What do your bowels have to do with your hormones?
Quite a bit actually.
Not only do your hormones affect your bowels, but the health and function of your bowels also impacts upon your hormone balance!
Many women notice some minor bowel changes at different times of the month, most often a tendency to looser bowels on the first day of their period (this is often due to increased prostaglandins which stimulate the bowels).
If your bowels tend to be sluggish and you only have a bowel movement every second day or you're prone to constipation ( a bowel movement only every few days) you are more likely to experience increased oestrogen levels. This is because one of the ways that your body excretes oestrogen from your body is through your bowels.
If your bowels aren't being used daily, unfortunately aside from leaving you potentially feeling a bit bloated and uncomfortable, oestrogen that was meant to be excreted through your bowel can end up getting reabsorbed back in to your blood stream ( a similar thing happens with cholesterol which is a reason that optimal bowel function is an important part of maintaining healthy cholesterol levels).
Whilst we need adequate oestrogen for hormone balance and many other functions within the body, too much of it isn't a good thing and is often behind the majority of symptoms exprienced in the second half of your cycle or during your period such as headaches, mood swings, heavy bleeding, fibroids, period pain, breast tenderness and bloating.
Oestrogen also tends to be high in Endometriosis and PCOS.
What causes sluggish bowels?
The bowels are often affected by emotional and mental stress, for some people stress will trigger a tendency for loose bowels and for others, a tendency towards constipation.
Other things that can affect the bowels are most definately what you're eating. Food intolerances and sensitivities affect the bowels as does a lack of fibre and water.
Certain medications including the pill which changes your gut flora can have an impact on bowel function.
The bowels require muscular movement through the digestive system, so both chewing your food thoroughly and slowly triggers a process called peristalsis which causes muscular movement of food through the digestive system.
Getting up and moving regularly throughout the day if you tend to spend long periods of time sitting is another way to support peristalsis.
A good gentle, individually tailored gut cleanse and detox periodically can also be really helpful to stimulate and reset the bowels ( NOT using laxatives as these can damage the nerves of the bowel and lead to dependancy) and there are also certain probiotics which can be very helpful.
Be mindful of eating plenty of prebiotic foods here is a link to a good list:
Be mindful of drinking enough water
And of course consider how much fibre you have in your diet. Fruit and vegetables are excellent sources of fibre along with added fibre options such as chia seeds, psyllium or flax meal. Nuts, seeds, avocadoes and grains such as oats also provide fibre.
When you increase your fibre intake, it's important to also increase your water intake otherwise the fire can lead to you getting more 'bound up' and worsen constipation or sluggish bowels.
Metaphysically the bowels can also relate to a tendency to be holding on to old hurts, emotions and issues or unconsciously releasing the past or 'letting go'. I find that flower essences can really help if there is a metaphysical/mental/emotional component to constipation or sluggish bowels.
Along with particular probiotic strains, there are also some wonderful herbs to support healthy digestion and support the bowels in to a more regualr pattern. The liver and the bowel also work together, so supporting the liver can also help with healthy bowel function and healthy excretion of hormones through the bowel.
If you feel like you might benefit from a gentle, individually tailored gut.bowel cleanse, download this questionaire
https://www.dropbox.com/s/dvh845slhaapk3k/metagenics-detoxification-questionnaire_0%20%281%29.pdf?dl=0 to fill in and bring with you to your next appointment