Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals may contribute to menopausal symptoms

If you’re menopausal – you need to watch out for these chemicals

Why Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals may contribute to menopausal symptoms – and how to minimise your exposure

As women transition through the menopause and oestrogen production starts to decline, there are a group of chemicals known as Endocrine Disrupters that can start to exert a more powerful and potentially damaging effect in the body.

We know that oestrogen naturally starts to decline during the peri-menopause. Oestrogen is a hormone and locks onto oestrogen receptors on the cell membranes throughout the body and brain. Just like a lock and key. This is one reason women why start to experience such a wide variety of symptoms. But during the menopause when oestrogen levels decline, these receptors may accept other chemicals that look and fit just like oestrogen but have the potential to alter metabolism in a number of ways.

What are Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals (EDCs)?

Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals may contribute to menopausal symptoms

We are awash with man-made chemicals. EDCs – also known as xenoestrogens- are mostly manufactured chemicals used in various manufacturing industries. Well known ones are Bisphenol A (BPAs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phthalates, pesticides (like DDT), flame retardants, and toxic metals.  Once in the body, they are extremely difficult to break down and once in the body can be absorbed into cells and are hard to remove. 

They have a chemical structure similar to oestrogen and can disrupt and upset the endocrine (system). 

Since the post-war period in the 1950s, the UK has seen a significant increase in the use of man-made chemicals in textiles, household goods, furniture, in the water and in the air. They are found in particularly high amounts in the agricultural sector in pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.

Potential Impact of EDCs

Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals may contribute to menopausal symptoms

They exert a strong effect on the oestrogen cell receptors in the body and are thought to contribute to cancers like breast and prostate. 

By dysregulating the female reproductive system, they are considered to be a factor leading to premature and early menopause.

They create additional oxidative stress in the body which damages cells and tissues potentially contributing to other disease risks.

They may reduce the ability of the remaining weaker oestrogens that are naturally produced to lock onto receptor cells, creating an additional burden of menopausal symptoms. 

Previous studies have shown that increased exposure to phthalates from personal care products significantly increased the risk of hot flashes and waking up at night, particularly in women.

It’s time to take action into your own hands.

What are some of the common endocrine disruptors to look out for?

Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals may contribute to menopausal symptoms

Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in many plastic products including food storage containers, cling film and in the lining of tin cans. It leaches into food and drink, especially if the plastic is warm.

Phthalates are a particularly nasty group of chemicals commonly found in toiletries, cosmetics and household cleaning products. They can also be found in some food packaging and children’s toys. 

PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) commonly found in non-stick pans and textile coatings.

Pesticides In 2019 the charity Friends of the Earth reported the increasing use of pesticides in the UK. There has been a 24% increase in pesticide use since 2000 with a growing list of chemicals. 

PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) from manufacturing that may leach into our water supplies.

How you can minimise your exposure to Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals may contribute to menopausal symptoms

Avoid plastic bottles and if you do use one never leave plastic exposed to heat as the BPA content leaches into the water. Carry water in a stainless steel bottle. Minimise your use of plastic storage containers and even if they are “microwave friendly” do not reheat food in them. Avoid plastic food wrap.

Be careful with tin cans as some are lined with a BPA lining, especially for acidic foods like tomatoes. 

Choose natural toiletries and always choose ones with zero phthalates. Chemicals will be absorbed directly through the skin into the bloodstream. For this reason, I use organic skincare by Neals Yard Remedies including shower gels and handwash and have done for over 10 years.

Start to change out your cookware for non “non-stick” types and replace with ceramic, cast iron or stainless steel ones. Start to replace the oldest, most scratched ones as the exposure to chemicals may be greater.

Invest in organic foods. You can choose organic more economically by looking at the most up to date “Clean Fifteen” and “Dirty Dozen” information, either on the www.ewg.org or 

Pesticide Action Network UK, which you can find here: https://www.pan-uk.org/dirty-dozen/

Try to buy organic meat and dairy. Avoid farmed salmon (I choose Wild Alaskan salmon) as it is high in PCBs, and only eat tuna very occasionally due to its high levels of mercury.

Always filter your tap water. Buy the best available water filter available and carefully check what chemicals it filters out.  

Choose natural wax (not petroleum candles) with natural essential oils. Avoid chemical air fresheners.

Choose natural cleaning household products and laundry products like Method.

Making a Plan of Action

Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals may contribute to menopausal symptoms

It’s really important to look at all aspects of your chemical exposure: where is your exposure greatest? What can you start to do today to reduce it down? Start with the quickest and simplest actions you can take and build from there. Not only can it make a difference to your experience through the menopause but to all women- and men- at every age.

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Gut Health Nutritionist Caroline Peyton Principles
Caroline is a Professional Nutritionist, Naturopath based in Wiltshire.

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