When it comes to breast health, the truth is, as long as we have breast tissue, we're unfortunately at risk of developing breast cancer – sometimes, even those of us who've had surgery to remove the breasts can still have microscopic cells in the body. Estrogen plays an important role in women’s health and when it’s out of balance, it can cause an array of issues. One of the most common endocrine disruptors linked to breast cancer are called xenoestrogens, found in things we are exposed to and use daily – from personal care products and cleaning agents to non-organic foods and plastics. To learn more about these dangerous toxins, xenoestrogens, how they affect us and how we can avoid them, read on.
What are xenoestrogens?
Xenoestrogens, also known as "environmental hormones," are xenohormones that imitate estrogen and can be found in either synthetic or natural chemical compounds. Synthetic xenoestrogens consist of chemicals like PCBs (found in certain paints, like electrical equipment, pigments and dyes), as well as BPA and phthalates (found in certain plastics, like water bottles and food storing containers). Natural xenoestrogens contain phytoestrogens, which are plant-derived xenoestrogens (found in food and plants). For a more extensive list of xenoestrogens, see here.
How do xenoestrogens affect us?
Estrogen is a natural hormone essential to growing strong bones and preventing blood clots. It is produced mostly in our ovaries and fat cells and helps us regulate our menstrual cycle and reproductive system. Our body lets us know how much estrogen we need through a complex biochemical pathway. However, when xenoestrogens enter our body, they increase the amount of estrogen present and contribute to a state of hormone dominance, potentially causing rapid cell multiplication in our breast tissue. When estrogen circulates within our body for a long period of time, with levels not in the proper ratio with the rest of our endocrine system, the chance for havoc runs high.
Xenoestrogens are not biodegradable, which means they end up being stored in our fat cells and can end up causing a handful of conditions, such as breast, endometrial, prostate and testicular cancer, fibroids, ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breast disease, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, early onset puberty, miscarriages, diabetes and more.2
How can we avoid xenoestrogens?
We've been using hundreds of these chemicals in just about every industry for several of decades now, and while we're still not clear on which ones really cause harm, we do have a decent understanding. It's tough to avoid xenoestrogens in full, but there are a handful of things we can do to reduce our exposure to these common chemicals. Here are 10 easy ways to avoid excess estrogen in our body:
- Use natural and organic beauty products free of parabens and other estrogen-driven chemicals.
- Reduce the use of plastics and canned food. Use water bottles that are BPA-free, and don't ever use plastic containers in the microwave.
- Eat organic beef, dairy and produce whenever possible, and make sure to rinse your fruits and veggies to remove pesticides before consumption.
- Limit your intake of processed foods. Avoid artificial food additives, artificial sweeteners and MSG.
- Avoid soy, since it's a plant-based estrogen and can throw off our hormone balance.
- Use household products (cleaning and laundry) that are free of harmful chemicals. Especially avoid using dryer sheets that are extremely toxic to our air and environment.
- Don’t drink tap water (unless you know it's safe). Just stick to filtered water.
- Avoid birth control pills and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) used during and after menopause, if possible.
- Use unbleached tampons made of organic or natural cotton. Health food stores carry them.
- Get enough sleep and exercise – working out helps breaks down estrogen, and melatonin helps block the growth of estrogen-induced cancer cells.3
"I balance my hormones with bioidentical hormones, I eat organic, I take supplements as determined by lab work, I sleep eight hours nightly, I use organic cosmetics and green household cleaners, and I avoid toxins as best I can." – Suzanne Somers