In 2009, we discovered my body was no longer producing estrogen.
After ruling out a brain tumor and the female triad (I was eating plenty and not running that much), there we a couple of discussions that started around hormone disrupters. This was all new to me, but made me look at food, meat in particular, and products in a whole new way.
I’m not here to bash any foods or scare you in to a lifestyle change!
That didn’t work for me and it’s just not how we roll around here. Instead, all of those things lead me to years of little changes and learning as much as I could. Like this little nugget from Hormone.org.It all lead me to more questions.
What was real? What was hype to sell me something? What actually made a difference in how I felt? The last one honestly was the winner for me in nearly every change I’ve made in my life.
We’re all an experiment of one and besides the overwhelming evidence that we all need more veggies, I try to take everything else on as a personal test. After that, I let you know which things (like turmeric) have stuck around long term and which ones were a trend that didn’t work for me (high fat).
Back to the original question…
What are Hormone Disruptors?
First the scientific description thanks to Hormone.org and their slew of PhD’s, endocrine disruptors or hormone disruptors:
“Some EDCs act like “hormone mimics” and trick our body into thinking that they are hormones, while other EDCs block natural hormones from doing their job. Other EDCs can increase or decrease the levels of hormones in our blood by affecting how they are made, broken down, or stored in our body. Finally, other EDCs can change how sensitive our bodies are to different hormones.”
What does all of that mean for us?
- Dropping any hormone level effects the homeostasis of your body, something else tries to pick up the slack
- Reduces our ability to handle stress (can really skyrocket cortisol), making us more emotional
- Could impact your metabolism and thyroid
- Weakens our immune system meaning sickness, adult acne and digestive issues
- Could promote breast or prostate cancer by mimicking our sex hormones
As runners, our bodies are already under a lot of stress. We ask it to perform hard tasks daily, which is why we spend time guzzling water and chowing down on hearty protein bowls. But if we’re also serving up a dose of chemicals each day that our body needs to puzzle its way through, we’re adding to our total stress levels.
Our natural stress hormone is part of the process to break down protein and fat, but when out of whack impacts our mood, breaks down muscle, sleep disruptions and weight gain.
Helps with muscle building and bone density, but when disturbed to low levels it drops both effects and obviously alters sexual things as well.
In balance maintains hormonal, bowl, metabolic and brain functions, but over producing or underproducinig leads to common thyroid disorders. These can make training more difficult due to constant fatigue or muscle contractions that are working inappropriately and disrupting power.
Estrogen can help reduce muscle damage, control inflammation, and break down fat into fuel. Out of whack it allows other hormones to ramp up increasing inflammation and body stress, but creating less energy from food intake.
(Read this post on maximizing your training around your hormonal cycle).
As I’ve talked about many times this is what often leads to the confusing weight gain while training more, adrenal fatigue and the increasingly common thyroid issues I see in many runners. Our job is to not just think about fitness, but health.
Oddly the two aren’t always related.
Fitness is how well you can perform an activity, while healthy is about your total body system working together for optimal well being.
Simple Steps as Runners to Balance Hormones
What are some of the first ways we can make changes as runners?
- Conquer the first three controllables: sleep more, eat high nutrient meals, don’t do too much too soon
- Check the air quality and embrace the treadmill if needed on smogtastic days
- Switch to an organic moisturizer with sunscreen (because you’re using it daily right?!) to avoid those chemicals being absorbed constantly in to your skin. Besides the one linked above, I’m a massive fan of Coola Sport for my face, which doesn’t run in to my mouth.
- Use filtered water. We installed a home system and that means no need to buy bottles which potentially contain BPA and we’re cleaning out the things like hormones that are found in municipal water systems.
- Wash your fruits and veggies well before eating
- Choose meats that are hormone and anti-biotic free. It might cost more, but isn’t your health worth the extra couple of dollars now for the long-term savings?
Other Product Switches for Hormone Health
Beyond our running lives, which I clearly included nutrition in above, there are other changes we could me making to help avoid these chemicals.
- I started making a gradual switch to cleaner beauty products and interestingly this is when at 37, I’ve gotten more compliments on my skin glowing than ever.
- That means avoid products with fragrances (luckily we don’t need our make up or face wash to smell good to do the job!)
- Avoid kids cosmetics they tend to contain even more harmful chemicals because they’re produced quickly and cheaply. Checkout a fun safer palette like this, which ensures their safety and you look less clown like after a makeover.
- Avoid products with parabens which are not water soluble, meaning they are able to penetrate the skin which then goes straight in to the blood stream.
- Avoid phalates which can be absorbed through the air or skin and are found in common moisturizers, eye shadows, nail polishes, shampoos, and conditioners. (see my favorite cleaner options).
I hope this post just gives you things to think about when it comes to hormone disruptors that are showing up throughout our daily lives and places to start making little switches. Just like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, all of our little choices add up over time.
No need to freakout and try to overhaul everything immediate… just don’t ignore what we’re being told to be healthier.
Let me know if there are other topics like this you want to hear more about or have more questions about this! I’ve got experts a plenty to lean on!
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