6 Holistic Approaches to Reduce Hormone Disruption
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
Endocrine disrupting chemicals can be found contaminating what we put in and on our bodies, luckily, some of this is in our control. Let's take a look at some of these holistic habits.
Everyday items, that we don't necessarily think too much of, may actually be altering the way our body naturally functions. It's crazy to think about, when most of the products we use as consumers have gone through some sort of approval to get on to the market, yet they may contain harmful chemicals and we are unknowingly exposed to them 😓
We live in a toxic world, where for the most part, it is difficult to avoid. These contaminants can be found in the air we breathe, water we drink, food we eat, skincare we apply, household products we clean with and even the containers we store our food and drinks in. The list can go on... They enter our bodies through our skin, lungs and digestive system and can have an accumulative effect on potential health problems.
The particular classification of synthetic chemicals that we will be exploring in this article are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and how they disrupt our hormones.
Xenoestrogens - HUH?
EDCs are substances which interfere with the natural function of the body's endocrine system and can produce adverse effects. Xenoestrogens are a sub-family of EDCs, they mimic the body's natural oestrogen. Oestrogen is an important hormone not only for reproduction in all humans (yes, that includes males), it is instrumental in bone formation and plays a role in blood clotting.
The sneaky thing about xenoestrogens is that they are persistent, meaning that they are not biodegradable and have the potential to accumulate in our bodies. If they are not biodegradable, then what happens to these pollutants, you ask? Well... they get stored in our fat cells and oestrogen-sensitive organs like, the breasts and prostate.
How do they disrupt our bodies?
Our bodies are truly fascinating, it can regulate the amount of hormones, in this case oestrogen, through very complex and intricate biochemical pathways - it does this via the endocrine system.
Oestrogen is released into our bloodstream where it acts as a chemical messenger signalling critical information that helps to regulate various activities in our cells, and organs. When we have a build up of xenoestrogens in our system, you can imagine that this will throw our hormones completely out of whack! 🤪It increases the total amount of oestrogen, as it mixes with our endogenous oestrogen, in our bodies, leading to a phenomenon known as oestrogen dominance.
Having too much oestrogen and leaving your hormonal imbalances unchecked can lead to a whole host of unwanted health issues. So many of us don't even realise that this may be the root cause to some common symptoms and conditions presented in males and females. Oestrogen dominance has been indicated in but not limited to:
Mood swings / irritability / increased symptoms of PMS
Abnormal menses (heavy / painful periods)
Weight gain / obesity / type 2 diabetes
Low libido & erectile dysfunction
Depression / anxiety
Fertility issues / miscarriages
Fibrocystic lumps in breasts and gynecomastia
Memory problems & mental fog
Endometriosis / Fibroids / PCOS
Breast / uterine / prostate / testicular cancers
High blood pressure
Holistic tips on reducing exposure to xenoestrogens
Leading an holistic lifestyle means that we look at the bigger picture, by nourishing ourselves as a whole - inside and out. You can get rid of (to some extent) or at least try to reduce your personal exposure to xenoestrogens by adapting some of the following healthy habits where possible (this is not an exhaustive list):
#1 Reduce your plastic use
Yes, thats right - some plastics we use everyday contain xenoestrogens, like bisphenol - A (aka BPA) and phthalates, not only are they bad for the environment but they are wreaking havoc on our bodies too. Avoid storing your food and drink in plastic containers or wraps. Especially, do not subject it to heat - this increases leaching. This goes for plastic baby bottles and bottled water too.
#2 Buy organic fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products where possible
Buying 'chemical' free produce and meats which have not been treated with synthetic hormones is a way to help reduce exposure. Pesticides and herbicides which are sprayed onto our produce and certain preservatives contain EDCs.
