A hormone imbalance in men or women can have devastating effects on health and wellness. While there are many environmental factors that contribute, I want to focus your attention on xenoestrogens and the impact they can have on your endocrine system.
Estrogen is one of the two most important hormones in the human body. It plays a vital role in the female reproductive system, but men also benefit from the presence of estrogen. Without enough of this hormone, the human body (male and female alike) wouldn’t function properly.
But not everyone is able to produce enough estrogen naturally. To combat this problem, scientists have developed synthetic estrogens called xenoestrogens. In fact, these synthetic estrogens are used in contraceptive pills and certain types of birth controls.
On the face of it, a synthetic estrogen looks like a good thing. After all, if people who aren’t getting enough estrogen are able to receive the hormones they need, that could lead to health improvements, right?
Well, what you need to know is that xenoestrogens aren’t limited to pharmacological estrogens. There are other harmful types of xenoestrogens found in all sorts of unusual places. Heck, even certain plants produce types of xenoestrogens—think about the estrogenic properties of soy beans.
Understanding the truth about these xenoestrogens will help you to realize that they’re more dangerous than you’d think. Below, you’ll find you everything you need to know about xenoestrogens…
What are Xenoestrogens?
Simply put, xenoestrogens are a form of xenohormone that mimics the effects of estrogen.
Did You Know: The term “xeno” means “alien” or “strange”. Xenohormones occur naturally or may be artificially produced. The addition of the “xeno” refers to their abnormal properties. While they may act like regular hormones in many ways, they can cause other abnormal reactions. They can lead to a disruption of the endocrine system.
Xenoestrogen is the most common of the xenohormones. It can be found in nature, but it’s most commonly produced artificially. It mimics the effects of estrogen on the human body. And yet, it’s different enough from estrogen that it can cause serious problems.
Where Are Xenoestrogens Found?
You’d be amazed when you realize just how many sources of these xenoestrogens there are.
First off, you’ve got the more common sources of xenoestrogens: pesticides. Certain pesticides, like PCB or DDT, are banned from use on foodstuffs simply because they can cause endocrine problems when we consume them. The bad news is that these pesticides may still contaminate the soil where it was once used, as it takes a long time for the xenoestrogens to break down naturally. That means there is still a high risk that we will encounter these xenoestrogens via the food grown in places where banned pesticides were used.
Another source of xenoestrogens is plastic products: toys, Tupperware containers, plastic bottles, Styrofoam, and even certain medical supplies that are made with or out of plastic. Plastic contains phthalates, such as BPA. Even heat-resistant plastics will sometimes leach xenoestrogens, which can affect sperm count, cellular growth, and fertility.
Animal products are also a potential source of xenoestrogens. Hormones are given to chickens, cows, pigs, and other animals to fatten them up or increase meat production. These hormones are xenoestrogens that can cause all sorts of problems, including elevated estrogen levels.
Sports drinks may even be a source of these xenoestrogens. Some sports drinks contain “clouding agents”, which gives the juice the “cloudy” look that makes it appear more natural. Jams, juices, juice powders, and tea drinks may all contain these clouding agents, which are just another form of xenoestrogens. Some of these clouding agents have been linked to feminizing qualities in men, low sperm count, inducing early puberty, and a higher risk of breast cancer.
And these are just the more commonly-known sources of xenoestrogens. There are A LOT of different ways you can come in contact with these unnatural estrogens. There are also a lot of different types of estrogens you need to know about:
- Atrazine – This is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. It’s used to prevent broad-leaf weed growth among crops like corn, hay, and sugarcane. You can also find it on golf courses, residential lawns, and Christmas trees.
- DDT – This is a pesticide that has been banned in the U.S. since 1972, but is still used in many parts of the world. It was created to kill off mosquitoes that were spreading malaria and other diseases.
- PBB – This is a chemical added to plastic to increase its melting point. It’s often found in plastic TV sets, computer monitors, foams, and textiles. Though manufacturing using PBB ended almost 40 years ago, it is still leeching into the soil of garbage dumps.
- BPA – This is a polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin that is used in most plastic food containers and metal cans. It is one of the highest-produced chemicals in the world, and has been linked to disease in both animals and humans.
- Dioxin – This highly toxic chemical is released during the wood pulp bleaching process, as well as during combustion and the manufacture of pesticides.
- Zeranol – This is an anabolic growth hormone given to livestock in the U.S. and Canada. It has been banned in Europe since 1985, but North American farmers still use it to encourage the growth of their livestock.
- Endosulfan – This is an insecticide used to protect vegetables, trees, fruits, and cereal grains. When you eat those foods or touch the plants, you come in contact with those xenoestrogens.
- Phthalates – This is a plasticizer that is used to increase the durability and flexibility of plastic products. You can find it in plastic flooring, wall coverings, perfumes, cosmetics, lacquers, varnishes, IV bags and tubes, and even in the enteric coating used on your medications.
