Xenoestrogens are the nasty culprit that you may or may not know much about. And, they are suspected contributors to reproductive health issues, abnormal growth patterns, and neurodevelopmental issues in males and females. Yet, even more, alarming is the fact that these “foreign estrogens” may also play a role in endometriosis development and growth. Understanding more about xenoestrogens and how they impact reproductive health may prove to be beneficial in properly managing and treating endometriosis.
What Are Xenoestrogens?
These molecules can be best described as “foreign estrogens” that are not produced within the body. Furthermore, xenoestrogens can occur naturally or be created synthetically. Two natural forms of xenoestrogens are phytoestrogens (plant-derived) and mycoestrogens (fungi derived). Whereas, synthetic forms of xenoestrogens are chemically produced and found in a variety of products and foods we use daily. Both forms are considered to be endocrine disruptors that can contribute to hormonal imbalance. Primarily, estrogen dominance.
This is due to their ability to jeopardize the normal function of estrogen by mimicking how it works. For instance, these foreign estrogens have the ability to block and/or bind hormone receptors. Thereby altering the way hormones signal and communicate with other tissue. Thus, impacting bone growth, blood clotting, and reproductive health.
Xenoestrogens and Endometriosis
So, how exactly do xenoestrogens influence endometriosis? Well, there are two main theories as to how they negatively impact endometriosis.
Xenoestrogens May Contribute to Onset of Endometriosis
In Dr. Kamren S. Moghissi’s study, he theorizes that hereditary factors, toxins, and being immunocompromised can cause the backflow of menstrual flow during menstruation (retrograde menstruation). Specifically, being exposed to high levels of xenoestrogen dioxin. But, correlation does not always equal causation. Hence why it’s unclear as to whether this was influenced by xenoestrogens alone or a combination of xenoestrogens and genetic factors. Plus, this study also mentions retrograde menstruation being a cause for endometriosis development. This is an idea that many in the medical community disagree on. Especially since retrograde menstruation isn’t exclusive to endometriosis. It’s something that is commonly experienced in women without endometriosis. So, while it may trigger endometriosis onset genetic, and environmental factors can’t be counted out.
Xenoestrogens Influence Endometriosis Growth
When it comes to the growth and proliferation of endometrial implants estrogen dominance plays a role. Particularly, the fact that xenoestrogens are not biodegradable and remain in the body for prolonged periods. They are most commonly stored within fat tissue. Over time they alter hormone levels and contribute to an increase of estrogen. While additionally impacting the normal behavior of estrogen. Indeed studies link exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin as a negative influence on steroid receptors, and gene expression. Thus causing issues with the cells ability to perform specific actions such as
- Sex steroid metabolism
- Cell Cycle
- Immune Response
- Cell Adhesion
Additionally, the dioxin xenoestrogen may be able to mimic the current endometrial phenotype. Which causes characteristics such as reduced progesterone responsiveness and increased sensitivity to pro-inflammatory proteins. And lastly, they can cause changes within the immune system. Therefore contributing to endometrial cells that resist immune-surveillance. While using inflammation to encourage growth in the pelvic cavity.
So, how exactly is one exposed to xenoestrogens in the first place? In reality, this is far more common than you realize. There is a combination of everyday items that contain these harmful toxins. And, chances are you’re using these items on a consistent basis. Thus, increasing your overall exposure. While manufacturers claim to only use a small amount of these endocrine-disrupting ingredients. And, the majority of studies show that small percentages of these ingredients cause no harm. It still remains a concern because the majority of people are not using just one product with a small percentage of that one toxic ingredient. So, while one product may contain a .2% concentration what happens when you use multiple products that contain .2% concentration every day. Yet, there’s no research that analyzes what happens with high levels of usage due to layering products containing multiple xenoestrogen ingredients. Hence, why it’s up to YOU to make these informed decisions.
Personal Care & Cosmetics
More than likely you’re being exposed to xenoestrogens via personal care products and cosmetics. From make-up, skincare, oral care, and hair care. These products are notorious for containing endocrine disrupting ingredients. Key ingredients to look out for are:
- Parabens ( methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben)
- Chemical Sunscreen (benzophenone, 4-Methylbenzylidene)
- Phthalates (DBP di-n-butyl phthalate, DEHP di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate, DEP diethyl phthalate, BzBP benzyl butyl phthalate, DMP dimethyl phthalate)
As it pertains to xenoestrogens in food products. They are commonly found in packaged, processed foods in the form of preservatives and red dyes. For instance, erythrosine (FD & C Red No. 3) and phenosulf thiazine are two types of red dye used in foods. And, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a common food preservative. On the other hand, fresh produce can also be subject to harmful xenoestrogen toxins. This occurs due to exposure to industrial insecticides used in conventional farming practices.
