Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea: gut microbiota composition and the effects of exogenous estrogen administration

Giovanna Notaristefano, Francesca Romana Ponziani, Monia Ranalli, Alice Diterlizzi, Martina Asia Policriti, Leonardo Stella, Francesca Fianchi, Anna Picca, Valentina Petito, Federica Del Chierico, Matteo Scanu, Francesca Toto, Lorenza Putignani, Emanuele Marzetti, Daniele Ferrarese, Maria Cristina Mele, Annamaria Merola, Anna Tropea, Antonio Gasbarrini, Giovanni ScambiaAntonio Lanzone, Rosanna Apa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) is characterized by estrogen deficiency that significantly impacts metabolic, bone, cardiovascular, mental, and reproductive health. Given the importance of environmental factors such as stress and body composition, and particularly considering the importance of estrogens in regulating the gut microbiota, some changes in the intestinal microenvironment are expected when all of these factors occur simultaneously. We aimed to assess whether the gut microbiota composition is altered in FHA and to determine the potential impact of hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) on the gut microbiota. This prospective observational study included 33 patients aged 18-34 yr with FHA and 10 age-matched healthy control women. Clinical, hormonal, and metabolic evaluations were performed at baseline for the FHA group only, whereas gut microbiota profile was assessed by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing for both groups. All measurements were repeated in patients with FHA after receiving HRT for 6 mo. Gut microbiota alpha diversity at baseline was significantly different between patients with FHA and healthy controls (P < 0.01). At the phylum level, the relative abundance of Fusobacteria was higher in patients with FHA after HRT (P < 0.01), as was that of Ruminococcus and Eubacterium at the genus level (P < 0.05), which correlated with a decrease in circulating proinflammatory cytokines. FHA is a multidimensional disorder that is interconnected with dysbiosis through various mechanisms, particularly involving the gut-brain axis. HRT appears to induce a favorable shift in the gut microbiota in patients with FHA, which is also associated with a reduction in the systemic inflammatory status.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-177
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • amenorrhea
  • dysbiosis
  • estrogen
  • gut microbiota
  • inflammation


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