Estrogenic Pollution and Diet

An emerging environmental and health concern is the presence of endocrine disruptors in our environment and food.  A combination of synthetic chemicals that mimic estrogen and natural substances, primarily from soy foods and from hormones added to livestock, may be contributing to obesity, diabetes, infertility and cancer.

I first heard about estrogenic pollution when I took a permaculture design course with Geoff Lawton in 2000.  As I recall, he talked about boys in Denmark who had developed breasts due to pharmaceutical estrogen in drinking water.  Women on birth control expel excess levels of the chemicals through urine, and the hormones persist through the ecosystem, uneffected by water treatment methods and show up again in drinking water.  There has been plenty of evidence that endocrine disruption is a growing problem, from rising infertility, sexual disfunction, the feminization of boys and early onset of puberty in girls.

Xenoestrogens are synthetic chemicals, generally from plastics, herbicides, pesticides, sunscreen, lotions and food additives that mimic estrogen in our bodies.  Along with pharmacological estrogens (from birth control pills, for example), xenoestrogens pose a threat not only to human health, but to entire ecosystems, particularly the amphibians and fish who are immersed in polluted water and have little resistance to chemical penetration.  Estrogenic pollution is the suspected culprit in deformities, infertility, and even spontaneous sex change in frogs and fish.

To avoid xenoestrogens from flimsy plastic water bottles, I drink water out of a glass container, or occasionally use a metal water bottle to carry in the car.  Food-grade plastics (such as the five gallon bottles for carrying spring water) are more stable release their molecules less easily.

Phytoestrogens are natural chemicals in plants that act as estrogen in the body.  Soy is very high in phytoestrogens, and soy is prevalent in the processed foods that make up much of the modern American diet.  Hops used in brewing beer are also estrogenic, giving rise to the “beer belly” of persisitent visceral fat, which secretes its own estrogen, signalling your body to continue storing fat.

According to elite fitness trainer Mike Mahler, “There are good estrogens and bad estrogens and of the three common estrogens that are measured, estriol is the most benefical one and responsible for much of estrogen’s beneficial properties and when given as hormone replacement has the least side effects. Estradiol and estrone are more harmful estrogens, especially for men, and having levels of estradiol and estrone that are too high can result in water retention, low sex drive, muscle loss, weak bones, increased bodyfat, and depression.”

So some estrogen is important for the health of both men and women, but when our environment and food supply are overly tilted toward estrogen, we need to focus on boosting our anti-estrogenic hormones.  To over-simplify a bit, that means boosting testosterone in men and progesterone in women.

Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, are potent anti-estrogenic foods.  Strength training and high-intensity interval training are good ways to boost healthful hormones like testosterone, progesterone, and HGH.  To optimize hormones, your workouts should be relatively short and intense.  Post-workout, you should feel revitalized, not wiped out.

Ori Hofmeklar is a former Israeli commando, artist, and fitness writer who has developed a line of supplements to counteract the effects of endocrine disruption.  His book The Anti-Estrogenic Diet outlines a diet program that may help you shed persistent visceral fat if that is a problem for you.  You can find his products at Defense Nutrition here.


~ by nolashaolin on August 9, 2008.

5 Responses to “Estrogenic Pollution and Diet”

  1. […] estrogenic foods like soy, and chemicals from plastic water bottles, sunscreen, etc.  Incorporate some […]

  2. […] 3, 2008 I’ve posted before about the health risks of endocrine disruptors in soy-based foods and synthetic chemicals such as plastics.  Not only are these substances […]

  3. […] phytochemicals with medicinal benefits.  I’ve posted before about the important issue of endocrine disruptors in our modern environment and food.  Certain herbs such as turmeric, garlic, onions, chamomile, […]

  4. […] on simplicity. Industrial food producers would love to be able to make all food out of corn, soybeans, and sugar. Agribusiness would like to hold the patents on the genetically modified strains of […]

  5. […] water bottle and eat fresh, local produce I’ve posted before about the health risks of endocrine disruptors, both natural (phytoestrogens) from unfermented soy foods, and chemical (xenoestrogens) primarily […]

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