How do you protect yourself from chemical toxins? Wetlands Day was celebrated on the 2nd February 2022. From a health and wellbeing perspective this prompted my topic selection to sway strongly towards the issue of ‘XENO-ESTROGENS’. How can we better manage the load of exposure to chemical toxins and foreign estrogens from rising levels of pollution and consumables that almost saturate our daily lives? If biology wasn’t your favorite subject then read on. As I unwrap a head of cabbage from the cling film it comes packaged in, I must admit that facing the plastic waste problem can be quite daunting. Noting that plastic is not the only source of these bad estrogens.
Are we living in a ‘sea of estrogen’?
There’s literally a plethora of sources from which foreign estrogen can leak into our bodies -and those of our children. I recall the episode of M-Net’s actuality programme Carte Blanche, presented by of co-anchor Ruda Landman, ominously titled ‘Sea of Estrogen’. (At the time, which was about 17 years ago, I was in the midst of starting a therapeutic reflexology and meridian therapy practice and learning about the benefits of natural progesterone therapy and the health hazards of estrogen dominance among both women and men.) Upon a kitchen table lay a wide variety of everyday shopping items, from foods to cleaning products as well as personal care items. The viewers were educated on the alarming impact of chemicals leaking into our ecosystems, and in turn, into our own bodies. Only to be recycled back again into the environment via infrastructure and sewerage systems. In the same program, some biologists were interviewed about the serious impact that foreign estrogens were having on the reproductive cycles of frogs in wetlands. Imagine the extent of this scenario in 2022. Allow me to raise that red flag and dive into how to protect yourself from chemical toxins.
Frogs are important barometers of eco-system health.
What are bad estrogens & ‘estrogen dominance‘?
Bad estrogens (oestrogens), otherwise known as xeno (foreign) estrogens, are chemicals that, when absorbed into your body, can mimic or act similar to your own estrogen. A large amount of these chemical compounds that we absorb into our bodies have also gone into our air, water and soils. They disrupt and interfere with the way your natural hormones function and can create a condition known as estrogen dominance. Environmental damage from rising pollution and waste effects human health. Protecting our natural ecosystems means protecting our own hormonal balance and overall health for generations.
Environmental damage from rising pollution and waste effects human health. Protecting our natural ecosystems means protecting our own hormonal balance and overall health for generations.
Why protect yourself from chemical toxins?
Although men and women have the same hormones, estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, they have them in a very different ratio and they must be in correct balance for good health. Oftentimes though, this is not the case. As the term suggests, estrogen dominance happens when there is too much estrogen in the human system either because of issues with your body’s way of metabolising it or from prolonged exposure to one’s environment like the air we breathe in, and the foods, water and products we use. Both men and women can suffer from the often dangerous, ill effects of estrogen dominance.
Health conditions strongly associated with Estrogen Dominance -in both men & women
- Weight gain & cellulite (adipose cells produce more estrogen, which in turn creates more fat cells, making it really difficult to loose weight. The Mayo Clinic explains cellulite: “Many people try, with variable success, to improve the appearance of their skin through weight loss, exercise, massage and creams marketed as a solution to cellulite. Medically proven treatment options are available as well, though results aren’t immediate or long lasting.”)
- Decreased libido
- Low sperm count
- Man Boobs (Gynecomastia)
- Breast cancer and other estrogen-dominant cancers such as cervical, endometrial, and prostrate cancer
- Breast tenderness, mastitis, fibrocystic breasts
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Cervical dysplasia
- Early onset of menstruation; irregular periods
- Skin problems, teenage acne
- Endometrial (uterine) cancer
- Irregular menstrual periods
- PMS, mental health problems like panic attacks, anxiety, irritability, agitation, mood swings, irritability, insomnia, depression, memory problems, brain fog, concentration problems, etc,
- Uterine fibroids
- Infertility due to luteal phase failure
More signs & symptoms
- Chronic fatigue
- Water retention
- Thyroid dysfunction appearing as hypothyroidism
- High blood pressure
- Migraine headaches
- Gall bladder disease
- Zinc/copper imbalance
- Magnesium deficiency
- Faster aging process
- Hair loss
- Premenopausal bone loss; osteoporosis
- Increase in allergies
- Increase in auto-immune disease
Where are environmental estrogens hiding?
