Maybe you’ve heard of xenoestrogens but don’t really know what they are or how they work in your body. I’m going to explain what they are and why I try to minimize them in my life and more importantly to me – in my children’s lives.
Xenoestrogen means foreign estrogen – which basically means any outside substance that acts like estrogen once inside our body. It includes chemical compounds and pesticides, as well as synthetic estrogen that we ingest or apply to our skin.
Phytoestrogens are another type of xenoestrogen – plants such as soy and flax can also behave like estrogen inside your body. (This post won’t delve into phytoestrogens as endocrine disruptors because plants like soy have been touted as either beneficial or harmful depending upon who you listen too. It is a whole other conundrum and I’ve read mixed studies.)
Endocrine disruptors also called hormone disruptors are similar but actually refer specifically to chemicals and/or compounds that disrupt our endocrine (hormone) systems.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s) – the chemicals that are known or suspected to disrupt our hormones are sometimes referred to as EDC’s.
I’ve known about xenoestrogens for quite a while but didn’t really “get” what they were or this exotic sounding “thing” could possibly disrupt my hormones so I didn’t immediately minimize my family’s exposure. When I finally did the research it made me realize that the effect of xenoestrogen’s is even more complicated than I could have imagined – scientists really have their work cut out for them on this one.
I did final realize how important it is to eliminate xenoestrogens from my life when I visualized what was actually going on in my body. Chemicals can disrupt our hormones in several ways but without getting too scientific on you here is a simple explanation to help you picture how the cosmetics or perfume you wear could possibly be disrupting your hormones:
One way to think of it is like a game of musical chairs – let’s imagine the chairs are the estrogen receptors – there’s only a limited number of them to go around. When the endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) enters your body & jumps onto the estrogen receptors there’s nowhere for your own estrogen to go! Those special receptors are supposed to be there for the estrogen your body is producing but instead your own estrogen is left to roam freely – recirculating throughout your body. Sometimes those EDC’s activate the receptors but sometimes they inactivate them! The bottom line is that every time EDC’s win the game – your hormone health loses.
I love this animated illustration courtesy of GreenFacts.org check it out to watch an endocrine disruptor in action.
This is a good example of how your body doesn’t even have to be producing too much estrogen to show symptoms of estrogen dominance. Now just imagine – your poor liver has to deal with all this excess re-circulating estrogen. I’ll talk about why you need to “Show Some Love to Your Liver” in a future post, which is especially true if you have hormone issues like I do.
There are other ways your hormones can get disrupted, here are some links explaining the mechanisms:
As far as EDC’s disrupting your hormones I think the most important thing to take away is that xenoestrogens are disruptive to everyone – women and men, girls and boys, and especially developing babies and infants. In my view, I already have enough hormone disruption going on in my body I don’t need to add to it. And for some women removing xenoestrogens from their day-to-day lives may just hold the answer in solving their hormone health problems.
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