What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause occurs before the onset of menopause and can last up to eight years (yes, really!). Menopause becomes official when your menstrual period is absent for more than 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause symptoms can include irregular menstrual cycles, changes in sexual function, hormonal fluctuations, and emotional changes.
How do endocrine disruptors impact hormones?
The endocrine system regulates hormones that are crucial for bodily functions like growth and development, metabolism, immune system functions, and reproductive health. Studies show that endocrine disruptors can impact your endocrine system by mimicking or blocking the regular functions of hormones such as progesterone and estrogen. This can lead to several health problems, including increased perimenopause symptoms, and some studies show that it could even increase the likelihood of early-onset menopause.
How can you reduce your exposure?
It’s virtually impossible to cut out all endocrine disruptors, but you can take steps over time to reduce your exposure. Start by replacing products in your home that are known endocrine disruptors with healthier options at your own pace.
The problem product: nonstick cookware
Many brands of nonstick cookware contain a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is considered an endocrine disruptor. PFOA is not only associated with earlier signs of menopause, but also shown to disrupt kidney function in some studies.
The better option: stainless steel or cast iron
Switch to stainless-steel or cast-iron pans to reduce your exposure to PFOA. Cooking with stainless steel can be hard to get used to, but a great tip is to preheat your pan at high heat and use healthy oil options to keep food from sticking.
The problem product: plastic
Not only is plastic bad for the environment, but some plastic also contains chemicals that can impact our hormone balance and sleep habits. Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and styrene are chemicals in many plastics and are known to cause endocrine disruption in some women.
The better option: glass
Elevating your pantry with glass storage containers for baking ingredients and breakfast cereals is a great way to swap out plastic. If plastics are necessary for your home, avoid those with recycling codes 3, 6, and 7, as these plastics are known to contain higher levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals.
The problem products: conventional cleaners
With so many cleaning products on the market, it’s hard to know which ones are the best for the environment and your health. Many cleaning products contain synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals that can trigger endocrine disruption and cause hormone imbalance.
The better options: natural cleaners
When searching for new cleaning products, look for ones free from petroleum byproducts and phthalates. You can also make cleaning products yourself with vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice, and store them in reusable glass spray bottles.
The problem products: air fresheners and candles
Home fragrances like air fresheners and conventional candles may contain synthetic fragrances, phthalates, artificial colors, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which could contribute to hormone imbalance. When exposed for long periods, these scented products could be harmful to you and your family.
The better options: essential oils and nontoxic candles
Look for candles made from natural waxes, like beeswax, as they are less likely to contain harmful ingredients. Another great option is using essential oils. You can diffuse natural scents throughout your home or add them to your homemade cleaning products, leaving your home smelling fresh all day long.
What’s the deal with phytoestrogens?
Beyond avoiding endocrine disruptors, you can support your hormone health by consuming more phytoestrogens. Naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods, phytoestrogens have been shown to help support symptoms of menopause. These compounds support estrogen levels and can help with symptoms such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes. They can also help support bone and cognitive health during perimenopause.
Consider incorporating these phytoestrogen-rich foods into your diet:
● organic soy products like tofu and soymilk
● legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans
● flaxseeds and sesame seeds
● whole grains like oats and barley
Eating a healthy, balanced diet high in protein, reducing alcohol consumption, and sleeping well at night are other great ways to support your body through the perimenopausal transition. By reducing endocrine-disrupting chemicals and incorporating a diet high in phytoestrogens, you can help support hormonal health during and after perimenopause.