You may have heard of the gut-brain axis, but have you ever considered the role gut microbes play in hormones and autoimmune responses? The health of our gut microbiome is intricately connected to the balance of hormones in our bodies, and supplementing with probiotics has been shown to have a positive impact on both.
How the Gut Influences Hormones
Our intestines are home to trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms collectively referred to as the gut microbiome that play a crucial role in regulating hormones. Hormones such as insulin, leptin, and ghrelin are directly affected by the composition of the gut microbiome.
For example, research has shown that the gut microbiome affects insulin sensitivity, with imbalanced gut bacteria contributing to insulin resistance and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
“Studies have revealed that certain gut bacteria can either enhance or reduce insulin sensitivity,” explains Dr. Frank Sacks, Professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Leptin, known as the “satiety hormone,” signals to the brain when we’ve had enough to eat and is also influenced by the gut microbiome. Imbalanced gut bacteria can result in decreased leptin signaling and increase the risk of obesity. “Studies have demonstrated that gut bacteria can regulate the production and transport of leptin,” says Dr. Sacks.
Ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” is responsible for regulating appetite and has also been linked to gut health. An imbalanced gut microbiome can result in overproduction of ghrelin and lead to increased hunger and the risk of obesity.
The Impact of Probiotics
Supplementing with probiotics, or “good” bacteria, has been shown to have a positive impact on hormones and overall health. Probiotics help to balance gut bacteria, which in turn has a positive impact on hormone regulation.
For example, studies have shown that supplementing with probiotics can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Probiotics have also been linked to increased leptin signaling and decreased ghrelin production, leading to better appetite control and weight management.
Probiotics have also been shown to have a positive impact on autoimmune responses, with some research suggesting that a healthy gut microbiome can help to regulate the immune system. In a review of studies, Dr. Sacks explains, “Research has indicated that probiotics can help to modulate the immune system and reduce the risk of autoimmune disorders.”
The Importance of a Balanced Microbiome
The health of our gut microbiome is crucial for maintaining hormonal balance and overall health. A diet rich in fiber, fermented foods, and probiotics can help to promote a balanced gut microbiome and reduce the risk of hormone imbalances and autoimmune disorders.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s gut microbiome is different and what works for one person may not work for another. However, incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense, whole foods, and prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods into your diet can help to support a healthy gut microbiome and improve overall health.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “The Gut-Brain Axis and Its Influence on Metabolism and Hormonal Balance,” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/the-gut-brain-axis-and-its-influence-on-metabolism-and-hormonal-balance/
- “Gut Bacteria and Hormones,” Dr. Frank Sacks, https://www.drfranksacks.com/gut