Xenoestrogens – how harmful are they?
The subject of hormone disrupters and exposure to toxins in our environment is a big and often controversial subject. Whilst I’ve tended not to get too wound up by it, as I think you can end up creating quite fearful patterns if you worry too much about every toxin you are exposed to, I do think it’s worth educating yourself on the basics. Toxin exposure builds up over time and at some point the liver says “enough is enough”!
I’ll go through some of the main sources of hormone disrupters and ways you can reduce your exposure, but firstly here’s a snippet of science. There are numerous toxins in our environment, but this would take many blogs to go through all of them, so I’m going to focus on those known as xenoestrogens. Oestrogens are a group of natural hormones found in both men and women, but produced in larger quantities in women. However, xenoestrogens, a group of chemicals present in the environment and everyday products, mimic the effects of oestrogen and combined with the oestrogen naturally present in the body, this may create an excess, which may have detrimental consequences in humans.
There has been a lot of research into this, but it’s not without controversy. Renowned scientist Dr Ana Soto, studied the effects of xenoestrogens on rodents. Other research into hormone disrupters comes from the 50’s, which indicates that a synthetic oestrogen given to pregnant women to reduce miscarriage rates was correlated with an increased incidence of vaginal cancer in their female children. Overall, there is research to support a correlation (which does not necessarily mean one thing causes the other) between oestrogenic chemicals and health problems including increased rates of breast cancer, endometriosis, early onset of puberty and menopause, infertility and miscarriages.
Xenoestrogens may also act as hormone disrupters in men. They are believed to contribute to decreased sperm count and prostate and testicular cancers. Other health problems such as thyroid disorders, diabetes and behavioural problems may also be linked to increased xenoestrogen exposure levels. Most controversy is around the widely used eostrogenic chemical, bisphenol A (also known as BPA). Some recent reports state that there are no health risks associated with BPA at the level we are exposed to, but others disagree, stating that their cumulative effect can be powerful even if their actual oestrogenic effect is much lower than our own human hormones.
As usual the research into xenoestrogens and hormone disrupters in general is hazy at best. But to be honest, I’ve never felt the need to wait for the science to catch up with what I know intuitively to be true. Pumping our bodies full of chemicals that are not natural is going to have some kind of negative effect at some point. Everything holds a frequency and if health comes from alignment of our energy fields then adding in components that hold a very different frequency will ultimately have an impact. If we are healthy, we can withstand a certain level of chemical and toxin exposure. But for someone who is already in poor health, or has hormone related issues, it’s going to show up sooner rather than later.
But before you panic about needing to remove every last endocrine disrupter from your fridge or cupboards, understand that taking steps to avoid some of the most obvious ones will have a positive impact. At the same time, if you are limited in what you can remove, then you can use other methods to support your body in detoxing them from your system.
Environmental sources of xenoestrogens
• Food sources – non-organic fruit and vegetables can contain pesticides and insecticides.
• Cosmetics and lotions – contain parabens and phthalates.
• Plastics – contain BPA and phthalates.
• Bleached products – including paper, coffee filters, tampons. All contain organochlorines.
• Other household products – electrical oils, lubricants, adhesives and paints contain PCBs.
• Non-stick saucepans – contain PFOAs that leach out during cooking.
• Non-filtered water – contains oestrogens from the oral contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy.
• Oral contraceptive pill – contains the synthetic oestrogen ethinylestradiol.
• Industrial chemicals and by products.
Simple ways to clean up your act
Eat organic produce as much as possible to avoid exposure to pesticides and insecticides. Peel non-organic fruit and vegetables or wash in a little water and vinegar.
Buy organic meat and dairy products to avoid exposure to hormones and pesticides. Aim for wild fish rather than farm raised fish, which can absorb PCBs and other toxins.
Use organic cosmetics, hair care products, soaps and toothpastes. Look for products labelled paraben and phthalate free (if in doubt look at the ingredients list).
Minimise exposure to nail polish and nail polish remover.
Check labels of condoms and spermicides for nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs).
Don’t buy or store food in plastic containers or wrapped in soft plastic. It’s especially dangerous to microwave food in a container made of plastic, since heat causes BPA and other plasticizers to leach into food. If using cling film, wrap food in greaseproof paper first.
Limit the amount of canned foods you use since most metal cans have a BPA lining.
Eliminate plastic from your kitchen as much as possible, use glass containers or stainless steel for storing food. Don’t drink out of plastic water bottles. Especially in summer when they heat up in your bag. Use stainless steel drinking containers instead.
Buy non-toxic saucepans, such as ceramic or stainless steel.
Reduce the amount of processed and packaged foods, not only due to the plastic containers, but also some food preservatives and food colourings have xenoestrogenic activity.
Invest in a good water filter that removes chlorine and some of the oestrogens. It is best to investigate filters before buying as there are many different types, with a wide range in price, and some are better than others at removing toxins.
Use natural pesticides on your garden and avoid commercial flea killers for your pets.
Use organic cleaning supplies or dilute vinegar and lemon juice to clean your home. Don’t spray commercial air fresheners inside your home. Some supermarkets now stock more chemically friendly products such as the Ecover and Method range. Even better, start using Essential Oils for this.
Use unbleached chlorine free paper towels, toilet paper, tampons and coffee filters.
Ok, so that might all seem a little overwhelming, but just take one or two at a time. Really though, the most important thing you can do to help combat all of these is to load your body up with phytonutrients to deal with toxins – basically fruit and veg are one of the best ways to do this, but other foods also contain nutrients that help deal with toxic overload. It sounds simple (and probably a little boring) but the bottom line is that this is something in our control, unlike the pollutants found in the air and water. So start getting excited about fruit and veg again!
Lastly, use other methods alongside this to support your body in detoxing the chemicals. Energy Medicine is a wonderful way to do this.
Have a good week 🙂