Addressing Toxins

This week I have been doing research on what products in my home contribute to the estrogen dominance that drives endometriosis.  The biggest sources of toxins and foods that mimic estrogen are called Xenoestrogens and Pytoestrogens.

Xenoestrogens are foreign estrogens that enter our bodies through toxins and plastics primarily.  They can be difficult for the liver to process, and build up over time, contributing to or outright causing estrogen dominance.  Estrogen dominance is the hormone imbalance that contributes to or causes a wide range of female reproductive issues from endometriosis, to uterine fibroids, to breast cancer, among others.  In men these toxins can have impacts on sperm counts and can create what is sometimes referred to as “man boobs”.  It is safe to say this isn’t good for anyone!

Phytoestrogens come from plant-based sources and also mimic estrogen in the body.  The biggest examples of this are soy and caffeine.  Some of the research I have done says that fermented soy (like Natto) is actually good for women as it helps to strengthen bones much better than calcium can.  In the fermentation process, the phytoestrogens are removed and it becomes safer.  But unfermented (like edamame, tofu, etc.) it adds extra estrogen into the body that the liver then has to work harder to try to remove.  If the liver is compromised or can’t remove it faster than it is added to the body, estrogen dominance occurs.

Here are a few articles that I have come across that explain this better than I could.  I have no affiliation with these sources, just found the articles helpful to me as I have tried to get smarter on this topic.  I am sure there are many, many others out there.

Environmental Estrogens

Xenoestrogens – What are they? And how to avoid them?

BPA Free Water Bottle Showdown – a little dated, but covers the basics.

Which Plastic Containers Can I Safely Use?

Safe Plastic Numbers

Based on this, following is what I have decided to focus on:

Water Bottles

  • Eliminate water bottle usage from the store whenever possible
  • No more water bottles left in the car (I have historically been a big offender of this one, although not so much recently)
  • While there are some who say there are BPA-free plastics, others think all plastics leech toxins into the water.  I currently use Polar Bottles frequently, and will continue to do so.  They claim their bottles are safe, and have devoted some real estate on their website to addressing this concern.  Some feel titanium or aluminum are better options.  I like insulated bottles, so I may try out a hydroflask insulated stainless steel bottle and see how that works for me.

Other Plastics

  • Eliminate any 1, 3, 6, and 7 plastics from the home
  • Do not put plastic containers in the dishwasher or microwave (I have done these things for many years!)
  • Buy glass containers to store food in from here on out (targeting those without #7 lids)

Other Household Goods/Toxins

  • Review all of my personal products from shampoos to makeup to lotions and soaps to deodorants, etc. and make the change to all natural products with healthy ingredients
  • No more manis/pedis for the time being :o(

As I make more progress toward the other household goods research and make some changes, I’ll post what I discover.

Now it’s your turn:  What changes have you made to rid your home of xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens?  What has worked for you?  What resources have you found that have provided answers to your questions on this topic?

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Sugar Detox

One of the first places to start in managing Endo, in my opinion, is to remove sugar from the diet.  Sugar causes all kinds of hormonal imbalances and wreaks havoc on the body, especially the liver, the adrenals, the kidneys, etc.  Not to mention many of us find it is virtually impossible to manage one’s weight when there is too much sugar in the diet.

For someone addicted to sugar (like myself) it is no easy task to remove it from my diet completely.  I have used sugar to deal with stress, happiness, sadness, feelings of unworthiness, celebrations…the list goes on and on.  Sugar has been my go-to drug of choice for a very long time.

There have been a couple of times in the last 2 or 3 years where I have been led to be interested in the work of Dr. Mark Hyman.  I bought his book The Blood Sugar Solution about 3 years ago because I knew I needed to kick the sugar habit.  What I didn’t realize was that by about day 3 my blood pressure would start to plummet, and that caught me by surprise (although with some additional research I now know that is supposed to happen).  For most people that is a great benefit.  But since I have been genetically blessed with low blood pressure to begin with (my normal blood pressure is around 90 over 60), it caused issues for me.  Everything slows down, I feel weak and I can’t function nearly as fast as I normally can, I get winded easily, etc.  When recovering from an illness experiencing this is one thing, but while needing to be highly functional at my previous high-stress job, it was challenging.  So I abandoned this way of eating and went back to my old ways…even though I fully believe that a diet without as much sugar has many benefits and is a better way to live.

Then this spring, a friend asked me if I wanted to do Dr. Hyman’s 10-day Detox Diet.  I thought I would use the lessons learned from my last experience with this and that I could put some measures in place to deal with the blood pressure drop (as much sea salt as I could stand on all of my food, with added cell salt supplements as needed).  What I like about this detox diet (although I am not intending to promote it – everyone needs to figure out what speaks to them individually) is that it is a whole food diet, focused on blood-sugar balancing foods including lean meats, vegetables, and limited fruits.  It wasn’t gimmicky and it made intuitive sense to me.

What I didn’t expect this time around was that two days into the diet I could feel so sick for most of the first week.  Apparently as my body realized it was now being supported by healthy nutritious foods, my liver decided it could dump all of its toxins it had been holding onto, probably for years.  I would end up with these debilitating liver headaches right behind the eyebrows that would last all day long, and unlike the migraines I am used to dealing with these didn’t go away with an hour or two of sleep.  Funny enough they sometimes did go away when I would take my migraine medication (which technically isn’t on the detox diet, but sometimes you just need to do what you need to do to deal with the pain and be able to function a little bit!)

