Hidden Hormone Disruptors / What is Interfering With Your Hormone Health?
- The toxic state of our current world.
- What are hormones?
- The most common hormone disruptors.
- What you can do to prevent these hormone disruptors.
To listen to our podcast episode on this, click here.
In just 70 years, over 100,000 new chemicals have been released into the environment, of which more than 85% have not been tested for their health effects in humans. In addition to this, most of us aren't sleeping enough, stressed out, and using daily products that contain endocrine disrupting chemicals, EDCs. Since our hormones come in parts per billion, even the smallest exposure to endocrine disruptors can have a profound impact on our health. What are hormones? The most basic definition is that hormones are chemicals produced by the body, in nature, or synthetically that influence the growth and development processes of the body by sending messages between cells all around the body.
Let's get into the most common hormone disruptors I see in and out of my private practice.
1. Stress - the most potent endocrine disruptor.
- Your body has a stress response system that is programmed to protect you from all perceived danger - aka the adrenal stress response. Your brain sends an alarming signal to the adrenal glands, tiny little organs that sit on top of your kidneys, who control a lot of your health from blood sugar to hormones to mood.
- When the adrenal stress response system is activated, it creates adrenaline and cortisol, both of which increase your blood sugar, increases your blood pressure, increases your heart rate to keep your muscles supplied with oxygen, pumps out insulin to help clean up the sugar once the crisis is over, and activates your immune responses. When the danger is gone (i.e., the tiger lost you, or in modern day situations, we finally just give ourselves a break from the stressors of life), your system quiets back down and you quickly recover from the stress. However, as briefly mentioned above, the stress that most of us experience today is chronic. Therefore, the adrenal stress response stays on which leads to a whole host of symptoms, health issues, and burnout (what many call adrenal fatigue).
- Stress can cause sleep disturbances, which alone has a direct and immediate effect on your hormone health.
2. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)
- EDCs show up in the plastic products and food containers, the herbicides, pesticides, and hormones used to grow non-organic foods, in our water supply systems due to the contamination from agriculture and manufacturing, in the flame retardants in clothes, cars, and home furnishings, in our cosmetics, bath, and home cleaning products.
- Studies have shown higher BPA levels in women with PCOS and has been associated with higher markers of inflammation. BPA stimulates androgen production and interferes with testosterone lowering mechanisms
- EDC mimics estrogen and not only do they cause unwanted symptoms, but even serious diseases, and even cancer, in the long term.
- These symptoms are linked to: acne, depression, PCOS, Endometriosis, fibroids, fertility problems, weight issues, PMS, miscarriage, irregular and painful periods, premature puberty, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and breast tenderness.
3. Undereating / Nutrient Deficiencies
For more information on proper nutrition for hormone health, listen to my podcast episode here.
- Undereating activates the stress response, which increases cortisol, insulin, and insulin resistance. Over time, this can cause weight gain, increase inflammation, and confused food signaling via our hunger and satiety hormones: ghrelin and leptin.
- The more you restrict, the less diversity of nutrients you get from your diet.
- What to do? Eat regularly and include a protein, fat, and complex carb, that is high in fiber, at every meal.
4. Chronic snacking
- Our bodies are meant to have, and really appreciate, specific times of eating and of rest.
- This can lead to a chronic spike / elevation of your blood sugar, which leads to hormone disruptions in the short and long term.
5. Intermittent fasting
- We are not our male counterpart, and just because something has been scientifically proven to be healthy for the male physiology, doesn’t mean it will be for our unique biochemistry and delicate endocrine systems.
- One study showed that blood sugar control actually worsened in women after three weeks of intermittent fasting with meal skipping, which was not the case in men.
- When done properly, it can be incredibly effective for reducing insulin resistance and improving blood sugar balance. Just 8–12 weeks of intermittent fasting has been shown to lower insulin levels by 20–31% and blood sugar levels by 3–6% in individuals with pre-diabetes.
- Most of us are working out based on the male body.
- Exercising can be incredibly beneficial, or it can be too much and actually cause more harm than good.
- Studies show that we use up all of the glucose in our bloodstream within the first 30 minutes of a workout. After that, our adrenals will start to produce cortisol to give us our “second wind” which is when it can turn into fat storage and PMS / painful periods for women with excess estrogen or hormone imbalances.
- Leads to increased cortisol production and adrenal overdrive.
- Worsens sleep and messes with the circadian rhythm.
- Caffeine can increase our stress hormones, jack our blood sugar, and lead to insulin resistance, all of which can aggravate hormone imbalances.
- Disrupts sleep and circadian rhythm.
- Damages the gut microbiome.
- Increases intestinal permeability.
- Impairs estrogen metabolism.
- Activates mast cells and causes high histamine.
- What to do? Drinks mocktails that are hormone-healthy! I love combining our organic and gut/liver healthy Bitters with fresh lemon or orange juice, sparkling water, and fresh mint or herbs of choice for an amazing mocktail.
9. Sleep deprivation
- Increases stress, worsens gut health, impairs ovulation.
- It is a “danger sign for our brain and adrenals.
- It activates our chronic stress response.
- Sleep is when we detoxify, repair, etc., and this won’t happen if we aren’t sleeping.
What to do? Start with the usual sleep-enhancing techniques of exercise, morning light, and sleeping in a dark room. Magnesium complex supplementation. My organic herbal sleep remedy is coming soon!
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Endocrine Society."Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) | Endocrine Society." Endocrine.org, Endocrine Society, 26 October 2022, https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/edcs
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