Could you be experiencing the link between estrogen and mood right now?
This hormone plays many important roles in all human bodies, and when its levels are out-of-whack, it can take a serious toll on the way we feel in our bodies, our energy levels, and even our mood. Read on to find out more about this hormone, its links to mood, and specifically, how the gut can either help or hurt levels of estrogen and mood balance.
Why is Estrogen Balance Important?
Estrogen is generally known for its role in secondary sex characteristics in females. However, this steroid hormone is present and active in all humans. It is synthesized in the adrenal glands, adipose (fat) tissue, and by the ovaries.
In the ovaries, estrogen supports fertility by contributing to egg follicle development. It also helps to maintain a healthy uterine lining, regulates the flow of mucus, and stimulates the development of breast tissue in preparation for lactation.
In males, estrogen plays a role in the maturation of sperm, modulates erectile function, and dictates sex drive.
Outside of sexual function and fertility, estrogen plays an important role in calcium metabolism. This means it supports bone density, cognitive function, and cardiovascular health in all humans .
An imbalance in estrogen can cause a variety of concerning issues.
Females with too much estrogen can experience weight gain, mood swings, depressed or anxious moods, exhaustion, heavy menstrual bleeding, hair loss, fibrocystic or cancerous growth in breast tissue. Males with too much estrogen can experience overgrowth of breast tissue, erectile dysfunction (ED), infertility, and prostate cancer .
Too-low levels of estrogen can also create havoc to your health. Females that don’t have enough estrogen often experience irregular periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse, a depressed mood, and an increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs). Low estrogen levels in males often present as weight gain, fatigue, or a depressed mood . Low bone density (or osteoporosis) can be a result of low estrogen in males and females .
Estrogen and Mood
Females are twice as likely to suffer from depression than males . In addition to higher incidence, female depressive episodes are more likely to last longer, feel more severe, and recur . Research has also tracked increased incidence of mood challenges at times of natural, major hormonal shifts (menopause, postpartum, and premenstrual periods) . After menopause, there cease to be any notable differences between sexes and rates of depression . Together, these factors make a solid case for a link between estrogen and mood changes.
We don’t know whether or how ovarian hormones (such as estrogen) can “cause” depression. However, ovarian hormones can promote the rate-limiting enzyme in serotonin synthesis and reduce expression of serotonin reuptake transporters in part of the brain . This means the abundance of serotonin our bodies are able to produce and metabolize may be, at least in part, mediated by levels of ovarian hormones.
Consistent with these data, are clinical studies in which estrogen treatment had antidepressant effects when administered alone or in combination with serotonergic antidepressants .
This is not to say that females, or all depressed females, should be taking hormone therapy or antidepressant medication. That is not necessary for all individuals and should be a decision made with your trusted healthcare provider. We are providing this information to suggest that your hormone balance matters, and is worth evaluating if you struggle with your mood.
Something that you may not have expected to have an effect on your hormone balance is your gut health (or lack thereof).
What is the Estrobolome?
The word “estrobolome” hints at its meaning. You probably recognize the “estro-” of estrogen and the “-ome” from microbiome. The estrobolome is a group of microbes that can influence the estrogen balance in your body. Yes, this applies to all humans on every spectrum of sex and gender.
How is Gut Health related to Hormonal Balance?
Gut health is central to the health of all body systems. To name a few examples, your gut health affects your immune system, your mental health, your energy levels, and yes, your hormones. This is because the bacteria and yeast species living in your gut are breaking down foods in your diet and converting them into nutrients and chemicals that can bring benefits or harm to your body. A healthy microbiome living in your gut means you have maximized the bacterial species that bring you benefits, and minimized the species that cause harm.
The estrobolome is just one subsection of bacterial species within your microbiome. A healthy estrobolome mediates the reabsorption of estrogen from the gut ensuring hormone balance.
The liver metabolizes estrogen and delivers it to the gut for excretion. The estrobolome includes bacteria that produce betaglucuronidase, an enzyme that reverts estrogen back into its unconjugated, active form.
If there is an overgrowth of these bacteria, too much estrogen can be absorbed back into the bloodstream resulting in elevated estrogen levels. Elevated betaglucuronidase and elevated estrogen are both associated with premenstrual syndrome, obesity, infertility, mood disorders, cardiovascular disease, and more .
On the other hand, low levels of betaglucuronidase can cause problems too. Without enough microbes creating betaglucuronidase, your body can miss out on plant-based estrogens from the diet and resorption of estrogen when circulating levels are low. This can lead to overall low estrogen levels in the body and symptoms described above.
How to Support a Healthy Estrobolome
One way to strengthen the health of your gut microbiome is by supplementing with probiotics and prebiotics directly. Another way is to eat probiotic and prebiotic foods. Probiotic supplements and foods contain the species of live microbes that you want to encourage populating your gut environment. Prebiotics are the fiber sources that probiotic bacteria eat to thrive.
Probiotic foods are mostly fermented foods with live bacteria and yeast species like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi. If you’d like to try making your own kimchi, try our recipe linked here.
The problem with probiotic food and drinks is that you can’t really know or control exactly which species of bacteria you are consuming, nor the exact abundance. With a probiotic supplement, you can be sure of which species you are consuming, in an abundance in the billions. Metabolic Maintenance offers a fantastic, potent probiotic supplement called BioMaintenance that is shelf-stable, meaning you don’t have to refrigerate it.
Healthy microbes need certain types of fiber to thrive. Prebiotic fiber can be found in many vegetables and whole grains. If you feel your diet may not contain enough prebiotic fiber to feed and maintain your estrobolome, and microbiome on the whole, you can also take a prebiotic fiber supplement.
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds promote better gut health, lower overall inflammation in the body, and ensure better functioning of the estrobolome . Herbs and spices are loaded with such compounds. So is your daily multivitamin. You can also add a anti-inflammatory/antioxidant supplement to your health regimen for an extra boost. Check out nutrients like Curcumin + C and Resveratrol for these beneficial properties!
- Khosla, Sundeep, and Roberto Pacifici. “Estrogen deficiency and the pathogenesis of osteoporosis.” Marcus and Feldman’s Osteoporosis. Academic Press, 2021. 773-797.
- Lenco Diagnostic Laboratory. “The Estrobolome: A Bridge Between Gut Health And Hormonal Balance”. Lenco Website. Published December 18, 2021. https://www.lencolab.com/publications/2021/12/the-estrobolome-a-bridge-between-gut.html
- Shors, Tracey J., and Benedetta Leuner. “Estrogen-mediated effects on depression and memory formation in females.” Journal of affective disorders 74.1 (2003): 85-96.
- Aziz-Scott, Ghazala. HORMONES AND GUT HEALTH: THE IMPORTANCE OF GUT HEALTH FOR HORMONE BALANCE. The Marion Gut Clinic Blog. Accessed Oct 12, 2022. https://www.mariongluckclinic.com/blog/hormones-and-gut-health-the-estrobolome-and-hormone-balance.html