Excerpt From Alisa Vitti's New Book, In the FLO
“From the moment women get our first periods, we’re told about the cramps, the premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the burden our bodies must now take on. From a young age, we’re taught to feel ashamed rather than empowered by our bodies. Something that is so fundamental to us—our biochemistry, our reproductive system, our menstrual cycle—is twisted into “the curse” that we must hide or “deal with” rather than celebrate and use. We’ve been conditioned to ignore our hormonal cycle until something goes wrong with it."
“Your gastrointestinal tract, vagina, and breasts are filled with trillions of beneficial bacteria. When these friendly microbes are balanced, they help keep your body humming in good health and fend off disease. But when they are imbalanced or bad bacteria sneak into the mix, they are associated with conditions such as obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, ADHD, and more. Emerging science is increasingly finding differences between the sexes when it comes to the human microbiome. For example, a 2014 study in Nature Communications found that women’s and men’s gut flora responded differently to the same diet. Other researchers found discrepancies between women and men in the abundance of specific gut bacteria. Researchers also noted differences between the sexes in the proliferation of certain bacteria as weight increased. No wonder your brother can lose weight on diets tailored to his biological rhythms while you don’t see the scale budge!
Your gut microbiome also has a unique connection to your female brain. In fact, you have about 100 million neurons in your gut, which is often referred to as the “second brain.” Your gut is responsible for pumping out more than 90 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, according to 2015 research in Cell. Although the scientists didn’t note any differences between the sexes in terms of the gut-serotonin connection, I think it’s logical to assume that, with so much of the “happiness neurotransmitter” emanating from your gut, your microbiome health can affect your moods.
“Did you know that your breasts also have a microbiome? Or that this bacterial community could modulate your risk for breast cancer? In a 2016 study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, researchers detected differences in the bacterial makeup between women with breast cancer and those who were cancer free. This finding raises many questions about the breast microbiome’s role in the prevention or development of breast cancer, and scientists are in laboratories now trying to determine whether good bacteria could be used as a possible treatment for the disease.”
“How Your Cycle Affects Your Microbiome
Your microbiome is tightly linked to your hormones and is considered by some to be an additional component of the endocrine system. Science shows that estrogen influences the gut in many ways: promoting the growth and proliferation of good gut bacteria and providing a protective barrier to prevent intestinal permeability, a condition also known as leaky gut that allows contents from the gut to seep out into the body. Leaky gut is associated with bloating, cramps, gas, food sensitivities, and other digestive issues. Estrogen receptors also influence the composition of intestinal bacteria, according to the Journal of Neuroimmunology. Considering this research, you might be tempted to think more estrogen is good for your gut and less is bad, but it isn’t that simple. As with all your biological systems, balanced hormones are the key to optimal function.
“On the other side of the equation, your gut microbiome plays a major role in the breakdown of estrogen and is critical in keeping this key hormone balanced. A certain set of gut bacteria—and more specifically certain bacterial genes, called the estrobolome—produce an essential enzyme that helps metabolize estrogen. Your gut is thus part of the elimination system that is vital to ushering hormones out of the body. This process, when working efficiently, plays an essential role in achieving hormonal harmony.”
“What Goes Wrong When We Ignore Our Cyclical Nature
Considering the many ways the menstrual cycle impacts the microbiome, it’s logical to assume imbalanced hormones can have negative effects on gut, vaginal, and breast health. Likewise, a poorly functioning internal ecosystem can lead to a buildup of excess estrogen. Estrogen dominance is tied to nearly every hormonal imbalance symptom—infertility, PMS, low libido, cramps, heavy bleeding, and PCOS.
“In the FLO Advantage
Balancing hormone levels throughout the cycle can promote a more vital microbiome. Better gut health can translate into smoother digestion, easier weight loss, improved neurotransmitter production, and enhanced moods. Balanced vaginal bacteria can reduce the occurrence of yeast infections, improve fertility, increase the chances of a full-term pregnancy, and promote better health for babies. As for the breast microbiome, we still need more research—but I think it’s safe to say that hormonal harmony is likely to promote better breast health.” By tuning into our inner biochemistry rhythm, doing less can be the key to getting the results you want.