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Thursday
Sep042014

Metalloestrogens

We talk a lot about hormone-disrupting chemicals: parabens, pthalates, phenoxyethanol. But the risks of these chemicals may be overshadowed by a potentially more harmful class of chemicals that not as many people know about: metalloestrogens. Many common metals have been found to mimic estrogen or interfere with hormone function in the body. There is still much to be learned about the mechanisms whereby they act, however, research is uncovering much about these metals' roles in diseases such as breast cancer and endometriosis. 

Potential estrogen mimickers like parabens actually pass through the body fairly quickly, with most of the substance being metabolized wtihin a day or so and flushed out through urine. (Now, of course, in order to metabolize the parabens, the body has to use estrogen sulfotransferase enzymes, which are then not doing their original job of flushing out estrogen, thus possibly leading to increased estrogen levels.) So, when you stop using parabens, you're detoxed from them fairly quickly. But with metalloestrogens, the body has a much harder time at removing them. They are metals, after all. Some metals will stay in the body for 10 to 30 years. 

Now, here's where it gets more complicated. Some metalloestrogens such as chromium, cobalt, copper, and nickel are actually essential minerals that our bodies need in trace amounts for enzymatic and other functions. However, if the concentration of these metals become too high, they can actually interfere with enzymes, or even cause cancer. (Chromium and nickel are known carcinogens). Then, there are nonessential metals such as lead, aluminum, mercury, and cadmium that have no function in the body and end up blocking the function of essential metals and hormone receptors, leading to disease. 

Here are a few common metals that are suspected to display estrogenic effects:

Aluminum

For more on the dangers of aluminum, see my previous article. The bottom line--no matter the form (aluminum chlorohydrate, potassium alum, etc) aluminum has the ability to bind to hormone receptors and interfere with hormone balance. Aluminum has been linked to breast and other reproductive cancers. (Source)

Found in: antacids, antiperspirants, crystal deodorants, cookware

Chromium

Chromium is an essential nutrient the body needs to function, however, in excess amounts it can cause toxic effects. There are many types of chromium. The two most common forms are chromium 3+ (the biologically active form) and chromium 6+ (found in industrial pollution.) The body is able to convert chromium 6+ in to the less harmful 3+ form, however, when it does, the overall level of chromium iii in the body is increased. Animal studies have found it to affect reproductive function and create ovarian toxicity in animal tests. (Source) (Source)

Found in: drinking water, steel, cars, paints, treated woods and leathers. 

Lead

The potential estrogenic effects of lead are still largely under-studied, however, more is being uncovered about this harmful heavy metal. This study found that breast cancer cells proliferated when treated with a solution of lead. This study found that women with higher blood levels of cadmium and lead were more likely to suffer from uterine fibroids. 

Found in: older paints, varnishes, plates and cups, foods, water, mineral pigments

Cadmium

Cadmium exposure primarily occurs through dietary sources and cigarette smoking. It can stay in the body for 10 to 30 years. Smokers have been found to have twice the concentration of cadmium in their system than non-smokers. (Source

"Our data may suggest that Cd interferes with the levels of testosterone and estradiol in postmenopausal women, which might have implications for breast cancer risk." (Source

In this study, cadmium was able to proliferate the growth of cells responsible for endometriosis. 

(Interesting: melatonin found to help inhibit the action of cadmium here.)

Found in: this abundant element in the earth's crust can be found anywhere at low levels. However, it can be found in concentrated amounts as an industrial pollutant in soil and groundwater. 

Mercury

Mercury has been found to stimulate breast cancer cells in lab tests. (Source)  Levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury have also been found to lead to anovulatory cycles in women. (Source)

Found in: fish, dental amalagams

Other metals with potential estrogenic effects: selenite, tin, vanadate, cobalt, copper, nickel, antimony, arsenite, barium

What Now?

If you have eliminated parabens, pesticides, plastics, and other commonly known estrogen mimickers from your life as much as possible and are still suffering from reproductive disorders such as fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS, infertility, or even fibromyalgia or lupus, you may have a heavy metal toxicity. The best way to test for heavy metals is hair testing (can be done in conjunction with blood testing) which can be done in select holistic practitioner's offices. If you do have a heavy metal toxicity, there are different treatment methods (herbs, chelation, dietary changes) that can help you remove these metals that are wreaking havoc on your body. These treatments should be done under the careful watch of a qualified healthcare pofessional, as the release of these compounds in to the bloodstream from other tissues can have side effects, and you also should be monitored to make sure that other vital minerals are not being stripped through your detox.

Additional Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16489580

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4017651/

 

Reader Comments (8)

Thank you so much for these posts! They are so informative. I have been thinking recently about purchasing a Baltic Amber Necklace for my young daughter to wear as she has reflux. Have you looked at all at amber and the effect it is supposed to have? Any thoughts? Thanks for keeping us all healthier!

Tue, September 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

So what levels of these elements are considered "safe?" Many of these elements are also found in vaccines. Not all are bioaccumulative, but I agree that they can be problematic. I tend to err on the side of caution.

Tue, September 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterConcernedMama

@ConcernedMama--That would be something to discuss with your doctor once you were tested.

Tue, September 9, 2014 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Have a few silver fillings and am having trouble deciding to replace them with other strange amalgams, have had them for over 20 years.

Tue, September 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy

My NP recommended that I take trace minerals - what is your take on those?

Tue, September 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

What's the best way to rid ourselves of the metals our bodies have accumulated over the years.

Wed, September 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLori

@Peggy--You do need to use caution and have them removed by someone who specializes in removing mercury fillings, as during the process you could end up exposing yourself to a lot more mercury.

@Cheryl--Trace minerals--I don't have an issue with it as long as with was recommended by a qualified practitioner and this particular blend of minerals is what you needed.

@Lori--That's a great question. Here's one article on my other blog to check out about detoxifying foods: http://bubbleandbee.blogspot.com/2014/08/8-detoxifying-foods.html
Fiber is key--it helps flush out many toxins from the body. If eating lots of vegetables and fiber isn't doing the trick though, there's chelation therapy, ionic foot baths, herbs like cilantro and other protocols that a doctor can put you on. Don't try to do it on your own (of course eating healthy is good, but don't go on a "cleanse"); test your levels first, then work with a qualified practitioner to create a detoxification program.

Fri, September 12, 2014 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Great article, thanks for raising awareness. I was diagnosed with high Mercury, lead and tin in the high ranges and a handful of other metals on the low side of high. After having my Mercury fillings removed by an IAOMT certified dentist, (https://iaomt.org/safe-removal-amalgam-fillings/) I started oral chelation for 3 months. This type of chelation was very difficult and left me feeling fatigued and drained. I was retested after 3 months and found that only my Mercury count was reduced and my lead and tin had actually gone up! At this point, my doctor suggested IV chelation and I am currently undergoing treatment via IV. The doctor is able to add critical vitamins back into me via the IV as well as glutathione so that the treatments don't drain me. I have been getting IV chelation 2x per week and I will get retested here in a few weeks with (fingers crossed) more favorable results and finally cleaned out of these heavy metals! What prompted the doctor to test me to begin with? My thyroid had become "treatment resistant" in that I was given increasing amounts of natural thyroid hormone but my body wasn't converting the supplement to usable/available hormone. That is a hallmark sign that heavy metals have blocked the conversion and subsequent testing confirmed the doctors suspicion.

Sun, April 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGinger99967

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