Menopause affects women in different ways, but one thing we know is that it causes a drastic change in estrogen levels. This causes many discomforting symptoms, leading some women to opt for menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to increase estrogen levels in their bodies.
There are different estrogens, but do you know that not all are good for your health? You’re probably here because you’ve heard of Xenoestrogens and want to know how they affect Menopause. We’ve got you covered; read on to find out all you need to know about these artificial estrogens and their effect on menopause.
What are Xenoestrogens?
Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors that aren’t produced by the human body but have estrogen-like effects. According to professionals, there are two types of xenoestrogens – natural and artificial.
The natural xenoestrogens are considered non-harmful and include phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens) which are sometimes recommended in the diet of menopausal women. On the other hand, synthetic xenoestrogens don’t regulate the body but build up fat cells causing excess estrogen levels.
What’s more surprising? Xenoestrogens are everywhere in our lives, from birth control pills, soaps, shampoos, and plastics, to pesticides and even hormone replacement therapy. Let’s put it more simply – our environment has been estrogenised in the last few decades with the introduction of xenoestrogens into the chemical, agricultural, and industrial fields.
Though scientists are still studying the potential impact of these chemicals, it has been proven that excessive exposure to them causes estrogen dominance, which exposes women to some health conditions. The term estrogen dominance is used to describe symptoms of estrogenisation that people of all age categories display.
But then, do xenoestrogens have effects on Menopause?
Xenoestrogens and Menopause: What’s the Connection?
Since Menopause has a lot to do with hormone levels and xenoestrogens affect the level of estrogen, there has to be a connection between the two. Let’s see what it is.
An Overview of Menopause
Menopause is a natural process women pass through at mid ages, usually in the early fifties. It is the transitional stage in which the body stops producing reproductive hormones, ending the monthly cycle and fertility.
Many women start experiencing symptoms of menopause years before their last period. These symptoms usually continue for about 3 to 4 years after a woman has seen her last period.
Research has shown that the average menopausal age for women is 51. However, women of color tend to experience it two years earlier. Genes and reproductive health are the main factors determining how early a woman will start menopause.
The process generally involves three stages – perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Perimenopause is when the menstrual cycle becomes irregular, and the flow becomes either lighter or heavier. Many women start to experience menopause symptoms at this stage. Menopause is said to be reached when a woman spends 12 consecutive months without seeing her menstrual cycle, while postmenopause is the stage that follows after menopause. A lot of women continue experiencing postmenopausal symptoms for 4 years or so.
Symptoms of Menopause
Every woman has a unique menopause experience. Women who experience menopause suddenly tend to have more discomforting symptoms than those that went through years of perimenopause.
Factors including underlying medical conditions, like cancer and high blood pressure, and lifestyle choices like alcoholism and smoking can aggravate menopause symptoms.
Some common signs of perimenopause include:
- Irregular menstruation
- Change in monthly flow – blood flow either get lighter or heavier
- Excessive night sweats and hot flashes.
As perimenopause progress, women experience more symptoms like;
- Weight gain, especially at the abdomen, thigh, and hips
- Mood swings, anxiety, and symptoms of depression
- Vaginal dryness and reduced libido
- Insomnia and difficulty in concentrating
- High blood pressure
- Hair loss and thinning
- Sore and tender breasts
- Changes in the size of the breast
- Decrease in bone mass
- Dry skin and eyes
- Headaches and fast heartbeat
- Urinary tract infection and frequent urination
How Xenoestrogens Affect Menopause
Excess xenoestrogens cause estrogen dominance in menopausal women. This happens especially if a woman is passing through perimenopause when the levels of estrogen and progesterone are disrupted, exposing women to high levels of these hormones.
