Men, women, children, and teenagers, we all have hormones...lots of them! Although frequently associated with the reproductive system, hormones are chemical messengers that control major functions all over our body. Created in the endocrine glands (like the pancreas, thyroid, ovaries, and testes), our hormones help dictate everything from our hunger and sleep to our blood sugar and mood.
When in balance, our hormones can keep us feeling our best, ready to tackle each and every day with vitality. But, even small imbalances in this delicate system can cause our entire body to go haywire, leaving us feeling depleted and out of sorts.
The good news is that new research indicates that taking care of your gut health can be the key to hormonal balance throughout your body.
What’s the Gut Got to Do with It?
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria, most of whom are working very hard on your behalf to support your health on many different fronts. You see, when taking into account the number of cells in our body, we are only 10% human! The other 90% is called our microbiome, and is made up of all the microbes living in and on our body.
The beneficial bacteria in our microbiome—called probiotics—work with our own bodily systems to help optimize our blood sugar levels, support our immune system, regulate our moods, and even boost our metabolism. With a hand in so many of our body’s functions, it’s no wonder that probiotics influence our hormones as well.
Although researchers are discovering more each day about how our friendly flora impact our hormones, we do know that probiotics can metabolize and recycle hormones in our body, which can help us navigate all of life’s stages with clarity and health.
Now that we know how important hormones are to our health and well-being, let’s take a look at how the beneficial bacteria in our microbiome affect specific hormones in our body.
How Probiotics Impact Your Hormones
Our body’s endocrine system produces more than 50 hormones, many of which have a major impact on our health and wellbeing. Probiotics can influence our hormones to benefit our health in a variety of important ways:
• Cortisol: Often called the “stress hormone,” cortisol is released during times of stress and has a hand in controlling our blood sugar levels, metabolism, inflammation, and even our ability to form memories. The good news is that probiotics can reduce levels of cortisol in the body, helping you maintain a sense of calm and peace. In one study, students preparing for a large exam who consumed a probiotic-rich beverage for eight weeks had lower levels of cortisol1.
Maintain Your Mood
• Estrogen: While men do have small amounts, estrogen is primarily a female hormone associated with puberty, the menstrual cycle, bone health, and mood. Levels of estrogen in the body are affected by our digestion—a normal bowel transit time allows excess estrogen to pass out of the body, rather than be reabsorbed. By optimizing digestion, probiotics help keep excess estrogen out of circulation. Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria can also decrease activity of Beta-glucoronidase, an enzyme that enables estrogen to be reabsorbed.
Boost Your Energy
• Insulin: The pancreas secretes insulin, which allows our cells to absorb glucose from our blood to be used for energy. Studies show that probiotics like Lactobacillus reuteri can promote optimal insulin levels—just four weeks of supplementation with this mighty microbe can lead to a 49% increase in insulin secretion2.
Control Your Appetite
• Leptin: Our body’s fat cells make leptin, a hormone that helps determine how full we feel and signals our brain when it’s time to stop eating. Unfortunately, we can become resistant to this satiety hormone, making our brain think we need to keep filling up, leading to weight gain and other health issues. Friendly flora in our gut increase our body’s sensitivity to leptin, so our brain gets the message to stop eating when we are full3.
Help You Sleep
• Melatonin: Melatonin, the “sleep” hormone, signals the body when it’s time to rest in response to diminishing light at the end of the day, but we need the amino acid tryptophan to convert serotonin (the “happy” chemical) into melatonin. By increasing our body’s levels of tryptophan, probiotics can help to regulate levels of this sleepy hormone in the body4.
Let You Love
• Oxytocin: In women, oxytocin (the “cuddle” hormone) signals contractions during labor, promotes lactation, and helps to trigger the bond between mom and baby. In men, oxytocin affects testosterone production and may even intensify feelings of love and attachment. Fortunately, our probiotic bacteria can increase levels of oxytocin in the body5.
Enhance Your Libido
• Testosterone: Produced in both men and women, testosterone enhances libido, stimulates the body’s production of new blood cells, and triggers puberty and development of male characteristics in men. Now, research shows that beneficial bacteria can increase testosterone levels (and testicle size) in male mice6.
Support Your Blood Sugar
• Vitamin D: Vitamin D isn’t a vitamin at all, but a hormone responsible for helping the body absorb calcium, balancing blood sugar, and regulating adrenaline and serotonin. In one research trial, just nine weeks of supplementation with L. reuteri led to a more than 25% increase in serum vitamin D levels7!
It’s clear that our friendly gut flora play a starring role in keeping our hormone levels in optimal balance. So, how do we properly nurture our magnificent microbiome so our bacteria can return the favor? Here are three simple steps to get you started:
1. First and foremost, take a daily, multi-strain, high-quality probiotic supplement like Hyperbiotics PRO-15 to boost your population of beneficial bacteria.
2. Revamp your diet. You see, probiotics need loads of prebiotics—specific fibers found in many whole, plant-based foods—to thrive. And since the Standard American Diet is often full of refined and processed foods, it can wreak havoc on your gut flora—and your hormones may follow suit.
Hormones are involved in nearly every bodily process, and if yours have ever been out of whack, we doubt you underestimate their impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Supporting your gut microbiome and nourishing your friendly flora can help you find your balance and feel like you true self, so you can enjoy your healthiest, happiest days.References:
1. Kato-Kataoka, A., Nishida, K., Takada, M., Kawai, M., Kikuchi-Hayakawa, H., Suda, K., . . . Rokutan, K. (2016). Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota preserves the diversity of the gut microbiota and relieves abdominal dysfunction in healthy medical students exposed to academic stress. Applied and Environmental Microbiology doi:10.1128/aem.04134-15
2. Simon, M., Strassburger, K., Nowotny, B., Kolb, H., Nowotny, P., Burkart, V., . . . Roden, M. (2015). Intake of Lactobacillus reuteri Improves Incretin and Insulin Secretion in Glucose-Tolerant Humans: A Proof of Concept. Diabetes Care, 38(10), 1827-1834.
3. Everard, A., Lazarevic, V., Derrien, M., Girard, M., Muccioli, G. G., Neyrinck, A. M., . . . Cani, P. D. (2011). Responses of Gut Microbiota and Glucose and Lipid Metabolism to Prebiotics in Genetic Obese and Diet-Induced Leptin-Resistant Mice. Diabetes, 60(11), 2775-2786.
4. Desbonnet, L., Garrett, L., Clarke, G., Bienenstock, J., & Dinan, T. G. (2008). The probiotic Bifidobacteria infantis: An assessment of potential antidepressant properties in the rat. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43(2), 164-174.
5. Poutahidis, T., Kearney, S. M., Levkovich, T., Qi, P., Varian, B. J., Lakritz, J. R., . . . Erdman, S. E. (2013). Microbial Symbionts Accelerate Wound Healing via the Neuropeptide Hormone Oxytocin. PLoS ONE, 8(10).
6. Poutahidis, T., Springer, A., Levkovich, T., Qi, P., Varian, B. J., Lakritz, J. R., . . . Erdman, S. E. (2014). Probiotic Microbes Sustain Youthful Serum Testosterone Levels and Testicular Size in Aging Mice. PLoS ONE, 9(1). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084877
7. Jones, M. L., Martoni, C. J., & Prakash, S. (2013). Oral Supplementation With Probiotic L. Reuteri NCIMB 30242 Increases Mean Circulating 25-Hydroxyvitamin D: A Post Hoc Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 98(7), 2944-2951. doi:10.1210/jc.2012-4262
Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.