By Sharon Pendlington,
I am often asked ‘Why do you suggest that people choose organic meat and produce whenever possible’?
In order to answer that question, I need to clarify that a great number of my clients are working to optimize their hormone health. They are learning ways to use nutrition and lifestyle choices to address Premenstrual Syndrome, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (now termed Metabolic Reproductive Syndrome), uterine fibroids, endometriosis, fibrocystic breasts and tumors. All of these conditions have an estrogen dominance component, meaning that excess estrogen in relation to progesterone levels is contributing to their condition.
Signs of Estrogen Dominance
Actually, many of us struggle with symptoms of estrogen dominance and may not even realize it! Beyond excessive tissue growth, men and women can experience irritability, changes in libido, low energy, bloating and constipation, blood pressure changes, migraines, forgetfulness, allergies and difficulty sleeping. If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms, it might be worth investigating your hormone levels, to determine if you are estrogen dominant, or if there are any other imbalances in your hormone levels that are keeping you from feeling your best.
Potential Causes of Estrogen Dominance
There are many factors that contribute estrogen dominance. Stress is a very common one, and I go into more detail about the effects of stress on our hormone health here. Nutritional deficiency, toxicity and poor detoxification mechanisms by the liver are other contributing factors. One factor that we have significant control over, that I’d like to focus on today is the effect of xenoestrogens.
Xenoestrogens are foreign estrogens, found in the environment, that can act like estrogen or mimic estrogen inside the body. They also include chemicals in the environment that disrupt our hormonal system, and these are termed ‘endocrine disruptors’.
Where do we find these pollutants that interfere with our normal hormone functioning and effectively increase our estrogen levels?
1) Conventionally raised meat and dairy
Large scale farming practices include the use of steroid hormones to bulk-up meat and dairy producers. These hormones make their way into the meat and dairy, and eventually into our bodies when we consume these foods. We can avoid these hormones when we purchase organic meat, or meat produced without the use of these added hormones.
However, we must be aware that if we consume milk, we are consuming the natural estrogenic hormones that allow for lactation … even when we are consuming organic dairy! Just as in the human body, hormones are passed from the mother to her offspring through breast milk.
So if you’re struggling with hormone imbalance, consuming organic meat and avoiding dairy altogether are best. If you choose to consume dairy, organic dairy products are the best choices to avoid added steroid hormones.
2) Pesticides and herbicides
Pesticides and herbicides also contain xenoestrogens, contributing to estrogen dominance and hormone disruption. Eating organic produce drastically reduces your consumption of these chemicals. Supporting organic farms means you’re also reducing the quantity of these chemicals in the soil and groundwater shared by us all!
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a known endocrine disruptor, formerly found in many plastic products, including water bottles. Many of these bottles have been replaced with BPA-free plastic, but the research hasn’t been done yet on the health effects of the other chemicals in plastic. In addition, BPAs are still found in the lining of canned food products (unless marked BPA-free), receipts and fast food packaging. It’s simply best to avoid using plastic whenever possible, especially to store liquids and to heat your food.
4) Personal Hygiene Products
There is a wealth of information now on the health effects of chemicals found in our personal hygiene products (such as shampoos, soaps, hair dye and products, sunscreens and cosmetics) and our home cleaning products. Many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and should be avoided. The Environmental Working Group annually publishes guides that rate the toxicity of the products we use everyday. Their guides can be found here. I’ve found the best way to avoid these chemicals is to make a mindful, informed decision when you need to purchase a new product. Every new product that comes into your home could easily be toxin-free, with a little bit of research time!
5) Hormone Replacement Medications
Hormone medications, such as birth control pills, fertility drugs and hormone replacement therapies are other sources of xenoestrogens. These medications introduce hormones into our bodies, with the majority of these hormones being synthetic. We must also consider that when these medications are improperly disposed, these hormones end up in our soil and groundwater, leading to synthetic hormones in our tap water and food.
Unfortunately, we don’t have control over the pollution that is already in our air, soil and groundwater. However, we do have control over the food we grow, purchase and consume. We also have choice when it comes to how well we use our purchasing power when we buy personal hygiene and cleaning products, food storage containers, canned food and medications. When we avoid chemical xenoestrogens and endocrine disruptors, we can begin to rebalance our hormones, and feel better sooner!
Sharon Pendlington, BSc, R.H.N., NNCP, RYT