As you can see, these xenoestrogens are everywhere! Unless you go 100% organic, there’s really no way you can avoid them.
You may be thinking, “So what? Sure, I’m exposed to these xenoestrogens, but I still don’t know why they would be dangerous for my health.”
Well, you’re getting to the really important part of this article: the dangers of xenoestrogens. Read on to find out exactly why you want to avoid all of these xenoestrogens at all costs…
The Dangers of Xenoestrogens
Below, we’ve listed just a few of the very real dangers of these “alien” hormones. By the time you reach the end of this list, you’ll have a healthy respect for anything that contains xenoestrogens, and you’ll know why to avoid them.
Way back in the 1940s, an ornithologist noticed that the bald eagles in Florida had begun to act strange. The males in particular had lost all interest in sex. He was convinced that as many as 80% of the bald eagles in Florida were sterile.
His research led him to DDE, a byproduct of the chemical DDT. This xenoestrogen had effectively sterilized the eagles. The effects on humans aren’t much different!
Back in 1992, a team of scientists from the University of Copenhagen declared that sperm counts had dropped by 50% since the late 1930s. The industrialized world had taken a toll on male fertility, and it was largely thanks to xenoestrogens.
A lot of studies found that xenoestrogens caused negative effects on rats and mice. For example, male mice exposed to xenoestrogens began to exhibit feminized qualities early in their lives. Their bodies also produced female proteins, and there was a higher number of hermaphroditic mice born. Even the older male mice exposed to xenoestrogens developed health problems: prostate disease.
Now, none of these studies were carried out on humans, but it’s certainly clear that xenoestrogens are a very real threat to fertility. If it can affect the animals, it can affect humans too.
Women are at the highest risk of breast and ovarian cancer, but men have their own type of cancer to worry about: prostate cancer.
This is especially problematic for men who have hormonal imbalances. Estrogen can lead to the rapid production of cells, which can lead to an enlarged prostate. Prostate cancer is a very real threat for men who suffer from high estrogen levels. Excess exposure to xenoestrogens can seriously increase the risk of this type of cancer among men.
3. Reduced Testosterone
While estrogen is vital for a healthy male body, it’s testosterone that plays a more important role. Testosterone helps to build muscle, keeps the male sex drive high, and keeps the male immune system working well.
But what happens when men are exposed to xenoestrogens? Their levels of estrogens rise, and this can lead to a hormonal imbalance. Too much estrogen can cause the decrease in testosterone production. Less testosterone can cause all sorts of negative side effects, including:
- Decreased muscle mass
- Weakened immune system
- Behavioral problems
- Increased body fat
- Reduced sex drive
- and the list goes on…
Testosterone is so important to male health, you can’t afford to have anything decrease its production. Long-term exposure to xenoestrogens is all but guaranteed to have a detrimental effect on your endocrine system, and with it, your body overall.
4. Female health problems
Just because women naturally produce more estrogen than men, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t such a thing as “too much estrogen”. In fact, excess estrogen is what contributes to problems like breast cancer or ovarian cancer.
The truth is that xenoestrogens can be just as dangerous for women as for men. The xenoestrogens will send their estrogen levels through the roof, leading to the anabolic growth of cells that shouldn’t be growing. Incidences of breast cancer have been sharply on the rise in the last decades, and a lot of that is the result of exposure to xenoestrogens.
Every year, over 180,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Every year, 46,000 women will die of breast cancer. That’s a pretty terrifying statistic—and an indictment of the dangers of xenoestrogens for women as well as for men.
The Truth about Xenoestrogens
We’ve looked at the dangers of xenoestrogens, as well as what they are and how you are exposed to them. Now it’s time to look at the other side of the coin…
The studies into the dangers of xenoestrogens are far from conclusive. While there are correlations and tentative links between xenoestrogens and human health problems, there is a dearth of concrete scientific proof. Researchers have yet to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that xenoestrogens are the cause behind health problems.
Anyone who tells you that xenoestrogens are ABSOLUTELY going to kill you is probably being a bit alarmist and over-dramatic. While xenoestrogens have been linked and correlated to health problems, more research is needed to fully understand how they cause the problem.
For now, it’s enough for you to take steps to reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens as much as possible. How can you do that?
- Avoid plastic products
- Buy organically grown produce and free-range, hormone-free animal products
- Be aware of what’s in your cosmetics and household products
- Know what the potential dangers of pesticides and herbicides are before using them
- Limit your exposure to anything that could contain xenoestrogens
The list of possible sources of xenoestrogens is far from complete. It’s worth doing further research into xenoestrogens to find out where you may be coming in contact with them. The more you know, the more you can take steps to avoid xenoestrogens as much as possible.
Science may not have all the answers, but it’s good to start minimizing your exposure to xenoestrogens now. The more you avoid them, the less risk there is of developing serious health problems as a result. In this case, you definitely want to be safe rather than sorry!