Oh brother. I’ve been reading some articles indicating that 15% of American girls are hitting puberty by age 7, but the authors claim no one really knows why. Well, I’m sorry, but a big, giant teenage “Well, Duh!”. I’m no genius (unless you ask my Mom, then you’ll get an entirely different answer, something involving “my daughter who used to be a brilliant lawyer in Boston and now works at a radio station in some backwater in Utah”) and I have one word for you Xenoestrogens. If that’s the only word you learn this year, consider yourself informed. Xenoestrogens aren’t the only cause of early onset puberty, but they seem to be the least understood. So, I bring to you Xenoestrogens for the Scientifically Challenged.
What are Xenoestrogens, where do they come from and why are they a problem? Xenoestrogens are fake estrogens that have proliferated rapidly in our industrial society. Xenoestrogens are industrially made compounds found in PCB’s, BPA, parabens, DDT, and Phthalates that have estrogenic effects on living organisms. They are found in a variety of other chemicals as well.
Xenoestrogens mimic estrogen, so they create two issues: a) estrogen dominance disorder in both men and women; and b) interference with reproduction. These issues are of concern in both human and wildlife populations. In wildlife, estrogen dominance has lead to a variety of reproductive disorders in fish. In humans, estrogen dominance leads to many health problems such as:
- Breast Cancer
- Fibrocystic Breast Disease (a frequent precursor to breast cancer)
- Weight gain secondary to insulin resistance
- Menstrual disturbances–irregular and heavy bleeding.
- Endometriosis, the uterine tissue disorder, which is helped by the use of estrogen blockers
- Fibroids, a sign of excess proliferative capacity of the uterus, which may not be balanced with sufficient progesterone
- Ovarian cysts
- Fertility problems
- Early onset of puberty
- Lowered sperm count and motility
Interestingly, black girls are entering puberty at an even faster rate of 23% by age 7 (as opposed to 15%). Black women are much more likely to suffer from fibroids, an estrogen dominant condition, than their white counterparts. Could there be a connection?
Symptoms of estrogen dominance include: breast tenderness, anxiety, headaches, weight gain, water retention, and irregular periods. Many other symptoms have been related to abnormally high levels of estrogen, including decreased sex drive, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, hair loss, and memory loss.
Some scientists have found that estrogen dominance disorder is linked to early puberty. There is an excellent article about all of the potential causes (including xenoestrogens) and effects of early puberty here. So, why is the mainstream media playing dumb about the cause of early onset puberty? Oh, wait, don’t answer that.
If you are concerned about Estrogen Dominance Disorder in yourself or your little ones, here are some things you can do:
- Do you best to avoid plastics, especially toys and food containers or any other plastic that will go in the mouth. Never put plastic in the microwave. Plastic can be an essential item, just use it judiciously.
- Avoid PVC. If it’s plastic and it smells (think plastic shower curtains), it’s PVC
- Avoid Fragrances. If it says “Fragrance” but doesn’t tell you what’s in it, it likely contains phthalates
- Avoid BPA. Plastics with the numbers 3 and 7 on the bottom likely contain BPA. You can go for BPA free labels.
- Avoid fish high in PCB’s. Yes, PCB’s still exist and they will for centuries. PCB’s are found predominately in coldwater fish with large fat stores such as farmed salmon (the worst offender), but also wild salmon, bluefin tuna, eel, and flounder. EDF has a great guide to mercury and PCB’s in fish, click here.
- Avoid parabens in health and beauty products. We’ve got Green Product Reviews for some great paraben free products and will have more to come on this blog.
- Be cautious about birth control pills. I know these seem convenient, but be conscious of your use and any side effects you may be experiencing
- Supplement with natural progesterone cream. Don’t experiment with this. Have your hormone levels tested first, then supplement according to your doctor’s advice
- Avoid chemical pesticides and insecticides
- Lower your stress levels, eat a diet high in fiber, low in fat and Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
The bottom line is that xenoestrogens may not be the only factor contributing to early puberty, but they are likely one significant contributing factor. Obviously, we can’t blame plastics, because there are so many other factors contributing to estrogen dominance. Regardless, you and everyone you know should be aware of xenoestrogens and the consequences of their buildup in adult and youth human and wildlife populations.
*photo courtesy of west valley library