Xenoestrogens – What are they? How to avoid them and why (especially if you are in perimenopause or menopause)
Xenoestrogens are found in a variety of everyday items, and often ones that we least suspect. I think, for me, I did understand this on some level, but I didn’t fully comprehend what a difference it would make to my health and wellbeing until I hit the perimenopause in my early 40s.
Many of us don’t think twice about the makeup we wear each day or the plastic container we use to pack our lunch. Of course, we know organic food is supposed to be better for us, or that growing our own veggies would be even better, but sometimes we just don’t want to pay the extra money or spend the extra time.
Unfortunately, the result is that this may be altering the way our body naturally functions, because they all contain endocrine disruptors, called xenoestrogens.
Endocrine disruptors are a category of chemicals that alter the normal function of hormones. Normally, our endocrine system releases hormones that signal different tissues, telling them what to do. When chemicals from the outside get into our bodies, they have the ability to mimic our natural hormones, blocking or binding hormone receptors. This is particularly detrimental to hormone sensitive organs like the uterus and the breasts, the immune and neurological systems, as well as human development.
Xenoestrogens can be particularly concerning for women in perimenopause or menopause because the natural decline in oestrogen levels during this time can increase susceptibility to hormone disruptions.
Xenoestrogens are a sub-category of the endocrine disruptor group that specifically have oestrogen-like effects. Oestrogen is a natural hormone in humans that is important for bone growth, blood clotting and reproduction in men and women. The body regulates the amount needed through intricate biochemical pathways. When xenoestrogens enter the body, they increase the total amount of oestrogen, resulting in a phenomenon called oestrogen dominance. Xenoestrogens are not biodegradable, so they are stored in our fat cells. Build-up of xenoestrogens have been observed in many conditions including breast, prostate and testicular cancer, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, early onset puberty, miscarriages, and diabetes.
Oestrogen plays a critical role in many physiological processes, including bone health, cardiovascular function, and brain function. When oestrogen levels decline during perimenopause, women may experience a range of symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and mood changes, to name but a few.
However, when we’re in the perimenopause stage of our lives we can, counter-intuitively, end up in a state of oestrogen dominance, and this can cause symptoms such as endometriosis, fibroids, bloating, migraines, heavy periods, PMT, acne and even some cancers.
I’ve written a comprehensive checklist of 60 potential symptoms and a tracker which can genuinely help (especially when talking to medical professionals). You can download this list for free by going to www.myperimenopausesymptoms.com
Exposure to xenoestrogens can further disrupt the body’s delicate hormonal balance, potentially exacerbating perimenopausal symptoms and increasing the risk of health issues like breast cancer and osteoporosis. Xenoestrogens can also interfere with the body’s natural production of oestrogen and disrupt the menstrual cycle, which can lead to fertility issues in younger women.
Therefore, it’s so important for women in perimenopause or menopause to be aware of xenoestrogens and take steps to minimise exposure in order to support their hormonal health and reduce their risk of related health issues.
To avoid xenoestrogens, consider taking the following steps:
- Read labels carefully: Choose personal care products that are free from phthalates, parabens, and other chemicals known to disrupt the endocrine system:
- Avoid creams and cosmetics that have toxic chemicals and estrogenic ingredients such as parabens and stearalkonium chloride.
- Minimize your exposure to nail polish and nail polish removers.
- Use naturally based fragrances, such as essential oils.
- Use chemical free soaps and toothpastes.
- Read the labels on condoms and diaphragm gels.
All of our skincare and bath products are free from palm oil, sulphates, parabens, PEGs, petrochemcials, phalates, and SLS. You can look at our range here: https://kate-grosvenor-lifestyle.myshopify.com/collections/aromatherapy-products
- Eat organic: Choose organic foods whenever possible, especially when it comes to animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs.
- Avoid all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
- Choose organic, locally-grown and in-season foods.
- Peel non-organic fruits and vegetables.
- Buy hormone-free meats and dairy products to avoid hormones and pesticides.
- Choose glass: Store food and drinks in glass containers instead of plastic, which can leach xenoestrogens into food and drinks.
- Reduce the use of plastics whenever possible.
- Do not microwave food in plastic containers.
- Avoid the use of plastic wrap to cover food for storing or microwaving.
- Use glass or ceramics whenever possible to store food.
- Do not leave plastic containers, especially your drinking water, in the sun.
- If a plastic water container has heated up significantly, throw it away.
- Don’t refill plastic water bottles.
- Avoid freezing water in plastic bottles to drink later.
- Use natural cleaning products: Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach and ammonia and instead use natural cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda. You can also buy chemical-free, aromatherapy-based cleaning products now (we’re going to be stocking our own range, which is being launched this week) which you can see here: https://kate-grosvenor-lifestyle.myshopify.com/collections/plant-based-cleaning-laundry-products
- Use chemical free, biodegradable laundry and household cleaning products.
- Choose chlorine-free products and unbleached paper products (i.e. tampons, menstrual pads, toilet paper, paper towel, coffee filters).
- Use a chlorine filter on shower heads and filter drinking water
- Filter your water: Use a high-quality water filter to remove contaminants like pesticides and other chemicals that may contain xenoestrogens.
By taking these steps to reduce exposure to xenoestrogens (as many as you can, but understand that just a few changes would be steps in the right direction) you can support your hormonal health, not exacerbate perimenopausal symptoms, and reduce your risk of related health issues.