The Silent Destructor of our Health
Health is so much more than what you eat, it is what you are exposed to on a daily basis.
As you are probably aware, the food industry makes a fortune at our convenience by creating convenient fast food for us to consume because of our “hectic” lives.
But who makes them hectic?
What if we just slowed down a bit and took stock of what we deem is important, starting with our health
Health should always be covered first, not the overtime and the lack of sleep or stress brought on by a stressful job or hectic lifestyle.
Here’s the thing, our modern crazy world has fallen foul of convenience and we have become exposed to a silent destructor of health.
Oestrogen is the female sex hormone. So you would think that this only applies to females, but I would like you to think again.
As a species both males and females have both male and female sex hormones in different ratios for obvious reasons.
But what if I told you that because of modern living, the balance is being tipped in favour of oestrogen? Too much oestrogen in fact.
What does that mean exactly?
Hormones in our bodies need homeostasis, they run a fine balance. Testosterone, oestrogen, progesterone, insulin, leptin, ghrelin, cortisol and Growth hormone are major hormones that rely on this fine balance. When it is upset, a hormonal cascade occurs. All of our hormones affect each other, so if that balance is tipped it can wreak havoc on how we feel, look and behave.
Oestrogens in the Environment
As a result of very rigorous research it has been found that potent oestrogenic substances in the environment commonly known as xeno-oestrogens, are potentially capable of causing many of the problems associated with oestrogen dominance, particularly in men.
It may have surprised the guys reading this to find out that oestrogen is found in their bodies – in fact, not only do they produce it, but it’s essential for healthy bones, brain and libido.
The problem of oestrogen dominance is compounded by the raised levels of oestrogen in our food, water and environment.
The so-called xeno-oestrogens – chemicals found in pesticides, plastics and other materials – mimic the effect of oestrogen and are fat-soluble, so store themselves in the body.
Although it is impossible to quantify, there is little doubt that our exposure to some 70,000 manmade hormone disrupting chemicals are part of the reason for the explosion in breast and prostate cancer.
Many of these compounds, from the now banned pesticide DDT and the most insidious of all industrial pollutants, PCB’s, mimic oestrogen by virtue of having a similar structure. Many of these compounds are like poison to the body, and can sometimes latch onto the oestrogen receptor sites on cells triggering abnormal growth messages.
These chemicals are widely used to protect plastics from oxidation in the plastics industry. It is a versatile substance that binds easily with fats, making them ideal for use in paints, detergents, lubricating oils, toiletries, agrochemicals and many other products.
These nonylphenols are difficult to get rid of and they persist in the environment for a long time. It is stored easily in the fatty tissues of animals. Up to one third is estimated to end up in rivers and lakes. Nonylphenols have been in use for around 40 years.
Plastic is almost impossible to avoid in our modern lifestyle. But it is something you can drastically reduce exposure to your food, especially if the food is hot, acidic or liquid.
Soft plastics use plasticisers added for transparency, durability and flexibility. These plastics such as nonylphenol or bisphenol-A (BPA) can pass into our foods and disrupt our hormones.
Things such as pre-packaged foods for the microwave, food cans and cartons are lined with plastic. BPA has recently been banned from baby bottles but still remains in a lot of cans used for food.
Cling film is another product I would avoid as much as possible.
Also check household AND cosmetic products you buy for the following chemicals:
Look to use environmentally friendly household chemicals, toiletries and chemicals instead, safer for you and the environment.
How to Avoid Hormone Disruptors
Diet, environment and lifestyle can contribute to factors that can unbalance your hormonal health. However, armed with knowledge and a good understanding of what you can do you can protect and improve your health.
The first step is to minimise your exposure to hormone disruptors.
What are hormone disruptors?
They are chemicals that enter our bodies via the food we eat or the air we breathe or what we come into contact with. Many of these chemicals are now banned, however it isn’t easy to eliminate all of these substances because they are all around us, in our food, water, air and household products.
Oestrogen Dominance and Thyroid Function
Thyroid hormone and oestrogen have opposing actions, Oestrogen essentially causes food calories to be stored as fat, whereas thyroid hormone causes fat calories to be burned for energy.
If Oestrogen levels are high, this leads to excessive production of thyroid binding globulin by the liver. That means excess oestrogen can stop your cells using thyroid hormone, which is used to release energy to your cells. This can lead to tiredness and fatigue.
This is one of the reasons why it can be indicated that you have normal thyroid levels in your blood, but you could still show classic thyroid problems.
The Oestrogen Effect
Men naturally produce small quantities of oestrogens. However, they also are exposed to the same level of environmental oestrogens as women. The effects of having too much are likely to be very profound. This indeed appears to be the case as the following facts show what has happened to men’s reproductive system in the last fifty years.
- Sperm production has dropped a massive 50%
- Sperm quality and the volume of semen have declined
- Undescended testes that fail to descend into the scrotum is now three times more common than it was 30-40 years ago.
- Serious developmental abnormalities of the male sexual organs are increasing.
- Cancer of the testes has trebled in Britain
These effects are potentially devastating for future population health and growth.
As well as Oestrogen like compounds found in food, air and water, plastic residues and exhaust fumes as does the contraceptive pill and HRT. From the age of 35 to the menopause, women have many cycles in which an egg is not released due to lowered oestrogen levels, and the absence of ovulation means that no progesterone is produced. This leaves women with a whole monthly cycle when oestrogen becomes unopposed by progesterone. When this is looked at in combination with a poor diet, and the effects of environmental and industrial oestrogens it can easily be seen how women are now becoming oestrogen dominant.
