Updated: Oct 12, 2021
I hadn't ever considered that what I was putting on my skin could be affecting my hormones or my ability to utilise fat. It had never even crossed my mind, until I read a book a few years back now, written by a performance coach for elite athletes in premiership sports teams. He was talking about how as the season progressed, and the athletes' training ramped up, so did the their body fat percentage. Which was strange as they were training so much and there wasn't a significant increase in calories. At the time, the coach was researching in to 'endocrine disrupters', and was exploring possible causes of this change in body composition. These players were typically showering twice a day using various wash care products containing chemicals known to mimic oestrogen in the body – known as xenoestrogens.
Oestrogen encourages our bodies to store fat – which is why women naturally have higher body percentage than men, as we need it for reproductive reasons. These xenoestrogens are just one form of chemicals that our bodies are exposed to that we can call ‘endocrine disrupters’ for their role in upsetting our natural hormonal imbalance.
Hormones do their thing within the body by travelling around and connecting up to cell receptors. These receptors are like a lock and hormones are the key. These ‘keys’ circulate around the body until they find the right ‘lock’. When the hormone finds the right cell receptor lock, it binds to specific parts of the cell’s DNA and directs it’s function. The problem lies where certain chemicals also fit some of these locks, therefore blocking the receptors for the actual hormones that we want to connect. It’s like coming home to unlock your door, but there’s already in a key in the other side so you can’t get in!
It isn’t just wash care products that contain these chemicals, they’re in everything we use in modern day society and it is the cumulative effect over time that is detrimental for the body. There is a growing evidence of a correlation between an increase in the levels of obesity in our society today, alongside the increase in environmental ‘toxicity’. There are so many synthetic chemicals that have been added to our environment: in the air we breathe, the plastics we store things in, the products we use, and the foods and drinks that we consume.
Using the lock and key analogy above, the chemicals can play havoc with our hormones that can stop us using up our fat stores and actually stimulating the body to store more fat, particularly around the stomach. Simply, the disrupted hormone levels reduce the body’s ability to generate heat from existing fat stores (this is the way the body ‘burns’ fat), so once the fat is stored – it becomes hard to shift it.
The main organ in the body responsible for getting rid of toxins in our body, is our liver. When the liver is overloaded and can’t really keep up it’s detoxifying role, the level of toxins in the body increases, and gets stored in our fat. The more toxins in the body, the more fat is laid down to absorb the toxins. Fat cells are the body’s rubbish dump – so when there is excess ‘rubbish’ the body either grows the size of existing fat cells or makes more. So if you're looking to shift some fat, focus on not overloading your liver, to allow it to better perform it’s natural detox function – and I don't mean a detox whereby you drink green juice for 10 days, this will better enable you to more easily utilise those fat stores for energy.
So in reading this, I don’t want to spark fear in all that you’re exposing yourself to in our environment, or panic about it! Personally, over time, and as I venture towards peri-menopause (when hormonal balance is even more of a challenge), I’m making shifts in my personal care products and cleaning products in particular. And I do try and minimise processed food and drinks, and buy organic produce where I can – focussing on the “dirty dozen” and ‘clean 15” for what I buy in organic, and also go for organic meat and milk where I can. It is more expensive, and obviously eating fruit and veg in it’s non-organic form is still way better for you than avoiding it altogether. So please don't get scared by this, and continue to eat your fruit and veg!
Natural and organic skin care products are now so much more affordable than they used to, I love both Green People and Tropic that I believe are both better for me but also for the environment. There is an app called Think Dirty which is a great way of checking the ‘toxicity’ of the products you’re using. If you want to try and decrease your ‘toxic load’ a great way to start is with your skin / personal care products… and it’s also quite fun trying out new stuff!
Any questions on this, pop a comment below or get in touch!