Since xenoestrogens are stronger than the natural estrogen produced by the body, they easily attach themselves to estrogen receptors making natural estrogen ineffective. This is why many women find it hard to eliminate discomforting symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
In the early stages of perimenopause, the body produces less progesterone but the same estrogen level. This natural estrogen combined with xenoestrogens causes too much estrogen in the body, known as estrogen dominance. This imbalance comes with a lot of discomforting symptoms that are similar to that of perimenopause and Menopause.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
- Mood swings and irritability
One of the most common symptoms of hormonal imbalance is mood swings and irritability. If you tend to have a dramatic mood change and even the slightest thing makes you irritable, it’s probably because you have too much estrogen in your body.
- Reduced Libido
Women who have high level of estrogen may experience decreased sex drive than normal. This is caused because of a lack of balance between the levels of estrogen and progesterone.
- Excess Fatigue
Estrogen dominance has been linked with excess fatigue. This can happen even if you’re not experiencing sleep difficulty. If you’re always exhausted, even when you have done nothing, consider talking to your health care provider about hormonal imbalance.
- Worsening Post Menopausal Symptoms
Another common sign of too much estrogen in the body is severe postmenopausal symptoms. When you’ve tried all treatments but the hot flashes, sore breasts, and night sweats didn’t relieve, you’re likely experiencing estrogen dominance.
Bloating is commonly experienced by women during menstruation. However, if you get bloated at different times, it might be a sign of estrogen dominance. Heavy and irregular periods are another cause of bloating.
- Panic Attacks and Anxiety
You will likely encounter anxiety symptoms and panic attacks when estrogen levels elevate. Anxiety is when you’re worried about everything and nothing. Some of its physical symptoms include headache and a fast heartbeat.
Many women experience difficulty sleeping at perimenopause, but this is even worse when there’s estrogen dominance. If you’re finding it hard to get a good night’s rest, consider booking an appointment with your doctor.
- Weight gain
When you’re adding unnecessary weight, especially at a specific part of the body, when you’re still eating a healthy diet and exercising, hormone imbalance is probably the culprit.
- Irregular and heavy menstruation
One of the early symptoms of perimenopause is an irregular menstrual cycle. If you already have these symptoms, it will be hard to differentiate between that of hormonal imbalance and perimenopause.
In some cases, women still experience their normal menstrual cycle, but it becomes painful, and the flow increases or decreases. These might be perimenopause symptoms, but it won’t be a bad idea to talk to your doctor.
- Memory Problems
You entered the kitchen and then got stuck trying to find what you wanted to take, or do you always forget to carry your keys when going out? Finding it hard to remember small details and put thoughts together can signify estrogen dominance.
- Fertility Issues
Women with hormonal imbalance, especially estrogen dominance, can find it hard to get pregnant. This is coupled with the fact that most women experience estrogen dominance when they’re at the ages that fertility naturally declines.
- Hair Loss and Thinning
Generally, as women age, they tend to lose hair. Estrogen imbalance has been linked to hair thinning and loss. Perimenopause can also cause hair problems.
Where are Xenoestrogens Founds?
Xenoestrogens are found in many chemicals that an average person encounters daily. Here are some of the common things where xenoestrogens are found:
Did you just read water? Yes, the water in our homes has been treated to remove harmful microbes and pollutants before it reaches our houses. However, the chemicals used to kill these harmful bacteria aren’t removed from the water, and there are still some harmful substances that can’t be filtered out using these chemicals.
Some of these chemicals include the hormones in the birth control pill that are excreted via urine. Also, EWG has identified more than 40 hormone-disrupting chemicals in drinking water.
One of the ways to avoid the xenoestrogens in public drinking water is by buying bottled water – unfortunately, this can’t be the best option as plastics also contain some xenoestrogens, which can easily diffuse into the water.
What’s the way out, then? Consider investing in a high-grade water filter to ensure all the water used in your house is at least 99% free of harmful chemicals.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills are another way most women get into contact with xenoestrogens. These pills contain synthetic hormones, which cause an increase in the levels of estrogen and even some health complications.
To keep you healthy, your liver will try as much as it can to detoxify these substances; however, when there’s an excess of these chemicals, they are recirculated into the body in a more toxic form.
