Ever since the 1950s, our reproductive systems have been under attack. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was DDT and other pesticides sprayed liberally on our crops. At the time it was considered so safe that they sprayed it directly on people, too. DDT has since been replaced with glyphosate in Monsanto’s pesticide RoundUp. Glyphosate is so toxic that crops (like corn, wheat and soy) must be genetically modified in order to stand up to it. These chemicals have been shown to be hormone disruptors, affecting semen quality, menstruation, fertility, breastfeeding, and causing cancer. In some countries, growth hormones have been administered to livestock, dairy cattle and poultry to help them grow larger, faster or to produce more milk and eggs. You can be vegan and still get affected when synthetic hormones are excreted by the animals and get into the waterways or soil… eventually into our drinking water and crops.
Medications are also a source of hormone-altering chemicals. The birth control pill, hormone replacement therapy, fertility drugs and Viagra are the first ones to come to mind. These pills are prescribed liberally, even though they can have serious side effects like stroke, increased heart attacks, and increased cancer risks. From 1938 to 1971, DES (diethylstilbestrol) was used to prevent miscarriages and stillbirths. It was discontinued for use in pregnant women after it was found to be of no benefit, and caused cancer in the women who took the drugs, plus cancer, deformities and infertility in the babies exposed to DES in utero.
Plastics are another source of hormone disruptors. BPA (bisphenol A) is present in many hard plastics and toys (think plastic bottles, and rubber duckies) and in the lining of food tins. BPA leaches into foods, drinks and babies’ mouths and bodies. In a 2009 Canadian study, BPA was present in the urine of 91% of Canadians aged six to 79. BPA is another hormone disruptor that can affect development of sexual organs, hormone production and balance, and can also lead to cancer.
Skin care and body care products are another source of hormone-disrupting chemicals. Phthalates are found in many lotions, creams, shampoos, sunscreens, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc. It is part of the class of chemicals including naphthalene, the active ingredient of mothballs… poisonous if ingested. Artificial fragrances often include hormone disruptors, like synthetic musk. These are present in air fresheners, body care products, dryer sheets, soaps, bubble baths, perfumes, etc. Many items that were unscented in the past are now full of artificial fragrances, especially products marketed to little girls.
Chemicals aren’t the only source of stress to sex hormones and to sex itself. Mental and emotional stress also put a damper on intimacy, affect sexual performance and enjoyment, plus wreaks havoc on hormone levels. Oxytocin, the “love and attachment” hormone shuts down with high stress. In pregnancy, a lack of oxytocin can stall labour, make it more painful, and make it more difficult to bond with the baby. High stress and low oxytocin will also affect milk letdown for breastfeeding. If a mom is sleep deprived, anxious and feeling unsupported, breastfeeding is harder to get established and harder to continue. Low oxytocin will also mean the new mom won’t have as much protective benefits from mood swings and postpartum depression. Oxytocin is also involved in intimacy – a very important factor in a woman’s desire to have sex. High stress can also impede a man’s performance in the sexual act and either partner’s enjoyment of sex. When the body is stressed, it is focussed on survival right now, not procreating the next generation. This is the link between high stress and infertility.
Signs of hormonal imbalance are more visible in females versus males. In girls and women, early signs of hormone imbalance can be early puberty, premenstrual moodiness, bloating, cramping, headaches, and fatigue. More obvious signs include irregular periods, bleeding that is too heavy or too light, or painful periods. In addition to infertility, hormonal issues can cause endometriosis, polycystic ovary disorder, fibroids, repeat miscarriages, menopausal symptoms and eventually cancer of the breast, ovary, uterus or cervix. In males, signs of hormonal imbalance include delayed puberty, lack of drive, low or excess sexual drive, impotence, erectile dysfunction, infertility, gynecomastia, or cancers of the prostate or testes.
What can be done? The conventional approach is to look at symptoms and start there. Do you get headaches? Take Tylenol. Menstrual cramps? Take Midol. Lonely and depressed? Take antidepressants. Irregular periods? Take birth control pills. Hot flashes? Take hormone replacement pills. Infertility? Take fertility drugs. Erectile dysfunction? Take Viagra. Frigidity? Take Viagra. Cancer? Have surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. All drugs carry risks of side effects. This includes recreational drugs, prescription medication or over-the-counter pills. Some may cause more problems than they help.
A more pro-active approach is to reduce toxic elements, especially when it comes to babies and children. This can include eating fresh and organic whenever possible, minimizing plastics in the home and processed foods, choosing all-natural cleaning products (ie. baking soda and vinegar) and studying the labels of body care products. The list of hormone disruptor toxins in this article is by no means complete, but is a good starting point to lessening your toxic load. Stress reduction is a whole topic in itself. Whether it’s a busy lifestyle, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, fear or pressure (internal or external), it’s an issue that needs attention not only for fertility, sex and hormones, but also for healthy living.
A mostly unknown factor contributing to difficulties with sex, fertility and sex hormones is poor posture and poor spinal alignment. The entire reproductive system, from arousal to pituitary gland and hormone production, uterine and prostate function, ejaculation, menstruation and childbirth is all controlled and coordinated by the nervous system. This is the vehicle by which emotional and mental stress affect the reproductive system. The nervous system tries to minimize the effects of toxins on the reproductive system. A healthy nervous system is key to resiliency in spite of environmental factors and is key in the healing of the reproductive system.
Crucial areas of the spine for reproduction are the top of the neck (C1), top of the back (T1-T3), upper low back (L1) and pelvis (sacrum and coccyx). C1 and T1-T3 directly affect nerve flow and blood flow to the brain. They affect the pituitary gland hormones, mood, thoughts, plus the brain’s perceptions on the body’s needs for survival, stress, protection and thriving (enjoyment, success, growth, healing). L1 directly innervates the ovaries and testes for estrogen, progesterone and testosterone production… for sexual development, ovulation, sperm production and pregnancy. The sacrum and coccyx are involved with elimination, including ejaculation, menstruation and childbirth, as well as urination and defecation. Forward head carriage (think “text neck”) and hunched shoulders puts stress on C1 and T1-T3. Slouching puts excess stress on L1 and the pelvis. A sedentary lifestyle is harmful to your reproductive health!
This is where chiropractic comes in! Chiropractors advise on how to avoid toxins, reduce stress AND help re-align the spine so the nerves can be relieved of stress and then heal the body itself. As toxins, stress and injuries to the spine are nearly impossible to avoid in today’s lifestyle, regular chiropractic care is necessary to give the body a chance to heal itself and function better. Ideally, chiropractic care begins even before signs of hormonal imbalance are noticeable, and continue throughout life so one can enjoy a much better quality of life (including sex life). If you must, start chiropractic care for the musculoskeletal pain, then continue for better health in all areas.