Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can have an impact on the gut microbiome, which is the collection of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. The gut microbiome plays an important role in overall health, including digestion, immunity, and even mood.
What the research says
Studies have shown that HRT can alter the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome. For example, a study published in the journal Menopause found that women receiving HRT had different gut microbiomes compared to those not receiving HRT. Specifically, the HRT group had lower levels of bacteria associated with inflammation and higher levels of bacteria associated with beneficial effects on metabolism.
Another study published in the journal PLoS One found that HRT can impact the gut microbiome differently depending on the type of hormone therapy used. The study found that estrogen-only HRT increased the abundance of certain beneficial bacteria, while estrogen-progestin therapy decreased the diversity of the gut microbiome.
It’s important to note that the long-term effects of HRT on the gut microbiome are not yet fully understood, and more research is needed in this area. However, it’s possible that changes in the gut microbiome could contribute to some of the side effects associated with HRT, such as bloating, constipation, and gastrointestinal discomfort.
It’s also possible that maintaining a healthy gut microbiome through diet and probiotic supplementation could help mitigate these side effects.
- Fiber-Rich Foods: Fiber acts as a prebiotic, providing nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria. Include foods such as whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice), legumes (beans, lentils), fruits, vegetables, and nuts in your diet.
- Fermented Foods: Fermented foods contain live beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that can help support a healthy microbiome. Examples include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso.
- Prebiotic Foods: Prebiotics are types of fiber that selectively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Foods rich in prebiotics include onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas, artichokes, and chicory root.
- Polyphenol-Rich Foods: Polyphenols are compounds found in many plant-based foods that have been associated with supporting a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. Examples include berries, grapes, apples, green tea, cocoa, and flaxseeds.
- Probiotic Supplements: In addition to food sources, probiotic supplements can provide a concentrated dose of beneficial bacteria. Look for high-quality supplements that contain specific strains of bacteria known to be beneficial for the gut.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, may have a positive impact on the gut microbiome.
- Colourful Fruits and Vegetables: Eating a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables can provide a range of nutrients and antioxidants that support overall health, including the gut microbiome.
- Healthy Fats: Include sources of healthy fats in your diet, such as avocados, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and seeds. These fats can help support a healthy gut environment.