The industrial revolution quite literally changed everything. This period in time saw a move away from hand craftsmanship to machine manufacturing, mass production and innovation in transportation, agriculture and communication. While we enjoy, and to some degree depend on, so many of the technological advances this revolution bore, we are now beginning to see the serious ramifications this is having on human health. The implications of which there are so many but, for the sake of this post, I’m focusing on xenoestrogens and the impact this is having on both male and female fertility. It does take two to make a baby, and no one is immune to the effects of these compounds.
Xenoestrogens, are environmental estrogens. They are a large group of chemicals that mimic the natural effect of estrogen in the body. Their effect is so strong they have been called ‘endocrine disruptors’ as they alter the natural activity of our hormones the enzymes involved in hormone production. Unlike our endogenous estrogen that both men and women make, these chemicals don’t break down, rather they accumulate over time only increasing their effect.
Human exposure to xenoestrogens occur via the air, water and food chain as many of these chemicals are found in pesticides, plastics, cleaning products, skincare and cosmetics, building supplies, food and food additives and even some pharmaceutical drugs such as anti-epileptic drugs and the oral contraceptive pill.
The effects that xenoestrogens have on fertility include direct damage to sperm production and abnormal sperm, increased risk of pregnancy loss, disruption of follicle growth and egg maturation as well as impaired embryonic development. Xenoestrogens have also been associated with earlier onset of puberty in girls, polycystic ovaries, endomestriosis and feminisation of boys.
Of course it is not possible to eliminate our exposure to xenoestrogens entirely but it is possible to reduce our exposure, support our natural detoxification pathways and improve our fertility.
Important swaps you can do to reduce your exposure:
- Avoid using plastic containers for food and drinks especially those with BPA, PBDEs, phalates and PCBs – opt for bamboo, stainless steel, ceramic or glass containers.
- Swap plastic food wrap for beeswax wraps – you can buy these readily now and are so simple to make if you feel like getting crafty. The beeswax is a natural antimicrobial too so it keeps the food fresher for longer.
- Don’t heat food or drinks in plastic containers – this includes reusing water bottles that have been left in the sun or in a hot car. Reheat food in ceramic bowls in the microwave or on the stovetop.
- Swap your plastic water bottle and takeaway coffee cups for keep cups and stainless steel water bottles
- Eat organic as much as possible and wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly with a dash of apple cider vinegar to remove pesticides
- Buy wild caught and grass fed meat to avoid hormones and pesticides
- Drink filtered water instead of tap water – there are a range of water filters available these days for all budgets
- Avoid skincare, toothpastes, shampoos/conditioners and make up products with phalates, parabens and 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor – opt instead for natural and organic make up and personal hygiene products as much as possible.
- Use chemical free laundry detergents and unbleached paper products including baking paper, toilet paper, paper towels and tampons/pads
If you are concerned or experiencing any issues with fertility or reproductive health, please reach out as a naturopath will be able to guide and support you on your journey.
Words by Danielle @the_holistic_pursuit