Xenoestrogens have surfaced on the internet as something to be avoided at all costs; but what are xenoestrogens and why are they bad?
As part of a recent series, in advance of our new book Reclaim Your Masculinity, we have been examining what testosterone (T) is and does, why T levels are falling across the developed world and what you can do – the foods you should avoid and the foods you should eat – to begin to restore your proper hormonal balance and with it your precious masculinity.
Let there be no doubt: the modern world is waging a war against masculinity, both at the social and the molecular level. Putting the social level to one side, at the molecular level today’s man is caught in a ruthless two-pronged assault from natural estrogenic foods and industrially produced estrogenic chemicals.
We have already examined the role of phytoestrogens, naturally occurring compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen, the female hormone, in the human body. Hops, for instance, which have been used to preserve beer for hundreds of years, are actually one of the most potent estrogen-mimicking compounds known to man.
But what about xenoestrogens?
Xenoestrogens Under The Microscope
Now it’s the turn of xenestrogens, a diverse class of industrial compounds that also mimic the effects of estrogen. What’s more, these chemicals are so ubiquitous that it’s much harder to avoid them than the naturally occurring compounds in your diet.
But why does this matter? Why is having low T such a bad thing?
T is the hormone most associated with masculinity, and although it’s also important to women’s bodies and their health, the increased levels of T in the male body are responsible for the host of traits that make men men, rather than women.
Xenoestrogens interfere with the endocrine systems of both sexes.
Body hair, muscle mass, bone density, strength, aggression, dominance and competitiveness – increases in all of these things are associated with increased T in men.
It’s worth noting that falling T levels are a fact of life for all men as they age; unless you take exogenous T, it’s as unavoidable as taxes and death, I’m afraid. After the age of 30, a man can expect to lose 1% of his T every year for the rest of his life.
But the natural reduction all men can expect to suffer pales in comparison with the society-wide collapse in T levels that has occurred over the second half of the twentieth and the first quarter of the twenty-first century.
Men today have considerably less T than men of the same age even a single generation ago.
A 2007 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed a significant reduction in the T levels of men since the 1980s. A 60-year-old American man in 2004, for example, had 17% less testosterone than a 60-year-old American man in 1987.
These findings were corroborated in a study of Danish men, who displayed a two-digit decline between the 1920s and the 1960s.
Apart from taking a blood test to establish whether you have low T, there are various symptoms you’ll experience if you have low T.
The main symptoms include:
- Reduced libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fertility problems (inability to conceive)
Boys with low T may develop slower, with little or no body hair, under-developed muscles and smaller penises; and men with low T will have difficulty building muscle, no matter how hard they try.
In extreme cases of low T, usually referred to as hypogonadism, men may also develop breast tissue (gynecomastia) and osteoporosis (reduced bone density).
Hypogonadism has a variety of causes, which include:
- Certain genetic disorders
- Pituitary disorders, including pituitary tumours and injuries
- Inflammatory diseases
- Obesity and also rapid weight loss
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Steroid use
Obesity, in particular, is an increasingly common cause of hypogonadism. We will later discuss the interrelation between xenoestrogens and fat, plus the vicious cycle xenoestrogens set into motion.
So where do xenestrogens come in?
If the general public, at least in the US, know anything about xenestrogens, it’s likely to be as a result of the Alex Jones ‘gay frog’ meme. In 2015, during one of his many lengthy rants, after discussing the US military’s supposed development of a ‘gay bomb’ to make enemy combatants make love (with each other) and not war, Jones uttered the now immortal line, ‘I don’t like ‘em putting chemicals in the water that turn the frickin’ frogs gay!’
Lost among the mockery and viral memes, including a parody indie folk song, was the fact that there really are chemicals in the water that make amphibians and fish change their gender. These chemicals are xenestrogens and among the worst of them is atrazine, a pesticide which is banned in the EU but continues to be used in US.
The endocrine-disrupting (i.e. hormone-disrupting) effects of atrazine in living creatures have been well-established for some time [R].
A study showed that atrazine exposure could not only chemically castrate male frogs, but also cause adult frogs to change their gender completely [R].
In 2006, a statement was made before the House Committee on Government Reform about the increasing number of male fish observed to be bearing eggs in the Potomac River [R].
The study [R] noted:
‘Current research on intersexual characteristics has related numerous chemicals to reproductive effects in fish. These chemicals, often termed “endocrine disruptors’ include previously banned chemicals, such as DDT and chlordane, natural and anthropogenic hormones, herbicides, fungicides, industrial chemicals, and an emerging group of chemicals including personal care products and pharmaceuticals that may act as endocrine disruptors in fish as well as other organisms.’
