Hormonal imbalances are becoming increasingly prevelant. The endocrine system is complex and when hormones become imbalanced, it can cause havoc throughout the body.
The body produces many different hormones, but today we are going to focus on estrogen. Estrogen is primarily produced in the ovaries of females, but that doesn’t mean that it is not an important hormone for men too. Estrogen is responsible for developing female sex characteristics, it stimulates follicle growth, menstruation, and it is involved in proper fat storage and bone health as well as blood clotting. These are only a few of the many jobs that estrogen is responsible for, though we can recognize its importance by simply highlighting a few vital functions.
Xenoestrogens are known as endocrine disruptors and mimic estrogen in the body. Although estrogen is a healthy and important hormone for the body to have, when it is in excess it can result in a hormonal imbalance commonly called estrogen dominance. The good news is that there are many ways to avoid xenoestrogens.
So how do we know what to look out for and what to avoid?
- Try to stay away from plastics
BPA and phthalates are often found in most plastics, both are sources of xenoestrogens but can easily be avoided through making meals at home, avoiding packaged foods, and using glass and ceramics instead of plastic as often as possible.
- Use natural cosmetics and personal care products
Parabens are a commonly-known and frequently debated chemical found in cosmetic products that is also classified as a xenoestrogen. There are many natural cosmetic companies out there that stand for sustainable, natural, and clean cosmetics that are also paraben-free. Do your research on your products and ensure that you don’t fall into any false-advertising or “green washing”. This can result in xenoestrogen and chemical exposure and you may not know it. There is power in reading labels and supporting a well-researched product.
- Buy organic as often as possible or grow your own
Buying organic means that there is no direct use of herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, fungicides, the list goes on. Buying organic means you can also support local and in-season foods which results in a more natural growing process and crops can thrive in their ideal season. If buying organic seems like a lot, check out the Environmental Working Group and their 2018 “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists to know which foods are worth the organic buy. Otherwise, you can also peel your non-organic food items to reduce exposure.
- Buy local, hormone-free meats
This is a big one. Industrial farming has resulted in a rise of animal antibiotic use and hormone therapy to increase the yield of livestock and market value. Toxins are stored in the tissues, and when we consume hormone-treated meat full of antibiotics, we are consuming a large amount of those toxins. Hormones can be thrown off balance by several factors, but I urge you to consider this as a potential contributor.
- Use natural cleaning products
Cleaning products are often an unsuspecting source of hormone disrupting xenoestrogens for most people. However, the chemicals used in most if not all cleaning products are extremely harsh and contain phthalates, Ammonia and Triclosan just to name a few. A natural alternative is to keep it simple and clean with lemon, white vinegar and baking soda. You can also find natural cleaning products online or in most health food stores as well, just make sure to read the labels and make sure you recognize each ingredient.
- Embrace natural feminine hygiene products
This may be a surprise for some women, but during menstruation if we are using chemically bleached cotton pads, panty liners, and tampons we are exposing a very vulnerable part of us to toxins. Cotton is also one of the most heavily sprayed crops and in the case of feminine hygiene products, it is on our skin and very close to many blood vessels for several days at a time. The good news is that there are many natural and chemical free alternatives available these days. My personal favourite is the menstrual cup or the Diva Cup, but you can also find organic cotton pads and tampons and even cloth pads that can last for years.
By Jennifer Bandy