Our bodies are like puzzle pieces that fit together, and one piece that fits surprisingly well together is your gut (your stomach and intestines) and your hormones (the chemicals that control things like mood, hunger, and energy). While we usually think of our gut as a food processor, it also has a secret job – it helps control our hormones.
Understanding the Gut-Hormone Connection
To understand how your gut affects your hormones, imagine your gut as a busy neighbourhood with billions of tiny workers called microbes. These microbes do a lot of jobs, like helping to break down food and keeping you healthy. But one of their most important jobs is helping to control hormones.
- Serotonin, the Feel-Good Hormone: Most people know about serotonin – it's the hormone that makes you feel happy. What's surprising is that your gut makes about 90% of your serotonin, not your brain!* To make sure you have enough of this happy hormone, you need a healthy gut full of helpful microbes. If your gut isn't healthy, it can make you feel sad or anxious.
- Blood Sugar and Insulin: Your gut also helps control your blood sugar, which is important for staying healthy. When your gut isn't working right, it can make it harder for your body to use sugar properly, and that can lead to diabetes.
- Thyroid, Your Body's Thermostat: Your thyroid is like your body's thermostat, controlling how hot or cold you are. If your gut isn't healthy, it can mess up your thyroid, and that can make you feel tired all the time.
- Hunger Hormones: Your gut also helps control when you feel hungry and when you feel full. If your gut isn't happy, it can make you feel hungry even when you've eaten enough, which can lead to gaining too much weight.
- Stress and Cortisol: Stress is another thing your gut helps control. When you're stressed, your body makes a hormone called cortisol. If your gut isn't healthy, it can make too much cortisol, and that can make you feel even more stressed.
Taking Care of Your Gut for Better Hormones
Now that you know how important your gut is for your hormones, here are some simple ways to keep your gut healthy and your hormones happy:
- Probiotics: Eat foods or take supplements with "probiotics." These are like little helpers for your gut that keep it healthy and your hormones in balance.
- High-Fiber Foods: Eat foods with lots of fibre, like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and beans. Fibre is like food for the good microbes in your gut.
- Prebiotics: Some foods, like garlic, onions, and asparagus, are like snacks for your gut's good microbes. Eating these can keep them happy.
- Relax: Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing or yoga to keep your stress hormone, cortisol, in check.
- Avoid Too Much Sugar: Sugary and processed foods can upset your gut. Stick to whole, natural foods instead.
- Drink Water: Staying hydrated by drinking enough water is essential for your gut.
- Get Good Sleep: Make sure you get enough sleep to keep your hormones in balance.
Your gut and hormones are like best friends, and taking care of your gut is a great way to keep your hormones happy and healthy. Your gut isn't just a food processor; it's like the conductor of an orchestra, making sure everything works smoothly in your body. So, be kind to your gut, and your hormones will thank you!
*Yano, J. M., et al. (2015). Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis.