Xenoestrogens are synthetic chemicals in our environment that have an estrogenic effect on our bodies. We are exposed to xenoestrogens in the foods we eat, the personal care products we use, and the environmental toxins that we breathe in each day. The problem with xenoestrogens is that they disturb the delicate balance of hormones in our bodies, and when our hormones are out of balance our endocrine system can’t function properly.
The endocrine system consists of the glands in our bodies that secrete hormones directly into our circulatory system. Our hormones act as chemical messengers that control reproductive function, and more specifically, the menstrual cycle. The major endocrine glands include the pituitary, the ovaries, the thyroid and the adrenals to name a few . You can think of your endocrine system as a symphony; a perfectly balanced system of hormones that operate in cooperation with each other in a continuous feedback loop. When foreign hormones are introduced into this system they throw off the delicate balance of hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle and contribute to all kinds of problems like:
- painful periods
- estrogen dominance
- long menstrual cycles (36 days or more)
- short luteal phase (10 days or less)
- unhealthy cervical mucus patterns
- proliferation of breast cancer cells 
One way to improve menstrual cycle health and improve fertility is to reduce the load of xenoestrogens that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Here are 6 ways you can start reducing your xenoestrogen exposure today.
1. Switch to hormone-free meat and organic dairy products
Unfortunately, the conventionally raised meat and dairy products that you’ll find in the supermarket are loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics. The hormones are administered to increase the growth of the animals, to change the quality of the meat, and in some cases to increase milk production in cows. Antibiotics are often given prophylactically to prevent the animals from getting sick. When we eat conventionally raised animals the hormone residue goes on to disrupt proper endocrine function in our bodies and the antibiotic residue messes with our gut flora. It can’t be understated how dramatic the impact of removing conventional meat products from your diet can be. If there is one dietary change you can make this would be an important one to try especially if you are trying to balance your hormones or improve your menstrual cycle health.
2. Eat local and organic when possible to minimize pesticide exposure
This goes hand in hand with ditching the hormone meat. Conventional fruits and veggies are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Not only are pesticides potentially carcinogenic, they are also loaded with xenoestrogens that disrupt proper endocrine function and therefore mess with your hormone production. It may not be possible for you to eat only organic produce at every meal, but it is something to consider incorporating into your diet whenever possible.
3. Switch to scent-free beauty products made from ingredients you can pronounce
Every time I go to the mall or find myself around big groups of people I am struck by how much everyone stinks, and I’m not talking about body odor! From fruity smelling lotions to chemical laden deodorants, perfumes, after shave, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and the whole gamut of beauty products that most women (and men) use every day, these scented beauty products are truly ubiquitous. What’s interesting is that when you remove scented products from your beauty regimen and your home you’ll find the smells much more overpowering when you are exposed to them again. What most women don’t know is that all of those lovely smelling chemicals act like estrogen in our bodies and disrupt our natural hormone cycle.
It can be overwhelming to think about tossing out all of your beauty products, especially if you aren’t too sure how to replace them. My suggestion would be to start by replacing one or two beauty products and go from there. A great place to start is your local health food store. Look at the ingredient list on the products you purchase. Try to buy beauty products that don’t have very many ingredients. Steer clear of beauty products that contain perfumes, artificial dyes, parabens, phthalates, or any ingredients that you don’t recognize, and as a rule of thumb if you wouldn’t eat it you shouldn’t be putting it on your skin.
4. Clean up your household cleaning routine
This goes hand in hand with switching to scent-free beauty products. The air quality in our homes is often worse than the heavily polluted air outside . One of the main reasons is due to the chemicals that we use to clean our homes each day. Items such as scented laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, scented dish soap and dishwasher liquid, not to mention the wide array of harsh cleaning products that many of us use to keep our houses spic and span all contain estrogen mimicking chemicals.
In fact, many of us have been taught to believe that in order for something to be “clean” whether it is our laundry or our floors it needs to smell “clean”. As a result, most of these cleaning products are heavily laden with all manner of chemicals to give us that “fresh” “clean” smell. However whenever you are smelling “lemons”, “strawberries”, or “green apples” and you aren’t actually holding a fruit you are subjecting yourself to an intense and unnecessary onslaught of estrogenic chemicals.
Many household cleaners have unscented “free” versions that do not have added perfumes or dyes. And it is truly amazing how many household cleaners can be replaced with a little vinegar, water, baking soda and some creativity. Again, the best practice would be to start by replacing one product with a scent/dye free alternative and going from there.
5. Stop storing food and drinks in plastic containers
We can’t have a conversation about endocrine disrupting chemicals without talking about plastic and Bisphenol A (BPA). So we’ve all heard of BPA. It is a chemical that is used to make several types of plastic that exhibit hormone-like effects on the body and has been linked to breast cancer , . An easy way to reduce your BPA exposure is to limit your use of plastics. Storing food and water in bottles and containers that are not made of plastic is a great place to start, also reducing the amount of canned food you eat may help as most foods are canned in cans that are lined with BPA . Another way to limit your BPA exposure is to avoid touching the receipt after making a purchase .
6. Skip the hormonal birth control
One important category of endocrine disrupting hormones that often gets omitted from the discussion is hormonal contraceptives. By design, the pill, the patch, the shot, the implant, the ring, and the hormonal IUD all disrupt the healthy functioning of the endocrine system. That is their job. In order to make a woman temporarily infertile, the artificial hormones need to disrupt the delicate balance of natural hormones produced by her body. This is what prevents ovulation, causes changes in the uterine lining, and alters cervical mucus production.
Even if you go out of your way to eat organic, use all natural products and avoid plastics like the plague, if you are still on hormonal birth control, by definition, your endocrine system is out of whack. There is no way around it. Think of hormonal contraceptives as contraceptive endocrine disruptors. They were created to disrupt your endocrine system to prevent your body from producing your natural hormones so that you can’t get pregnant.
Although this could have been at the top of the list as the number one way to reduce your xenoestrogen exposure, I added it at the end to make a point. Hormonal birth control is often the last thing we think of as disrupting our endocrine system, but it may actually have the most devastating impact on it. If you are concerned about reducing the load on your endocrine system, using a non-hormonal method of birth control you trust will greatly reduce your daily exposure to the onslaught of synthetic chemicals you are exposing yourself to.
Now I want to hear from you. What are some of the ways that you have reduced your xenoestrogen exposure? What are you willing to try removing based on this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!