By now you’ve probably read enough to know that the gut impacts EVERYTHING in the body.
But did you know that it also affects your menstrual cycle?
This might need to be spread across two posts because there’s so much to this topic, but here’s a condensed version!
If you’ve got a gut problem, you’ll likely also have a menstrual cycle problem. Whether that’s irregularities, PMS, PMT, amenorrhea, PCOS, endometriosis… it’s all linked.
When I had undiagnosed coeliac disease, I used to get horrible PMS that would basically knock me out. I needed strong pain killers just to get through the day. In fact, it took years and a whole heap of work in different areas before it got any better. Now I get barely any pain, but it was a long road.
As a woman, your menstrual cycle is a key indicator of your health.
The gut is the central regulator of the whole body, and when something is off in your gut, one of the main areas that gets affected are your reproductive hormones and organs.
Studies have shown that people with IBS experience a higher activation of a mechanism called the HPA axis. The HPA axis is like a radio transmitter from your brain to your adrenal glands, and the signal is for the adrenal glands to release stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline.
We’ve got research that shows us that high levels of inflammatory bacteria in the gut – such as lipopolysaccharides – and low levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut – such as Bifidobacteria – also trigger the HPA axis and activate the stress response in the body.
From a hormonal perspective, this is bad news. Because cortisol and progesterone are made from the same starting material – pregnenolone. But cortisol will always take priority because the priority is to keep you alive. The body won’t be trying to have a baby if it feels that your life is in danger!
Oestrogen and progesterone complement each other to create a harmonious cycle. However, when there isn’t enough progesterone being made, we end up with oestrogen dominance. Oestrogen dominance is responsible for PMS, weight gain, moodiness, cramps, painful periods and many other unpleasant symptoms.
The other issue with inflammation in the gut is that it affects the liver.
The liver is responsible for detoxifying everything that comes into your body from the outside, and detoxifying substances from inside the body as well. Oestrogen is one of those substances that require detoxifying and clearing. The liver suffers greatly when the gut is inflamed. This means that it’s then not able to do its job correctly and instead of being cleared, oestrogen returns to circulation in the body, putting the levels back out of balance and leading to oestrogen dominance.
Certain gut bacteria themselves are also responsible for regulating oestrogen!
Another way that the gut affects the cycle is by poor nutrient absorption. You are not what you eat – you are what you absorb. Anyone with IBS, IBD or another gut condition has compromised absorption (actually, most people today have compromised absorption). This causes depletion of nutrients, nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and many others which are needed to support the stress response, relax the muscles and produce energy.
Finally, from a physical perspective, bloating puts a lot of pressure on the uterus and ovaries. Think about how close these organs are to each other!
This is a basic overview of a few mechanisms by which the gut affects your menstrual cycle. There’s much more to say, but I think I’ll need to break it down into specific sections so that this doesn’t become a novel!
Leave me a comment below if you’d like to learn more about this topic.
If you’re experiencing gut problems and cycle disturbances, feel free to book in a complimentary discovery call and let’s explore your situation. We’ll either end up working together or I’ll refer you on – either way, you’ll leave the call with guidance on where to go next 😊