Around the Home
Your everyday cleaners, storage containers, and furnishings may also contain foreign estrogen compounds. For instance ingredients such as chlorine, alkylphenol and parabens are commonly found in cleaning products. While other ingredients can be found in food storage, dishware, furniture, electronics, and building materials. Examples of such ingredients are bisphenol-A (BPA), DEHP, polybrominated biphenyl esters (PBDE), polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), and pentachlorophenol.
There are various treatments that are prescribed to endo sufferers that are coming in to question. This is due to their use of synthetic hormones such as Ethinyl estradiol. Which is commonly found in the birth control pill. It’s prescribed to aid in managing painful periods and “suppressing” endometriosis growth. It may indeed do the opposite and contribute to the growth of endometriosis. Furthermore, treatments that focus on inducing false menopause. Whether surgically (hysterectomy, bilateral oophorectomy) or medically (Lupron, Orlissa) not only causes various side effects. But, they fail to take into account the root cause of hormonal imbalance. Which is the presence of endometrial tissue contributing to inflammation, and pain. Additionally, endometrial implants have the capability to produce their own estrogen. Hence, continuing the proliferation and spread of disease despite these treatments.
What Should You Take From This?
While it may be a lot to process. And, there isn’t a smoking gun that clearly proves xenoestrogens indeed cause endometriosis. What we do know is that these toxins are infamous for mimicking estrogen. Leading one to infer that they can potentially increase estrogen levels. Thereby, encouraging growth and proliferation of endometriosis. Being aware of the hazards xenoestrogens pose to your health allows you to better advocate for your health. Not just in the doctor’s office but in everyday life.
Know Your Risk Factors
If you’re a woman living with endometriosis you’re more likely to be sensitive to xenoestrogens and endocrine disruptors. While yes, everybody is different and assessing your unique health is indeed necessary. Taking the time to evaluate your xenoestrogen exposure should be a part of your holistic treatment plan. This includes choosing surgeries and treatments that address fixing the root cause. Furthermore, building onto these treatments by implementing lifestyle changes with your nutrition, and wellness habits.
It’s quite idealistic to believe one can completely eradicate xenoestrogen exposure. Especially since we don’t have control over environmental influences in public and workspaces. But, you can control what you allow into your home, in your body as well as on your body. Becoming aware of furnishings, and household items that may contain xenoestrogens and opting for those that don’t. While the market is small (and expensive) concerning this a little research goes a long way.
Also, know the ingredients that you’re putting on your body because it matters. Opting to switch to personal care products that don’t contain parabens, phthalates, and chemical sunscreens is a good place to start. Also, cutting back or omitting the consumption of processed foods with preservatives and red dyes. And, purchasing organic fruits and vegetables when possible.
Advocate for Your Health
Lastly, discuss ALL treatment options with your doctor. While currently there is no cure for endometriosis. The gold standard for treatment is to have excision surgery performed by an endometriosis specialist. Don’t take questionable hormonal treatments as a way to suppress endometriosis. Do your research and ask questions. Find a doctor that will work with you and address the root cause. And, focus on integrative holistic care that combines proper treatment with nutrition, wellness, and lifestyle modifications. It’s only through the combination of these behaviors that you can reduce xenoestrogen impact on your health. While also properly treating and managing endometriosis.
- NCBI | Risks, and Benefits related to Ailmentary Exposure to Xenoestrogens | Ilaria Paterni, Carlotta Granci, Filippo Minutolo | published in Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr November 2, 2017
- Endometriosis Foundation of America | Sampson’s Theory of Retrograde Menstruation
- Association of Advancement of Restorative Medicine | Paradigm Shift: The Realization of New Medical Alternatives to Surgery for Endometriosis | written by Edward M. Lichton published in Journal of Restorative Medicine Vol 50, No 1 December 1, 2016
- Natural University of Medicine: Women In Balance Institute | Xenoestrogens- What Are They? How to Avoid Them? | published online September 6, 2012
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!
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