What is Gut Health?
One of the unsung heroes in the miracle that is the human body, your gut does much more than merely digest, absorb, and excrete food. It’s responsible for the proper function of your immune system, how you think and feels, how you synthesize and excrete hormones. Oh, and it influences your fertility too. Quite simply, when your gut— which influences the health of everything in the body— isn’t functioning at its optimal level, it has a knock-on effect on other body systems, including fertility.
When it comes to fertility (in both women and men), your gut microbiome can make a significant difference. Indeed, new research has shown how poor gut health can cause an estrogen imbalance, which may lead to infertility issues ranging from endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome to testicular dysfunction.
Research on the Gut-Fertility Connection
It might sound hard to believe, but gut health and fertility are inextricably linked. And that’s why couples looking to conceive should always focus their attention on optimising their gut health. A, growing body of evidence has confirmed the gut-fertility connection and its importance for our wellbeing.
These include the following:
The Importance of Estrogen for Fertility
Estrogen has always been considered a female dominant hormone for reproductive health, but this hormone actually pays a key role in fertility in both men and women. For women, estrogen is needed for proper ovulation and thickening of the uterine wall for pregnancy. It’s important that estrogen levels are neither too high nor too low, though. Excess estrogen, for instance, may cause irregular periods and can prevent ovulating, thereby resulting in infertility. Estrogen dominance has also been linked to infertility issues in women such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Estrogen deficiency, meanwhile, can also cause amenorrhea (an abnormal absence of menstruation), which leads to anovulation. Disorders of ovulation account for approximately 30% of female infertility and present mainly with irregular periods or amenorrhea.
The importance of estrogen for men’s sexual health is equally significant, impacting on multiple organs and tissue by affecting their reproductive system in a number of ways.
A deficit or surplus of estrogen can, for example, hinder the male libido (sex drive), with obvious implications for fertility. Meanwhile, spermatogenesis, an inappropriate increase in estradiol (an estrogen steroid hormone) has been shown to lead to a decrease in sperm production, while too little estrogen has been shown to have a causative effect with erectile dysfunction.
A Balancing Act
Hormones in your body are always in a careful balancing act. If one of your organs is not functioning properly, everything is thrown off-balance.
Your gut, the ‘forgotten organ’ or ‘second brain’ is a key regulator in circulating and eliminating estrogen, which is why it’s so important to focus on gut health when it comes to fertility.