From our water bottles, food packaging, house roofing, electronic equipment, and automobile airbags to the flooring and installations in our homes, plastics are everywhere in our daily life.
Many of these plastics contain hormone-like chemicals that diffuse into the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, affecting us negatively.
Though Bisphenol A (a chemical substance used in making hard plastics that has been linked to some harmful effects) has been phased out, some plastic items still contain estrogenic chemicals. We can’t cut off plastics completely from our daily lives, but we can take some measures, like avoiding foods reheated in plastics and reducing the intake of packaged foods.
Conventional Meat and Dairy Products
Conventional beef is obtained from cattle raised on farms but fed with some artificially formulated grains and synthetic hormones. These substances accumulate in the animals’ bodies to the extent that they are found in their milk and meat when slaughtered.
When we consume meat or dairy, all the substances inside get into our bodies. This frequent eating of the meat of conventionally raised animals can cause estrogen dominance.
Always buy organic and naturally raised cattle meat that is devoid of any form of synthetic formula or hormones.
Personal Care Products
We use many personal care products like creams, gels, shampoos, lotions, and cosmetics to give our skin and hair a shiny and beautiful look. But do you know that these substances contain a lot of chemicals that are harmful to our health? For example, soaps and cosmetics contain emulsifiers that can easily get absorbed into the body, causing health complications.
The fragrance found in most of the skincare products we use contains hundreds of compounds, some of which have been linked to cancer, liver disease, kidney damage, and endocrine system disruptions. Fingernail polish and the polish remover also contain some solvents with endocrine-disrupting properties.
Most of these products are applied to the skin – the largest organ in the body and can absorb and transfer substances quickly. Consider purchasing skin care products that are made from organic products or at least less harmful inorganic ingredients.
Car Exhaust and Industrial Waste
If you’re living in a busy city where thousands of vehicles are always on the go, you’ll be exposed to many harmful substances, including hormone-like chemicals that can lead to estrogen dominance.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and other forms of industrial waste can also leak into the groundwater, contaminating the water used in homes.
Pesticides, Herbicides, and Fungicides
The pesticide we use in our home to get rid of pesky insects and the herbicides and fungicides used in lawns and farms contain many harmful chemicals like Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene, Heptachlor, Chlorine, Nonylphenol, and others. These substances have many negative effects on the reproductive system.
It’s recommended you reduce the use of these chemicals to the barest minimum and include fruits and vegetables into your diets as much as you can.
8 Tips for Menopausal Women to Dealing with Xenoestrogen
As we know, during perimenopause, women experience many discomforting symptoms. Excess xenoestrogens can exacerbate these symptoms and make it hard to get rid of them.
The best thing to do is to avoid them as much as possible and detoxify your body from the ones already there. Here are some tips for you:
One of the most powerful ways to balance hormone levels is by moving your body. If you’re always on the couch, you aren’t allowing your body to eliminate the xenoestrogens stored in your cells.
Any form of movement counts! You can decide to take 30 minutes to walk, jog or jump. However, you should engage in low-pressure exercises that won’t stress your joints and muscles. You can start with light cardio workouts, then add some weight resistance exercise.
Not only that exercising helps you detoxify from xenoestrogens, but it also helps you maintain a healthy weight and relieve some menopause symptoms.
Eat a Nutritious Diet
A healthy and nutritious diet plays a great role in managing hormone levels. Include fiber-rich foods into your diet as it helps you manage estrogen levels by excreting them through bowel movements. High-fiber foods also help turn gut bacteria into beneficial chemicals and improve cardiovascular health.
Food rich in Omega-3-fats like mackerel, salmon, and other fatty fish help reduce inflammation, affect hormone regulation, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis. Soy products like tofu, soy milk, and flour can help ease symptoms like hot flashes and profuse night sweats.
Cruciferous vegetables like cabbages and Brocolli contain chemicals like Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM) that helps in balancing the levels of estrogen.
