By Holly Sue Baer, BS Natural Health Studies Dr. of Naturopathy Candidate
Xenoestrogens are estrogenic chemicals that can mimic the hormone estrogen. This over load of synthetic estrogens causes an excess of estrogen in the body which interrupts the body’s normal hormonal activities.
Estrogenic chemicals are found in our food and water supply as well as in the air and various products we use. Commercially raised dairy and meat products are a major source of xenoestrogens as the animals are routinely given estrogenic hormones to fatten them up. There are also high levels of pesticides consumed by these animals when fed conventionally. We actually consume the pesticides and hormones that are stored in the fatty tissues and breast milk of the animals when we eat conventionally produced meats and dairy.
Some estrogenic chemicals (phthalates) are found in plastics, fertilizers, pesticides, and industrial detergents. Phthalates are also found in food containers, plastic wraps, water bottles, vinyl shower curtains, cosmetics, perfumes, lotions, bath gels, nail polish, dental material and children’s toys. Phthalate exposure is contributing to premature puberty in preteen girls, birth defects, infertility and early menopause. Absorbent materials in sanitary napkins and tampons are bleached with chlorine which in turn leaches into our bodies and presents itself as synthetic estrogen.
Xenoestrogens have devastating effects on sexual development in humans, wild life and marine species. Women seem to be more vulnerable because they are more sensitive to estrogen than men. Women complain of many estrogen-dependent health problems such as breast and uterine cancer, weight gain, PMS, depression, cervical dysplasia, tender breasts, fibrocystic breast disease, uterine fibroids, low libido, migraine headaches, liver dysfunction and relative hypothyroidism. Synthetic hormone replacement adds to this problem. Recent reports have shown a decline of men’s testosterone by 20% in only one generation. The quantity of healthy sperm has also declined. Undoubtedly these problems are related to xenoestrogens.
Excess estrogen promotes the enlargement of fat tissues, which in turn produces more estrogen. This vicious cycle of estrogen/fat gain is causing obesity in men, women and children alike. Unless these xenoestrogens are addressed we will not be able to lose weight or maintain an ideal weight.
Minimize you exposure to xenoestrogens by avoiding plastics for water and food storage. Use glass or ceramics whenever possible. Use wax paper or a glass plate to cover bowls in the microwave. Use products with fewer chemicals. Chemicals can be absorbed through your skin. Choose paraben-free shampoos, body wash gels, makeup, and lotions. Avoid synthetic hormone replacement or contraceptives. Consume hormone-free meat, poultry, eggs and dairy if possible. Eat organic produce.
The liver is where the elimination and neutralization of toxins including estrogenic substances takes place. We can support and detoxify the liver with natural dietary aids such as green vegetables, carrots, beets and berries. Supplementation of turmeric, oregano, rosemary, thyme, ginger and sage is helpful. Herbs like dandelion, milk thistle, shilajit, bacopa, and gotu kola help to cleanse and detoxify the liver. Many of these herbs are combined and available in Liver Detox formulas.
Add beneficial phytoestrogens which are plant-based substances with weak estrogenic activity. They have hormone balancing properties as they contain both mild estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects. By occupying receptor sites on cells, phytoestrogens can limit the activity of more potent natural estrogens, as well as xenoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens can be founding foods including flaxseeds, hemp seeds, legumes, fennel, celery and parsley. Various herbs also contain phytoestrogens, including chaste tree berry, dong quai, alfalfa, hops, red clover and wild yam.
Synthetic estrogens are all around us. Be aware of their dangers and take proactive measures to avoid them. Eat pesticide and hormone-free foods, use class or ceramic storage containers, and add phytoestrogenic herbs and foods to your diet. Cleanse and support your liver. Stay away from synthetic hormone replacement or contraceptives, and questionable products.
Lucille, H., (2004), Creating and Maintaining Balance;A Woman’s Guide to Safe, Natural Hormone Health, Boulder Co., Impakt Health, p.17-19.
Hofmekler, O., (2008), Swanson Health Products Interview, Edition DMJ, Fargo, ND., p.3-5.