Environmental estrogens are everywhere. In the last 70 years, more than 60 chemical substances produced by industrial, agricultural, and chemical companies, have been identified. These also include DDT, PCB, and solvents. Other examples are commercially farmed beef, chicken, and pork which are given growth hormones for mass production, not to forget milk production in cows.
Even personal care products such as soaps, shampoos and conditioners, creams, toothpastes -and the packaging it all comes stored in -contain known sources of these hormone disrupting compounds we are exposed to on a daily basis though our lifetime. “There may be only minute amounts in each of these sources but they add up over time as they accumulate in your body as they are stored in the fat layers or the fatty acid membranes of your cells.” How to Detox Environmental Estrogen to prevent Estrogen Dominance – The Detox Specialist
The lesson is, we have to make conscious choices as consumers as to how to manage this load, change certain behaviours in our lifestyles, and introduce protective foods and supplements. Fortunately, more solutions have become available in both online stores and local outlets.
Labelling can be deceiving however, and consumers may need to be aware of whitewashing -and greenwashing -and rather look at the fine print for ingredients. It is interesting to read the clever wording and design of labels used to maintain market share in product ranges. Don’t be caught if you intend to go clean not only with diet but also with what to use in the bathroom. There are so many ways to protect yourself from chemical toxins. Let’s take a look.
Learn how to protect yourself from chemical toxins
Although the following tips may spell difficulty and inconvenience, they are still worth highlighting:
- Opt for non-plastic or non-styrofoam containers when buying packaged foods.
- When heating, remove food from plastic containers
- Avoid plastic wrap
- Only glass or ceramic containers should be used for storing food
- Opt for natural cleaning products and recipes, like vinegar, baking soda, etc
- Look at how your meat and poultry has been farmed and packaged, avoid antibiotics and growth hormones, styrofoam and plastic wrap and avoid eating the fat on meat or poultry where the chemicals accumulate. Grill out fats in your cooking methods.
- Buy organic fruit and vegetables where possible or avoid the most heavily contaminated produce (read up on “the Dirty Dozen”). Thin-skinned fruits such as strawberries, peaches and nectarines, apples and leafy vegetables like spinach are actually highly contaminated with and infiltrated by pesticides. Rather go for types of fresh produce known to have less pesticide residues or where possible, grow your own in gardening boxes even if you have space limitations. Read our previous magazine article in Issue 7, page 10.
- Eat a diet high in whole foods, fresh vegetables and low in processed food.
- Avoid artificial additives in foods and drinks
- Use natural, chemical free cosmetics. Look for wording like ‘paraben free’ -but remember to make sure and look at that fine print in the ingredients.
- Avoid solvents
- Use natural pest control
- Avoid birth control pills and conventional estrogen replacement therapy (ERT, HRT). Find a functional medicine doctor who uses bio-identical hormones based on saliva, urine or blood tests.
- Beware of spermicide.
Look after your Liver
Ensure that your Liver -and Colon -and Stomach -are all working well… Once the liver has transformed the environmental estrogens into a form that the body can more efficiently excrete, it goes into the bile and then the colon to finally leave the body in the stools. You need to make sure that your bowels are moving well at least twice a day. In order to ensure that this happens, drink enough mineral water, eat a magnesium and fiber-rich diet by having more whole grains, fruit, vegetables, seeds and beans. Try taking 1 – 2 tablespoons freshly ground flax seeds daily with a green smoothie for breakfast. Here is something else you may not have thought of for liver health. Read on…
Live in Rhythm with Nature -Understanding your Body Clock
Living in harmony with your natural circadian rhythm can enhance your ability to detox more efficiently and thereby help your body cope with environmental toxins. While the liver is actively performing it’s biochemical processes wherein it balances estrogen levels late at night and during the first hours of the early morning, a bit later on, the liver’s ‘nightshift’ of work will ‘quieten down’. The prime time for the lungs, colon and skin to perform their role of eliminating waste products from the system (including bad and excess estrogen) is during sunrise and early morning.
Once the body has had a good cleanout, it is then ready to take in fresh supplies of nutrients for the new day. As the sun ascends higher and higher into the sky, the digestive system becomes more and more active and is better able to handle more complex foods, and to break these down. As the sun goes down again, the body is in its phase of prime absorption activity. Remember we have a circadian rhythm or body clock wherein organs take turns to perform at their highest level. Once the stars are out, and we hit the pillow again, the liver acquires the energy it needs, while we are asleep, of reconfiguring the bio-chemical balance of the human body.
