One of the most frequently asked questions in clinic, is about SOY and its effects on the hormones, in particular Estrogen. The ‘SOY debate’ is a very well published one, and it frequently divides a room with opinions… Most of the research you hear about is VERY out of date. Soy isoflavones (the active phytoestrogen in Soy), is now being used to effectively MODULATE the Estrogenic load in the body- It will raise low Estrogen levels, and bring down high ones… but more on that another time.
What I want to talk about today is something that most people have never heard of- a class of chemicals called “Xenoestrogens”, or “Hormone-disrupting chemicals”. When these chemicals get into a mammalian body, they act like Estrogen and bind to Estrogen receptors. The problem is that they can exert an estrogenic effect that is 200-300x stronger than our own Estrogen, sending our hormone effects through the roof.
They are almost impossible to test for, because all hormone panels are designed to measure HUMAN estrogens only, but these chemicals, in my opinion, are some of the most dangerous for our health.
They are very much to blame for the massive rise in our infertility levels.. Girls and boys are reaching puberty too early as a result of these chemicals as well. In men, they can contribute to hair loss, prostrate problems, lowered libido and impotency… and in women it is believed they are a driver of some forms of breast and uterine cancers, fibroids and endometriosis..
There is plenty that can be done to rid the body of these harmful chemicals and pull the hormonal systems back into balance, but this is best left to a practitioner who knows how to deal with it..
In the meantime, make sure you school yourself on some of the sources of these chemicals, and try to make a conscious effort to eliminate as many of these from your life as possible.
Amongst the more familiar chemicals are, Insecticides, Herbicides, Fungicides, and industrial chemicals such as Cadmium, Lead, Mercury, PCB’s and Dioxins.
Byproducts of the plastic and pesticide industries—called organochlorines—are one of the largest sources of xenoestrogens. These compounds, also used in dry cleaning, the bleaching of feminine hygiene products and the manufacture of plastics ranging from yogurt containers to baby bottles, have been shown to exert hormone-disrupting effects. What’s more, organochlorines are known to accumulate in fatty human tissue and fluid such as breasts and breast milk. Caution dictates that women should try to eliminate these external estrogen sources through diet, supplements and lifestyle changes, especially if they are considering pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Plastics in our lives also expose us to the chemical bisphenol A, a breakdown product of polycarbonate, widely used in many plastics. Bisphenol A, found in the lining of many food cans and juice containers, escapes when polycarbonate is subjected to high temperatures. The estrogenic effects of bisphenol A became clear when men working in the plastics industry developed breasts after chronically inhaling the chemical in dust.
The information below makes suggestions to avoid substances that contain xenoestrogens. These substances can increase the estrogen load in the body.
- Avoid all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Wash your food well to rid the pesticides.
- Have a good water filter for your source of water.
- Use only organic based whole foods when you can. Buy organic meats and dairy products where possible.
- Avoid plastic goods – they leach into the environment.
- Do not microwave food in plastic containers, and especially avoid the use of plastic wrap to cover food for microwaving.
- Use glass or ceramics whenever possible to store food.
- Do not leave plastic containers, especially your drinking water, in the sun.
- If a plastic water container has heated up significantly, throw it away – do not drink the water either.
- Don’t use fabric softeners as it puts petrochemicals right on your skin.
- Use a simple laundry and dish detergent with less chemicals.
- Use organic soaps and toothpastes. Avoid fluoride.
- Avoid creams and cosmetics that have toxic chemicals and estrogenic ingredients such as parabens and stearal konium chloride. Switch to more natural, plant based products.
- Avoid nail polish and nail polish removers.
- Use only naturally based perfumes. Most perfumes are petrochemically based.
- Avoid new carpet – it can give off noxious fumes- if you do get new carpet, be sure to air the house out as much as you can.
Xenoestrogens are dangerous and accumulative in the body. By reducing these sources and therefore reducing the load on your body, you are already taking one massive step toward a more balanced hormonal system, and taking greater control of your health. 🙂