut, often referred to as the digestive tract or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, is a complex system of organs that plays a crucial role in the digestion of food, absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste products. It is home to a vast community of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiota or microbiome. These microorganisms play an essential role in digestion, nutrient absorption, immune system regulation and even mental health.This intricate system not only processes the food we eat but also plays a pivotal role in overall health and wellbeing.

When functioning optimally there is a balanced harmony between the beneficial and opportunistic bacteria, allowing us to digest food efficiently, absorb nutrients and even produce certain vitamins. An imbalance, what is commonly called dysbiosis, can lead to a variety of issues ranging from constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating and indigestion to more severe conditions like IBS and autoimmune diseases. Other more surprising symptoms include: poor immune system function, headaches, brain fog, memory loss, fatigue, skin rashes, acne, eczema, arthritis, joint pain, depression, anxiety, ADD and ADHD.

How do hormones impact your gut?

During perimenopause and menopause, women experience fluctuation and eventually a decline in sex hormones, namely progesterone and estrogen. These hormonal changes can significantly impact gut health in the following ways:

Digestive Issues: A drop in estrogen levels can negatively impact the production of stomach acid and gastric secretions resulting in incomplete digestion.

Altered Microbiota: Estrogen has a symbiotic relationship with the gut bacteria so a decrease in estrogen can shift the balance, decreasing microbial diversity leading to an increase in harmful bacteria.

Mucosal Barrier and Immunity: Estrogen supports the integrity of the gut mucosal barrier. Reduced estrogen levels may weaken this barrier, making it easier for harmful bacteria to penetrate the gut lining, potentially leading to reduced gastrointestinal function, increased intestinal inflammation and autoimmune conditions.

Bone Health: The gut microbiome has been shown to play an important role in regulating bone mass. Given that aging and menopause already pose risks for decreased bone density, an imbalanced gut microbiome can exacerbate an already existing issue.

So, how can we support our gut health during perimenopause, menopause and beyond?

A healthy diet. Consuming a balanced diet of whole foods like fruits and vegetables, rich in fibers, can boost the growth of beneficial bacteria. Avoiding processed foods, sugars, and excessive alcohol can prevent the proliferation of harmful bacteria.

Chewing your food. Chewing is an important step in the digestive process. As you chew, more digestive enzymes are produced to help break down the food to further assist in digestion. Swallowing large pieces of food will require other parts of your digestive system to work harder to break it down. Putting down your fork in between bites can be a helpful tool here.

Staying hydrated. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can aid digestion and maintain the mucosal lining of the intestines but don’t use water to get your food down. Remember: chew, chew, chew!

Support with stress. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your gut. Utilizing tools such as meditation, deep breathing or yoga can be beneficial for overall stress support. In particular, taking the time to get into a relaxed state before meals can be really beneficial to digestion. Consider taking a few deep breaths, practicing gratitude or prayer before meals to put yourself into a rest and digest mindset.

Moving your body. Physical activity can enhance the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, support digestion and improve bowel movements.

Working with a practitioner. If nothing’s working it may be time to dig a little deeper. Functional lab work, like a GI Map, can provide valuable insights to see what is going on in your gut allowing you to fine tune your lifestyle and supplementation in a more targeted way.

While you can’t stop the hormonal shifts during perimenopause and menopause, by recognizing the impact of declining hormones on the gut and implementing strategies to maintain a healthy gut, hopefully you can navigate this phase of life with fewer symptoms and more resilience.

Krissy Nevero is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach based in Sonoma, California. To learn more about Krissy and her services, please visit her website:

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