Saturday, March 19, 2016

Is this the cause of your hormone problem?

Are you concerned about chemicals in the environment?  Did you know that chemicals may be the cause of your hormone imbalance?

There are literally tens of thousands of chemicals that have been invented in the past 70 years.  Most of these have never been tested to see whether they are safe for humans.   We are exposed to small amounts of these chemicals on a daily basis through food, water, cosmetics, and air.  These compounds are often persistent (they don't get flushed out of the body) and build up over time.

Many of these chemicals are "hormone disruptors", meaning that they interfere with our normal hormone function.   Examples include industrial chemicals like dioxins and PCBs, pesticides including DDT, plasticizers like BPA and phthalates, and preservatives like parabens.

Health problems in women that may be associated with hormone disrupting chemicals include uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease, endometriosis, infertility, PMS, and menstrual problems.  

In men these chemicals have been associated with low testosterone levels,  reduced sperm count, infertility, and impaired sexual function.  

Lets look at some of these in more detail.

Bis-phenol A (BPA) is a component of plastic and has estrogenic effects.  (In fact, it was first discovered in the 1880's and was evaluated for use as an estrogen drug, before it was abandoned in favor of a compound with even stronger estrogen effects - DES.  DES was one of the first hormone disruptors identified and was banned by the FDA for causing birth defects. )

BPA is found in hard plastic bottles (including baby bottles!), dental sealants that we put on our kids teeth, credit card receipts, dollar bills, and the inside lining of cans of food.  

 To minimize your exposure,  avoid plastic bottles (especially if scratched or old),  buy fresh or frozen food instead of canned whenever possible, strongly consider the pros and cons of dental sealants (BPA-free sealants are available), and avoid products packaged in recyclable plastic containers marked #7.

Phthalates are found in soft plastic, such as water bottles, teething toys, baby bottle nipples, and plastic wrap for food.

To minimize your risk,  don't reuse your water bottles, and don't microwave your food in plastic (the heat increases the leaching of the chemical into your food) - use glass instead.

Parabens are preservatives found in personal care products like cosmetics, lotions, and shampoo.

Read the labels of all the products that you put on your skin to see if they contain parabens. Anything you put on your skin will be absorbed into your body.

Dioxins come from industrial processes, such as incineration of medical waste, smelting,  pulp and paper bleaching, and production of pesticides and herbicides.  Agent Orange is a dioxin, and dioxins are closely related to PCBs which were banned in the 1970s.  Both dioxins and PCS are persistent, meaning they last for decades in our bodies and in the environment.

The chemicals are deposited on the ground and ingested by farm animals, where it is concentrated in their fat tissues.  Our main exposure is through consumption of meat and dairy products.

According to the EPA, adults consume approximately 300-600 times the "safe" limit for dioxins. These chemicals tend to be concentrated in breast milk, and nursing infants are estimated to to consume 15,000-30,000 times this limit!  The average levels of dioxins in all Americans are now estimated to be "at or approaching" the point where we can all expect to experience adverse health effects.  Because dioxins (and PCBs) are eliminated very slowly from the body, they can last (and cause effects) for up to several decades after exposure.

Avoiding exposure to dioxins is a challenge.  The primary solution is for industries to change so that our environment is not being polluted.  Limiting consumption of meat and dairy products is a partial solution.   In this case, buying organic meat and dairy products will not prevent exposure.

Pesticides  DDT was banned decades ago when it was found to be a hormone disruptor, but overall our use of pesticides has increased over the years.  In recent research,  30 out of 37 commonly used pesticides tested by the University of London were found to be hormone disruptors.  The one found to have the most potent effects at blocking male hormones was an insecticide called fenitrothion, which is an organophosphate used on orchard fruits, grains, rice vegetables and other crops.

There is significant concern for fetuses and nursing infants, as these hormone disruptors may have effects on the developing reproductive tract.

In this case, buying organic foods DOES help to reduce risk of exposure.    A study found lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of preschoolers fed an organic diet compared with preschoolers fed a standard diet.  It is so shocking to me that pesticides are found in ANY preschoolers!

So apart from avoiding toxins, what else can be done?

Hormone testing is available to help identify the problem;  sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), thyroid hormones, and stress hormones including cortisol.   It is also possible to do genomic testing and nutritional testing to learn how well your detoxification pathways are functioning and to help optimize your ability to clear toxins from your system.

If you are having hormonal symptoms and would like to be evaluated, please call us!  704-752-9346 or email  Please visit our website to learn more 

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