And added that:
‘Potential sources of these endocrine disruptors include agricultural, as well as individual use of herbicides and pesticides, human waste (discharges from wastewater treatment facilities and individual home septic systems), animal wastes that may reach the aquatic environment through runoff, leachates from landfills, and even atmospheric deposition.’
In 1999, a US Geological Survey investigation showed that such chemicals could be found in 80% of all streams that were sampled nationwide.
Of course, the damage to aquatic ecosystems is bad enough, but it’s not just amphibian and fish species that are affected. Humans are affected directly by these chemicals too (as well as indirectly, since they may cause ecosystem-level collapses in human food sources if fish and amphibians cannot reproduce properly).
Some of the most commonly encountered xenestrogenic chemicals, and their sources (in brackets), are:
- 4MBC (in sun lotion)
- Hydroxy-anisole butyrate (a food preservative)
- Bisphenol-A (a food preservative and plasticiser)
- Dieldrin (a pesticide)
- DDT (a pesticide. Although it is banned in the US, it is used in countries that export food to the US)
- Erythrosine (a red dye)
- PCB (in lubricants, adhesives and paints)
- P-nonylphenol (in PVC and by-products from detergents and spermicide)
- Parabens (in lotions)
- Pthalates (in plastics)
Yes, that’s right: not only is the spermicide in the condom you’ve used killing the sperm you’ve just released, it may also be making it harder for your body to produce fertile sperm in the first place!
Aren’t Xenoestrogens wonderful?
A number of studies of exposure to the chemical diethylstilbestrol (DES) have concluded that it is responsible for testicular cancer and malformation of the genitals. Indeed, prenatal exposure to an increasing variety of xenestrogens is hypothesised to be behind the massive rise of testicular cancer since 1975 [R].
Studies of pthalates have shown that prenatal exposure may cause feminisation of baby boys and be responsible for smaller penis size — another potential side effect of xenoestrogens [R].
Pthalates were first introduced on a wide scale during the 1950s, when PVC became readily available. They are used to increase plastic flexibility, and as a result have a myriad of applications: in food containers, water bottles and children’s toys, as well as foams, solvents, perfumes, pesticides, nail polish, adhesives and lubricants.
Of course, industries with interests in the manufacture and use of xenestrogenic chemicals have argued that they display effects at a much weaker level than naturally occurring estrogenic compounds; this makes it harder, so they say, for these xenestrogens to compete in the body and cause estrogenic effects [R].
The truth is, though, that there is already significant evidence to show that xenestrogens do mimic estrogen in the bodies of living creatures, including humans, readily binding to receptors and inducing rapid effects [R] [R] [R].
It’s worth noting that all of the other side effects associated with increased estrogenic activity are to be expected as a result of exposure to these chemicals, and that includes increased body fat and metabolic disorders — one of the main reasons why xenoestrogens have been targeted by the fitness community.
The weight gain, in particular, can become a vicious cycle. Within the body, estrogen synthesis takes place in the fatty tissue. The fatty tissue produces the aromatase enzyme, which in turn converts androgen (male) hormones into estrogen.
In the past, we have spoken about the estrogenicity of fat; xenoestrogens plunge you into a frustrating and emasculating vicious cycle.
Xenestrogens bind to estrogen receptors in fat tissue, inducing aromatisation and leading to the production of more estrogen. In turn, this increases fat tissue – leading to further estrogen production, and so on and so on. What began as exposure to xenestrogenic or phytoestrogenic compounds can soon become a weight-gain cascade.
So what’s the answer? How can you reduce your exposure to these xenoestrogenic chemicals? Here are some simple tips.
- Install a reverse osmosis water filter with an activated carbon filter for your drinking water
- Choose organic, locally grown, seasonal food
- Always wash properly and peel fruit and vegetables that are non-organic
- Buy the highest quality meat and dairy products you can: aim for local, organic, pasture-raised products
- Reduce your reliance on plastics, including water bottles, canned foods, non-stick cookware and plastic wrappings
Clearly, this may involve a serious change to habits and some expense, but take it from us: the immediate cost will be far less than the cost of slow-burning chemical castration via xenoestrogrens, not just for you but for the generations that come after you as well.
Reclaim your masculinity and avoid the xenoestrogens if you can!
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