Now organic can be expensive 😩and its ok if you can't afford it. Heck most of my produce isn't organic for this exact reason, I do try where I can but my budget just isn't set up like that 😢
So some things I do to help remove / avoid pesticides on my produce is to:
Look at lists online like the dirty dozen and the clean 15 to see which foods to avoid and which you can purchase for the season
Buy as local as possible - the closer the food is 'manufactured' the less chemicals they put on the food to preserve it
Thoroughly wash produce - I soak my non-organic fruit and veg in white vinegar and water solution for about 10-15 minutes, the acetic acid helps to dissolve pesticides
#3 Opt for natural cosmetics, fragrances and household cleaning products
Read the labels and avoid ingredients such as parabens, benzophenone (used in sunscreens) and synthetic fragrances. Chose unbleached menstruation products, chemicals such as chlorine and dioxin (found in conventional menstrual pads and tampons) are EDCs. What we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in our bodies, our skin is a major organ and can absorb about 60% of what we put on it.
Additionally, metalloestrogens (these are metals that effect oestrogen receptors) such as aluminium (found in deodorants) and cadmium (found in cigarette smoke, including shisha / hookah) are not needed by the body in any amounts. Cadmium in particular, cannot be eliminated by the body, instead it gets reabsorbed by the kidneys.
#4 Consider filtering your water
Drinking and shower - as mentioned above, chlorine and its by-products are EDCs. If this is not an option, then boiling water is a good way to eliminate chlorine or even leaving your water at room temperature (uncovered) to allow the chlorine to evaporate. Additionally, if you like to swim, then avoiding chlorine may be difficult, apply a barrier cream on your skin to prevent absorption.
#5 Support your liver
The liver detoxes oestrogen, if our livers are not functioning as they should then we can get a build up of oestrogen.
To support liver detoxification try some of these herbs:
Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) - a great substitute for coffee, this herb supports methylation in the body which is a biochemical pathway that controls the body's ability to detox. To have it as a 'coffee', be sure to opt for the roasted dandelion root.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) - contains a flavanoid known as silymarin, which helps to increase the antioxidant, glutathione, necessary for detoxification. Take as a capsule but make sure it has a high content of the active ingredient silymarin.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) - studies have shown that curcumin has hepatoprotective properties. Try a golden milk (aka turmeric milk), warm up milk with turmeric and other spices like ginger and cinnamon for a warming drink.
#6 Prioritise daily bowel movements
Help the body to eliminate harmful xenoestrogens by pooping 💩they can be packaged by fibre and then eliminated from our bodies. Eat your veggies, fruits, whole grains and drink water so you can have a substantial poop. If regular bowel movements is a struggle try to incorporate some carminative herbs that will soothe the digestive tract, like peppermint, ginger, cinnamon etc. Check out my previous blog post on 5 herbs that help to soothe the gut wall.
Do xenoestrogens = phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are plant (phyto-) derived compounds that can mimic endogenous (made by our own body) oestrogen. Technically, phytoestrogens are xenoestrogens since they are not made by the human body. However, the good thing about phytoestrogens is that they are biodegradeable - makes sense since they are plant derived. Phytoestrogens are also ubiquitous in plants, therefore a completely plant-free diet would be the only way to eliminate exposure to them (that doesn't seem conducive). When used correctly, plants and herbs high in phytoestrogens can be beneficial in modulating hormones in the body, even oestrogen dominance, like milk thistle mentioned above.
It's not all bad news! Thanks to many different global movements, we are becoming more and more aware of what we put in - and on - our bodies. This means more and more access to safer, non-toxic products! YAY!! 🥳There is still a long way to go but knowledge is power and making informed choices can certainly help you lead a more holistic lifestyle.
Enjoyed this post? Then please share and leave a comment below, letting me know if you have heard of xenoestrogens before?
ScienceDirect website. Xenoestrogens. sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/xenoestrogens. Updated 25 October 2021. Accessed 25 October 2021.
Sonnenschein C and Soto AM. An updated review of environmental estrogen and androgen mimics and antagonists. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 1998 April;65( 1–6): 143–150.
Darbre PD. Metalloestrogens: An Emerging Class of Inorganic Xenoestrogens With Potential to Add to the Oestrogenic Burden of the Human Breast. J Appl Toxicol. 2006 May-Jun;26(3):191-7.
Hormone Health Network website. Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals EDCs. hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/endocrine-disrupting-chemicals-edcs. Updated 25 October 2021. Accessed 25 October 2021.
ScienceDirect website. Phytoestrogens. sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/phytoestrogen. Updated 25 October 2021. Accessed 25 October 2021.