Because excess oestrogen reduces the body’s ability to process and metabolize fatty acids because oestrogen competes with thyroid hormone in the cells. The fatty acids from a meal makes it more likely to remain in your system and be deposited in fat stores. Further, fatty tissue itself produces oestrogen which in turn makes the body ‘better’ at storing fat. What is worse, the action of oestrogen also inhibits your body’s ability to effectively use fat stores for energy. The result is extra weight that won’t go away even with more exercise or less eating. It is a vicious circle.
In men excess oestrogen is stored in the chest are and is affectionately known as man boobs or moobs. In women it gives rise to the “classic” pear shape with excess fat stored in the thighs and bum.
What Can Be Done?
Many of the health problems associated with oestrogen dominance are also linked to a variety of other factors of which diet and lifestyle are as significant as unbalanced hormone levels. Natural hormones when in normal balance keep us fit and healthy and have many benefits. When your hormones are balanced and healthy then the rest of your body should be healthy too.
The basis of a good healthy nutrition program involves plenty of vegetables and fruits, protein, fats and ample water.
Using the following rules will go a long way to clearing your body of excess oestrogen and maintain a healthy hormonal Balance:
Eat Organic. This minimises exposure to pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. If you are eating non organic produce, make sure you wash it. The best way is with an acidic solutions such as 1 tablespoon vinegar to a bowl of water to reduce some of the residue.
Drink Filtered Water. If possible, install a water filter under your kitchen sink and connected to your mains water supply with some carbon filtration system. If not, stick with filtered water in glass bottles as much as possible.
Don’t heat food in plastic. There is simply no way of knowing what chemicals are in these plastics until the plastics industry discloses that information. So stop eating TV microwave dinners.
Minimise Liquid foods in plastic. The chemicals from the plastic leach into the liquid. So things like canned fruits and vegetables, buy the real thing instead
Minimise Fatty foods in plastic. Again, some plastics have chemicals that leach out into fatty food including crisps, cheese, butter, chocolate etc.
Minimise plastic exposure on your food. Store food in metal containers or ceramic containers. Avoid foods sold in plastic trays with cling film over the top.
Reduce pesticides in your garden. Some of these pesticides contain hormone disruptors.
Switch to natural detergents. Look to use only ecological detergents for washing clothes, dishes and for personal hygiene. Also if you are washing dishes, always rinse afterwards.
Eat ‘oestrogen-clearing’ foods. Boost your intake of foods that shift excess oestrogen out of your system.
Eat the following oestrogen clearing foods:
Citrus fruits, shown to help with oestrogen ‘detoxification’. Lemons and limes are the best. Juice them fresh and add the juice to 1 pint of water on waking.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and spring greens contain a nutrient called indole-3-carbinol which has been shown to help reduce the body’s load of excess oestrogens. Try to eat 2-3 servings per day. Other cruciferous vegetables include asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, Brussels sprouts, celery, beetroot, kale, cabbage, radish and turnip.
Increase insoluble fibre. Boost your intake ofinsoluble fibre because it binds itself to extra oestrogen in the digestive tract and carries it out. Good sources include brown rice, seeds, carrots, cucumbers, courgettes, celery and tomatoes.
Use ground linseed, psyllium seed, pumpkin seeds. When the body is oestrogen dominant, these ‘new’ plant oestrogens bind to your body’s oestrogen receptors, reducing oestrogen and reducing fat storing. Add 2-3 tablespoons a day of ground flaxseed, sesame seeds or oil to smoothies, salads, or sprinkle over steamed vegetables.
Increase your intake of plant based phytoestrogens. Found in nuts and seeds as well as beans, these help protect against excess oestrogen.
Add protein to every meal, look to buy organic wherever possible.
Increase Calcium rich foods. Keep up your consumption of calcium-rich foods (such as almonds, broccoli, kale, bok choy, figs, sardines and salmon) to preserve bone health.
Add Supplements to your diet. With the best will in the world it is always good to cover bases with a complete vitamin and mineral supplement. I recommend the use of a good greens drink. Lean greens (www.lean-greens.co.uk) is my choice.
Things to avoid
- Foods high in saturated fats (such as bacon, sausages, ham, chips, crisps, biscuits, pastries) have been linked to higher levels of oestrogen circulating in the blood;
- Refined or processed foods (anything containing white sugar and white flour) raise blood sugar levels and stimulate the release of the hormone insulin to mop up the excess sugar. This in turn negatively impacts hormone balance. This includes sweets, cakes, biscuits, jam, pastries, chocolate, and too much sweet fruits like bananas, pears, apples, etc. and no tinned fruits;
- Studies show that two cups of coffee a day can increase oestrogen levels;
- Alcohol. Oestrogen is not efficiently broken down by an overtaxed liver. The liver is affected when you have two or more drinks a day. Also most beers using hops have an oestrogen like effect on the body. If you are going to drink, look for cleaner forms of alcohol to drink.
- Soya products. Largely used as an alternative to dairy milk, the processed soya in most soya products on supermarket shelves mimic oestrogen, so are best avoided completely.
How does that affect you?
When keeping healthy, you need to train hard but also give your body the best chance to work for you and that always comes back to what you ingest. Nutrition and health are closely related and being aware of your nutrition is only part of it. Being aware of the many challenges we face in our modern world when it comes to health helps us become the healthiest version of ourselves and the best version of ourselves.
So eat well, stay mindful of the other things mentioned in this article and you will be fine
To your strength and Health