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Gut-Hormone Connection: The Link Between Poor Digestion, Estrogen & Skin Problems

Hormones play a key role in regulating the skin as an organ. When there is an imbalance and the body produces more stress hormones than adaptive hormones, the skin becomes compromised. Of the many hormones that can negatively affect the skin, estrogen is particularly damaging.

As we will discuss in greater detail, estrogen can weaken the integrity of the skin. It can increase the risk for conditions like varicose veins, cellulite, and even wrinkles. Therefore, keeping estrogen levels in check is key for optimal skin health and aging. 

According to recent research, the gut microbiome is central to the regulation of estrogen levels in the body and therefore can influence the risk of developing estrogen-driven skin conditions. This is just one example of how closely related gut health is to skin health. 

Gut Microbes & Estrogen Metabolism

It’s been established for some time that the bacteria in our intestines play important physiological roles. For example, our gut bacteria can synthesize and metabolize various nutrients, neurotransmitters, and hormones, promote the absorption of nutrients, and so much more. More specifically speaking, recent studies have found that certain gut microbes actually regulate circulating estrogen levels.

According to research, when healthy, our intestines house a group of microbes, which scientists are calling “estrobolome”. These microbes are capable of metabolizing estrogens. 1

There are two main mechanisms behind the estrobolome’s ability to modulates estrogen. First, the estrobolome modulates the circulation of bile salts from the liver to the intestine and back to the liver. Estrogen is solubilized by the liver and excreted from the kidneys with the help of bile and other liver secretions. So in fewer words, the estrobolome can support the liver’s ability to metabolize estrogen.

Additionally, the estrobolome produces an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase. This deconjugates estrogen into its active, unbound form which then binds to estrogen receptors. When the gut microbiome is healthy, meaning the small intestine is sterile and large intestine free of pathogens, then the estrobolome produces the right amount of beta-glucuronidase to support estrogen balance. If the gut becomes compromised and pathogens overgrow, then beta-glucuronidase activity can become degraded, and the intestines can produce an excess of free estrogen. 2

Estrogen & Skin Disease

Estrogen plays many roles in the dysregulation of the skin. Although it is often considered an important “female” hormone, when overproduced (which is easy to do), its effects can be very harmful. Not only is estrogen produced under stress, demonstrating its stressful nature, but estrogen can actually stress our cells and cause hypoxia (oxygen deprivation), leading to oxidative stress.

According to research, oxidative stress is a root cause of skin aging and wrinkles. Oxidative stress can cause modifications to proteins, lipids, and DNA that contribute to skin aging and disease. 3

Additionally, estrogen can increase the likelihood of facial swelling or puffiness (also known as edema). This is because estrogen can increase the cell’s affinity to water. This causes the surrounding tissues to become “waterlogged”, resulting in puffiness or swelling.

Estrogen can also contribute to cellulite by increasing the production of cortisol, which breaks down skin tissue and impairing lipid or fat metabolism. These effects increase the chances of the body holding onto fat, while also weakening the skin matrix, resulting in cellulite.

In Conclusion

Gut dysbiosis can negatively alter the activity of the estrobolome, throwing off the balance of estrogen in the body. This increases the risk of estrogen-driven issues like acne, wrinkles, cellulite, varicose veins, and more. Therefore, reversing gut dysbiosis would be key for normalizing estrogen levels and avoiding estrogen influenced skin problems. Check out our previous blog to find ways to avoid

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