Xenoestrogens are environmental pollutants with chemical structures that can mimic oestrogen in the body. These chemicals can lead to detrimental effects to our bodies, therefore awareness of xenoestrogens and avoidance where possible are the key to good health.
For example, research shows that pollution by xenoestrogens can affect:
By mimicking the action of our own oestrogen, xenoestrogens can affect our bodies and alter our hormone activity. Currently, approximately 70,000 chemicals have been registered as having hormonal effects. These chemicals have been seen to increase the oestrogen load in the body over time and are sometimes more difficult for the liver to detoxify and clear from the body.
These chemicals can be found in our water, air, soil and food chain, as well as in many cosmetic and household products. The human body is being bombarded with these harmful chemicals every day which may over-burden the liver, weaken our immune systems and disrupt our delicate hormonal balance.
So, where can we find them? And how can we avoid them?
Many household products contain xenoestrogens, but specifically look out for laundry detergents and fabric softeners, as they may leave residues on clothing, towels, and things that touch our skin. Air fresheners and insect repellents are also major sources of xenoestrogens.
Xenoestrogens absorbed by the skin are thought to be ten times more potent than those eaten or drunk, as they travel directly to the tissues instead of passing through the liver. Therefore, be careful with your choices – look for natural plant-based products and check the ingredients carefully. Some things to avoid are:
Plastics, especially soft plastics, contain many compounds that are considered to be xenoestrogens. One type are phthalates, which are a kind of plasticizer which are often used to make plastics soft and flexible. These compounds can leach out over time or in response to heat or light. Unfortunately, phthalates are used in a range of products from food containers and packaging to children's toys and bottles.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is another offender that is used for food storage or to line tin cans for canned goods. Although this protects the consumer from a metallic taste in the foods, BPA is a known xenoestrogen that can leach into the food when exposed to hear or acid.
Unfortunately, water treatment plants are not currently designed to remove hormonal pollutants, and agricultural and pharmaceutical runoff have created a curious epidemic among fish and frogs in many waterways in the developed world.
Have a look at the products you use, food you eat, water your drink, plus storage and containers, cleaners and cosmetics. Think about what you can afford to change, and maybe put in a plan to replace things gradually over time. Each small change you make will be a benefit to your health in the long term.
This is a popular, spicy condiment that can be used in a variety of way – side dish to a curry, stir-fry or salad, as an element of a sandwich or wrap, or to spice up any dishes that need it.
It’s also a great way to get some of the delicious Hisby cabbage into your diet! Slightly sweeter than your traditional cabbage, it is sometimes known as sweetheart cabbage or pointed cabbage. Cabbage is part of the Brassica family and as such is a superhero in the nutrition world! Rich in vitamins K, C and folate, it also packs a fantastic fibre punch. Cabbage is excellent for gut health – the soluble fibre it contains make a great meal for the microbes in our gut, which in turn keep us healthy. And it is fantastic for hormone health.
1 Hisby or pointed cabbage
1 tbsp sea salt
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp grated ginger (fresh or frozen)
2 tbsp chilli sauce (hot not sweet)
2 tbsp fish sauce or veggie fish sauce
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar, if you don’t have this)
2 carrots, grated
1 onion, finely sliced
Makes 1 x 1 litre jar
Spotlight on Endometriosis
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. This is a condition that can affect women of any age and studies show that it affects 10-15% of menstruating women. Endometriosis is where tissue similar to that of the womb lining grows in other places outside of the womb, such as on the ovaries or the fallopian tubes. The main risk factor for endometriosis is heredity, meaning that if your mother or older sister has it, there’s a fair chance that you may get it too.
While the exact cause is unknown, what is evident is the problems that it causes to those who have it. With endometriosis, the womb-lining-like tissue that grows outside of the womb behaves exactly as you would expect the womb-lining to behave – in sync with the women’s monthly cycle it thickens, sheds and bleeds. But if this tissue is outside of the uterus, it has no way to exit the body as it would within the womb, causing pain that is sometimes incredibly severe. Further complications can include formation of cysts called endometriomas, plus irritation of the surrounding tissue, possible scarring and adhesions. Fertility problems may also develop.
Symptoms include painful periods, pain during intercourse, pain when going to the loo, excessive bleeding, infertility, plus other symptoms such as fatigue, digestive issues like diarrhoea and constipation, bloating or nausea. While it can be a challenging condition to manage, working with a GP and gynaecologist can help to manage symptoms and provide a programme of care. Plus, research shows that alongside conventional medical help, changes to nutrition and lifestyle may help with the severity of symptoms.
The following nutrition tips may help with the severity of endometriosis symptoms:
Include healthy fats and avoid unhealthy ones
Research shows that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, may be protective against increased endometriosis symptoms. Although an exact link was not proven, studies show that women with the highest intake of these fats were 22% less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis compared with women with the lowest intake.
