Can probiotics balance hormones? Definitely!
How? The direct answer is that if the wrong bacteria are predominating in your gastrointestinal tract you reabsorb old estrogens, instead of eliminating them through your colon. But the whole issue actually extends way beyond this to many areas of women's (and men's) wellness, including why we gain body fat, and how successfully we detoxify!
In the industrialized world, all of us are being faced with an estrogen load.
We are being increasingly exposed to hormonally disrupting chemicals that act as 'Xenoestrogens' (i.e. foreign estrogens). These are molecules similar enough to estrogen in structure that they bind its receptors, and elicit an estrogenic response. Phthalates and bisphenols in plastics, styrenes from styrofoam, herbicides, pesticides, parabens and other chemicals in many sunscreens, cosmetics, skincare, deodorants, toothpaste, and volatile organic compounds (VOC's) in air pollution are examples of substances that are creating an ever-increasing estrogen burden.
The problem is that estrogen is "mitogenic"....i.e. it makes cells divide. When influences from xenoestrogens are added to our own endogenous estrogen production, the resulting estrogen burden can:
- increase risk of breast and reproductive cancers
- cause estrogen dominant PMS/menopausal issues
- contribute to PCOS and disruption of ovulation
- reduce the reproductive capacity of both sexes
- increase risk of uterine fibroids and endometriosis
- increase testicular cancer in men
- contribute to cancers of the lung, kidney, pancreas, and brain
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Estrogen also increases body fat. (This is mainly by inhibiting thyroid function, and altering output of the hypothalamus.  ) In a pre-modern world, where food was often scarce, more body fat meant an increased chance of successful pregnancy, which was a survival advantage.
Yet, white fat then produces more estrogen...(a lot of estrogen!)...creating a vicious cycle of weight gain. The more weight gained, the more insulin-resistant we become...which means we produce ever-more insulin...which makes us store even more calories, and increases inflammation, creating further insulin resistance, which then increases white fat storage and estrogen...and on the cycle goes!
Though this may apply to women more than men, realize that particularly older men can also produce high levels of estrogen.
Ironically, lack of estrogen after menopause, can also shift subcutaneous fat storage to our abdomen, (i.e. visceral fat), which is subject to the same vicious cycles of inflammation and insulin, and tendency to pack on the pounds.
So what can we do about it?
In addition to exercising and eating well, reducing our estrogen load involves becoming aware of and avoiding sources of xenoestrogens in the environment. For example, not microwaving in plastic, purchasing organic whenever practical, and buying unpolluted skin and personal care products is a good start.
Yet, also very important can be supporting healthy estrogen metabolism, and effectively eliminating estrogens from your system.
As we have reviewed in these 2 articles:
DIM (Diindolylmethane) can be extremely valuable in helping a person produce weaker, less reactive, friendlier estrogen metabolites, versus more potent, reactive, inflammatory, 'cranky' ones. In doing so, DIM can promote hormonal wellness, and be protective against several different hormone-dependent cancers, including prostate. [8-12]
Further, when your liver attempts to biotransform and get rid of old estrogens it does so by packaging them up with something called glucuronic acid. It then escorts them them to your bile, and out into the gastrointestinal tract for elimination via the feces.
You can facilitate this process by promoting a healthy gut-flora with probiotics. This is because less friendly populations of bacteria and yeasts in your gut increase production of an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase. This enzyme snips the bond formed between glucuronic acid and estrogen, and estrogens that would otherwise get excreted, get reabsorbed.
In turn, this contributes to estrogen dominance that so many women deal with. And not surprisingly, high levels of beta-glucuronidase, which reduce estrogen elimination, have been associated with hormone dependent cancers, such as those of the colon, prostate and breast.
So by promoting good bacteria in your gut with probiotics you improve the chances of lowering your estrogen load, and this is particularly true when combined with DIM. (At Optimum Health we have always been big proponents of DIM and the DDS Acidophilus strain of probiotics!)
Yet, including Calcium D-glucarate in this combo takes the effectiveness one step further. D-Glucarate facilitates estrogen elimination not only by supporting the packaging of estrogens in the liver, but also by inhibiting the activity of beta-glucuronidase, thereby providing an even better opportunity for elimination of old hormones, and keeping our estrogen levels in check. (Accordingly, it also has been shown to be protective against hormone-dependent and other cancers listed above.[14,15,16])
In this way, combining probiotics with DIM & D-glucarate can be of major benefit for keeping us hormonal healthy, and why it has long been part of our recommendations.
Continue to be well,
 Santin AP, Furlanetto TW (2011) Role of estrogen in thyroid function and growth regulation. Journal of Thyroid Research doi:10.4061/2011/875125
 Kim DH, Kang HJ, Kim SW, Kobashi K. pH inducible beta-glucuronidase and beta-glucuronidase of intestinal bacteria. Chem Pharm Bull 1992;40(6):1667-9.