Many clients come to me with a main concern of a hormone imbalance. “My thyroid is out of whack I think, because I’m gaining weight.” Or “I’ve got terrible PMS symptoms.” Or “I think I have adrenal fatigue, should I take ashwaghanda?” And then they’re wanting a hormone test, supplements, and to be sent on their merry way. If this sounds like you, you’re going about it all wrong.
While testing hormones can absolutely be beneficial, and needed in many cases, a hormone test alone does not provide all the answers you need. To show you what I’m talking about, I’m baring all and sharing my own hormone test as we go through this 🙂 And for those curious what test I ran, it’s the DUTCH test, which stands for Dried Urine Testing for Comprehensive Hormones. In my opinion, it’s one of the best (if not the best) tests out there.
How are gut and hormones connected?
First, let’s start with estrogen. See those fancy dials below? My estrogen levels should be close to the middle, in between those stars (like the E2 you see). But instead my E1 is really low, and my E3 is really high. Curious what the heck these estrogens are? E1 (estrone) is made in the ovaries, but also in the adrenals. E2 (estradiol) is the strongest of the three, and is made in the adrenal glands, placenta, and some tissues for women. E3 (estriol) has the weakest estrogenic property of the three, and is usually highest when pregnant (no I’m not pregnant).
Now, without writing an entire book about this, it’s pretty obvious to see that my estrogen levels are not ideal, and I can see that my methylation is poor too. I can also say that based on my stool test, I know that I’m not detoxifying estrogens well. There’s something called the “estrobolome” (science peeps click here) which is a fancy name for the microbes that balance estrogen levels. These microbes produce an enzyme called beta-glucaronidase, which you can actually see on a comprehensive stool test.
If someone (like me) has a high beta-glucuronidase level, this occurs due to an imbalanced gut bacteria, and means that my body isn’t properly detoxifying estrogen. Because of that beta-glucoronidase, the body reabsorbs and reactivates estrogens and other hormones in the body. This is not a good thing. Of course there are supplements that can help, but the priority is to balance out that gut bacteria so that I can start detoxifying and balancing my estrogens. Wanna read more on estrogen dominance? Click HERE for a previous blog post.
Another example of the gut-hormone connection, is the good ‘ol thyroid. About 20% of your inactive T4 thyroid gets converted in the gut into its active T3 form. Guess what happens if your gut is out of balance? Your thyroid likely will be too. While my DUTCH test didn’t indicate that thyroid was necessarily an issue (yes, you can actually look at cortisol levels to make an assumption about hypothyroidism), it’s still good to check your levels to make sure they’re optimal.
Additionally, for those who are dealing with autoimmune thyroid issues (namely Hashimoto’s), did you know that the primary cause is pathogens in the gut? Crazy, right? Many don’t know that, and just by balancing out that gut flora, their antibody levels decrease drastically and they begin feeling better.
Cortisol and Adrenals
Ok on to cortisol and the adrenal glands. While I’m not a huge fan of the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ since it’s so misleading, I can say that my case is a pretty prime example of HPA Axis dysfunction (aka adrenal fatigue). Many people hear adrenal fatigue, and immediately start questioning what adaptogens they should be taking. EHHHHH (loud buzzer sound), wrong.
Yes, adaptogens can be great, but they aren’t the answer. It goes back to the question of “why the heck am I not making cortisol well?” And the answer my friend, often lies in the gut. Yes, cortisol is your stress hormone, so if you don’t know how to relax, it’s time to learn. Or if you’re someone who’s crazy busy, that’s just your body telling you to slow down. But if you’re doing “all the things” for stress management, and your adrenals are still struggling, it’s very likely that there is something else going on causing internal stress. Oftentimes, a good place to start is with that gut. Because as mentioned above, an imbalance of bacteria will throw everything off.
While I really strive to keep my blogs on the shorter side, I clearly could have talked about this topic all day, and elaborated on other components of this test. If I confused you at all, just remember one thing: an imbalance of hormones is often not the problem, something throws them off.
Research now confirms that the microbiome is an endocrine organ, meaning that it controls hormonal balance. This is huge. So if you’re struggling with hormonal issues, it may be wise to check the gut to see what’s going on there before just turning to supplements or bio-identical hormones. This is why I NEVER test hormones alone, but also look at other factors.