Mother Nature hard-wired humanity with specific milestones of reproduction. This means that for millennia the entire human race has had very specific times during specific years when women can start making babies or stop making babies.
Hormones flourish and initiate or diminish and halt. This has been the hormonal dance throughout the ages.
Reproductive milestones are humanity’s rhythms that have far reaching effects on entire life spans.
Yet the timing of these milestones is under attack by our dirty planet and food.
“Time shifting” of reproductive milestones is threatening the health and survival of the human race. Modern humans have been around for about 180,000 to 200,000 years. Some scientists worry that homo sapiens may only have another several 100 years left, if timing of reproductive markers and overall human health continues to diminish.
Let’s get the timing terms straight
Puberty is the age at which a girl is first capable of sexual reproduction and having a baby. Puberty has classically been regarded as a time of raging hormones and sexual maturation. But puberty is much more and this is a point that is not well appreciated by clinicians or patients but is well described in emerging science. Puberty’s “timing” and “quality” affect health and well being across the entire female adult lifespan. During puberty, hormones nudge brain development that drives sociological and psychological behavior that have life long influence.
Menarche marks the onset of fertility. It is the first time a girl gets her period.
Age of onset of both puberty and menarche have started to decline. Younger girls are sexually maturating and menstruating at younger and younger ages.
Menarche had historically occurred between 15 to 17 years of age up into the mid-19th Century. Then, in the 1950s, girls started to menstruate earlier. This overlaps with the time Mother Earth starting to become more polluted.
At the end of WWII, in 1945, about 80,000 chemicals began to be dumped into earth’s environment. This was a few years before the menarche and puberty ages began to decline. Menarche and puberty started to occur at an average age of 12 years and remained stable at this younger age… for a while.
Newer studies are now demonstrating that both puberty and menarche ages are continuing to decline and get younger once again. Younger girls are starting to show signs of sexual maturation or begin menstruation starting at 8 or 10 years of age. Shockingly, in Puerto Rico, reproductive toxicologists have consistently been reporting 6-month-old infants showing sexual maturation signs of breast buds (the beginning of breast tissue sexual growth).
Analyzed food specimens from typical meals in Puerto Rico revealed significant levels of estrogen-acting molecules in some meat samples due to synthetic estrogens added to the feedlots of the animals to enhance growth and taste. The early sexual development is suspected to be due to exogenous (outside the body) estrogen contamination in food ingested by the children and by their mothers.
Many scientific studies have revealed a trend towards an earlier onset of puberty and have disclosed an increasing number of children that display precocious puberty (earlier than typical). As an explanation, some authors have considered the action of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Just one example of these many possible hormone-altering-chemicals is bisphenol A (BPA), an aromatic compound largely used worldwide as a precursor of some plastics and chemical additives. BPA is well known for its molecular estrogen-like and obesogenic actions (makes fat cells more resistant to weight loss efforts and promotes obesity).
You can’t fool Mother Nature and get away with it
This disturbing trend of young girls sexually developing precociously comes with a host of increased potential health problems. Girls who menstruate early and develop sexual characteristics early (like breasts buds or pubic hair) are more at risk, as they age, of obesity, heart disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and even breast cancer.
They are possibly at risk of mood disorders and behaviorally issues, like anxiety, depression and substance abuse, but all these connect-the-dots are just starting to be researched.
Peri-menopause age is changing, too. Peri-menopause is the time when hormones start to yo-yo as cessation of reproduction looms. It’s historically occurred up to 10 years before a woman goes into menopause. Menopause is when a woman has not had a period for a solid year demonstrating that her body is no longer capable of getting pregnant.
Gynecologists are reporting that some women are going into peri-menopause younger, even in their mid- to late-20’s, decades earlier than l females have historically done. Earlier peri-menopause also increases a woman’s set of issues. The earlier a woman’s hormones start to yo/yo and go south, the more her risk of anxiety, depression, fatigue and brain fog, as well as increasing vulnerability to diverse diseases such as heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease.
