Our hormones exist in our body in a delicate state of balance and flow. The intelligence of our body to know how to secrete which hormone and when is an amazing and beautiful thing! Unfortunately, there are an alarming number of chemicals in our environment that are known to disrupt this balance, with a wide range of potential consequences.
Hormone disruptors go by many names, including endocrine disruptors and xeno-oestrogens. Xeno-oestrogen just means a substance from outside the body that mimics the action of oestrogen when it’s inside the body. There are many such substances. This can contribute to a situation of relative oestrogen dominance, or too much oestrogenic activity in the body.
Oestrogen is the fabulous hormone that makes us women but we only need the tiniest amount and our environment is hitting us hard with an oestrogenic overdose, throwing our exquisitely balanced hormones out of whack. This can be partly responsible for PMS, PCOS and menstrual irregularities; and as some oestrogens can encourage the proliferation of certain tissues in the body, can also be part of the problem with the development of fibroids and oestrogenic cancers.
Hormone disruptors can also have negative effects for men’s health, especially on prostate health, and can promote obesity in men. Exposure to oestrogens in our environment and food chain makes men vulnerable to lower testosterone, and can also impact the onset of puberty. Environmental oestrogens can cause reproductive issues and birth defects in male babies, both in humans and in animals.
Environmental hormone disruptors negatively impact fertility in both sexes.
The reasons why we are overdosing on oestrogens are plentiful, and by looking at these we can understand how to correct the balance:
- Increased exposure to xeno-oestrogens/endocrine disruptors: Many chemicals mimic oestrogen and bind to oestrogen receptors in the body. These include soft PCB plastics (think drink bottles), plastic food wrap, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, petrochemicals, parabens etc.
- Decreased fibre in our diets and overloaded livers lead to decreased oestrogen excretion from the body.
- Increased use of oral contraceptives and hormonally active medicines (HRT etc)
- Decreased pregnancy rate and earlier menarche lead to more menstrual cycles and therefore more oestrogenic exposure.
Ways to reduce oestrogens and promote the production of ‘good’ oestrogens over ‘bad’ oestrogens:
- Avoid using herbicides and pesticides on your property and find organic alternatives.
- Eat lots of foods from the cabbage family: cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts. These Brassicas contain substances such as which help balance oestrogens.
- Eat plenty of fibre: Fibre helps to ‘pull’ oestrogens out of the body.
- Reduce dietary fats and avoid being overweight.
- Support your liver: the liver is responsible for breaking down oestrogens. Herbs such as St Mary’s Thistle and Schisandra (among others) can be of huge benefit for enhancing the detoxification pathways of the liver, as can the humble dandelion. Overloading the liver with alcohol is obviously going to have a negative impact on its ability to detoxify oestrogen, so cut back there too!
- Use glass/ceramic containers to store food and water- use a glass or metal drink bottle.
- Choose ‘eco’/organic/natural/chemical/paraben free cleaning products, laundry detergents, washing up liquids, herbicides/pesticides, soaps, facial care and make-up products.
- Buy organic where possible to avoid pesticide and herbicide exposure.
- Be sure to buy organic meats (especially chicken) to avoid the added antibiotics, hormones, steroids etc.
- Use sanitary care that is unbleached organic cotton.
- Avoid eating big fish such as shark and tuna as they usually have high levels of mercury.
- Eat foods that have natural plant oestrogens in them (these are weaker than other oestrogens but bind to cells preventing other oestrogens from exerting effects). Phyto-Oestrogenic foods include: Soy, Kidney beans, Linseeds/Flaxseeds (ground, not the oil), Alfalfa, Red Clover, Split peas.
Living in this world today, we need to take care. Take care of our bodies, take care of each other, take care of our planet. Take care not to choose products, foods, and farming practices that support further ill-health and imbalance. It doesn’t need to be overwhelming! Taking action with simple steps is the best thing you can do, for your health and the health of your children and all the children to come.
Here are 3 things you can do today to help with your hormonal balance:
- Resolve to never buy another plastic drink bottle, especially not a disposable (single-use) one, and switch to glass or metal drink bottles. Then use it to drink heaps of good fresh water!
- Clean-up your clean-up. Look at your cleaning products at home- could you use vinegar and baking soda instead? Is there a cleaner alternative?
- Add a decent tablespoon of ground linseeds or LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond mix) to your breakfast every day. Linseeds not only help balance hormones directly, the extra fibre also helps with liver function and oestrogen detoxification.