The Importance of the Microbiome: The Gut Health – Women’s Health

Feb 14, 2024
The Importance of the Microbiome: The Gut Health – Women’s Health Connection Blog Image_2024.02.01
Gut imbalances are a common root cause of women’s health issues. Even if you don’t have any digestive symptoms, changes in your gut health may promote urinary tract infections, anxiety, heavy periods, and other symptoms.

The health of your microbiome connects to everything else in the body, and today’s article will dive into the microbiome and its role in women’s health. We’ll cover:

  • What is the microbiome?
  • Connections between the microbiome and hormones
  • The importance of the estrobolome
  • Nutrition, lifestyle, and integrative strategies to restore and support a healthy microbiome

Understanding the microbiome is essential for everyone, especially women!

What is the Microbiome?

The microbiome includes trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa, archaea) and their DNA that live on and in the human body. You, the host, and your microbiome are considered a superorganism and have evolved together over millions of years. Like fingerprints, no two microbiomes are the same.

When I say microbiome, I often mean the gut microbiome, the primary site of microorganisms. Yet, you have distinct microbiomes throughout the body, including:

  • The vaginal microbiome
  • The urinary tract microbiome
  • The uterine microbiome
  • The lung microbiome
  • The oral microbiome
  • The skin microbiome

Your microbiome is critical to overall human health. It helps you maintain balance, metabolic function, immunity, brain health, genetic expression, healing, hormone balance, and more. We are still in the infancy of learning just how complex and integrated we are with our microbiomes.

The environment, nutrition, and exposures shape the microbiome over time. The variety and abundance that makes up your microbiome is influenced by your:

  • Mother’s microbiome during pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding
  • Exposure to the soil and nature
  • Diet and exercise habits
  • Stress levels
  • Hormones
  • Age
  • Hygiene practices
  • Toxin exposures
  • Medication use, including antibiotics

What influences your gut microbiome also influences the other microbiomes throughout the body, your immune system, and physiology. Everything is truly connected. Some good news is that the microbiome changes quickly when making dietary changes, for example. Shifting the microbiome is a powerful, influential factor in body-wide healing.

Gut Microbiome and Hormone Connections

Your microbiome interacts with hormones, including estrogen, androgens (like testosterone), and insulin. These hormones influence the gut microbiome, and the gut microbiome influences hormones in a bidirectional relationship. In fact, the gut microbiome has so much hormonal activity it’s considered an endocrine organ!

Researchers observe gender differences in the gut microbiome in terms of microorganisms, bacterial diversity, and other factors, providing further evidence that hormone connections are essential.

Dysbiosis, imbalances in the gut microbiome, are associated with several women’s health conditions, including:

And correcting dysbiosis through an integrative approach may be an essential part of your healing plan for women’s health concerns.

The Estrobolome

The estrobolome is a subset of the gut microbiome involved with estrogen metabolism and detoxification. After your cells have utilized estrogen, it’s sent to the liver for detoxification and then released into the gut via bile. You remove unneeded estrogen metabolites via regular bowel movements.

Bacteria that compose the estrobolome produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This enzyme deconjugates estrogen metabolites in the gut, preventing them from being excreted and allowing them to re-enter the body. It’s like your liver packs the estrogen into neat little boxes and beta-glucuronidase unpacks the boxes. High beta-glucuronidase levels can be one reason for estrogen imbalances and estrogen dominance.

How to Optimize the Microbiome

The microbiome influences the body’s functions and the hormone balance we rely on to feel our best. Nutrition, lifestyle, and the environment heavily influence the microbiome, and luckily, these factors are largely within our control. Simple shifts in how we live can profoundly impact our health, and the microbiome helps to explain why.

Let’s explore some of these strategies to support gut health and the microbiome:


  • Get a stool test. A functional stool test provides so much information about your microbiome. It looks at levels of beneficial bacteria, tests for pathogens, and provides information about digestive function. You can also measure beta-glucuronidase, as mentioned above, to help understand the estrobolome and estrogen detoxification.


  • Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are a natural source of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that support microbiome health. These foods were part of our ancestors’ diets but are easy to skip over in modern times. Simple options to include in your diet are:


  • Sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented vegetables
  • Yogurt and kefir (dairy or non-dairy)
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Apple cider vinegar


  • Feed your microbiome with prebiotics. Prebiotics include specific fibers, polyphenols, and resistant starches that you don’t digest but provide food to the probiotics in the gut. In turn, the probiotics make beneficial compounds for you, such as vitamins and short chain fatty acids. Helpful prebiotic foods include:
    • Onions, garlic, leeks
    • Artichokes
    • Dandelion greens
    • Sunchokes
    • Green bananas and plantains
    • Berries
    • Oats
    • Beans
    • Rice and potatoes (cooked and cooled)


  • Diversify your diet. A diverse diet, especially regarding fiber-rich plant foods, supports a diverse microbiome, which is a sign of a healthy microbiome. Try to eat 40 unique plant foods per week from herbs, spices, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes.


  • Have regular bowel movements. It’s helpful to keep things flowing and allow waste (and estrogen) removal from the body. Microbiome-supportive foods will help with regularity, as will good hydration and movement. Supplemental magnesium may be an additional strategy.


  • Consider probiotics and other gut health supplements. Probiotics may help improve vaginal and reproductive health, prevent UTIs and other infections, support the immune system, and promote healthy digestion. With a stool test, your practitioner can help you determine the most effective probiotic strains or formula.

Digestive enzymes, digestive bitters, glutamine, licorice (as DGL), marshmallow root, aloe, zinc, glutamine, prebiotics, and other supplements may also offer support, depending on your needs.


  • Avoid toxins as possible. Chlorine in the water and pesticides in food are just a couple of examples of environmental chemicals that disrupt the gut microbiome. Drinking filtered water and choosing organic food helps you avoid these chemicals.

In addition, consider other sources of exposure to toxins and endocrine disruptors (hormone-disrupting chemicals), such as personal care and cleaning products.


  • Activate the parasympathetic nervous system. When the body is under stress, and the sympathetic nervous system is activated, digestion is de-prioritized. Not only does your body need to be in a relaxed, parasympathetic state for digestion, but this state also supports your migrating motor complex. These smooth muscle contractions move food downward through the GI tract between meals, helping to prevent microbiome imbalances.


  • Interact with the natural world. Grow a garden, raise animals, and pet your dog. The more physical interactions you have with nature, the better it is for your microbiome. We’ve evolved along with the natural world but tend to be overly clean in modern times which may contribute to microbiome, hormonal, and immune changes. A little dirt is good for your health!

By supporting your gut microbiome, you shape your body’s physiology to create health and resilience. Because women’s microbiomes are unique and influenced by hormonal changes throughout life, we may need extra microbiome attention, especially in the face of reproductive and hormonal issues. Working with an integrative doctor and using functional testing can help you improve your microbiome and create more hormonal balance.


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