Hormones: Disrupted, Decadent, Depraved
During a recent conversation with my father over the movie “Tree of Life” I noted that life is really just 1,000 near death experiences. We are aware that an eventual end is coming. Whether it be by Mayan prediction, Solar Flares, Economic catastrophe, or Justin Bieber (bleak I know). Eventually, there will be an “end cause.” In the mean time we keep moving forward as best we can. In the meantime what we care about most is how we look, because if we do go out – dammit we are going to look fugging good doing it.
It seems, however, that if one thing won’t kill us something else will. Ever since moving forward with the idea of eating Paleo, I have come across almost way too much information that anything non-Paleo is somehow leeching a chemical into my physiological system that is causing or will cause horrendous damage. I learned a long time ago that there are people out there in charge of major companies who will cut corners, fund [biased] studies and sacrifice the health of everyone using their product to make their company a buck. Or worse, the poor bastards in charge don’t even know the product is dangerous. Cheaper, easier, more convenient…that’s the American way…even if it kills you.
Just so we are all on the same page, “Hormones are long-distance chemical messengers secreted by ductless endocrine glands (ovaries, testes, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, pineal gland, skin, parathyroid, heart, stomach, and adrenal glands to name a few) into the blood, which transports the hormones to specific target cells where they control a particular function by alternating protein activity” (Sherwood, p. 663).
Furthermore, “Endocrine dysfunction arises when too much or too little of any particular hormone is secreted or when there is decreased target cell responsiveness to a hormone” (Sherwood, p. 662)
Basically look at a hormonal disruption as a failure to communicate.
A quick Wikipedia search will tell you that endocrine disruptors are substances that “interfere with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action or elimination of natural hormones in the body that are responsible for development, behavior, fertility and maintenance of homeostasis. They are sometimes referred to as hormonally active agents, endocrine disrupting chemicals or endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs).”
The body’s main function is to maintain homeostasis by any means necessary. In immediate situations the body will react and counteract to sudden changes (i.e. if a male took a single dosage birth control on accident the body would immediately absorb and react to balance the sudden change). But leeching situations, like a male taking small dosages of birth control daily for months, will cause the body to accumulate damage and make adjustments slowly to balance the system. An example certain males will understand is when a dude walks into a GNC because he wants to get hyyyyyoooouuugggeee!!! So the dork behind the counter tells him protein powder and a T Booster (a.k.a. Testosterone booster) are the answer because he probably has low testosterone. (I saw this one time; true story) So possibly a few days to weeks into taking the T booster the gent notices that the only things getting bigger are his nipples and new set of tits. This is called an Estrogen Rebound. Basically the body notices there is more T in the system but estrogen, like a really emotional annoying little sister, wants to play, too. So as T rises E (estrogen) rises higher. This is the body’s wonderful way of balancing the scales.
So I hit the books and searched to find out what else could be causing this failure to communicate which results in health problems and prevents not only myself but my family, friends and clients from reaching the goals of looking, performing and feeling awesome. Health problems in association with products can really be slumped into 3 categories: (1.) poisons (2.) carcinogens, and (3.) hormone disruptors. Either the product will kill you immediately or slowly or it will cause you to eventually contract a disease.
New research has pointed me to the fact that there isn’t much out there that won’t cause hormonal disruption and a consequent tirade of related health problems. For some people this is nothing new; for others, though, it’s Earth shattering.
As stated in The Anti-Estrogenic Diet by Ori Hofmekler, “Whether you are aware of it or not, you are constantly exposed to an assault of chemicals known for causing hormonal imbalances, disorders and death – chemicals that are found in the air your breathe, products you use, lotions you put on your skin, food you eat and water you drink” (pg. xiii).
So with that in mind I must give out a warning: The information below can be overwhelming to some. I will have to go into the horrors of industry, but at the end I will offer some solutions so that some readers are not too quick to have a fire sale and cast out everything they own.
What we know for fact is that for males, Testosterone levels over the past 50+ years have been steadily dropping – with or without steroids. Charles Poliquin supports that, “Strength coaches around the world are finding that it’s harder today for their athletes to pack on mass than it was 30 years ago.” We also know that estrogen, for mostly everyone, is on the rise. This has caused a hormone disruption in a good amount of the population. The disruption itself mainly comes from estrogen being spiked too high or just high enough which results in problems to the body systems. Most disturbances and disruptive chemicals cause estrogen mimicking or an increase in estrogen itself in estrogen receptor sites. “Estrogenic chemicals exist in both synthetic and natural forms. The synthetic forms, called xenoestrogens are industrial derivative, whereas the natural forms called phytoestrogens, naturally occur in certain foods, herbs and extracts” (Hofmekler, p. 3). Some of the top offenders include but are not limited to:
BPA we know by now to be evil, yet companies still make their products out of it. While I was browsing through cups at a local major coffee shop the other day (not naming names but sounds like MoonDollars), a few of them stated that they were BPA free. Staring at it I asked myself, “What about the lid?” So I called the company, and it turns out that only 2 of their travel mugs’lids are BPA free. The others have cups that are BPA free but the lids are still made with it in the plastic. Yes, the part you put on your lips. This little incident caused me to research plastics, and what I found was that we as a people use a lot of it. Food containers – supplement containers – certain tea bags – food wrappings – cups – mugs – jewelry – clothes – backpacks – just think anything with plastic. The majority of our modern conveniences are made of some form of plastic.
