The world we live in is quite different from the one inhabited by our grandmothers. Our world is filled with well over 85,000 different chemicals, most of which have no safety data whatsoever. Others are recognized as dangerous by leading scientists, yet no alterations are recommended by our government for their continued and widespread use.
One chemical found widely in our world is Bisphenol A (BPA). It is produced in huge quantities and is used in the production of plastics intended to have a direct contact with food, including plastic packaging and plastic kitchenware, and it is also present in the inside linings of cans and jar lids.
Humans can get exposed to BPA by ingesting it through the mouth, breathing it in, and absorbing it through the skin. The main sources of BPA include food packaging, dust, dental materials (including dental sealants), healthcare equipment, thermal paper (receipts and boarding passes), and children’s toys and other articles.
BPA has a chemical structure with some similarities to real estrogen, and therefore, it can interact with estrogen receptors in strange and various ways; acting in some cases as if it were a powerful estrogen (agonist) and on other organs acting as an estrogen blocker (antagonist).
BPA is one of many chemicals now known to be endocrine disruptors. It basically creates hormonal chaos throughout the body. Strangely, its initial existence was as a “synthetic estrogen,” proposed for use as a drug.
BPA has been shown to play a role in the development of several endocrine disorders of women (and men). These include precocious (early onset) puberty, breast tumors, and, of course, our very own Polycystic Ovary Syndrome! We all experience continual exposure to BPA on a daily basis, and it bio-accumulates – meaning its amount in the body grows steadily, and during pregnancy, BPA accumulates in the fetus more so than in the mother! In rodents, levels of BPA which are comparable to the levels many women are actually exposed to, affect the brain, liver, gut, adipose tissue, insulin producing pancreas tissue, breast tissue, and the reproductive tract structurally and functionally. High levels are associated with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, in addition to PCOS.
Exposure to BPA while in the womb, can alter the very structure of the ovary, increasing the number of cysts and can actually disrupt the development of those critical eggs within the ovaries! Exposure can alter how the genes actually work, allowing them to be reprogrammed and resulting in reduced fertility and alteration of the very development of the baby.
BPA has been shown to directly cause higher levels of testosterone to be produced, higher rates of implantation failure, reduced ovarian response to hormonal signals, altered development of the embryo, defective uterine response to hormones, alterations in the function and production of hormones by the pituitary gland, recurrent miscarriage, decreased estrogen response to fertility drug treatments, and premature births!
Given this knowledge of the enormous effects which BPA and the likely effects of many other endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the development of PCOS, what is one to do? First off, avoid plastic like the plague! Don’t store food in it, use plastic utensils, or microwave in it. Remember that the chemicals are most likely to leach out and into the food when the food is warm, so if you must use plastic, only use it with cold food. Try not to touch receipts, don’t buy food from cans (unless they are BPA-, BPF- and BPS-free), and place water in glass or stainless steel containers as much as possible!
Get your BPA levels checked. There are labs which do that testing. And eat a high-fiber diet, low in protein and with moderate amounts of healthy fats. Keep stress under control and use supplements to control inflammation and assist proper metabolic functioning. Consider supplementation with bio-identical hormones. Though we cannot change your in-utero and childhood exposures to BPA and other endocrine disruptors, there is so much we can do to ameliorate the damage which they did and continue to inflict. Stay optimistic and true to your cause – stay on the path towards optimal wellness!