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Hi, pod fam!! 

If you’re sensing a trend in Season 2 of What’s the Juice so far, you’re spot on. This season is all about getting back to basics: how we can support our bodies through simple, everyday changes. 

This week, we’re covering the overlap of the gut microbiome and hormone regulation with Dr. Elizabeth Wade, a naturopathic doctor; fertility & menstrual cycle expert; and medical researcher, writer, & speaker. Topics include leaky gut, the role your gut microbiome plays in thyroid disorders, and how the Goldilocks phenomenon applies to diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in the midst of 2020 is the importance of our microbiome—especially our gut microbiome. And because this topic is so vast and encompasses SO many aspects of health and wellness, I’m thrilled to be continuing the convo with Dr. Wade on the pod this week. Let me tell you: she’s got A LOT of knowledge to share. 

Ready to get down and dirty? Let’s get juicy!

What exactly is the gut microbiome, and why does it matter?

Dr. Wade considers the gut microbiome to be the most important piece of health that most people don’t recognize the significance of or pay attention to—but, as a whole, we’re definitely becoming more aware of its importance.

The gut microbiome—which consists of bacteria, viruses, and living bugs in our intestinal tract—is crucial to how the rest of our bodies function. And it’s not the only microbiome that matters! We have delicate bacteria-rich microbiomes all over our body—including our skin, mouth, and vaginal canals. In fact, we’re more bacteria than human cells! 

As such, we can’t survive without these bacteria, so we’ve learned to live in a symbiotic way with these beings for the most part. Our bodies do this by creating a diverse environment, which is what we call gut diversity. Dr. Wade notes two different kinds of diversity that matter:

  • Alpha Diversity – the quantity: how many different species of bacteria do we have? How rich and robust is our microbiome?
  • Beta Diversity – the quality of the bacteria within our microbiome

But, sadly, we’re not always great at keeping things in balance due to factors like diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and environmental toxins. 

So you might know that your gut is where you digest food, absorb nutrients, and filter toxins, but did you know it’s also responsible (directly and indirectly) for the production of quite a few hormones? And the ones it doesn’t directly produce, it can still affect indirectly by way of inflammation.

And that inflammation and hormone regulation your gut’s responsible for? Well, it affects our overall health and wellness in big ways. Every chronic disease can be linked back to a microbiome imbalance, Dr. Wade tells us. Oh, and a cool 70% of your immune system is built and maintained in your gut as well.

Obviously, there’s SO much we could unpack regarding gut function, but for the sake of keeping this convo digestible, we focused on Dr. Wade’s specialties: hormone health (specifically, thyroid hormones) and fertility. 

Let’s start with a basic definition because this condition is gonna come up a lot.

What is leaky gut?

Dr. Wade notes this as a very common gut problem (we’re talking 80–90% of people are suffering from this to some degree). Your gut is lined with a single-layer row of cells, held together by tight junctions. This wall helps contain toxins, bacteria, etc. within your gut, but since it’s so thin (its diameter is maybe half the size of a human hair), it’s fairly vulnerable to imbalances. 

Imbalances are things that can weaken the tight junctions of the cell wall—causing leakage of toxins and bacteria into the bloodstream. Potential factors include:

  • Sleep quality
  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Inflammation
  • Exercise (too much or not enough)
  • Environmental Toxins

Thyroid Health x Your Gut Microbiome

How is thyroid health related to your gut? Well, Dr. Wade hits us with a chicken vs. egg notion: thyroid disease can cause leaky gut, and leaky gut can cause thyroid disease. Of course, there’s a genetic component—especially in the case of autoimmune thyroid disease—but the gut can definitely play a big role. 

Your thyroid function is dependent on the conversion of the T4 thyroid hormone into T3, and about 25% of that conversion happens in the gut. Because of this, if Dr. Wade were seeing someone for a thyroid disease (already diagnosed or suspected), she would recommend a full thyroid panel (to measure TSH, T3, and T4) along with a look at your gut microbiome. “You can’t ignore the gut if you really want to get to the root cause,” she says. What’s fascinating is that for some people, taking probiotics can actually decrease the amount of thyroid medication you need because you’re supporting a healthy gut microbiome.

I definitely recommend giving the episode a listen if you want to hear our full convo about thyroid health, especially in relation to your gut! 

Hormone Health, Infertility, & Your Gut Health

One of Dr. Wade’s specialties is supporting women who are experiencing infertility to conceive. She focuses on what’s often known as the preconception period or the “primester” (AKA the trimester before trying to conceive). 

This period is the ideal time to optimize your own health, but also to help set your baby up for good health. While in utero, during a vaginal birth, and through breastfeeding, your baby will absorb your microbiome—and they’ll keep somewhere between 60–70% of that through adulthood.

To help set future babies up for success and help women conceive those babies in the first place, Dr. Wade focuses on improving the gut microbiome, which then improves hormone health and really helps create a better environment for mom and baby.

Again, more on this in the ep, so give it a listen! 

So, whether you’re trying to conceive, manage a thyroid disorder, or just feel better, take Dr. Wade’s advice and start with the basics: improving your gut microbiome.

Here are some steps we can start taking today to support a healthy gut.

  • Eat a wide range of foods to support gut diversity
  • Consider taking probiotics (especially if you’ve taken antibiotics recently or excessively in the past)
  • Get enough sleep + work on improving sleep quality (to support melatonin production and lower stress levels)
  • Consume a healthy amount of carbs (but don’t cut them out entirely; they’re important for production of short-chain fatty acids)
  • Chew your food well (makes it easier to digest)
  • Eat better (prioritize the Clean Fifteen™ or Dirty Dozen™ or strive for eating mostly organic foods if possible; the common herbicide glyphosate can cause leaky gut)
  • Avoid large quantities of water at meals (it reduces your stomach acidity and makes it harder to digest food)
  • Try to avoid stressful topics while eating + ground yourself before ingesting food (eating while stressed can affect digestion)
  • Prioritize time for yourself (daily walks, mediation, movement, anything to help you feel more calm)
  • Consider the Goldilocks phenomenon: the amount/type of exercise and the variety of your diet needed to support a healthy gut are completely unique to you. Try to move and eat intuitively to find what makes you feel best.

Tune into the episode for allll the juicy goodness in this ep! You can share your thoughts with me on our NEW IG, @shoporganicolivia! Can’t wait to hear what you think!! 

xoxo,

Olivia

Follow Dr. Elizabeth Wade on Instagram

Visit Dr. Wade’s website

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