But it can also be found outside of plastics such as weed killers, insecticides, pesticides (“But I don’t use insecticides/pesticides!” you say. Well, no, but the farmers you buy your food from sure do – unless you buy organic, sometimes).
CrossFitters love to warm up and demo movements with PVC pipes. I wouldn’t have originally thought this to be a big ordeal, but while at my BioSignature Certification one of the other members said during thigh measurement testing, “Oh, we CrossFitters and our fat hamstrings.” When I pressed him to explain he merely stated, “As a trainer and PT guy I see most CrossFitters have fat hamstrings.” And this got me thinking and inspecting my own gym. What I found is most people brought plastic cups to drink water while working out. The water supplied was from Sparklets bottles that had been left in the sun. Sparklets bottles contain a #7 (btw 3 and 7 are the ones that contain BPA) and we all usually warm up with PVC pipe. Now, as a member your contact is maybe an hour (over estimating here) a week with this pipe. As a trainer, though, it’s a lot more. I can’t blame CrossFitters’ fat hamstrings strictly on PVC pipe work, though, but I wonder if the industrial places where we have our boxes are leeching some kinds/amounts of chemicals. Also, a lot of water is transported via PVC pipe, drinking and bathing water.
Parabens and Phthalates:
Something I concluded that females love to do is step out of the shower, or even randomly throughout the day, and coat themselves in a thick layer of lotion. Well, depending on the lotion you could be coating yourself with an endocrine disruption. “But I’m so soft! And I hate dry skin!” Yes, I know, cupcake, but your thighs also touch when you kettlebell swing.” Parabens and phthalates not only are found in lotions but mostly all other cosmetics such as “…shampoos, conditioners, facial and body cosmetics, skin care products, sunscreens, underarm products (antiperspirants and deodorants), colognes and perfumes, soaps, even the liquid hand soaps” (Poliquin, 2010).
Short story: Back in April I was working with a BioSignature Practitioner, and we laid out 8 weeks of nutrition, supplementation, exercise and sleep. Three weeks into it the results were great; I had dropped down to my lowest body fat percentage since being a teenager, sub 9%. The fourth week into things, though, I took a complete 180 degree turn and started gaining weight and puffiness. Not everywhere, but mainly in my pecs, tri’s and thighs. (In the BioSignature world these are linked to male to female ratios of hormones in the body.) At the end of the week I was debating back and forth with my practitioner about the sudden turn. He immediately said, “You changed something.” I swore that I hadn’t. He asked me where I worked, and at the time I was training people in the gym of a medical supply company and on an astro-turf (plastic?!?) track and field coaching a local high school. However, at the time I was doing a mild estrogen detox, and it was deduced that what I was taking would counteract those minor exposures, maybe. So then he started interrogating my shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, but I told him I hadn’t changed anything. Then he said the key word: cologne, to which I replied, “Deodorant….I changed my deodorant.” When I got home and looked at it, the first ingredient was aluminum with sub ingredients being hydrogenated castor and soybean oil. I quickly removed this and changed products and within week 5 I had returned to sub 9% body fat.
A few other everyday items to note are receipts. Receipts are being promoted as one of the biggest causes of BPA exposure. The ink and even the paper itself contains the BPA and studies are reporting those who work at cash registers or handle receipts are often showing higher numbers of BPA in their systems. Lubricants (think sexual, like spermicidal condoms) also contain BPA and parabens.
Lastly, another danger of phthalates is they cause male babies in fetal development to take on genital changes, causing them to be shorter and more female like and can cause other changes like smaller scrotum and penis development and non-descending testicles. Scary stuff.
Have mercury fillings? You probably are not healthy, thin or both. Lead (such as that found in bright shades of lipstick) can also be a problem. (Just look into Roman history.) Arsenic, like what has recently been found in juice, is bad for you I hear. Other metals such as mercury (tuna anyone??) and cadmium have also shown in research studies to cause disruption.
