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In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this blog discovers how compounds in your environment can mimic oestrogen, your female hormone, increasing your risk of developing breast cancer. Read on to find out how to reduce your exposure to these substances.
Many breast cancers develop when there’s an imbalance in the two main female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. Ideally, the levels of these two hormones should be finely balanced. What frequently happens, though, is oestrogen becomes too high in relation to progesterone. This situation is known as oestrogen dominance. It’s incredibly common and a real problem because oestrogen, although it’s an essential hormone, is linked to breast cancer when it’s present in excess.
There are many reasons why oestrogen could climb too high, including poor digestive health, ongoing stress, and nutritional deficiencies. But a major factor for many people are the huge amount of oestrogen-like compounds present in the environment.
These chemicals fool your cells into thinking they’re your body’s own oestrogen. But they’re far stronger so have a greater effect on your cells. They’re called xenoestrogens (xeno means foreign) and can push your body’s levels of oestrogen up significantly, throwing things out of balance and earning them the nickname of endocrine disruptors. They’ve been linked with reproductive cancers like breast and uterine cancer. So it pays to be aware of where these potent oestrogens are found, so you can take steps to avoid them.
Nowadays they’re almost everywhere. They’re consumed with food and water, absorbed through your skin and inhaled into your lungs.
One source of xenoestrogens is from pesticides and herbicides, both those used commercially and in household gardens, so traces of them will be on non-organic produce. These chemicals can persist in the environment and the food chain for decades, especially in marine life. Some food additives have been found to contain oestrogenic compounds, too, such as propyl gallate, known as E310 1.
They’re also found in industrial pollutants, including chemicals emitted when coal, oil and wood are burned to produce energy. These chemicals are then inhaled and make their way into your bloodstream.
Xenoestrogens are present in chemicals used in dry cleaning, and they’re found in household cleaners, air fresheners and laundry products. Look for phthalates listed on the ingredients 2.
Other culprits are personal care products like moisturisers, cosmetics, sunscreens, nail polish, shampoos and shower gels. They often contain parabens, used as preservatives and acting as potent xenoestrogens.
You might not believe your sofa could affect your oestrogen levels, but it’s true. Xenoestrogens are even present in home furnishings, used in chemicals like flame retardants and stain removers. In a process known as off-gassing, new products emit vapours containing oestrogenic chemicals long after they’ve been manufactured. These are responsible for the ‘new carpet’ smell.
Finally, oestrogenic compounds are found in the plastic used to make food containers and single-use water bottles. You might have heard of BPA, and this is one hormone-disrupting chemical in plastic which easily passes into food and liquid, especially if it’s warmed, and if the food contains oil, like cheese or meat.
It’s impossible to avoid environmental oestrogens completely, but you can minimise your risk with the following strategies:
If all this seems daunting, it needn’t be with a little helping hand.
Following an in-depth consultation to discuss your health goals, current and past health status and genetic inheritance, I will assess your potential exposure to environmental oestrogens and work with you to reduce your risk. I can also advise on how to support your detoxification mechanisms, so your body can better deal with environmental toxins without them affecting your health. Contact us to start your journey.
Are you concerned about environmental estrogens? Why not book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
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