Xenoestrogens and Plastic: How to Protect Your Endocrine Health
In our practice, we regularly counsel patients on how to treat the negative effects of estrogen dominance and other hormone imbalances in the body. Many women come to us seeking help for hot flashes, sleep disturbances, weight gain, depression, anxiety and low libido caused by rapidly fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause and menopause.
Men are also negatively affected by hormone imbalance as they age and often suffer from weight gain, depression, and exhaustion during “male menopause”, known as andropause.
But lifestyle factors can also throw your hormones out of balance.
Due to the added influence of "environmental" estrogens, hormonal fluctuations can occur for women and men at any age. Daily exposure to “xenoestrogens,” (man-made environmental estrogens) can accelerate the aging process, and/or create a condition of estrogen dominance at an earlier age.
Where Are Xenoestrogens Found?
Xenoestrogens are found in hormone-injected meats, certain pesticides, petrochemicals, herbicides, plastics, fuels, car exhausts, and drugs, as well as phthalates, or plastic-softening chemicals. When absorbed in the body, xenoestrogens act as endocrine disruptors that can decrease or increase normal hormone levels, mimic the body's natural hormones, or alter the natural production of hormones. (1) There are many surprising sources of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the products we use every day.
How do Endocrine Disruptors Such as Xenoestrogens Damage the Body?
Endocrine disruptors can:
- Mimic or partly mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body like estrogens (the female sex hormones), androgens (the male sex hormones), and thyroid hormones, potentially producing overstimulation.
- Bind to a receptor within a cell and block the endogenous hormone from binding. The normal signal then fails to occur and the body fails to respond properly. Examples of chemicals that block or antagonize hormones are anti-estrogens and anti-androgens.
- Interfere or block the way natural hormones or their receptors are made or controlled, for example, by altering their metabolism in the liver.
Chemicals that mimic or antagonize the actions of naturally occurring estrogens are defined as having estrogenic activity (EA), which is the most common form of endocrine disruptor activity. When this delicate system is disrupted, a variety of health-related problems in both women and men can result, including early puberty in females, altered functions of reproductive organs, obesity, and increased rates of some breast, ovarian, testicular, and prostate cancers. (2) Additionally, BPA exposure (see below) has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and asthma. (3)
BPA Plastic: A Pervasive Xenoestrogen to Avoid
BPA (or bisphenol A) is an industrial chemical and xenoestrogen that has been used to make certain plastics, resins and dental composites since the 1960s. Research has shown that BPA can leach into food or beverages from containers made with BPA.
Many plastic products are now marketed as BPA-free, but manufacturers have begun substituting other chemicals whose effects aren't as well known. In a recent study, researchers analyzed more than 450 plastic products such as baby bottles, deli packaging, and flexible bags and found that more than 70% of them released chemicals having estrogenic activity. Simulated sunlight, dishwashing and microwaving increased this percentage to 95%. Some of the “BPA-free” products tested in the study had even more activity than products known to contain BPA.
Avoiding plastic products wherever possible is a good first step in protecting your endocrine health but there are other ways you can reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens.
How To Protect Your Endocrine Health
- Buy and store foods in glass jars (or stainless steel), not plastic
- Use fresh, frozen, or dried products, not canned. (One study has suggested that, after just 3 days of eating a fresh food diet with no products taken from a can or plastic packaging, the levels of BPA in participants' bodies fell significantly.) (3)
- Avoid microwaving foods in plastic containers
- Do not wash plastic containers in the dishwasher or use harsh detergents on them
- Choose wooden toys instead of plastic
- Choose glass bottles for drinking water and bottle feeding (4)
How to Reverse the Negative Effects of Xenoestrogens
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from estrogen dominance caused or exacerbated by prolonged exposure to environmental xenoestrogens:
- Low libido
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Tender/fibrocystic breasts
- Weight gain
- Bone loss
- Irregular bleeding
The hormone estrogen is an important key to a woman’s physical well-being; however, an overload of estrogen is destructive, causing a cascade of unpleasant symptoms and raising the risk of life-threatening diseases. As Dr. John Lee described the condition: “If estrogen is dominant and progesterone deficient, estrogen becomes toxic to the body.” Untreated estrogen dominance has been clinically-linked to an increased risk of breast and uterine cancers, osteoporosis, low thyroid, and dementia.
Fortunately, hormone balance is achievable at any age.
The best high-impact solution to resolve estrogen dominance in women and men is balancing estrogen levels with bioidentical progesterone cream. A "bioidentical" progesterone treatment is biochemically identical to the kind your body naturally produces!
Bioidentical progesterone is derived from a plant molecule found in wild yam, which is synthesized in a lab to be identical to naturally produced hormones. The synthesizing process ensures that these hormones have the same molecular structure and duplicate the same function as the hormones made by your body. When you use bioidentical hormones, the cells of your body recognize them as familiar and know how to put them to best use.
A Natural Solution to an Environmental Problem
Many people have found relief from their symptoms with Dr. Randolph's over-the-counter formulation of Natural Balance Progesterone Cream (for women and for men). However, for more severe hormone imbalances, the best approach is to have your hormone levels checked.
Our clinicians evaluate your health and lifestyle issues, check your hormones with a simple blood test, and write prescriptions for exactly the hormones that YOUR body needs. Restoring hormone balance is intricate endocrinology, and often there are several imbalances at play. Each bioidentical hormone formulation we offer is compounded at our on-site pharmacy and can be picked up or shipped as needed