Increase exercise, sweating, and holistic therapies
The improved circulation of lymph and blood helps carry the estrogenic chemicals to the liver to be detoxified out of the body and help reset your natural day/night rhythms. Toxic estrogens can be eliminated via perspiration. Rebounding on a mini-trampoline is another powerful form of exercise for moving the lymph for these reasons. Making use of a sauna on a regular basis, as well as YOGA, (see our recent publication featuring ‘yoga as a form of eco-therapy‘), therapeutic reflexology, massage are also helpful solutions. These lifestyle activities can greatly help protect yourself from chemical toxins.
Increase your intake of Estrogen Detox Foods
Look into Milk Thistle
The herb Milk Thistle (Silymarin) aids the liver’s detox function of toxic estrogens from the liver.
Look up Zeolite
Zeolite acts as a “molecular sieve” that may help remove environmental estrogens which we may be absorbing. It is an amazing natural crystal mineral compound that is formed over millions of years, when a volcano erupts and spews hot ash into the air above which then mixes with the cooler alkaline sea water below. It then hardens into zeolite crystals that have a unique honeycomb shape that is ionically charged. Each chamber attracts positively charged toxins like heavy metal ions (like mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, etc) as well as industrial chemicals (like PCB’s) that can mimic estrogen, radio-active substances, free radicals, viruses and other disease causing microbes, by its own negative ionic charge. Since heavy metals and malignant microbes are positively charged, zeolite draws them into its structure where it gets trapped. It is then released from your body a short time later during normal daily bowel movements.
The Real Thing describes their zeolite as a “push-pull supplement”. It doesn’t just pull toxins and heavy metals out of your body. It also pushes healthy minerals in.
Zeolite contains more than 60 trace minerals and 12 amino acids so it is also nutrient rich for daily consumption. It eliminates toxins and increases serotonin production. Research even suggests that zeolites can help relieve depression. It makes sense as an overburdened liver does not bode well for a healthy mind.
Increase cruciferous vegetables
We can up our intake of cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard, turnip, kale, bok choy, kohlrabi and rutabaga (swede). They contain the phytochemical indole-3-carbinol, that improves detox of environmental estrogen and improves the balance of all hormones.
Also, scientific research shows DIM (diindolylmethane), a phytonutrient found in cruciferous vegetables, increases the level of “good” estrogens while reducing the level of “bad” estrogens. You can even go a golden step further and ferment these protective vegetables. Supplementation through reputable product brands can also ensure your levels of DIM as long as you have good digestion and nutrient absorption. In which case, consider a daily dose of fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi. These are all helpful to your liver in it’s crucial role in protecting you from environmental estrogens through important chemical processes. Seek a functional medicine doctor to help you find out more about this. Eating these foods can protect you from chemical toxins.
Increase natural plant estrogens
Phytoestrogens are compounds that occur naturally in plants and are thought to help protect against the effects of estrogen dominance. The two that have been studies the most are isoflavones, such as soy and lignans which occur in flaxseed (linseed), grains and vegetables.
There are over 300 foods are known to contain phytoestrogens. The main sources are soy beans, tofu, tempeh, soy beverages, (although there is still much debate around soya, even if it is GMO free), flaxseed (linseed), sesame seeds, millet, barley, rye, dried beans, lentils and fennel.
Where do we go from here?
As Canadian nutritionist and writer, Meghan Telpner, puts it, “Yes, at times I do think it’s unfair for these massive companies to place the recycling responsibility onto us as consumers rather than changing their practices. After all, it was their desire for cheap materials and larger profits, and their marketing manipulations to get us to buy those products, that have contributed to this mess.” Plastic Packaging and The Inconvenient Truths Of Recycling (meghantelpner.com). The same can be said about the chemicals in the majority of our products! As consumers, we have to learn how to protect ourselves and families from chemical toxins.
Telpner goes on to say: “ However, I wholeheartedly believe that if millions of us make small changes they all add up – and this is something that will benefit the environment and our health. Plus, our consumer habits have a trickle-up effect that can convince companies to change their ways.” Well put… if companies want to hold on to their consumers, they need to move faster in the direction of those who go out of their way to fill the gap. Over the years it has been promising to witness so many new brands being born offering safer alternatives as product solutions for more natural, chemical free, organic nutrition, skincare, hygiene and household cleaning -not to mention the online shopping websites that are fast satisfying the conscious shopper -who also cares about the packaging -and where it lands up…
-By Nicolette Da Costa