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Xenoestrogens: What are they and how do they cause anxiety?

8 Oct 2018

Kay Ali, Nutritional Therapist and hormone and mental health expert running her workshop at Killik & Co, Northcote Road. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018. 

 

Last week was incredible.  Not only did I get to share my views about the effects of hormonal contraception on our mental health in last week’s post, which has become my most popular blog post yet (thank you!); I got to run my first workshop on this subject at the wonderful House of Killik Northcote Road. And it was a sell out! Killik & Co are a wealth management company that have been helping individuals and families save, plan and invest for the past 30 years. It was such an honour to work with them. After all, there’s no better investment than your health. 

 

 

For an hour and a half we covered all things ‘ovary acting.’ From contraception to genetics, the factors that affect our sex hormones (and in turn our mental health) are broad. Aside from learning why ovulation is not just for pregnancy; it’s important for our happiness, stress resilience, sleep and motivation too, the women were fascinated by xenoestrogens. So naturally, I thought you might like to hear about them too in this week’s ‘The Ovary Act: Sex hormones, mental health and me’.  Let’s jump right in. 

 

Hormones: your bodies very own telephone network 

 

My clinic is all about keeping things simple. Navigating through life is complicated enough, without us having to confuse ourselves with complex issues too. Yet, we produce so many different types of hormones, that are each inextricably bound. Our endocrine system that manages them all is a ridiculously complex network of communication. But, all you need to know is that a hormone is a text message sent from an organ to a cell, telling it what to do. It’s really that simple. 

 

Kay Ali, Nutritional Therapist and hormone and mental health expert running her workshop at Killik & Co, Northcote Road. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018. 

 

Our cells hold receptor sites on their membranes that are specific to each hormone. They’re a bit like specialized phone numbers that specific hormones can dial into, to get in the cell and tell it what to do. For example, the hormone estrogen is a text message that your ovaries send out to certain cells telling it to grow (like those lining your uterus). When it arrives to the cell, it holds the special number (a phenol ring, for anyone that is interested in the science). This allows it to dial into the estrogen receptor site. Once dialled in, it can deliver its message “grow this cell”. And so the cell grows (for the uterus, that means a lovely thick wall ready for implantation of a fertilized egg). 

 

What does this have to do with xenoestrogens? 

 

Xenoestrogens are estrogen hijackers. They tend to be man-made chemicals that know estrogen receptor’s specialized number and can deliver messages to the cell too. They’re everywhere. Truthfully, they can’t be avoided. Our biggest exposure is from the plastics that surround us. Be it from our synthetic cosmetic products, our chemical household cleaning products, our food containers, the clothes we wear (yep, you might want to double check whether your bras, knickers and tights are made from rayon, nylon or polyester and throw them out) and even the receipts we’re given in stores after a satisfying shop (well that’s one excuse to get our fashion fix online at netaporter.com).  

 

 

They’re also in our food. Non organic produce and animal products that are affected with herbicides and pesticides are contaminated with xenoestrogens. Even wild fish is affected. What else did you think would happen when we dump our plastic waste into the ocean? It’s slowly killing our sea life, which in turn, when eaten, is slowly poisoning us. 

 

Kay Ali, Nutritional Therapist and hormone and mental health expert running her workshop at Killik & Co, Northcote Road. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018. 

 

Sadly, not all xenoestrogens are man-made. The fungi zearalenone that grows on maize and grains like wheat, is an estrogen fraudster too. In fact, back in the 1980s a farming town in Puerto Rico documented a rise in child menstruation. Girls as young as seven were growing breasts and menstruating. Clinical investigations linked this trend to the consumption during their mothers’ pregnancy of cattle that had been fed by zearalenone infected grain. The farmers found that the grain helped their cattle rapidly grow in size. I mean, it does make sense. Zearalenone can dial into estrogen receptors on muscle tissue and tell it to grow. Little did they realise, that the xenoestrogen would be passed along to consumers, triggering early onset of puberty. 

 

It’s horrifying. I realise this all sounds rather dramatic. I wish it wasn’t, but the truth is this is a very real and ever-growing problem with a lot of scientific evidence (for the skeptic, there are tests to measure plastic toxicity and our hormone levels that I can organize in my clinic). What’s more is, xenoestrogens from man-made chemicals have been shown to exert estrogenic affects that are up to 20,000 times stronger than the estrogen our ovaries put out (well that sucks). Similarly, zearalenone is 1,000 times stronger than the estrogen we make within us. So not only are xenoestrogens increasing estrogen levels within us, just a little can do it very aggressively. 

 

How do xenoestrogens affect our health? 

 

As you can imagine, exposure to xenoestrogens are linked to estrogen dominance (this applies to men too). Basically, it makes us hormonally imbalanced. This is bad news for our overall health as well as our mental health. Seeing as estrogen is a cell growth message, it’s been scientifically linked to benign and malignant growths, like fibroids, cysts and certain breast cancers. But that’s not all, it can suppress our thyroid, cause heavy periods, weight problems and so much more. 

 

Kay Ali, Nutritional Therapist and hormone and mental health expert running her workshop at Killik & Co, Northcote Road. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018. 

 

But what about our mental health? Well, estrogen is instrumental in the production of serotonin a.k.a our happy hormone, a.k.a the hormone that makes us more stress resilient, chirpy and less anxious. In really simple terms, at healthy levels estrogen nurtures the enzyme, tryptophan hydroxylase, that promotes serotonin production in the gut and brain. Happy days. But when it gets too high, it does the reverse. It over stimulates production of the enzyme, monamine oxidase A, that suppresses serotonin production. Not so happy days. Needless to say, xenoestrogen toxicity predisposes us to serotonin suppression, leaving us feeling anxious, sad, irritable, sleepless and emotionally vulnerable. 

 

My best advice? You guessed it, work with a practitioner who specializes in this area. Of course, reducing exposure to xenoestrogens is obvious and something you can do on your own. However, helping your body to breakdown and eliminate what we’ve already been exposed to, can be rather complicated. Our genetics feed into how well we do this as well as our diet and exercise. Getting tested is also a brilliant way to understand where you currently are as well as measuring the progress made from the changes you make. Of course this is something we can help you with at You Need A Nutritional Therapist. 

 

I hope you found this post interesting. I’d love to know your thoughts on our Instagram channel @youneedant

 

Until next week, 

 

Kay Ali x 

Nutritional Therapist & Co Founder of You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd. 

Kay Ali, Nutritional Therapist and hormone and mental health expert running her workshop at Killik & Co, Northcote Road. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018. 

 

If you are interested in working with Kay you can contact her via info@youneedanutritionaltherapist.com.

 

References for this article are available upon request. 

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