And avoid trans-fats, those fats that can be found in deep-fried foods such as chips or crisps, or in shop-bought foods which contain partially hydrogenated fats/oils or shortening. Studies show that women with the highest intake of trans saturated fats were 48% more likely to experience endometriosis symptoms.
Increase intake of high-fibre foods
Food rich in fibre, such as pulses, legumes, and vegetables, may improve intestinal transit time and help to balance gut-friendly bacteria. Research shows that this may help the body to naturally clear excess oestrogen, which may in turn help with improving symptoms of endometriosis.
Include phytoestrogen-rich foods
Phytoestrogens are chemicals found in certain plant foods such as soy and flaxseed which have been seen to exert a weak oestrogen-like effect on the body. However, by binding to oestrogen receptors in the body, research shows that these phytochemicals may be beneficial to women with endometriosis by encouraging the body’s natural clearance of oestrogen.
Increase vitamin C-rich foods
Research shows that foods rich in vitamin C may be effective for the prevention and regression of endometriosis possibly by helping to manage the inflammation and growth of excess tissue. Including foods such as peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and citrus fruits on a regular basis may help with the reduction of chronic pain associated with endometriosis.
If endometriosis symptoms are impacting your life, why not get in touch with me to discuss how a personalised nutrition plan might help? Book a free 30-minute health review today – just click ‘Make a Booking’.
My Super Six Favourite Foods for Healthy Fats
Contrary to popular belief, many of us are not eating enough healthy fats in our diets. We should be aiming to see some fats with each meal that we have. But how can we incorporate them? Here are my super six favourite fats:
High in monounsaturated fats and rich in antioxidants, olive oil is the keystone to the Mediterranean diet and is rightly lauded as a hero among fats. Research shows that regular consumption of olive oil may be beneficial in our fight against chronic disease. Drizzle on salads or soups, gently roast vegetables in it, or pour onto veggies for flavour.
Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, herring, fresh tuna, sardines, are chock full of omega 3 fatty acids, which have been seen to help fight inflammation, and may be beneficial for brain, eye and skin health.
Packed with nutrients like magnesium and vitamin E, nuts bring plenty of essential fats to the table. They make the perfect snack – eat a handful (preferably raw) with a small piece of fruit or spread a little nut butter on an oatcake (peanut butter is just for starters – try almond for a change).
Seeds are the starting point for growing plants, so they are extremely nutritious. They are full of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as antioxidants and fibre. Flax, chia and hemp seeds are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. Sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are all rich in monounsaturated fats. All add crunch, flavour and interest to a meal – sprinkle on salads, soups or roasted veggies, or eat a handful as a snack.
You’ve got to love an avocado! They go with practically anything and are high in both vitamin E and in healthy monounsaturated fats. Slice it, mash it, or stick it in a smoothie.
There’s so much to like – where to start? Coconut oil can act as an anti-fungal (caprylic acid), when used either externally or internally. The ideal replacement for butter in baking and as your oil of choice when frying at higher temperatures. Research shows that it may also help with cholesterol balance and blood pressure.
Cooking with fat
How the fat is used (through cooking and processing) is a big deciding factor whether it is healthy or unhealthy. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) may become less healthy in the presence of light, oxygen and heat. That is because frying with oils like olive oil at high temperature leads to oxidation and the production of free radicals – highly inflammatory for the body and may increase the risk of chronic disease.
Therefore, pick oils for cooking that are more stable at a high heat, saturated fats such as coconut oil or animal fats. Use olive oil only on a low heat for sauteing.
Use these oils for cooking
Coconut oil, avocado oil, butter or ghee (clarified butter), or goose fat
Use olive oil on low heats for long, slow cooking that won’t allow it to ‘smoke’.
Use these oils for drizzling or dressings
Extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, sesame seed oil, flax seed oil, hazelnut oil, almond oil, hempseed oil
Don’t use sunflower oil (although do eat the seeds) or vegetable oil at all.
This is an easy recipe and can be made from store-cupboard items, so this is a great meal to have if you’re needing to go shopping. It also makes a regular appearance in our Friday night ‘fakeaways’ that we’ve been having – pairing this alongside a chickpea or prawn bhuna, plus some spiced quinoa and spinach makes a veritable feast. Plus, this is easy to freeze, so I often make a double batch and put some in the freezer for when I’m short on time at a later date. A winner on many levels!
If you’re new to legumes and pulses, red lentils are a good place to start. They’re quick and easy to cook, and they pack a nutritional punch. Lentils are a great source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They're also full of fibre, which supports a healthy tum and provides food for our friendly bacteria. Eating lentils regularly has been seen to improve overall gut function. Plus, they’re delicious, and even the fussiest of eaters seems to get on well with their umami flavour.
1 tbsp ghee or 1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 level tbsp turmeric
250g split red lentils
1 tin whole coconut milk
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp freshly grated ginger (or frozen grated ginger)
Chopped coriander to garnish (optional)
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