The ‘P’s of Hormonal disruption

Do you suffer from PMS? Acne? Breast pain every menstruation? Hormonal symptoms that you’ve been blaming on your body? Maybe it’s not your body producing excess hormones, it could be your environment. There are many chemicals in our environment that mess with the hormonal system in the body. They are called endocrine disruptors, which is just a fancy term for something that disturbs the hormones. Some of such chemicals are: Parabens, Pthalates, Plastics, and Pesticides.

Parabens are a preservative typically used in cosmetics such as lotions, scrubs, deodorants, shampoos/conditioners, and various make-up products. They include Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, etc, etc, etc. They mimic (or copy) estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on the cells. They are linked to cancer (especially of the breast), reproductive toxicity, immune system toxicity, skin irritation and neural toxicity (which involves the brain/nervous system).

Pthalates are often used: to soften vinyl plastics, in plastic food packaging, as components of fragrances/perfumes, in cosmetics, clothing, toys, and in nail polish. They are labeled as: phthalate, DEP, DBP, or ‘fragrance’. If you look at a label of a product and it says ‘fragrance’, it most likely has pthalates in it. Of all product samples that contained pthalates, only nail polish had it actually listed in the ingredients list. Pthalates reduce levels of sex hormones, which interferes with the functioning and development of sex organs. In pregnant women, it has been shown to shorten the anal-genital distance in their male babies, indicating feminization during development of the baby. Baby boys exposed to pthalates through breast milk also had changes in their hormone levels. Pthalates are also associated with low sperm quality and infertility in men. In women they are known to increase breast tumor cell growth and make estrogen-reducing treatments such as tamoxifen less effective against such tumors.

Plastics are also known to disturb the hormones. Remember the BPA baby bottle ban? BPA is usually labeled on the recycle symbol as plastic #7 (Although mixed plastics can be labeled as such). The safest plastics for food are # 1 (single use only), # 2, # 4, # 5. I would avoid plastics all together if possible though. Also, never heat your plastic containers or freeze them to prevent breakdown. Canned foods also typically have a plastic lining on the inside.

Pesticides can also be endocrine disruptors. They can contaminate tap water and are found on conventional produce that has been sprayed for pests. The Environmental Working Group periodically comes up with the dirty dozen and clean fifteen fruits and vegetables so that you can minimize your exposure to pesticides in food.

While it is ingrained in our minds that ‘the dose makes the poison’, this is not necessarily the case for these chemicals. This is because hormones have different effects at different doses. At low doses estrogen will constrict the blood vessels, and high doses will dilate them. Do not think that a low dose will have no effect. We are also exposed to so many chemicals, it is unpredictable what the synergistic effect of all these exposures will be. Avoid these chemicals as much as possible to help the body balance hormones. There are many natural products on the market (although some are quite expensive) or you can tune in to this website as I make my own hygiene products and will be posting recipes every now and then.


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