I knew “X” would be a difficult letter. I know very few words that start with “X” never mind words that have to do with mental health. I settled on xenoestrogens. I’ve been seeing this term pop up more frequently lately and I didn’t know much about it, so I thought I would educate myself at the same time. There are plant and fungal-derived xenoestrogens, but the ones I’m referring to are the synthetic, industrial kind. You are probably familiar with some of them; polychlorinated bipehenol (PCBs), bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.
Why am I talking about xenoestrogens when I’m writing a mental health blog? High levels of xenoestrogens (causing estrogen dominance) cause symptoms similar to depression. Whenever I see a new doctor, they want to check my thyroid to make sure that’s not the cause of depression. No one has ever wanted to test my estrogen levels before. Here are some of the symptoms high levels of xenoestrogens share with depression;
- decreased sex drive
- weight changes
- memory loss
Hmm, maybe I should get my estrogen levels checked.
Xenoestrogens are similar in structure to the estrogen produced by our endocrine system. They mimic the function of estrogen in our bodies, except they are more potent. The Endocrine Society views xenoestrogens as environmental hazards to humans and wildlife. They interfere with natural hormonal signalling causing precocious puberty in children and complications of the reproductive system (example: cancer) in adults. They act as free radicals turning on genes and causing hormonal imbalances that contribute to conditions like cancer and estrogen dominance.
The impact of xenoestrogens is becoming a great concern in first world countries. Estrogen levels in individuals living in America are incredibly high compared to those living in undeveloped countries. This is because in developed countries, we contact these compounds everyday. They are used in agriculture to fatten animals up and in fertilizers to ensure good crops. This means you’ll find them in all non-organic produce. They are also used in water, plastics, household cleaners and cosmetics/toiletries. I use all of these on a daily basis and I’ve never really considered what’s in them. My strategy for buying products is what works best and costs the least. I think that’s a strategy a lot of people use. I know it’s better to buy organic meat, fresh, raw vegetables and avoid processed foods. I’ve also heard about food absorbing xenoestrogens from the plastic containers or saran wrap they are stored in and I know not to microwave food in plastic, but what I didn’t know was the threat posed by cosmeticstoiletries. This includes not only make-up, but lotions, soaps, sunscreens and your plastic toothbrush. I admit I don’t pay attention to what’s in my cosmetics/toiletries. I buy whatever has SPF in it and is not tested on animals. Xenoestrogens are 10 times more potent when absorbed through the skin! Eek! Reading this sent me to the bathroom to read the ingredients on all my make-up! The results were not good. Here’s a good website to learn about what is in your cosmetics/toiletries and how harmful they are: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
I wonder if I ate organic and eliminated xenoestrogens from my diet and household products, would it make a difference in my mental health? Does anyone do this? Have you noticed a difference? I would love to hear from you!