Detox is a Dirty Word Part 3: The Hormone Factor
One of the most unsuspecting source of toxin overload in our bodies is xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are chemical compounds, natural and synthetic xenohormones which mimic the effects of estrogen in the body and disrupt the endocrine system. And they sneak into our bloodstream in several ways: in our food and drink, through our skin, including our scalp from hair treatments. Many detox programs (ok, I prefer the word “cleanse“) focus on an overhaul pipe cleaning of the digestive tract and possibly a liver and gallbladder flush. While you are going through that period of flushing, it’s also important to pay attention to your environmental exposures!
Plastics are the biggest culprits when it comes to estrogen exposure. Other sources include parabens, a food preservative found in makeup, hair products such as shampoos, anti frizz serums and bodycare products, including sunscreens. In the 1990’s parabens were deemed xeoestrogens and were found to be linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. Many of us already have hormonal imbalances from stress, lifestyle, inflammatory diets etc and we can add insult to injury with some of these daily habits:
- Storing food in plastic wrap and non BPA-free containers. I recommend glass Pyrex containers.
- Eating produce exposed to glyphosates (ie: the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup) will escalate the estrogenic effects in the body. Therefore, it is best to grow your own or buy local, organic produce.
- Consuming non organic, non grass fed, non cage free animals which are likely injected with hormones and antibiotics.
- Drinking water out of plastic disposable bottles (not to mention the damage to our environment).
- Placing hot leftovers in plastic containers.
- Microwaving (if you must, but I do not recommend microwave use at all) in plastic containers.
- Keeping body care and hair care products in their store bought plastic bottles for long periods of time, especially in the heated shower. (Even I overlooked this one until it was mentioned at a recent Functional Endocrinology post grad seminar). Tip: as soon as you bring them home from the store, transfer to jars or bottles. So, I recently found another use for empty wine bottles!
- You will be making up for all the makeup over the years! Yes, sadly our favorite brands of makeups are laden with toxic chemicals and hormones. Switch to mineral makeup. Today there are quite a few choices on the market. My favorite is Devita Natural Skin Care which has a mineral makeup line.
- Heat activates and triggers a stronger release of estrogens from plastics. So, if you enjoy sporting your paper cup of joe with the plastic lids every morning, I recommend removing the lid until your beverage cools down before capping it again. The heat from your coffee or tea intensifies the leaching of xenostrogens from the lid right into that drink you’re about to consume. The safer and more environmental friendly option is to transfer the liquid to a steel tumbler.
Why are Xenoestrogens such a big deal?
Endocrine system disruption from xenoestrogens have many consequences, many of which can ultimately lead to detrimental effects. They impede hormone signaling from the brain to the gland or gland to the brain for example and lead to increased risk of various cancers, menstrual disorders and even early puberty in children. This is why it’s important to do everything in your power to reduce exposure. Small changes like the ones above will have a cumulative effect on your toxin reduction. However, the cumulative effect of toxin exposure over the years likely requires a therapeutic intervention to purge all those chemicals out of your tissues. It’s important to consult with your physician before starting any type of chelation or cleanse. In functional medicine, we take a thorough history and review a comprehensive metabolic questionnaire in order to determine the appropriate lab tests needed. This helps uncover the underlying physiology triggering your symptoms. Immunoglobulin testing gives us even more specific information to help identify the level of chemical disruptors in your body. For my patients, I use the Chemical Autoimmune Reactivity Screen which tests antigens for over 12 compounds including Bisphenol A (BPA), heavy metals and parabens. It identifies the loss of their immune tolerance associated with xenobiotic exposure, which can lead to autoimmunity. From the results we can identify which chemicals to avoid in order to reduce the chances of igniting an autoimmunity in the patient.
So, what conditions, signs and symptoms indicate you may be accumulating xenoestrogens?
- Heavy bleeding, clotting during menstruation.
- Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation).
- Other estrogen dominance signs: painful cramping, mood swings, irregular cycles, headaches etc.
- Fibroids and ovarian cysts.
- Family history of breast cancer.
- Autoimmune conditions.
- Weight problems.
- Chemical sensitivities.
- Brain fog, memory deficits.
- In men: reduced sperm count, decrease in fertility, erectile dysfunction, reduction in male traits such as an increase in breast tissue.
- AND there are so many more. Basically if you have any metabolic issue this is something to seriously consider.
Here’s My Naked Truth….
It’s not easy living safely in this toxic soup of a world. So start with this: Be conscious of your decisions and know that every choice you make either moves you towards illness or towards health. It’s quite simple. Over time you will start to feel a difference in your energy, your focus level and your symptoms. Never underestimate the power of your body to respond to natural interventions, even if they include eliminating the unnatural substances. Nature and our physiology speak the same language. Processed foods and chemicals from the sources I described above disrupt the communications in your brain and body. If you don’t know where to start or this seems like an overwhelming and daunting task, start with the strategies I listed above and contact me for a free consultation over the phone.
My Commit 2 Health coaching program is open to a limited number of clients and early bird specials end December 20th. This is the jump start opportunity to help you ease into the New Year with a guided strategy and avoid burnout. You can also view my web page on Functional Medicine for more information.
Next in the Detox is a Dirty Word series: My simple rituals daily, weekly, (however often you can) to gradually “cleanse” your body. This will help prepare your systems for a more therapeutic and natural intervention if your doctor recommends! Stay tuned and feel free to catch up on Part One and Two below!
Part One: Detox is a Dirty Word