Is Your Hygiene Routine Affecting Your Health? - How to Adjust
by Andrea Maxim, ND and Author of MAXIMized Health
Healing Journey Naturopathic Clinic
25 Caithness St W
We all do it. You know you’re guilty of it too. Want to know what I’m talking about? Personal hygiene. Do not get me wrong. This article is not going to tell you that personal hygiene is a bad thing, and shame on you for shampooing your hair and brushing your teeth. What I want you to be aware of is that most of the products that people are using to keep ourselves clean and pretty, could actually be seriously affecting our health. The biggest misconception is that if a product is on the shelf and available for purchase, it must be safe, right? Wrong. Most of the personal care products (PCPs) on the market are filled with toxins that affect our hormones and cause some pretty serious diseases.
These chemicals are known as xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are, by definition, industrially made compounds that can have an estrogen-like effect in the body. There are environmental toxins used by industry and are found in many different places, most you would not even believe. The most common sources are in the lotions, cosmetics, hair care products and oral care products that you and your family could be using every day. You may recognize them as parabens, phthalates or BPA. Unfortunately, the basic mechanism of action of these estrogen-like chemicals is still poorly understood. It is thought that these chemicals act just like our natural estrogen and bind to the same receptors, displacing the natural hormones and disrupting the natural signaling process downstream .
Listed below are the most common signs and symptoms seen in both men and women [2,3]:
• Juvenile Periods
• Premature breast development
• Premenstrual symptoms (migraines, breast tenderness, low back pain, cramping)
• Intermenstrual bleeding
• Fibrocystic breasts
• Vaginal dryness
• Night sweats
• Stubborn weig
ht gain around the hips, buttocks and thighs
• Premature breast development
• Loss of muscle tone
• Low libido
• Erectile dysfunction
• Stubborn weight gain
in the hips and thighs
Weight Distribution and Weight Loss
Compared to men, women use abundant cosmetic, creams and lotions on a daily basis and generally have more hormone-related complaints to men. Like most toxins, all xenoestrogens are fat-soluble and can be stored for long periods of time in adipose tissue. It is well known that women innately have a higher fat percentage to men and therefore have a greater risk of developing toxicity from PCP exposure. One sign to watch for in both men and women is the distribution of fat accumulation as a sign of hormone dysfunction. Women naturally have more adipose tissue in the hips, buttocks and thighs compared to men, who generally accumulate fat around the abdominal area . If you have been noticing a change to your fat distribution, especially if is more exaggerated below the waist, or if the man in your life starts developing more of a “pear-shaped” body rather than an “apple-shaped” body, suspicions should arise that you are being exposed to the side effects of these chemicals [4,5]. In fact, regarding weight loss, the more you are exposed to xenoestrogens, the more it can actually upregulate the number of fat cells in your body and prevent fat burning . This of course will lead to difficult weight loss and men starting to present with more female-like bodies, for example “man boobs” or hips.
Regarding healthy conception, the current weight of both the man and woman can directly affect the success of conception. When a man is exposed to PCPs it can cause decreased sperm motility, sperm counts and low testosterones levels [6, 7]. Women with irregular cycles, painful periods, severe PMS symptoms and heavy bleeding should watch out for xenoestrogen exposure. Too often I hear of women being diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), premature ovarian failure, uterine fibroids and endometriosis for seemingly no reason. These conditions can cause infertility and can also be related back to xenoestrogen exposure . If conception occurs but results in multiple miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, an estrogen detox would be strongly encouraged [2, 9].
In utero, the fetus can be exposed to xenostrogens through the amniotic fluid and as an infant, through breastmilk [6, 10]. Male babies are more likely to have cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) or hypospadius (birth defect of the urethra) due to exposure in utero. When males are born with these symptoms it may predispose them to testicular cancer later on in life [6, 11, 12]. All parents should closely monitor their children (mostly girls) for any abnormally rapid development, especially around pubescent age. Young females are now reaching pubescent age at 7 or 8 years old instead of 11 – 13 years of age. Again, these hormone-related conditions could be from PCP exposure.
