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What Does Gut Health Have To Do With Hormones?

guthealth womensguthealth womenshealth womenshormones Dec 01, 2022
Woman in robe showing lower portion of belly between hands.

What does gut health have to do with hormones? When referring to hormone health and imbalances, one may not consider the digestive system’s impact and vice versa. When I speak to people about hormone health, they often only think about the sex hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. But did you know that there are over 50 hormones in the human body? They are all part of an intricately designed system called the endocrine system. The primary job of all hormones is communication; when there is a break in communication, even one imbalance, the whole system becomes affected.

So what about the digestive system? Does it play an essential role in hormone production, secretion, and the action for which they are responsible? Let’s look at our gut health and hormones and how they relate.

Just a Little Bit O’ Science

Our digestive system, primarily the small intestine, often referred to as the “gut,” is the control center of absorption. We have these small, tiny “finger-like” hills on the wall of the small intestine called villi. You can kind of think of them as being like a shag rug. This is where the passage of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals passes through to our bloodstream to feed our cells and be utilized in the body.

When our gut health is impaired, these villi start to flatten. When they flatten, absorption is impaired, meaning you may have good intentions in providing your body with all the good stuff”, but you may not be absorbing it. The saying “you are what you eat” is not entirely true. I prefer to say “you are what your body can process.”


So What About the Hormones?

Hormones are communication messengers, allowing organisms, systems, and other hormones to interact. They are part of a complex system called the endocrine system. Hormones are highly vital in balancing metabolism- allowing for the breakdown and replacement of chemical reactions in the body.

When our gut is impaired, it will affect the entire endocrine system. The endocrine system requires the proper balance of essential vitamins and minerals to support the appropriate balance of hormones. If our body is not absorbing them, even with our best efforts, that balance will be thrown off.

Hormones are composed of proteins and steroids. When a person is nutritionally deficient, it becomes difficult for hormones to function correctly. This results in an imbalance that will lead to dysfunction and disease.

A Few Specific Hormones to Consider

There are more than 50 hormones in the body, but two are at the foundation of hormone health. Not only do these two specific hormones affect the cascade of all other hormones, but they also affect each other significantly. These two are insulin and cortisol.


The pancreas produces insulin to clean up excess blood sugar in our blood. When there is too much insulin production, a host of dysfunction in the body can occur, including the imbalance of all other hormones. Our gut health is significant in maintaining adequate insulin and blood sugar regulation.


Cortisol is another foundational hormone you may have heard referred to as the “stress hormone.” It’s secreted by our adrenal gland and is closely related to insulin. They’re super tight, and when one acts up, so will the other. Cortisol is essential, but overproduction is wreaking havoc on our hormones and taking insulin along for the ride. Cortisol affects digestion and absorption mechanisms; releasing too much cortisol will slow blood flow to our gut, slowing all processes.

Sex Hormones

So, what about sex hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone? These are steroidal hormones, and the backbone of producing these is adequate amounts of good cholesterol in our blood. Therefore our body needs to absorb more good fats and less trans fats. Likewise, the balance of cortisol and insulin plays a significant role in the balance of steroidal hormones. Thyroid hormones are also steroidal, considering thyroid dysfunction is at epidemic proportions in our modern lifestyle.

Additionally, some hormones are released directly by your digestive system, such as CKK (cholecystokinin). This hormone is released after we eat and stimulates gallbladder contraction and our pancreas. Impaired release of this hormone may impact the rate of digestion and could block the signal that we are full, leading to overeating.      


Ghrelin is another vital hormone that is produced within the digestive system. This hormone is also known as your “hunger hormone.” It essentially tells you that it’s time to eat. It is released when our stomach is empty and reduced when we are full. Fun fact- the connection between ghrelin and serotonin (AKA, the happy hormone) is significant. Low serotonin leads to increased ghrelin output, which, when we are experiencing mood alterations or depression, we may crave salt or have increased hunger.


Leptin– is not produced or secreted by the digestive system but has a very close relationship with ghrelin. This hormone is produced by adipose tissue (fat) and tells the brain that we have had enough to eat. When there is too much fatty tissue, leptin resistance can occur, meaning the brain isn’t listening anymore, so you have continued hunger.

As you can see, The digestive and endocrine systems have a very tight relationship regarding your gut health and hormones. Another perfect example of this is thyroid dysfunction. To have a properly functioning digestive system, you must have a well-functioning thyroid, and vice versa. The thyroid hormones help with peristalsis- the rhythmical squeezing of food through the digestive system. So, when we have a sluggish thyroid, we will likely have issues with constipation. This leads to a massive microbiome imbalance and could lead to conditions such as SIBO.

To work functionally and get to the root of hormone imbalances, you must back up and go beyond treating symptoms. The first place to start is gut health, followed by stress management. We must build resilience while strengthening our foundation.

If you would like to discuss how we can begin to build your solid foundation to better balance your gut health and hormones, book your FREE strategy call. You have nothing to lose and only a step forward to gain.

Other articles to consider:

7 Best Essential Oils For Hormone Imbalance

Cortisol Imbalance and Adrenal Fatigue