A Common Story
My husband and I took a while to fall pregnant. Not as long as many but 15 months was long enough for us. I had irregular cycles. Very irregular. I wasn’t able to track it well enough to predict ovulation. I went to my GP to have a chat about conception and what we needed to do before falling pregnant. The usual was discussed, vaccinations up to date, supplements, foods to avoid while pregnant and who to contact when those 2 pink lines appeared.
I told her about my cycle. She noticed the acne on my face and asked about my weight. Within 5min she said “You have PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Here is a referral for a ultrasound and a referral to a fertility specialist.”
I was a bit shocked and kind of annoyed. I didn’t want PCOS. A Google search said I was at a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and depression, and of course fertility issues. The worst part…it was handed down like a life sentence. No advice on reversing it, how it happened or if there was anything I could do.
The criteria for diagnosis were pretty simple and I felt very vague. Easy weight gain, acne and irregular cycles. I didn’t have facial hair, the blood tests didn’t show any insulin resistance and the ultrasound didn’t show any cysts on my ovaries. Yet the label stuck.
Why wasn’t my lifestyle discussed? No discussion about toxins or endocrine disrupters found in so many products.
What are Endocrine Disruptors?
The endocrine system is the fancy name for our hormone system. What are hormones? Well you probably straight away thought of our sex hormones like oestrogen and testosterone but they are a tiny little fraction of all the hormones floating around our body. Hormones are the body’s communication system, it’s email. They are produced in many different organs from our brain to our kidneys, thyroid and of course our sex organs. They are responsible for telling us when to wake up, when to go to sleep, to eat, to drink, they control our energy, libido and basically every aspect of our lives.
Some chemicals in our food and products are known hormone disruptors. Meaning they can:
- Increase production of certain hormones
- Decrease production of others
- Imitate them
- Turn one hormone into another
- Interfere with hormone signalling
- Compete with essential nutrients and;
- Accumulate in our organs
Which ones should I look out for?
- Bisphenol A (BPA). This one is probably pretty familiar. It messes with oestrogen and was in my water bottles, lines tinned food cans and many other plastics. Even thermal paper (receipts) are lined with BPA.
- Phthalates. They’re used to soften plastics and these buggers are in everything I was using. It’s basically impossible to avoid but red flags for their presence is “fragrance” or “parfum” on products around your home where it’s not specifically labelled as synthetic fragrance free or natural fragrance. So the shampoo, body wash, deodorant, perfume, make-up….EVERYTHING I was using on or around my body had these chemicals in them. Not to mention, my new car along with it’s ‘new car smell’ was a whole lot of Phthalates off gassing from the carpets, steering wheel etc and I was breathing in fumes from the paint and new lino flooring in the newly refurbished ward…more phthalates.
- PFCs perfluorinated chemicals /Perfluoralkyl Acids (PFOA). This is the stuff that makes Teflon. I was cooking all my food on non-stick cookware that is laced with these nasties. Did I chuck out the pan when it started to get scratched? I’d like to say yes, but no I didn’t. I was eating lots of little flakes of the coating in my food.
- Triclosan. If it has the word “antibacterial” chances are there’s Triclosan in there. This is an antibacterial agent in handwashes, toothpaste, even some chopping boards. Not only is this stuff not required for general handwashing purposes (in the hospital we only used this handwash for the super infectious patients with horrible diarrhoea. Otherwise we just used soap and water) but it’s been shown to damage our waterways, build antibiotic resistance bacterial in our environment and interrupt thyroid hormone and oestrogen.
- Parabens. Preservatives found in many cosmetic and personal care products. Not just one either. Check the label of your moisturiser or your sunscreen and you’ll likely find not one but many parabens including propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- and isobutyl-parabens. Like BPA they mess around with our oestrogen and they’re not hard to avoid if you read the labels. Plenty of nice alternatives to the ones you have now.
- Chemical sunscreens. Octyl methoxycinnamate (also called OMC or ethylhexyl methoxy cinnamate), as well as 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) and benzophenone 3, have been found in some studies to have developmental and reproductive effects, as well as thyroid effects from OMC. Most studies look at the chemicals in isolation, whereas in reality there is often more than one chemical sunscreen used in a preparation, not to mention other potential endocrine disruptors, such as parabens. The combined effects of these aren’t known. Try instead a physical UV blocker like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
It was never mentioned…
All of these things were in my life. Throw in a less than stellar diet, broken/disjointed sleep thanks to shift work and an extra 15kg and is it any real wonder I put on weight easily, had dodgy skin and was having issues with my cycle? PCOS was really just a label for an (unfortunately) extremely common Australian lifestyle.
Well, after 12 months of trying we reluctantly headed off to the Gynaecologist to start fertility treatment. How unfair is that journey?!!? Holy heck, the number of blood tests, appointments, phone calls, tablets, injections and ultrasounds I had to go through…but for our partners?…nothing. Sure, they hold us as we cry in frustration and exhaustion, comfort us after we inject our stomach and then maybe a bit of ‘performance anxiety’. But the scales definitely fall heavier in our direction.
Amazingly, after two failed cycles on medication we actually fell pregnant naturally. I’d lost some weight and cleaned up my diet over the few months of treatment. Maybe that had something to do with it? Who knows. But we have our gorgeous little girl now and my awareness on chemicals has skyrocketed.
This Time It’s Different
We’re back on the conception conga line again. Trying for number two now that Bubba is almost 2. But this time I’m different. I’ve never been this healthy. I have never had so much ease in maintaining my weight, I have basically detoxed my home of the above chemicals. Nothing synthetic. Pre- and Probiotics are my new jam with fermented foods, grass-fed gelatin, resistant starches and high quality supplements now in my diet. So much more fresh fruit and veg. I’m cooking entirely from scratch these days so avoiding so many of the preservatives in packaged food.
And you know what? Despite my toddler’s apparent refusal to EVER give up the ‘booey’ my cycle is regular for the first time in years. It’s also lighter and less painful too! I credit some of that to the Clary Calm bottle of sheer awesomeness.
So hopefully this process will be short and sweet and I’ll be seeing those two little pink lines very soon.
One thing I can say, I’m pretty excited to support myself with the oils this pregnancy. Mother Earth love, lay it on me.