Skin conditions like contact dermatitis most commonly occur if a patients has introduced a new PCP to the skin. The reaction is usually from the “Fragrances” and preservatives found in the PCP . These ingredients are a collaboration of multiple xenostrogens and other chemicals blended together that the PCP companies are not required to list due to their proprietary blend. Even if no skin reaction occurs, absorption of these chemicals through the skin has been linked to the development of liver disease and tumor growth. Ultimately, anytime you see “Fragrance” listed in the ingredients, throw it out immediately.
The rate of hormone-related cancers is on the rise. New evidence is connecting the impact of estrogen on carcinogenesis [14, 15]. Estrogen receptors are the highest in the breast, testis, ovaries, uterus and relatively high concentrations in the spleen with lowest in the kidney, thymus, skin and lung . At high enough levels, estrogen can produce reactive oxygen species, decrease glutathione and increase oxidative damage, all of which precipitates carcinogenesis . Currently there are about 160 xenoestrogens related to breast cancer development  most exposures through the skin. Again, women are typically the worst culprits for lathering on cosmetics, creams, sunscreens and even though all products are applied to the skin, measureable levels have been detected in human breast tissue.
Male cancers like testicular and prostate cancers may also be related to xenoestrogen exposure again through deficiencies caused to the reproductive system . Prostate cancer is claimed to be the most common male malignancy in North America and more and more studies are connecting cancer risk to estrogen exposure. A recent study demonstrated strong correlations between country-specific oral contraceptive (OC) use and prostate cancer . Now men certainly are not consuming OCs meaning that male exposure to estrogen by-products are affecting their physiology and putting them at a higher cancer risk. Whether by prescription or not, synthetic estrogen exposure is harming males and removing those estrogens should be of utmost importance in any household.
Testing for Estrogen Toxicity
Direct testing for xenoestrogen exposure is not as commercially accessible as we would like. As a start, I recommend every man and women to get a basic hormonal panel done with their healthcare practitioner: Fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, HBA1C, SHBG, complete thyroid panel (TSH, free T3 and free T4), total and free testosterone, serum progesterone, estriol, estrone and estradiol measured as a baseline. Salivary hormone testing is available for both men and women that can asses the biological hormones but will not test for environmental hormone exposure directly. For instance, if the lab shows that estrogen levels are higher than expected or if testosterone or progesterone levels are lower than expected, xenoestrogen exposure could be the cause.
Avoiding Xenoestrogens and Choosing your PCP More Wisely
In order to treat xenoestrogen exposure you need to cut it off at the source. First thing is to become very comfortable with reading labels. The key items to make sure are not in any personal care product are the following, a Top Ten list if you will:
1. BHA and BHT
– Human carcinogen, liver damage, stomach cancer
2. Coal tar dyes
– byproduct of coal processing, human carcinogen
3. Diethanolamine (DEA)
– male and female reproductive disorders, estrogen-mimicker
– preservative, human carcinogen, neurotoxicant, developmental toxicant
– estrogen-mimicking preservatives, endocrine disruptor (breast cancer), reproductive and developmental disorders
7. PEG compounds
– human carcinogen easily absorbed through the skin
– (mascara!) contact dermatitis, carcinogenic. This is car oil!
9. Retinyl palmitate
– severe birth defects, skin CA when applied to skin
10. Sodium laureth sulfate (Lather)
– human carcinogen, nervous system
– Antimicrobial pesticide, thyroid and reproductive disruptor
12. Parfum (fragrance)
– unknown number of
If you don’t have the time to go through every label, try using this amazing website: www.ewg.org/SkinDeep which has over 70,000 products already tabulated for you based on hazard score. If you have any PCPs in your house that carry a score of 4 or higher, you have to replace it immediately. My favourite replacements are Green Beaver, Kiss My Face, Weleda, Aubrey and many others found in health food stores or in the health food section of your grocery store.
Simply by avoiding these items will put you and your family at a great advantage towards minimizing xenoestrogen exposure. So get cleaning up your hygiene routine in order to clean up your body!