In Hormones (1) we addressed the history and ramifications of hormone replacement. The process of trying to correct symptoms of hormonal imbalances with hormone replacement of any kind is simply not the answer. We must get the cause of the hormonal imbalance. The good and bad news is there are chemicals in our environment that disrupt hormonal production and balance. Reducing your exposure to the following chemicals is a big step toward optimizing your health and hormone regulations.
Commercial Meat: Commercially raised cattle and fish are fed estrogen-like hormones as well as growth hormones that are passed on to humans. Cattle, poultry and fish are fed antibiotics which can contribute to hormone disruption. When shopping, look for meats that are labeled “no hormones”, “no steroids” or “no antibiotics”.
Pesticides: A number of pesticides which are commonly found in our food have been identified as likely to cause disturbance to natural hormones in our bodies.
Hormone disruptors from pesticides can cause problems at very low doses. Some block the body’s natural hormones from working, while others mimic the action of natural hormones. Unless labeled “organic”, commercially grown fruits and vegetables contain pesticides. Foods that typically have the most pesticides: strawberries (contain vinclozolin, a known endocrine disruptor), bell peppers, peaches, apples, apricots, and spinach. Foods that contain less amounts: avocados, corn, onions, sweet potatoes, bananas, green onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. If you can’t do organic, to reduce pesticide exposure, wash fruits & veggies well with diluted vinegar. This will help to reduce pesticides on the surface. Needless to say, this will not help to rid of the pesticides inside. Trim fat from meat and skin from poultry and fish that tend to collect residues.
Petrochemicals are found in general consumer products such as creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfume, hair spray and room deodorizers. Such compounds often have chemical structures similar to estrogen and indeed act like estrogen. Petrochemicals can be found in pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, solvents and adhesives such as those found in nail polish, paint removers, and glues. Switch to cleaner versions of cosmetics, nail care and skin care products. A great place to start is www.allnaturalcosmetics.com or your local health food store.
Stress causes adrenal gland exhaustion and reduced progesterone output. This tilts the estrogen to progesterone ratios in favor of estrogen. Excessive estrogen in turn causes insomnia and anxiety, which further taxes the adrenal gland. This leads to a further reduction in progesterone output and even more estrogen dominance. After a few years in this type of vicious cycle, the adrenal glands become exhausted. This dysfunction leads to blood sugar imbalance, hormonal imbalances, and chronic fatigue.
Excess body weight or clinical obesity contribute to estrogen dominance. Fat cells produce estrogen. Implementing healthy lifestyle changes along with exercise can help reduce stress and combat excess weight gain.
Liver disease or dysfunction reduces the breakdown of estrogen. Taking drugs that can impair liver function may also contribute to a higher level of estrogen.
Cooking with Plastics – Phthalates are environmental contaminants that can exhibit hormone-like behavior by acting as endocrine disruptors in humans and animals. If you heat up plastics, you could increase the leaching of phthalates from the containers into water and food. We should not be heating our food in the microwave nor using plastic containers or products for cooking. This includes storing hot food in plastic containers. Inert containers are best, for example heat-resistant glass, ceramics and good old stainless steel.
Vitamin B6 and Magnesium are necessary for the neutralization of estrogen in the liver. Too much estrogen tends to create deficiency of zinc, magnesium and the B vitamins. These are all important constituents of hormonal balance.
Increased sugar, fast food and processed food – Intake of these leads to a depletion of magnesium.
Increase in coffee consumption – Caffeine intake from all sources was linked with higher estrogen levels regardless of age, body mass index (BMI), caloric intake, smoking habits, alcohol, and cholesterol intake.
Studies have shown that women who consumed at least 500mg of caffeine daily, the equivalent of four or five cups of coffee, had nearly 70% more estrogen during the early follicular phase than women who consume no more than 100mg of caffeine daily, or less than one cup of coffee. Tea is not much better as it contains about half the amount of caffeine as compared to coffee. The exception is herbal tea like chamomile which contains no caffeine.
This isn’t a complete list of chemicals that affect hormone production and regulation but it is a great place for you to start.
Each of these chemicals alone may not have such detrimental affects on hormonal regulation as is seen in our country today; however, cumulative, multiple exposures on a day to day basis have the potential for creating such problems. The best thing you can do is reduce exposure to as many of these chemicals as possible. The next important point is to optimize the health of your body. Eat a well balanced, whole foods diet. Get tested to determine your levels of environmental exposures. You may be surprised. Testing will also help you determine where you may need to supplement your diet.
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