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Is Low Estrogen Impacting your Immune System and Digestive Health

Have you ever considered how your hormonal health could have effects on your immune system and digestive health? Whether or not you have, you're in for a massive treat today. You're going to walk away with a much broader view and understand why we are so passionate about hormone health.


Who Can Have Low Estrogen?


In short, anyone of any age can have low estrogen. For females, having a monthly menstruation, although a very positive sign, is not an actual measure of hormone levels. It's important to understand that context is always KING when discussing hormone levels.


Specific female demographics with low estrogen COULD include:


  • YOU, a seemingly healthy individual with no obvious symptoms (e.g., hot flashes and night sweats). You are getting ready to see how low estrogen goes FAR beyond being symptomatic

  • Young athletes

  • Long-term dieters

  • Those on birth control

  • Those with primary or secondary amenorrhea

  • Those with PCOS

  • Perimenopausal women

  • Postmenopausal women

  • Individuals with hypothyroidism



Low Estrogen and the Immune System


Estradiol is a critical regulator of the immune system. It influences the development, differentiation, and function of various immune cells, ensuring an appropriate (not under or overactive) immune response. 


Three areas we are going to focus on: 

  1. Estradiol as an Immune Modulator

  2. Estradiol’s anti-inflammatory properties

  3. Estradiol as an antioxidant



Immune Modulation:

Estradiol influences the activity and function of various immune cells, including T cells, B cells, and macrophages. Specifically for those who want the nitty gritty, estradiol helps differentiation of helper T cells (Th cells) and Th2 response, which is responsible for antibody production and fighting pathogens. Low estradiol levels can lead to a weakened Th2 response and reduced antibody production, making the body more susceptible to infections and reducing its ability to fight off pathogens effectively. 


Now apply this to an actual person and scenario. If this is a female who is in her 40-60’s what could that mean for her? If this is a female who is in her teens-30’s what could that mean for her? Remembering a low estrogen state is rarely in a solo situation. We could have a female who is not sleeping, not eating enough, not moving enough, has sluggish digestion so she is essentially undernourished, and we are in a state of stress overload. You are making more withdrawals than deposits to your bank called ‘Wellness’---and just like any bank they will want to be paid with interest. 



Inflammation: 

Estradiol has anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to regulate the production of inflammatory cytokines by reducing  the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-alpha, IL-1, and IL-6 and increasing levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-10.  When estradiol levels drop, there is often an increase in inflammation (read that again), which can contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions (ie: thyroid, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, etc)



Antioxidant Effects: 

Estradiol acts as an antioxidant (so cool!), protecting cells from oxidative stress (cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance/diabetes, high blood pressure, etc), . Oxidative stress simply means you have more molecules known as ‘free radicals’ than antioxidants. These free radicals are just as their name implies–radical.  Oxidation is normal, oxidation out of control is “oxidative stress”, not good. Lower levels of estradiol can lead to increased oxidative damage to cells and tissues, which further impairs the immune system's ability to function properly.


Low Estrogen and Digestive Health


If you have ever had a GI Map done you are no stranger to the digestive health marker section. This is probably the 2nd if not the 1st section we look at even though it is on the very last page. 

In this area on the GI Map we can take a look at where your digestive immune response is. Is it super triggered , all systems defcon 1 or is it waiving a white flag? This tells quite a bit about the direction of support needed. So where could low estradiol affect things? 


Gut Barrier Function: 

Sex hormones, including estradiol, help maintain the integrity of the gut barrier. This barrier is crucial for preventing harmful substances from entering the bloodstream. Low estrogen levels can compromise this barrier, leading to increased intestinal permeability, often referred to as "leaky gut." This can result in a higher risk of infections, inflammation, and autoimmune reactions.


Gut Microbiome Diversity: 

Estradiol enhances the diversity of the gut microbiome. A diverse microbiome is essential for overall health, including proper digestion and immune function. Low levels of estrogen can lead to a reduction in microbiome diversity, which has been associated with various health issues, including digestive disorders, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.


Estrobolome Function:

The estrobolome is a part of the gut microbiome that is specifically involved in metabolizing estrogens. It produces enzymes that help in the proper packaging and disposal of estrogen. We can also assess this disposal via the GI Map looking at an enzyme known as Beta-glucuronidase. We have done a previous blog on just this very topic HERE. When estrogen levels are low, the function of the estrobolome can be disrupted. This can lead to improper estrogen recycling, either leading to estrogen deficiency (or excess), which have negative health implications.


Implications:


Low estrogen levels have far-reaching effects on both the immune and digestive systems. Women of any age but especially those using hormonal birth control, including non-hormonal IUDs, and those in perimenopausal or postmenopausal stages, need to be mindful of how changes in estrogen levels can impact immune and digestive health. 


We believe that through understanding the impacts of estradiol it facilitates action. In taking proactive steps, such as supporting gut health through a diet rich in fibers, probiotics, and prebiotics help maintain microbiome diversity and overall health. Additionally, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and appropriate testing are crucial for maintaining optimal hormone levels and supporting both immune and digestive functions. It must be mentioned that as estrogen levels naturally decline during perimenopause and postmenopause, some women may face more pronounced issues related to immune and digestive health. Hormone therapy is a viable option to mitigate these effects for the majority of women. It is important we mention that hormone therapy should not be reserved for symptom management. Please consult your medical provider before utilizing any over the counter hormonal interventions (this includes DHEA). 


If you're concerned about how changes in your estrogen levels may be impacting your immune and digestive health, we're here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Let's work together to create a tailored plan that addresses your unique needs and helps you achieve your optimal health.




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