The typical menopause age is not immune from change. In the U.S. the age of menopause has classically been 51.4 years old. But there is now a documented trend of some women, not all of course, going through menopause earlier .
Menopause is partly hard-wired to occur when the number of eggs in the ovaries goes below a certain threshold. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (whether from exposures while in the womb or as an adult) wind up affecting hormones in the reproductive system and set up genes to prompt the number of eggs to diminish prematurely. In this way, some women go into menopause earlier.
Cosmetics have been linked to decreased egg counts and higher FSH levels (a hormone that rises in menopause). Many household products that contain perfluorocarbons (PFCs)—found in stain resistant sprays for carpets and furniture, food packaging, and non-stick cookware—have been linked to earlier menopause. These chemicals have also been linked to making fat cells nasty and almost impossible to shed, thus many of these chemicals have been dubbed by Dr. Bruce Blumberg as obesogens.
Abnormal timing of puberty, menarche, peri-menopause, or menopause is associated with a huge host of problems because timing of these events effect health throughout life such as: reduced span of fertility; increased risk of age-related diseases, including breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer; heart disease; and bone loss (osteoporosis) . Infertility is on the rise in both men and women, possibly as a result of these hormonal changes. And, cognitive decline, too.
Men are not immune to hormonal change. Young men are supposed to be flush with testosterone (T). But replicated reports are demonstrating a disturbing trend of lowered T levels in younger males, similar to what used to occur mostly in the aging male.
The times they are a-changing. Milestones of reproduction times.
What does this mean for your children and for the human race?
That is a serious question I have been writing and lecturing about for several decades now. Scientific studies are informing us that hormone levels and functionality of hormones (being able to send the health supporting signals they are meant to send) are altering and faltering in all of us, from the fetus in the womb to grandparents.
I was a hormone scholar at the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane University, a think tank that put on environmental estrogen conferences for over 30 years. The last several were called e.hormone symposia. At these conferences the heads of environmental science departments at universities and scientists converged to share their concerns about what the environment is doing to our hormones. Especially concerning was the science showing that young girls were going into puberty earlier.
Changing milestones of reproduction is no small thing. It is a “flashing red light” on the dashboard of humanity.
Remember the reports from reproductive toxicologists from Puerto Rico. They report “breast buds” (hormonal maturation of some kind) happening in infants. This is usually a rare condition called premature thelarche (thelarche is the onset of breast development). But, not so rare in Puerto Rico.
Sexual time shifting is starting to happen around the world. Cases of 6 year old girls starting to menstruate are being published in the literature. Often these girls are found to have thyroid issues, but the thyroid is the most effected gland of our toxic environment. Barbara Demeneix PhD was on The Dr. Berkson’s Best Health Radio and discussed how the thyroid is the most vulnerable gland to our toxic environment and to hormone-altering-chemicals. When the thyroid is adversely affected, so are the other sex steroid hormones, as hormones function as a family; and mis-timing of hormone milestones can occur.
Discussions at the CBR were animated about the lowering age of onset of puberty. Futzing with the timing of Mother Nature has serious negative consequences. Scientists at these conferences got very concerned for the future of humanity and high emotions reigned as we explored the possible causes, and what to do about them.
What’s going on?
Obesity has something to do with it. Wealthy countries are in the middle of a childhood obesity epidemic. Fat cells manufacture estrogen. More estrogen, more hormonal changes. So that’s part of it. Overweight are at risk of entering puberty at earlier ages.
Stress has some input. Research suggests high levels of psycho-social stress, with more demands in school curriculum, after-school activities, and even issues like bullying might influence the onset of puberty .
Chemical stress. But the biggest finger is pointing at our “dirty” planet and food, which are flush with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. And it gets a huge start right inside the mother and what is passed on to the unborn child in her womb (and at her breast with breast milk).
