It can seem like you’re always hearing about hormones — in the news, social media and especially when talking with your friends.
“I have such bad PMS; half the month I’m depressed and the other half I’m so irritable, I can’t be around anyone!”
“I’m having horrible hot flashes and am soaking the sheets!”
“I just started to see a fertility specialist because we haven’t been able to get pregnant”
“I was just diagnosed with breast cancer!”
Hormones are molecules which act as chemical messengers. Secreted from the endocrine glands,they go directly into the bloodstream and regulate many of your body’s processes, such as hunger, growth, blood pressure, and reproduction.
These organs secrete hormones in microscopic amounts; a very small amount can cause a major change in your body. Disease or illness is caused when the amount or ratio becomes unbalanced, such as with hypo or hyperthyroidism, diabetes and breast cancer.
Hormone secretion is stimulated by a message from the pituitary gland, known as the master gland.
In women, the ovaries produce and release the two main female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Although testosterone is considered a male hormone, females also produce and need a small amount of this, too.
Your adrenal glands, located at the top of each kidney, make small amounts of estrogen and estrogen is also produced in adipose or fat tissue.
In a healthy, balanced body, estrogen must first be made water soluble to be eliminated from the body via sweat, urine, or feces. This happens via the Phase I and Phase II pathways in the liver.
In the Phase 1 pathway, the fat-soluble compound enters the liver, and its structure is changed in order to prepare it for removal from the body.
In the Phase II pathway, molecules are added to the compound in order for it to be eliminated from the body safely.
This is known as estrogen clearance and is critically important, as estrogens that are not properly metabolized and cleared by the liver circulate back into the bloodstream in a more toxic form.
What results when this estrogen is returned to the body is estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance contributes to many diseases for women, such as PCOS (PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome), PMS, menstrual irregularities, infertility, and even breast cancer.
In order for estrogen to be eliminated, it must bind to certain receptors, called estrogen binding receptors. Receptors are proteins in or on cells that can attach to specific substances in the blood. Normal breast cells and some breast cancer cells have receptors that attach to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and depend on these hormones to grow.
An easy way to think of this is to compare an estrogen binding receptor to a spot in a parking lot. The estrogen is “the car” that is looking for a parking spot.
Hormone disrupting chemicals look enough like estrogen that they are able to fit into the parking spot, taking up a space that would, in a healthy situation, be used by the real estrogen.
If estrogen is unable to fit into the parking spot, it’s unable to be metabolized to be excreted, and turns into an unhealthy form of itself, estrone.
This is how estrogen disruption is an underlying cause of breast cancer.
As our society has become more industrialized, chemicals in the environment, processed foods and poor eating habits, medications, chronic stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices, have all contributed to a large increase in estrogen disruption in women’s bodies.
One of the areas you have the most control over what chemicals you are exposed to is the products you use in your home. These chemicals are everywhere and they are often insidious.
Marilyn is a 42 year old woman who was diagnosed with ER+ (Estrogen Receptor positive) breast cancer and was referred by her oncologist for integrative care.
I have a fragrance free office and she came in smelling very strongly of perfume and hair products. In the course of her initial visit, I asked her about fragrance and she said, “Oh! I love fragrance!” When I asked her what that meant, she told me she used the following items in her house:
As part of her health recovery, I asked her to go home, gather every cleaning, laundry product, candle, plugins, furniture or carpet spray, and personal care product and send me a photo. The photo had 29 different products in it!
Functional medicine testing revealed she had abnormally high levels of the type of estrogen that was not being cleared from her body and was a direct result of all the chemicals she was exposed to every day in her home.
Most importantly, this could be a contributing factor of her breast cancer.
She threw everything out, stopped using fragrance in candles and plugins. She started to use all organic and eco-products for her home and her personal care products. She even bought a new sofa, as her old sofa had too much of the chemical spray on it to be saved.
She did very well with her breast cancer treatments and continues to be cancer free for the past several years.
When I became pregnant at 42 (Yes! That’s right! I was 42, but that story is for another time…), I realized the importance of having a toxin-free home. As Marilyn did, I gathered all my cleaning products and was shocked at the amount of chemicals I was exposing myself, my husband and my soon to be born daughter to!
I undertook the process of creating a toxin-free home and never looked back!
From my home to yours, I’m sharing simple ways you can swap common products for their non-toxic equivalent in my Healthy Home Guide. Sign up below to learn more on how you can make healthy swaps in your home one room at a time.