Hormones, digestion and endometriosis

We have so many hormones and it can be an uphill struggle to keep them all in balance.  This includes the hormones that help your gut to function



This article covers the topic of hormones in relation to our gut, as many do not realise that the function of our gut relies on hormones as well as our microbiome, not to mention the cocktail of enzymes found in our gut.

While many relate to menstruation, menopause, and PMS when they think of female hormones, they actually control just about everything in your body – including your digestion.


The digestive system of women with endometriosis can become out of whack for many reasons – this can include:

  • Stress
  • Pre-op bowel prep
  • Pain medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Psychoactive drugs
  • Birth control pill
  • Hormone medication

When you consider the different drug treatments and pain meds used by women to try and control their symptoms, it is not surprising that so many end up with gut distress and damage to their gut microbiome.


Additionally, the gut can become damaged or weakened when endometriosis infiltrates the digestive tract, and this can lead to very painful and distressing symptoms of pain, constipation and inflammation.  Suffering these symptoms can then exacerbate gut distress and worsening symptoms caused by nausea, vomiting and not being able to digest food, and feeling unable to actually eat anything.


There are five main hormones that control digestion


Gastrin - a hormone that stimulates your stomach to make the all-important stomach acid.

Secretin - a hormone produced by the small intestines that stimulates the liver and pancreas to produce digestive enzymes

Cholecystokinin - slows down our digestive movement so that we can more completely digest our food

Gastric inhibitory peptide - which inhibits gastrin production and stimulates insulin so that we can start to use some of the nutrients we have digested

Motilin - a hormone that causes our bellies to rumble when they are empty and remind us that we are hungry.


Your gut microbiome and hormones


The topic of gut microbiome is becoming more prominent in natural health circles and awareness is increasing just how important the health of your gut is in relation to the rest of your body.

1.  Your gut microbiome has a strong influence on your hormones

2. This includes regulating the hormone balance of your thyroid and even melatonin production

3. Estrogen dominance can be partly due to imbalances in your microbiome

4. Your gut microbiome also has an influence on cortisol production

5. Production of your neurotransmitters also takes place in your gut which includes dopamine and serotonin, both of which are your feel-good chemicals.


To help balance your hormones, you need to look after microbiome which can be supported by healing your gut and eating a clean nutrient dense diet, reducing your intake of pharmaceutical drugs as well as reducing chemicals and additives from convenience foods.

 


Women’s hormones and digestion


Women’s hormones have a huge impact on digestion.  It is known that gender plays a role in many digestive conditions – women are twice as likely to have IBS as men.  Also, women on the birth control pill are more likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease, especially Crohn’s disease.  As well as the fact that the BCP totally disrupts the natural hormone cycle and can also affect the hormones related to emotions, which is why so many women have depression or anxiety when on the BCP.


Women often have worse digestive symptoms at different times in the menstrual cycle, and even women with healthy digestion are often subject to lose or urgent bowel movements on the first day or two of their periods.


The main menstrual hormone that impacts our digestion is progesterone.  Progesterone is produced after ovulation, for the last two weeks of the cycle.  One of the main effects of progesterone is to relax smooth muscle tissue.  This is really important to prevent the uterus from contracting and rejecting any potential pregnancy. 


However, this relaxing effect doesn’t just affect the uterus.  It also causes the digestive smooth muscle to relax, reducing peristalsis (the contraction that moves food along our digestive tract), causing an increase in constipation.  When the progesterone disappears with the start of periods, that is when the issue of loose bowels arises.


Another hormonal issue impacting digestion also occurs during our periods.  During our period we make an abundance of a compound that has hormone-like effects, called prostaglandin.  Prostaglandins are responsible for pain and inflammation, and are unfortunately necessary to signal our uterine wall to contract and expel the lining during our period.


Some women make more prostaglandins than others and these prostaglandins can move through the bloodstream, hitting the bowels and causing them to contract and cause pain, inflammation, cramping, and diarrhoea. 


Prostaglandins are also partly responsible for causing pain with endometriosis due to their inflammatory and pain message affects.  However, the negative prostaglandins caused by endometriosis can be regulated by the foods we eat, as certain foods can increase negative prostaglandins production.


You can read an in-depth article how prostaglandins influence your symptoms of endometriosis HERE


 

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