The effects of hormones in the human body are almost limitless. Whether they ruin our mood, alter our appetite, lower our sex drive, or harm our digestion, hormones create issues everyone deals with. Learning to deal with the effects of hormones in the body also isn’t an easy thing to do. Without knowing how hormones work, it’s nearly impossible to know how they affect us. One of the most widely known causes of poor digestion relates to hormone imbalances. Whether through natural changes in life like menopause, or through high stress, hormones can affect our digestion in limitedless ways. Consider some of these effects of hormones and how they relate to your digestion. Hopefully these will help you understand how your body works so you can take care of it as best as possible.
One of the main effects of hormones on our digestion comes from cortisol production. Cortisol is our body’s stress hormone, that can become overactive during periods of high stress or through exercise. We often hear a good bit about cortisol being linked to weight gain, but this hormone isn’t all evil like we think. Cortisol can actually help give us immediate energy during times we need it such as exercise, or during an emergency. Yet, it’s when our bodies produce too much of it that it becomes harmful. Digestion-wise, excess cortisol can lead to constipation, poor digestion, indigestion, or IBS. For some reason or another, the body believes it is in a flight or fight mode, which lends it to put out more cortisol, which hinders your digestion in the process. You need to let your body know there’s no need for it to feel so stressed so there's no need for it to send out so much cortisol as a means of protection. To do this, I suggest eating in a calm place, where it’s quiet and you can focus on your food. If you’re eating on the run, in your car, or when you’re stressed, cortisol will increase and hinder your digestion as a result.
This lesser known hormone is another hormone to pay attention to if you’re concerned with digestion. Gastrin is the hormone that stimulates actions in the stomach to release gastric acid. This is also how hydrochloric acid is produced, which is essential to enzyme production that helps break down your food. If the body’s gastrin levels aren’t balanced correctly for whatever reason, it can’t produce efficient hydrochloric acid to break down the nutrients in food. This will lead to gas, bloating, pain and constipation quickly. You can try taking a digestive enzyme to help with this issue at each meal.
Secretin is another hormone you might not have heard of, but that is essential to proper digestion. It helps signal your pancreas to produce all those necessary digestive juices when you eat. These digestive juices contains certain components that neutralize stomach acids before they reach the small intestine. Without enough secretin, you might suffer acid reflux as a result. Secretin also helps to signal the body to produce pepsin, which assists in the breakdown of protein. If you don’t digest protein well, you’re most likely deficient in hydrochloric acid or pepsin. An enzyme supplement can help during meals if this is the case.
CCK, or Chloecystokinin, is the hormone that tells your body you’re satisfied. It sends messages to the brain that say, “Okay, I’ve had enough now.” It stimulates the release of enzymes in your pancreas and also causes the gallbladder to contract. This forces wastes like bile into the intestine, where it can later be eliminated through the bowel. Insufficient levels are CCK can occur from many reasons, many of which aren’t well known. Again, if you suffer problems with digestion, it might be useful to take an enzyme supplement before, with or after meals to ensure digestion goes smoothly.
Estrogen is commonly known as the female hormone, and decreases with age, leading to menopause. Excess estrogen can also occur in women, whether due to a poor diet, high levels of stress or a simple hormone imbalance. If estrogen does occur in excess, it can greatly affect digestion as a result. Excess estrogen stimulates excess cortisol in the body, the stress hormone. This can lead to gas, bloating and diarrhea or constipation due to high stress. Low estrogen can also cause problems with constipation and poor digestion. This can be helped with a digestive enzyme supplement, along with increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain both water and fiber to help push wastes along and through the intestines properly.
The “male hormone” as we often call it, is also one that is essential to a female’s health and well being. Testosterone occurs in each of us, and has many important roles ranging from sex drive, lean muscle mass, and even how thick our hair is. It can also affect our digestion too. Testosterone helps boost our libido,heighten our mood, and elevate the body’s natural feel good hormone, serotonin. This sends off reactions that can also increase bowel movements, and even better digestion. Though excess testerone isn’t the goal, getting enough of it is. Eating a varied diet, regularly speaking with your doctor about your hormones, and staying away from processed foods will help your body naturally produce the desired amount of testosterone and estrogen it needs. Also be sure to stay away from alcohol and cigarettes, and avoid excess caffeine. These all hinder hormone production in the body, not to mention their other detrimental effects on our health.
Most of us are familiar with the hormone serotonin. This is the hormone that makes us feel happy, peaceful and calm. Serotonin is also responsible for a well-functioning digestive system. Whenever levels are low, constipation is often a result, where high levels of serotonin might cause diarrhea. The body’s digestive tract is like a sponge that absorbs every hormonal affect it encounters. Overactive serotonin levels can send signals that speed up bowel movement, and can also occur during certain periods in the month from our menstrual cycle. Serotonin naturally rises and falls during our monthly cycles, which is a result of estrogen levels changing in the body. You’ll likely notice changes in your bowels at these times. I’m sure you also know that whenever your mood is low, your digestion suffers, and it isn’t a coincidence. It’s all due to insufficiently levels of the happy hormone, serotonin. Reducing stress in your life, eating a clean diet, and getting regular rest and exercise are the best ways to ensure serotonin levels are at their optimal level without medication.
Your hormones are one of the most complex functions and issues of all, in my opinion. Because it is impossible to see what is actually happening, it’s even harder to understand how to remedy the problems we face with digestion. Do you recognize any of these digestion issues in your own life?