When I tell folks I specialize in hormone health, many agonizing times they say, “Hey, do you know the old joke about how to make a whore moan?” The long-standing answer used to be, “Well, just don’t pay her.” But there’s a new answer. And it has pertinence to us all. “The most up-to-date way to make a whore moan is to block her ability to work.” This is the new hormone resistance.

Many of us think that hormones, either self-made or taken as hormone replacement or during teenage-hood or pregnancy, simply function as they’re supposed to. Once in the blood stream inside us, we assume that they will simply do what nature intended them to do.

Wrong. Hormonal signaling can and often goes array. It often goes resistance-ward.

Hormones are like emails. They travel throughout the body looking for a computer (receptors) to deliver messages. But if the receptor is frozen, or clogged with other chemicals, then the hormone simply can’t deliver the email. Blood levels of the hormone rise while signals from the hormone don’t get delivered.

Medicine appreciates this effect with the hormone insulin. Most of us have heard of insulin resistance. This is a case where the insulin receptor is ill or clogged and even though blood levels of insulin rise, the hormone insulin can’t deliver its message to the PPAR gamma insulin receptor. Ultimately blood sugar levels rise dangerously setting the scene for pre-diabetes and full diabetes as well as other diseases. We also recognize that hormonal resistance can occur with the thyroid hormone, which is then called thyroid resistance.

But many of us, regular folks as well as doctors, don’t appreciate that resistance can occur with any hormone. In fact, we can have resistance with any other signaling molecule, such as neurotransmitters.

The body carries out its millions of functions based on just this, signals being sent and received by cells. Signals tell cells what to do. That’s how bodies work; physiologic conversations between signals and cells are what make life unfold. But if there is a snag in receiving the signal, if there is resistance, then the signal can’t be received and cells can’t carry out their job description (‘the whore can’t work”) and health starts to be eroded.

As the shadow side of technology fills up our planet—through pollution in our air, water, and food, even on our front lawns and what’s coming out of our water tap — with chemicals that look similar enough to hormones and other signaling molecules to fool receptors and nestle on in and potentially clog them up, we can start to see hormonal resistance of any hormone or any signaling molecule.

This is especially true for progesterone that is supposed to police the shadow side of estrogen. This is also true for male hormones such as testosterone (which occurs in both men and women, in both Mars and Venus). I wrote about hormone resistance, in particular progesterone resistance, in Safe Hormones, Smart Women. It is well described in peer review literature that a number of women who go on to have breast cancer have normal levels of progesterone in their blood, but actually, ironically, have progesterone resistance at the progesterone receptor. This disrupts the healthy balance between progesterone and estrogen so that there becomes a greater susceptibility to excess estrogen health problems. Younger men are exhibiting symptoms of inadequate testosterone, some of them from having testosterone resistance.

Well, the first case of estrogen resistance has now been identified in an 18-year old female. Her body completely ignores estrogen’s signals so her estrogen blood levels rise while her estrogen signaling and function drops. This was demonstrated at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University and written about in the New England Journal of Medicine. New England Journal of Medicine 2013

In this young woman, the estrogen resistance occurred as a genetic wiring snafu set up in the womb. Many chemicals in the environment now have hormonal activity, and numerous ‘healthy’ pregnant women have high levels of these chemicals inside their bodies, and thus now inside their wombs. Pollution of this first environment, the environment enveloping the developing fetus, flush with endocrine disrupting chemicals, is a contributor to a new epidemic of hormone resistance in teenage and adult life.

I wrote about endocrine disrupting pollutants deceiving the body in Hormone Deception. Based on the 6 years of research I did for this book, I got invited to be a scholar at a think tank at Tulane. The head of that group (Center for Bioenvironmental Research) was John McLachlan PhD. Dr. McLachlan was one of the first people to teach how fetal life affects adulthood health. Hormones in the womb, either natural or from everyday pollutants in beauty products, cleaners, what’s inhaled in the bathroom after a woman gets ready for work, what’s out-gassed from those newly stained floors or cabinets, etc., can program hormonal disease and hormone resistance as the child grows. Dr. McLachlan is credited with being the father of the concept of the fetal origin of adult disease.

Our biggest addictions are our perceptions. For years no one thought the way John did. The scientific status quo agreed upon the perception that the womb was a sterile environment separate from the mother. Women could drink, smoke, and cavort with no harm to the fetus, as the womb was considered to be ‘separate’ from the mother. John was the first to say, no, the womb is actually a dynamic interactive environment that lays the groundwork and template for the health of this child from the womb to the tomb. Fetal life appears to affect, throughout life, the ability of receptors to listen, or on the other hand to be ‘deaf’, to what a hormone is trying ‘to say’.

Hormone resistance and pollution are intertwined in a seductive yet dangerous dance that is contributing to the rise of hormonal issues being seen in younger people at epidemic portions, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and even infertility. Since pollution in healthy expectant mothers is inevitable and on the rise, in the future, I predict that we will have well defined and evidence-based detoxification methods for young couples to go through prior to conception, to protect the wiring and the health of their children… and to avoid hormone resistance.

And, as we age, and over time accumulate exposure to more toxins that store in fat cells and organs, much of what we consider to be inevitable old age symptoms—like lower thyroid functioning, fatigue, muscle weakness, sleep issues and even brain fog—are partly due to a build up of hormone resistance. We can help minimize hormone resistance with a process that performs ‘hormone receptor house-cleaning’ called detoxification. Research on firemen published in peer review journals (I discuss this in Hormone Deception) demonstrates that there are science-based protocols to effectively clear out dangerous pollutants.

Detoxification programs will become a critical part of mainstream health in an attempt to clear out ‘full-to-the-brim’ receptors and nudge them to do better at taking email from hormones. Smart detox programs will help young folks stay healthier and have healthier children and help aging folks to age healthier and more vibrantly. Stay tuned for more about hormone resistance, how we diagnose it, treat it and what message it holds for us in achieving and keeping optimal health. And of course, for more on detox!