Gut Health & Hormone Link: How Leaky Gut Can Cause Hormonal Imbalance

Gut Health & Hormone Link: How Leaky Gut Can Cause Hormonal Imbalance

Do you feel tired often, have frequent GI symptoms such as diarrhea, gas and bloating? You might have a leaky gut resulting from poor gut health (1).

The gastrointestinal tract, or “gut,” affects many essential bodily functions beyond digestion. Poor gut health can lead to certain health conditions, including developing a leaky gut.

In this article, we’ll cover what a leaky gut is, its link to hormone balance, and how to take steps to mend your gut health.


What Is Leaky Gut?

A leaky gut is characterized by an increase in permeability due to damage in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract’s walls. This damage allows large, undigested food particles, bacteria, and waste products to pass through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream (2).

With a leaky gut, larger molecules and harmful substances, which typically shouldn’t be able to cross this barrier, can pass through and flood the bloodstream. The result is often uncomfortable symptoms like inflammation and food sensitivity issues.

A leaky gut can trigger or exacerbate chronic health conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and more (3).

More commonly, a leaky gut can damage the cells in your intestines (3). When this happens, the body may struggle to get the nutrients needed to function, potentially resulting in imbalances.


Causes & Symptoms Of Poor Gut Health
Below are some symptoms people with a leaky gut may experience (1):
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Painful indigestion
  • A burning feeling in the gut
  • Bloating
  • Excess gas
  • Chronic fatigue
Poor gut health and resultant conditions may arise as a result of the following: [3,1]
  • Stress: Stress and inflammation can change the bacterial composition in the gut. 
  • Overusing NSAIDs and antibiotics: Antibiotics can kill “good” bacteria along with the “bad” and cause side effects arising from gastrointestinal, bacterial imbalance. 
  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol is broken down into toxic waste that irritates the gut lining, which may lead to an inflamed bowel wall and increase the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • A diet low in plants and fiber: Fiber protects the gut lining. A lack of fiber can mean a reduction in gut lining protection.
  • Food allergies or sensitivities: Consuming foods that contain gluten, for example, can cause digestive problems for people with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease. 

Regardless of their cause, gastrointestinal symptoms can be disruptive. Fortunately, paying careful attention to what you ingest and how you treat your body can influence your gut and overall health.


Gut Health & Estrogen Production
Gut health is linked to and influences estrogen production. Your gut contains trillions of healthy bacteria, including a group called the estrobolome, which is responsible for estrogen metabolism and elimination from the human body (4).

So how does this communication between the body and estrobolome work? Let’s take a closer look at each step:

  1. The liver breaks down estrogen.
  2. Estrogen metabolism and circulation in bile bring the hormone in contact with the estrobolome.
  3. This contact signals the estrobolome to synthesize beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme responsible for turning estrogen into its active form so that it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Gut health connects to hormone levels, then, because a healthy balance of bacteria (a strong estrobolome) is key for allowing the body to reabsorb metabolized estrogen and make use of inactive estrogen (4).

A healthy gut can help to stabilize hormone levels. Similarly, an unhealthy gut with too few “good” bacteria may contribute to hormonal imbalance by limiting the amount of estrogen the body can use (5).

While more studies are needed to further investigate this phenomenon, available data suggest that good gut health may help stabilize hormone levels and ease symptoms associated with fluctuations.


How To Improve Gut Health & Hormones 
Improving gut health and hormones to manage a leaky gut is a continuous process.

That said, it's crucial not to self-medicate if you believe you’re experiencing leaky gut symptoms or symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. Doing so can complicate the problem instead of solving it. Consult your doctor before making changes to things like diet, exercise plans, or medications.

Aside from medication, there are natural ways to balance hormone levels and take care of your gut, including making simple lifestyle changes like:
  • Diversifying your diet to incorporate more fiber, whole grains, plants, probiotics, and fermented foods (6). 
  • Reducing alcohol consumption and your intake of sugary and processed foods, which can be irritating to the digestive tract (7). 
  • Implementing stress management activities.
  • Treating any underlying conditions that may affect your gut health.
Take care of your gut just like you’d take care of any other part of your body: consistently, carefully, and thoughtfully. It does more for us than we often give it credit for and is an essential part of a healthy, balanced body.

  1. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.) “Leaky Gut Syndrome.” Retrieved July 20, 2023, from
  2. Camilleri, M. (2019, August) The Leaky Gut: Mechanisms, Measurement and Clinical Implications in Humans. Gut 68(8):1516-1526. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
  3. Mu, Q., et al. (2017). Leaky Gut as a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Frontiers in Immunology 8.
  4. Baker, J. M., Al-Nakkash, L. & Herbst-Kralovetz, M. M. (2017) Estrogen–gut microbiome axis: Physiological and clinical implications. Maturitas 103: 45–53. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
  5. Kwa M, Plottel CS, Blaser MJ, Adams S. The Intestinal Microbiome and Estrogen Receptor-Positive Female Breast Cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2016 Apr 22;108(8):djw029. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djw029. PMID: 27107051; PMCID: PMC5017946.
  6. Heiman, M. L., & Greenway, F. L. (2016). A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity. Molecular Metabolism 5(5), 317–320.
  7. Satokari, R. (2020, May 8). High intake of sugar and the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory gut bacteria. Nutrients. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from