If you read my previous blog post, The Teamwork Approach to Health, then it’s no surprise to you that at Exhale, we work closely with other therapists and refer often. Over the last several months some of my favourite Naturopaths in the area have referred their clients in for colonics when working with them for hormone related issues. The gut is related to every organ in the body, so it was no surprise to me that colonics will aid in a protocol to regulate and balance hormone levels.
I asked our resident Naturopathy, Nina Taumberger, to shed some light on the subject.
The Gut Hormone Connection
Hippocrates said: “All disease begins in the gut.” … Fast forward a few years later and we’re only just beginning to understand how right he was.
The gut is the gateway to health. It is the connection between the outside environment and our internal environment. Every body system is affected by your gut and gut health in some way. There isn’t a condition where improving gut health doesn’t lead to an improvement in how you feel.
The gut is naturally permeable to very small molecules in order to absorb nutrients into our bodies. Stressors like infections, toxins, emotional & physical stress, diet & pharmaceutical drugs, may cause the healthy tight junctions of our intestinal wall to become weak. Once these tight junctions get weak/leaky, you have a condition called intestinal permeability, or simply “leaky gut”.
Digestive problems, whether it be IBS, GERD, acid reflux, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, diarrhoea, painful stomach, constipation or suffering from chronic fatigue or hormonal issues in general; the HPA-TG (Hypothalamic- Pituitary Adrenal- Thyroid Gonad) Axis is really one of the most common root cause problems.
HPA-TG is just a term for linking the endocrine organs (hormonal system); being the brain (hypothalamus & pituitary gland), adrenal glands, thyroid gland & sex hormones (gonads). We have to understand that hormones affect the gut and the gut affects our hormones. They are intimately connected.
The longer our gut is leaky – our immune system is becoming regularly exposed to foods, bacteria, which places unwanted stress and strain on our body, resulting in;
- Working your adrenal glands into overdrive
- Causing your thyroid to go out of whack
- Causing your estrogens and progesterone to go haywire, and
- Leading you into multiple hormonal imbalances
Did you know that there is a direct relationship between how burned out the adrenal glands are and how damaged the gut lining has become?
The more we abuse our gut and place stress onto it, like being exposed to sugar, alcohol, gluten, drugs and emotional stress- we are driving cortisol up and weakening gut immunity. Damage to the gut makes the adrenals worse & visa versa.
To understand how our bodies respond to “stress,” we need to break it down.
It begins with the hormone Cortisol, our “Stress hormone”. Cortisol is needed for energy, healthy hormone production, immune function, healthy stress responses and inflammation regulation.
If stress continues, the adrenals response will start to fade, the cortisol will start to lower and lower and you find yourself in adrenal fatigue.
Stage 1: high cortisol (you feel ok… living on adrenalin)
Stage 2: cortisol is dropping
Stage 3: cortisol very low (you can’t make the high cortisol anymore. The fat, fatigue, low sex hormones start to kick in.)
The lower that the cortisol is going the more burned out the person is, the harder it is to repair, the more gut problems they have.
Hormones basically control your immune system; and they basically control all of the functions of your body. If your hormones are out of whack everything in your body is going to be out of whack.
Since 60-80% of your immune system is in your GI tract, an imbalanced GI tract microflora causes immune system imbalances, which in turn, causes adrenal dysregulation. Adrenal dysregulation alters thyroid function. Thyroid problems cause sex hormone imbalances. And there you go, you get multi-system dysregulation!
Cortisol is the main anti-inflammatory hormone in the body. It controls inflammation in your body and it keeps it at bay. So once you reach stage 3 adrenal fatigue, your cortisol levels become so low that it’s difficult for you to control inflammation. Not only the inflammation that happens in your gut, but also the inflammation in your entire body.
When you’re in adrenal fatigue, that’s when your sex hormones start to crash. If we are too stressed/ in chronic stress our body is burning up too much cortisol an we end up seeing lower progesterone to estrogen ratios (seen with PMS & mood disorders).
Cortisol is also in control of our secretory IGA, which protects the lining of your gut against potential foods that could be reactive or cause a problem. It also protects you against pathogens like bacteria or parasites or yeast.
So you can see the link between stress & the gut!
So where do we start with treatment? It’s a bit like the chicken or the egg thing…
Ideally treatment begins with testing with a functional practitioner to see where you are on the scale of things.
If you have a lot going on you may need to stack gut healing with thyroid support, adrenal support, leaky gut program & with a parasite program if needed.
Baseline treatment is started by eating a nutrient dense anti- inflammatory diet, removing bad foods, replacing enzymes, repairing, soothing & healing gut, then adrenal support to put out the flame in the gut, followed by removing infections and finally re-inoculation.
Individual healing protocols are very necessary as there is not a one size fits all approach to this and it may take some time depending on how bad you are. With the help of eliminating the hidden stressors, starting to nourish with healing foods that reduce inflammation, supporting the hormonal system through supplementation, we can teach clients how to listen to their bodies to prevent further damage and illness.
A big thank you to Nina for taking the time to explain this connection so well. If you have any questions or would like to book in to see Nina or myself, please get in touch!