Research at the University of California demonstrated that mothers with high levels of chemicals in their bodies during pregnancy had daughters who began puberty earlier than peers who did not have such high exposures. Many of these chemicals are found in personal care and house hold products (diethyl phthalate, triclosan, phenols, and parabens). These endocrine-disrupting chemicals are called that because they alter the soldiers of our endocrine system, our hormones. They are also referred to as hormone-altering chemicals, because they can make our own hormones malfunction
Hormone-disrupting chemicals are ubiquitous. They are found in the home, in food, on the road when you are driving, and in office and school buildings where your kids sit all day long. They are outgassing from modern building materials in walls, paints, and carpets, and in the bathroom from a broad range of personal care products, such as cosmetics, toothpaste, soaps, shampoos, and in the kitchen in non-stick cookware, in flame retardants on clothing and mattresses, and also in the fish that get exposed to these chemicals in ocean waters. They come from food in shrink-wrapped plastic or in cans lined with plastic or in food stored in plastic that’s been washed in a dishwasher with harsh detergents.
Today’s chemical soup—that mixture of household product chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, and many more—mimic, amplify, block, and alter our own natural hormones.
Testosterone-blocking chemicals are contributing to young males having an epidemic of low T. Pesticides fed to some poultry have been linked to elevating testosterone and blocking progesterone in young female teens and contributing to poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Placentas are rife with chemicals that send messages to the fetus, including those that can set up their genes to alter their health as the child grows up . In other words, placental contamination with endocrine disruptors, such as bisphenol A and phthalates, are altering DNA methylation and causing adverse epigenetic alterations.
All of us are vulnerable
As we learn more and more that hormones are our body’s “Physiologic Internet System,” which sends emails to most of our cells to keep us well, we learn that the plethora of hormone-altering chemicals is potentially damaging our software as well as our hardware.
These chemicals can effect us at any age. But there are “windows of vulnerability” at which they have more potent consequences. This is especially true in the womb.
Hormone-Altering Chemicals in Pregnancy
Kim Harley, PhD, from the University of California at Berkeley, published the first study looking at how prenatal exposure to hormone-altering chemicals influences timing of puberty. Her team followed 179 girls and 159 boys in California who were born to mothers who were pregnant between 1999 and 2000.
The prenatal period is the duration of exposure in the womb—the entire time the fetus is developing. The prenatal period is an especially sensitive and critical window of susceptibility.
Participants in Dr. Harley’s study were enrolled from the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS), a predominantly Latino population. The mothers were interviewed twice during pregnancy and again when their children were nine years old. The levels of the mothers’ chemical exposure were measured in urine samples during pregnancy and in the children at age nine.
The children were assessed every nine months between ages nine and 13 years.
By nine years of age, 55% of the children were overweight or obese and 69% were living below the federal poverty level.
Chemicals exposure was assessed from daily life: perfumes, deodorants, shampoos, cosmetics, and other scented products containing phthalates. Parabens were also tracked, as these are often added to cosmetic and self-care products as a preservative. Penols in toothpaste, soap, lipstick, and skin lotions were monitored.
Higher chemical exposure meant earlier menstruation
The bottom line was the more chemicals in the mom’s body during pregnancy, the more significantly the daughters experienced earlier puberty.
Remember, earlier puberty puts a young girl at higher risk of a lot of health problems.
Daughters of women with the highest levels of these chemicals in their urine started their periods an average of four months earlier.
You might think that this sounds insignificant. But these four months make a “huge” difference when you are tweaking Mother Nature. Timing matters, even in small increments. P.S. This study showed no evidence of earlier development for boys.
- Higher prenatal mono-ethyl phthalate concentrations were associated with earlier development of pubic hair.
- Higher levels of prenatal triclosan, propyl paraben, and 2,4-dichlorophenol were linked to earlier onset of menarche in the children.
- Methyl paraben and 2,5-dichlorophenol were associated with earlier breast and pubic hair development.
Most of the chemicals tested in “personal care products” promote what is called estrogenic activity, which affects sexual development like the hormone estrogen.
I wrote about this association between chemicals and early puberty and altered milestones of reproduction in Hormone Deception, one of the first exposé books on hormone-altering chemicals that is available on Amazon and gives a thorough understanding of endocrine disruptors and the science behind their consequences, along with detoxification information. PS. I also write in-depth in this book about the issue of hormone-altering chemicals in breast milk, baby’s first natural beverage. But we won’t address that in this article.