Have a BlackBerry, iPhone, or Xbox? Keep a laptop directly on your lap? The normal position to use these controllers is in the seated position, hovering slightly above your genitalia. There has been a lot of research surrounding dirty electricity showing that it can cause anything from insulin sensitivity problems to hormonal problems to sleep disruption. (A simple Google search of the words “dirty electricity” will give you a lot to read.) Pregnant ladies using cell phones (dosage unknown) can result in the child developing autism, ADD, and ADHD.
Really?? I don’t think we have to go into this. There are forms that are not as problematic such as non-GMO soy oils and lecithin, but most of the soy put into food is from a not so good source. There are also better studies and research (not funded by soy groups) that demonstrate damage to the hormonal system when encountered. Moreover, a few quiet papers link soy to lower testosterone levels, high estrogen levels, and estrogen related cancers. (A good source of study is a book called The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla T. Daniel.)
Other BullS**t that causes hormonal disruptions:
- Alcohol consumption
- Damaged or fatty livers
- Serious knocks to the head which result in pituitary gland damage
- Over the counter/ prescription drugs
- Damage to testicle(s)
- Adrenal fatigue
- Digestive disorders
- Insulin/ metabolic derangement
- Vitamin/ mineral deficiencies
- A whole host of other buggers
So what the hell to do now?!?!?!?:
Well, I think the obvious is the best: Break into small groups, have Robb teach us how to use an atlatl, move out into the wilderness of Colorado, and iCaveman it the f**k up!
Occupy the White House and Congress demanding they change everything and make the world healthier!
No, I don’t really see those things happening either, fun as they may be, though.
As I myself started looking more into the research, studies and other products out there, I tackled living cleaner one product at a time. Same way most of us have moved on with our nutrition. Some experts advise throwing everything out of the cupboards at once, but for others that kind of fresh start doesn’t work and can be overwhelming. My advice is to choose an area of the house with which to start. Simple changes like, if you have a travel coffee mug or sippy cup you use frequently, make a move to make that a cleaner product. After that, if you use plastic plates or dishware, start to switch those out. A really economical way to eliminate BPA ridden plastic containers is to reuse glass jars from foods you buy to store leftovers instead of storing in plastic containers. With the holidays right around the corner now is a great time to add this stuff to wish lists. I doubt we all need new laptops, flat screens, or diamonds. A great source of information regarding this and similar subjects is EWG.org. (Be careful because that website can blow your mind, much like this one.)
Once products are removed that can cause potential disruptions, some report changes in mental cognition, libido, energy, leaning out, weight loss and so forth. Unfortunately, there are many other possible problems that can cause hormone disruption outside of environment, such as over training, under eating, under sleeping, etc. Estrogen likes to store itself in fat tissues so there is a problem for some people when the fat breaks down (through nutrition, exercise or other methods) it releases the estrogen back into the system. If the estrogen doesn’t have a pathway to use to be excreted from the system the estrogen floats around until it is soaked up again somewhere else in the body, all the while causing an estrogen imbalance. This applies to both males and females.
I can’t tell you for certain what is going to get you or me or us in the end. It could be a few things. It could be a single squirrel. Maybe Bieber will somehow call upon the Mayans who will ride from the dark side of the Moon on a solar flare and just end it all. Some are promoting 2012 as a year of change and maybe we should all move that direction anyway: Not down the path that the end is coming, but down the one in which we know AN end is coming. A new beginning is also on its way. If 2012 is the last year lets go out looking and feeling our best. If it is a new beginning, then let’s start it as new, gorgeous, enlightened, hormonally undisrupted beings.
Wikipedia.com. “Hormone disruption.” Retrieved on December 11, 2011.
Sherwood, Lauralee (2010). Human Physiology: From Cells to Systems. 7th Ed. Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning, Australia.
Hofmekler, Ori (2007). The Anti-Estrogenic Diet.North Atlantic Books, Berkley, CA.
Poliquin, Charles (2010). “Dealing with the AndropauseBridade part 2: How the Metrosexual Look is Castrating You.” Website interview from July 29, 2010.Retrieved on December 11, 2011.http://www.charlespoliquin.com/Blog/tabid/130/EntryId/60/Dealing-with-the-Andropause-Brigade-Part-2-How-the-Metrosexual-Look-is-Castrating-You.aspx
Chris Espinosa is Head Trainer and Paleo Nutrition Coach at Crossfit Simi Valley [crossfitsimi.com]. He also holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, Northridge. Certified recently as a Charles Poliquin BioSignature Modulation Practitioner, he has become a huge advocate of BioSignature Modulation and Poliquin Training and Principles. As of now he works off the webspace happyhealthysexystrong.com. He is another one of those who has had his coaching, business, nutrition and general life changed (saved) by Robb Wolf. Feel free to contact Chris through: firstname.lastname@example.org or happyhealthysexystrong.com.