Environmental estrogens are those chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body when ingested from outside sources. Chemicals that mimic estrogen—and there are many—are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals because they interfere with hormone (endocrine) function. Examples of estrogen mimicking chemicals include many pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, plasticizers like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, certain pharmaceuticals, and industrial chemicals.1 Heavy metals, although not considered estrogen mimickers, interfere with estrogen function by binding with estrogen receptors on cells.2
Concern about the harmful effects of such chemicals on women’s health actually began about 20 years ago when a connection between endometriosis and dioxin chemicals was discovered.3 Endometriosis is occurs in up to 20 percent of reproductive-age females and involves the growth of uterine lining outside the uterus, causing pelvic pain and infertility. Since that first study almost 20 years ago, endometriosis has been linked to more dioxins, dioxin-like compounds, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), fungicides,4 and benzophenone, a chemical commonly found in sunscreen.5
In a recent study, researchers discovered that women were more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis if they had high blood levels of the estrogenic pesticide hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) when compared to women with low levels.4 Although the production and sale of HCH pesticides stopped in 2007, these pesticides persist in the environment for many years because they break down very slowly.
The researchers stated, “The exact mechanisms by which POPs [persistent organochlorine pollutants] may influence the development of endometriosis remain unknown, although several pathways have been suggested, such as potent modulation of immune and endocrine function. Human endometrium is a known site for estrogen, and many POPs or their metabolites have been detected there. POPs may exert effects on estrogen or other hormonal production, or induce inflammation and the chronic stimulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines.”
The damage caused by estrogen-mimicking toxins can have far-reaching effects. Fortunately, tests are available to help determine your exposure to these chemicals. Metametrix (metametrix.com) measures phthalates, parabens, PCBs, volatile solvents, and chlorinated pesticides in the blood and urine. Genova Diagnostics (gdx.net) measures toxic metals in packed red blood cells, as well as toxic metal levels in the urine after a heavy metal challenge with EDTA, DMSA, and DMPS. These tests are also available without a prescription from LabTestingDirect.com.
The HOPE Formula (High fiber, Omega-3 oils, Probiotics, and digestive Enzymes) along with infrared sauna, good hydration, and regular exercise is an excellent way to address the onslaught of toxins we are exposed to daily.
- A.Z. Pollack, et al., “Cadmium, lead, and mercury in relation to reproductive hormones and anovulation in premenopausal women.” Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Aug;119(8):1156-61.
- S.E. Rier, et al., “Endometriosis in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) following chronic exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin.” Fundam Appl Toxicol. 1993 Nov;21(4):433-41.
- G.M. Buck Louisk, et al., “Persistent lipophilic environmental chemicals and endometriosis: the ENDO Study.” Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Jun;120(6):811-6.
- T. Kunisue, et al., “Urinary concentrations of benzophenone-type UV filters in U.S. women and their association with endometriosis.” Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Apr 17;46(8):4624-32.