Today, a growing number of studies are linking endocrine-disruptor exposure to early onset of puberty .
To clarify one more time, girls that go through puberty earlier tend to have more health problems throughout the rest of their lives.
Is your family at risk?
The levels of chemicals found in the bodies of women and children in this study are typical of exposure of many U.S. citizens. In the United States, well over 90% of women have been shown to have detectable concentrations of phthalates, phenols, and paraben metabolites in their urine . Keep in mind that these are just a few of the thousands of hormone-altering chemicals that exist in the chemical soup of our daily lives.
So… how to reduce our risk and try to get this stuff out of us?
Eating organic food and reducing chemical exposure can greatly reduce your body burden of hormone-altering chemicals. Detox has to move mainstream and help get this stuff out of us. (COMING SOON – Receptor Detox™. This is my program that is designed to remove hormone-altering-pollutants that block healthy hormone action. It is a combination program available evergreen for practitioners and patients. It is currently under final construction at ReceptorDetox.com.)
Consider purchasing the PowerPoint on “How and Why to Have Green Pregnancies.” It’s professionally done and you can share this with your family or patients.
- Eat organic, especially fatty foods (meat, dairy, oils, nuts) as hormone-altering chemicals love to store in fat.
- Don’t store foods in plastic.
- Don’t wash plastic in the dishwasher and then reuse to hold food or beverages, even water.
- Do not microwave food or beverages in plastic.
- Hormone Deception, available on Amazon, one of the most step-by-step books to understand hormone-altering-chemicals and what to do about it: takes you through tours of your home, supermarket cart, and office. You learn about detox methods first designed to clear fireman who are our most exposed population.
- Avoid the “dirty dozen” foods identified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
- Use the EWG app. The EWG has created a Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database that allows consumers to search for personal care products and determine the hazard level of each product. One study found that only 23.4% of 128 women surveyed had received advice about personal care product use and only 18.9% of them had received advice about make-up product use, that it might be unhealthy or related to hormonal issues
- Use water filters for your shower. (See the products I love on my web page.)
- Take shoes off at the front door. Wipe your feet outside several times and then inside the house several times as this has been found to most effectively remove most of the potentially dangerous chemicals off the bottom of your shoes.
- Wipe pet paws, too.
- Limit exposures during pregnancy and infancy to tea tree and lavender oils. Even though they are natural substances, there are reports that associate exposure to them with early breast development.
- Use phthalates or paraben-free personal care products. Most perfumes contain phthalates, so try various essential oils, such as vanilla or sandalwood.
- Do daily and more in-depth detoxes on a regular basis as we keep getting exposed so you want to keep cellular house cleaning going.
- Detox must move mainstream. And it is. There are many forms. Take a look at this report on ground zero exposed individuals. In 2005, the Olive Leaf Wholeness Center conducted a demonstration project that provided health assessment, testing, and treatment to 160 uniformed service personnel and residents of Lower Manhattan who were exposed to the air at Ground Zero following September 11, 2001, for extended periods of time. The program, known as Project Olive ReLeaf, found that most individuals had eight or more serious health complaints, including severe respiratory problems, digestive problems, skin rashes, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, weight gains, elevated blood pressure, lethargy, and recurrent headaches. Heavy metal toxicity was suspected as a causal factor for many of these symptoms. In those tested for heavy metal toxicity, using a challenge urine test, 85% had excessively high levels of lead and mercury. Chelation treatment using dimercaptuosuccinic acid (DMSA), a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved sulfur compound, was the primary treatment prescribed. After three to four months of treatment, the first cohort of 100 individuals reported significant (greater than 60%) improvement in all symptoms. (This demonstration program was developed based on the results of an earlier pilot in 2003 for 25 emergency service officers of the New York City Police Department.) In addition, adjunctive therapies to assist with the detoxification process and build the immune system were offered. A small grant has been received to conduct follow-up tests on a sample of those treated with DMSA.
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