We know that certain lifestyle factors such as diet (e.g. high-fat/sugar/processed foods) high levels of alcohol consumption and smoking are commonly associated with disruption to the gut microbiome, in addition to medication use such as antibiotics.8 Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome with a plant-based diet focusing on dietary fibre through consumption of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, beans and pulses is recommended to support the gut microbiome, and therefore, the estrobolome too.
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds abundant in plants (particularly soy) and are structurally similar to endogenously produced oestrogens. Phytoestrogens (main types being isoflavones, ellagitannins, lignans) are metabolised by the gut microbiome into equol, urolithins and enterolignans, respectively and can be considered as oestrogenic or anti-oestrogenic, thus potentially viewed as protective or implicated in oestrogen-driven health conditions. The effects of phytoestrogens are likely to be highly individualised depending on the composition of an individual’s gut microbiome, thus health effects of consumption of phytoestrogens are likely to vary significantly from person to person. This may, in part, explain why several meta-analyses to date investigating the effects of phytoestrogens on menopausal symptoms and bone mineral density have reported mixed results.9