Avoid canned and processed foods as much as you can. They contain high amounts of sodium and carbohydrates that can excavate hormonal imbalance. Also, as they’re mostly packaged in plastic packages, the estrogenic chemicals in plastics can easily leach into the foods. Switch to organic foods free from xenoestrogens and help improve your overall health.
Consider adding two tablespoons of grounded flax seeds to your diet. Flaxseeds are rich in compounds that help reduces estrogen levels. They also contain a high amount of fiber that lowers circulating estrogen levels and improves bowel movements.
Use Natural Chemical-Free Household Products
Organic products don’t contain the harmful chemicals or toxins found in pesticides. Research has also proved that organic products contain a lot of nutrients that are needed by the body.
We understand it’s hard to go completely organic; however, you can still reduce inorganic products by consuming non-conventional beef and using pesticides containing small amounts of harmful substances. Ensure your household products, toilet papers, detergents, and soaps are free from xenoestrogens.
Use Organic Personal Care Products
Using soaps, lotions, creams, shampoos, and gels that contain xenoestrogen causes an imbalance of natural hormones.
Since most of the personal care products we use are made from many ingredients, it’s hard to figure out whether there are xenoestrogen chemicals or not. The best option is to go for organic personal care products. Though they’re costlier than their inorganic counterparts, they will be worth investing in.
You can also check the Environmental Working Group (EWS) guide on choosing the best and non-harmful skincare products.
Managing stress can help restore your hormonal balance, especially in Menopause. Excess stress has also been linked to some menopausal symptoms like sleep difficulty. Practice yoga, talk a walk in nature, or go out with friends. Please find a way to work out of stress and practice it regularly!
Drink a Filtered Water
Install a high-grade osmosis reverse filter in your home to ensure all the water you’re drinking is clean and free from harmful chemicals and xenoestrogens. Avoid “city water” as it contains high chlorine, fluorine, synthetic biotics, industrial waste, and harmful chemicals like Atrazine.
Be wary of the Pads and Tampons you use
Use sanitary pads and tampons made from 100% organic cotton with no chlorine, fragrance, or other substances that might contain xenoestrogens. The FDA has detected dozens of harmful substances in tampons. Therefore, you should be wary of the ones you use.
Use Plastics Properly
It’s nearly impossible to avoid plastics, but you can use them cautiously. Avoid freezing liquid or water in plastic bottles, and don’t reuse disposable bottles.
Also, avoid reheating your foods in plastic containers. Use a cotton bag when shopping and if possible, take your thermos to the coffee shop.
Use glass, ceramic or stainless steel to store your food. Don’t leave plastic containers under the sun– if plastic is heated up under the sun, throw it away. Stop babies from chewing plastic toys, and avoid feeding them foods that have been microwaved in plastic containers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Xenoestrogens Harmful?
Yes, Xenoestrogens are harmful to people of all ages. When they’re too much in the blood, they can cause estrogen dominance which worsens perimenopause symptoms such as low sex drive, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes.
Xenoestrogens have also been linked to increased breast cancer in men and early puberty in girls.
How Can I Reduce Exposure to Xenoestrogens?
Our environment is already bombarded with these harmful chemicals that we can’t eliminate. However, we can reduce our exposure to them by reducing pollution in our areas, avoiding conventional meat and canned foods, and using organic skincare and household products.
How do Xenoestrogens affect Women in Menopause?
Xenoestrogens cause estrogen dominance in women during perimenopause when their hormones aren’t at a stable level. This worsens menopause symptoms and increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
What are the Skincare Chemicals that contain Xenoestrogens?
Some of the ingredients in our skincare products that contain xenoestrogens include Benzophenone, 4-MethyMethyl benzylidenehor (4-MBC), and some forms of parabens.
Do Xenoestrogens Cause Health Disorders?
Yes, research has linked xenoestrogens with many health complications, including premature ovary failure, endometriosis, cardiovascular disease, estrogen dominance, cancer of the reproductive organs, overweight, and fertility issues in both genders.