Can mushrooms support female hormones? A look into estrobolome.
The following is a guest blog post by Katherine Matthews (Naturopath, Nutritionist, & NIS practitioner).
The estrobolome is an amazing new term used to discuss the intricate connection between our ‘estrogen’ and the ‘microbiome’ .
Did you know that down there in your gut little species of bacteria are choosing whether you need more active estrogen or more inactive estrogen? We have known for a few years now how the gut plays a role in our mood and now we know it also plays a role in our hormonal balance.
The Estrogen–microbiome axis.
When it comes to hormones there is a delicate balance that shifts and changes. Our hormones go up and down depending on where we are in our life cycles and change monthly if you are a menstruating woman.
Your body is incredibly smart! It has its own unique bacteria in the gut called the estrobolome dedicated to supporting this balance. The estrobolome is made up of unique bacteria and genes that metabolise oestrogen helping us to keep the balance of your oestrogen in check. It's like when you are on a seesaw and you and a friend are trying to make it balance right in the middle. Our gut is doing this for us all the time, balancing our oestrogen levels so that our mood, bone health, cognitive function and many more aspects of our health are maintained juuust right!
How does the gut support estrogen balance?
Well I am glad you asked because this is what I spend my spare time reading about!
Once our estrogen has done all the brilliant things it does in our bodies like maintained our bone density, making our skin glow and increasing our mental alertness the hormones go through the liver which breaks it down into hormone metabolites. They are packaged for absorption or elimination and sent to the intestines. This is where the magic happens.
To be absorbed or to be eliminated?
Once estrogen is in the intestines it has two choices to be absorbed or to be eliminated. The bacteria produce a key enzyme called β-glucuronidase, which breaks down estrogens into their active forms and supports them to be sent back out into circulation or eliminated.
This is when aspects of our digestion start to play a big role in our hormonal balance.
Fiber, Fiber, Fiber
Our estrobolome may be supporting our oestrogen balance but it can only keep that balance if we have regular elimination. Yes, having a bowel motion once a day helps to remove oestrogen from the body that is not needed. Oestrogen binds to fibre in the intestines and is removed from the body. If elimination does not occur then the oestrogen can be reabsorbed back into circulation in the body. Too much oestrogen leads to many hormonal complaints such as PCOS, Endometriosis, PMS, PMDD and more.
Healthy gut bacteria is also essential for a healthy estrobolome. If your gut bacteria is out of whack this can result in a disruption of this oestrogen balance. I see all too commonly women with hormonal concerns also have gastrointestinal complaints such as bloating, constipation, gas and IBS. We need to support our digestion to be optimal to address our hormonal concerns.
The Estrobolome diet
Feeding our estrobolome fiber in the form of legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms and nuts and seeds is what builds a healthy microbiota. Our bacteria thrive on a diversity of plant fiber and anti-inflammatory foods! I like to encourage people to eat the rainbow everyday as a way to increase diversity in their meals! Studies show that the diversity of plant fibers/food is the most underlying most important factor to have a resilient and healthy microbiome. Gut dysbiosis can happen for a variety of reasons from SIBO to antibiotic use, to stress and a poor diet. Each person is individual in this way and you may need a unique protocol to get your gut health and hormonal health back on track.
(Diagram: Estrogen-gut microbiome interactions exhibit physiological and clinical implications. Dysbiosis and a reduction of gut microbiota diversity impacts the estrobolome, which may lead to a wide range of disease states, illustrated.)
Mushrooms and oestrogen: A match made in heaven!
I don't like to favour my vegetables too much, they are all great, however research shows that mushrooms provide an extra beautiful cup of benefits when it comes to supporting oestrogen balance. Mushrooms contain high amounts of β and α-glucans which act as a prebiotic fiber, stimulating the growth of our beneficial gut microbes whilst simultaneously protecting the microbiome from other nasty pathogens and bacteria. Mushrooms are a high source of the antioxidant ergothioneine and glutathione. A previous study showed that oyster mushrooms contain 10 times more ergothioneine than black beans, liver and chicken. These antioxidants reduce inflammation in our gut and support liver detoxification pathways. Liver health is vital when it comes to our hormonal balance. Once our oestrogen is used in our body it winds up in our liver where it is broken down into estrogen metabolites, and packaged for elimination or reabsorption. Finally mushrooms have been found to contain potent phytochemicals called flavonoids which balances oestrogen activity in the body by inhibiting an enzyme called aromatase.
There is a complex conversation happening every second between our gut and our hormones. Although we don't always think we need to focus on our gut health to sort out our hormones, improving our digestion is vital to improving hormonal health. The estrobolome requires our attention and hopefully this article provides a starting point to support your estrobolome to thrive!
Katherine Matthews Naturopath Practitioner
Specialises in Women’s Health, Fasting, Mental Health, and Gut Health.
Katherine is a leading naturopathic clinician, nutritionist and medical herbalist based in Auckland and Wanaka. Completed training at the True North Health Water Fasting Centre.
She works as her clients advocate and educator, combining current scientific evidence with traditional naturopathic knowledge to increase wellness.
Katherine works with a range of health concerns and specifically is passionate about Women's health, Cardiovascular complaints, mental health, anxiety, depression and fasting. She has recently returned from the United States where she was working at True North Health a medically supervised water fasting facility, . Using her knowledge of fasting, Katherine supports her clients to choose and implement a fasting protocol that is right for them.
She believes in a model of disease prevention and health promotion, and that when people are healthy they are able to contribute their unique talents to the world with more resilience, compassion and vitality. Our health and vitality is required in the transformation of our systems and the unserving structures within it.
- Ervin, S. M., Li, H., Lim, L., Roberts, L. R., Liang, X., Mani, S., & Redinbo, M. R. (2019). Gut microbial β-glucuronidases reactivate estrogens as components of the estrobolome that reactivate estrogens. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 294(49), 18586-18599.
- Baker, J. M., Al-Nakkash, L., & Herbst-Kralovetz, M. M. (2017). Estrogen–gut microbiome axis: physiological and clinical implications. Maturitas, 103, 45-53.
- Deehan, E. C., & Walter, J. (2016). The fiber gap and the disappearing gut microbiome: implications for human nutrition. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 27(5), 239-242.
- Ba, D. M., Ssentongo, P., Beelman, R. B., Muscat, J., Gao, X., & Richie, J. P. (2021). Higher Mushroom Consumption Is Associated with Lower Risk of Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 12(5), 1691–1704. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmab015
- Grube, B. J., Eng, E. T., Kao, Y. C., Kwon, A., & Chen, S. (2001). White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. The Journal of nutrition, 131(12), 3288–3293. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/131.12.3288
- Jayachandran M, Xiao J, Xu B. A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Sep 8;18(9):1934. doi: 10.3390/ijms18091934. PMID: 28885559; PMCID: PMC5618583.