Estrobolome Imbalance Leads to High Estrogen
By now, you’ve probably heard from all directions to pay attention to your microbiome, which is the community of gut bacteria that help digestion and overall health. Take your probiotic. Cut sugar. Don’t wipe out your good bacteria by taking antibiotics for every little sniffle. Eat your veggies.
Too much estrogen? Blame your gut.
People are learning more and more about the connection between gut health and disease. Scientific knowledge about the ecosystem in your gut is expanding, and researchers are fine-tuning the specifics about what microbes perform what functions. Now, we know more than ever about the microbes that keep your skin healthy, your digestion working, and your immune system strong.
Did you know that there’s a specific group of microbes that keep your estrogen in check? It’s called the estrobolome, and includes microbial strains that help break down estrogen. Here’s everything you need to know about your estrobolome and how you can keep it working you, not against you.
Your estrobolome: gut bacteria that eat estrogen.
If you think of your entire microbiome as a town, think of your estrobolome as a warehouse full of employees who make sure that just the right amount of estrogen ships out, and more importantly, that the extra gets sent down the trash chute.
When your gut bacteria are in balance, your estrobolome is able to do its job. As long as you don’t have any other major imbalances like producing too much estrogen or overexposure to chemicals that mimic estrogen, your estrobolome can keep your estrogen at good levels.
Your estrobolome produces a key enzyme.
The microbes in your estrobolome are able to produce an enzyme that activates estrogen, which keeps your hormones at healthy levels. Higher levels of specific strains of gut bacteria have been associated with higher levels of an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase, which converts estrogen into its active form that your body can use. When there’s not enough of the bacteria that produce the enzyme, you end up with estrogen imbalances that can kickstart serious disease processes like:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Cardiovascular disease
Your estrobolome may predict too much estrogen.
The link between gut bacteria and estrogen is so strong that scientists are starting to explore whether estrobolome testing can predict your risk of estrogen-dependent diseases and cancers. Since scientists have identified the strains that produce beta-glucuronidase, further research may lead to the discovery of cancer interventions like targeted probiotics.
Cancer is just one of the effects of excess estrogen. There’s a long list of symptoms of estrogen dominance, and both women and men can have problems with high estrogen.
Do you have estrogen dominance?
You may have some symptoms that suggest you have estrogen dominance.
Some signs of high estrogen in women include:
- Changes in libido
- Irregular periods
- Water retention
- Breast lumps (tumors or other)
- Mood problems
- Problems with concentration and memory
Some signs of high estrogen in men include:
- Gynecomastia (extra fat or breast tissue in the chest area)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weight gain, especially around the middle
- Mood problems
- Fertility problems
The only way to know for sure what your hormones are doing is through testing, but testing comes with problems. First, women’s hormones fluctuate with menstruation, so it’s entirely possible to test at the wrong time of the month.
Second, there’s no test that can measure just your estrogen and tell you whether or not you have estrogen dominance. There are “normal” estrogen ranges for both men and women, but that’s not the whole story. Healthy estrogen levels depend on your other hormones too, because your other hormones can keep estrogen’s action in check. You’ll need a full hormone panel to get a true glimpse of what your hormones are doing, and you need a skilled doctor to help you understand your results.
If you’re a woman, your doctor may want to put you on birth control to regulate your hormones. This comes with its own set of problems, including increasing your risk of several female cancers -- not decreasing it. Ask your doctor to explore other options with you first.
How to keep your estrobolome and overall microbiome in balance.
You don’t need lab-confirmed hormone imbalances to take care of your microbiome. It’s always a good idea to show your gut some love.
The best way to ensure a strong estrobolome is to pay attention to your gut health overall. A few easy practices will start you on the right path.
- Cut sugar. Certain microbial strains that cause problems, like candida albicans, thrive on sugar, and when they’re well-fed, they tend to take over. If you get rid of sugar, they will play nicely with the strains that benefit you most.
- Add a high-quality probiotic. Look for a formula containing one or more strains of lactobacillus, which are directly tied to your estrobolome.
- Eat a variety of veggies. Vegetable fiber encourages friendly bacteria to grow and thrive. More variety leads to more biodiversity in your gut, so aim for several different types of vegetables per day.
- Be careful with antibiotics. When your doctor prescribes antibiotics, make it clear that you want this to be a last resort and find out if there are other actions you can take first. Of course, follow your doctor’s advice.
There are lots of causes of hormone imbalances, and shifts in your microbiome are not the only way your hormones go off-kilter. But, since your microbiome has such an influence on your hormone levels and disease processes throughout your body, your gut should be a priority. Keeping your microbiome strong is one way to help your body do what it needs to do.