The Connection Between Chemicals And Hormones
Did you know that chemicals found in our everyday environment can influence hormone balance? It might not seem like much when you only apply a few drops of moisturizer each time, but if you keep doing it every day for 10 or 20 years the quantity can really add up. Add to this your makeup, hair care products, laundry powder, surface cleaners, chemical residues in food and water, and suddenly it doesn’t look like such a small amount anymore. It starts to look like every day you’re exposing yourself to chemicals in large enough quantities that it could upset your health over the long term.
Hidden chemicals can influence your hormones and health
It’s not always obvious when you’re being exposed to chemicals and usually you can’t see the health hazards in your daily routine. For example, common sunscreen ingredients such as benzophenone can disturb hormone balance as well as increasing your risk of developing cancer. Unless you know to look for it in your sunscreen ingredients list, you could be putting this unsafe chemical on your skin without realizing it. Substances that disturb hormone balance in this way are known as endocrine disruptors.
Estrogen receptors are easily triggered by substances that aren’t estrogen
Hormones work like a lock and key. Your cells have receptors on them that act like locks, and your hormones are the keys. Estrogen receptors are like a lock that’s very easy to pick. Many things that slightly resemble estrogen will fit the receptor and trigger a response as if it came from your body’s natural estrogen supply. This is why estrogen imbalance is so effectively treated by herbal and food components that mimic estrogen. But its also why estrogen levels can so easily go out of balance if you’re eating the wrong foods or you’re exposed to chemical endocrine disruptors.
Chemicals that disturb estrogen balance are called xenoestrogens
The way that estrogen receptors are so easily triggered has led to a lot of interest in the topic and it’s now been well studied and well documented. The name given to the collective group of chemicals that disturb estrogen balance is xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens can store in your fat cells and accumulate over time. Your body tries to get rid of them through it’s normal detoxification processes, that is the gut, the urinary system and the skin. But the way they’re hidden in fat cells means your body often doesn’t recognize them as something foreign that needs to be removed.
Xenoestrogens lead to hormone imbalance and associated illnesses
When you’re continuously exposed to xenoestrogens, they eventually create an apparent estrogen excess. Your body’s natural estrogen level could be normal, but it responds to the xenoestrogens as well as your natural estrogen, making it seem like your estrogen level is high. A persistently excessive estrogen level creates a range of symptoms and risks. Premenstrual syndrome can be worse, and you may have issues with infertility. Serious conditions such as breast cancer, endometriosis and diabetes are all more likely with overexposure to estrogen.
Having a list of xenoestrogens can help you avoid them
The Women in Balance Institute of Portland, OR, has a basic list of the chemicals that act as xenoestrogens, and the everyday sources in which they are found. Once you know what to look for when reading ingredients, you can avoid xenoestrogens as much as possible. The Institute also has more information about xenoestrogens so you can empower yourself with understanding on the topic. Many well known authors and experts contribute to their knowledge bank.
You can make lifestyle choices that reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens
There are some simple, effective changes you can make to your daily routine that will significantly reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens. There are so many alternatives to chemical-filled products that it can be quite an easy transition to make to move away from risky products. You need to be willing to give up your current preferences and try something new. But if you truly understand the importance of it, it will seem more than worthwhile.
Find new products that you trust and adore
There will likely be a period of trial and error as you find your new favorite products. But if you can make these changes permanent, you will have gone a long way to protecting yourself from damaging xenoestrogens. We’ll focus on the four biggest sources of xenoestrogens for our monthly challenge.
Four Simple Changes You Can Make To Avoid Xenoestrogens
1) Use Natural Household & Cleaning Products
Chlorine and other chemicals used in household and cleaning products are known xenoestrogens. Switch out your standard kitchen and bathroom products for chemical-free, biodegradable options. This means using unbleached paper towels, toilet paper, tampons and pads. Also citrus-based laundry wash, dish wash, spray cleaners, cream cleaners, and toilet cleaner. Citrus extract is a common ingredient in eco-cleaning products that’s non toxic to humans and aquatic life but kills around 99% of bacteria and fungi.
2) Switch To Natural & Organic Beauty Products
Most big brand skin and hair care products have a range of hidden xenoestrogens in them. Parabens, found in most products, and sunscreen agents are notorious for being xenoestrogenic. It’s possible to change almost your entire beauty collection to natural and organic products that will still be effective. This includes cleansers, toners moisturizers, serums, makeup, perfumes, deodorants, shaving creams, shower gels, shampoos, conditioners, hair treatments and styling products. It’s best to avoid nail polish and removers as much as possible as these are one thing that can’t yet be made without harsh chemicals.
If you have problem skin and the products you’re currently using are working for you, it can be worrying to think you might have to start all over again with reactive skin. Luckily, most salespeople are very knowledgeable about skin types and products, and if you go to your local health store, they’ll able to help you choose the best products for your skin. Or they’ll refer you to the right people who can help you, if they don’t have the answers themselves.
3) Eat Home Grown & Organic Food
There are a lot of xenoestrogenic additives in common food products so it’s best to stick to a diet of natural whole foods, consisting of mostly fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and good oils. Artificial flavorings, preservatives and colorings are the biggest villains here. But even whole foods can have hidden chemicals in them as residues from pesticides and insecticides can remain on fruit and vegetables even after they’ve been washed. Insecticides in particular are known xenoestrogens.
The best food you can eat for your health is organically grown, local, and in season. Of course it’s not always practical or possible to eat this way, but you may be able to take small steps towards it without too much trouble. Where I live we have a weekly delivery of organic vegetables to our door. The grower is a local who harvests everything fresh the morning before delivery. I also insist on organic dairy and meat because I know they are fatty foods and xenoestrogens hide in fat cells. If you’re ready to go all out and make the switch 100% then that’s even better!
4) Avoid Or Reduce Plastic Use
Most plastics act as xenoestrogens if they get into your bloodstream. Plastic can be leached into food and drink by microwaving food in plastic and drinking water from plastic bottles. So try to avoid both of these things. With plastic water bottles, don’t use them more than once and if they’ve been in the sun, throw them away without drinking the water form them. Don’t use them to freeze drinking water in either. If you can avoid them entirely and use either glass or stainless steel for drinking water, that’s definitely a better choice. There are plastic-free options everywhere. Lunch wrap, food storage, shopping bags and packaging can all be made from alternatives. There’s fabric, glass, ceramic, steel, cardboard, bamboo fiber, potato starch, sugar and vegetable cellulose to name just a few of the innovative materials that are replacing plastic in our everyday lives.
Aurora graduated as a medical herbalist in 2011 with areas of interests in mental health, women’s health, and nutrition – specifically how to use nutrition in combination with herbal medicine. I have always been interested in botany and gardening, but it became full time passion (read obsession) when I realised I could use this interest to help people with herbal remedies.