I felt fortunate to be on the detox with someone else, and I had signed up to cook for us both because I had the time and she didn’t.  Most of those early days I was astounded that the simple task of going to the grocery store and coming back and cooking two or three recipes over a couple hour period would be all the activity I could handle for the day.  However, I was able to cut myself some slack and give myself permission to do what I needed to do to get through it.  This was “my job” for the week.  Had I not had the accountability of my friend doing this with me, I would have been likely to have abandoned it.  But I refused to let her down and as a result stuck with it.  The irony that I would have been more than willing to have let myself down has not escaped me…how many of us do this?

On day 4 we both felt badly enough that she suggested that we get a colonic, which was a new experience for me.  She said it would make us feel much better to proactively remove the toxins from our bodies, and she was right that it did make us feel better.  After that I no longer got the liver headaches, and could then turn my attention to more actively managing my low blood pressure.

On day 6 I started feeling better.  Much better than I had felt before beginning the detox, and after all of the pain I went through to get there, I decided I would from then on out think differently about what I put into my body.  Which lasted until Day 17 when I went on a week-long vacation.  I didn’t go back to my old habits all at once, but slowly over time I went back to some of them….but also kept some of the good habits from the detox like the morning sugar-balancing, protein filled “smoothies”  (no dairy, sweetened yogurt and sugar laden fruits here).  For the record I did not lose the 10 pounds promoted by the book, but rather I lost 4 hard-earned pounds and experienced a significant reduction in inflammation.

Now I am finding that the detox prepared me well for the change in diet I hope to sustain over a much longer time period this time around.  I have been on a whole foods, partially raw diet for 6 days now and I haven’t yet had the liver detox issues I had last time around.  I also haven’t had any blood pressure issues yet.

Now that I have the motivation to keep myself out of the OR and off of long-term hormone manipulating medications, my mindset about it has completely changed.  I am not as focused on what I have to give up.  I am completely focused on “what do I need to feed my body to provide the best nutrition possible so that it can heal and function properly?”  In my case motivation and mindset have made all the difference.  I have control over what I feed my body, and a newfound belief that what I feed my body really does matter.  Maybe this is a large part of what I am meant to learn from this experience of receiving the recurring diagnosis.

Now it is your turn.  In the comments below share some of your experiences.  What are some of your experiences with sugar detoxes?  What worked well for you?  What have you learned about yourself as a result?

The Starting Point

I found out last week that my Endometriosis is back, and is worse than before.  This was quite a surprise to me considering that I had surgery 9 months ago (when Endo was first diagnosed) to clear out all of the endometrial cells from my abdomen, and just ended hormone suppression therapy 6 months ago.  I was told that I needed surgery again followed by ongoing, long-term hormone therapies.  Last fall the doctors said “it could come back”, but I was thinking years from now.  I had no expectation it would reoccur this quickly.  What was the value of having surgery when I wasn’t suffering from any of the symptoms so many women face with this disease?  The only symptom that has impacted me thus far is compromised fertility, which is a big one, but it is not one that comes with the debilitating pain that so many women experience.

So, I started doing a LOT of research to learn more about the condition so that I can make some informed decisions about the path that makes the most sense for me.  I decided to write this blog to share what I am learning in case it helps others who are going through this too.

I was surprised to find that Endo is an auto-immune disorder, with links to hypothyroidism and chronic yeast infections.  That it is caused by hormonal imbalances, specifically long-term estrogen dominance and the body not making enough progesterone to offset the effects of estrogen.  That there is no cure, and even menopause and hysterectomies don’t completely rid a person of the disease, although they lessen the symptoms.  And that hormone therapies are not shown to have any kind of effect on preserving or increasing fertility rates.

My first line of defense, until I can become even smarter, is to employ a healing diet to jumpstart my body’s immune system, reduce inflammation, improve my digestive system and do my best to balance out my hormones naturally by controlling better what I put into my body for nourishment.  I bought a 3HP blender, and am (at least initially) following Jeff Primack’s Conquering Any Disease food healing protocol.  He doesn’t currently have a specific protocol for endometriosis, and when I reached out to his organization to ask for one, I was told he wouldn’t provide this specific advice since he isn’t a doctor or nutritionist and to instead buy his products and attend his seminars – nice!  So I am using the guidance provided for other related issues as a starting point.  And will continue to look for other resources to help me along my journey.

Basically, the following “food groups” are out: wheat, anything made with yeast, sugar, coffee, alcohol, dairy, most oils (other than coconut, olive, avocado, hemp and flax), most meats (organic chicken and ocean fishes ok), and soy, to name a few.  And all of these foods are replaced with anti-inflammatory, organic, whole fruits and vegetables (some raw in “smoothies” and some cooked), organic chicken and ocean fish.

While most of my life to this point I would have resisted making these changes, I am at a place now where I embrace them if they will keep me out of the OR and off of constant medications for the next 10+ years.  I am excited to see what impact these changes will have for me, other than the obvious weight loss benefits, which I am already starting to see in the first 5 days.  And I am ready to learn the lessons I am mean to learn from this experience.

Tell me about your experiences making changes to manage Endo with minimal medical intervention.  What has worked for you?