Dr Dingle's Blog / hyperactivity
Estrogens are a group of naturally occurring hormones present in both male testes and female ovaries, with females producing a considerably higher amount. They are particularly influential during puberty, menstruation and pregnancy; however they also assist in regulating the growth of bones, skin, liver and organs of the cardiovascular system. Estrogens, like all hormones, act as chemical signals and are important in helping cells in various organs to sense and respond to changing physiological conditions; therefore the right balance of hormones is critical in order to carry out the functions required of a healthy, strong body. Estrogen binds to a protein, or estrogen receptor, and the estrogen receptor complex can then bind to specific genes and by this, alter the way they are expressed, resulting in a change in cell programming 1.
Environmental estrogens, are now present in everyday products such as polycarbonate plastics, food packaging and cans. However the greatest source for many people is through cosmetics and personal care products and include chemicals such as triclosan, cyclosiloxanes, parabens and phthalates which are often left on the skin to absorb and accumulate 2. Women are disproportionately exposed to many environmental estrogens like paraben and phthalates because they use more personal care products on average than men 3 and teenage girls tend to use even more products than women, averaging 17 different products per day, compared with 12 for women 4.
Since the 1980's, there has been a growing amount of research toward the potential interaction between these environmental estrogens and wild animals, with a number of reports detailing the emergence of 'feminised wildlife’ around the world, and a range of adverse effects in humans including decreased sperm count, increased cases of testicular cancer and testicular abnormalities, increased breast cancer in men and women and premature or precocious puberty. Other adverse health include headache, migraine, depression, gastrointestinal disturbances, insomnia, mastopathia, changes in vaginal bleeding 5. More chronic symptoms affect the cardiovascular system, the skin (itching, rash, abnormal pigmentation), the gallbladder, and tumours, particularly of the breast but also uterus, cervix, vagina and liver 5.
One of the most troubling is their association with breast cancer 6,7,8. Breast cancer is the major cancer affecting women in the Western world 9 and one of the most disturbing and well documented current trends is the alarming increase in breast cancer incidence over the past few decades. Fifty years ago the risk rate was one woman in 20; today it is one in 8 and approximately two-thirds of breast tumors are estrogen receptive, and environmental estrogens like parabens are known to bind to estrogen receptors. Estrogen-dependent cancers, such as breast cancer, are known to be highly responsive to estrogens for growth. Even more disturbing is the increase in numbers of young girls developing breast cancer. Although many factors such as radiation, alcohol, smoking and diet, add to the risk of developing breast cancer, the predominant influencing factor has been identified as the exposure to estrogens throughout an individual's lifetime 9.
The breast is under hormonal control and a fine balance of hormones is what allows the cell to cell communication. Interaction between these cells and the surrounding fluid of the breast tissue is what controls differentiation and growth of the breast 9. If there is a disruption of those hormones, i.e. through the use of synthetic chemicals, the balance of hormonal control is thrown and the cells do not function normally which may lead to breast cancer. In support of this clinical studies show that estrogen has the capacity to drive breast tumours to grow in laboratory studies. Animal experimental studies have also shown the role of estrogen on the growth of breast cancer cells 9. While chemicals which mimic estrogen have been shown to promote and stimulate the proliferation of breast cancer cells 2,10,11, and activate other processes involved in breast cancer 2,11,12. Recent studies have also shown other factors can dramatically increase the the toxicity of Xenoestrogens and studies of individual estrogens may seriously underestimate their growth and spreading effects in breast tissue cells and their potency to promote breast cancer, particularly at lower doses 13.
Although the vast majority of studies on breast cancer are aimed towards women, men can also suffer from the disease, indicating that they have similar risk factors, with one case in a hundred diagnosed breast cancers being a male 14. Although this number is relatively small, the rate of incidence has increased by 25% in 25 years.
Sperm count of the average male in the US or Europe has been found to be declining continuously over the past four decades, dierectly linked with environmental estrogen exposure, and today it is less than 50% of what it was forty years ago15,16. One result of this lower count is the increased rate of male infertility; which is also the single most common cause of infertility. The rate of infertility has quadrupled in the past forty years, from 4% in 1965 to at least 16% today 15.
Other conditions including undescended testes caused by prenatal estrogen exposure to environmental estrogens have also been found in studies on mice and it has been suggested undescended testes increases the rate of testicular cancer 17. The incidence of testicular cancer, namely affecting males between the ages of 20 to 30, has also seen an increase worldwide. Studies have found strong links with exposure to excessive levels of estrogen with hypospadias (abnormal congenital opening of male urethra upon under surface of the penis) 18,19, lower libido 19, congenital anomalies, cryptorchidism and testicular cancer 20,21,22.
Environmental estrogens have also been linked to early puberty in girls and increasing number of girls experiencing precocious puberty in recent years 15. A study in the United States of 17, 000 girls indicated that 7% of white and 27% of black girls exhibited physical signs of puberty by age seven, and for girls aged 10 the percentages increased to 68 and 95 respectively 16. This trend for earlier puberty has been found to be widespread, with similar cases found in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand (Trankina, M. V L., 2001).
Environmental estrogens are also suspected of disrupting thyroid functioning, sexual differentiation of the brain in foetal development and cognitive motor function 23. It is also believed that high levels of environmental estrogen exposure results in lower birth weights, smaller head circumferences, poorer neuromuscular maturity and visual recognition, delays in psychomotor development, short term memory problems, and growth retardation in newborn babies 24.
Prenatal exposure to environmental estrogens also poses a serious health risks to developing fetus and children as evidence of adverse effect on birth outcomes, childhood obesity, and intellectual disability are increasing 25. The placental barrier has been shown to allow these chemicals to cross as many of them have been measured in human fetal cord blood and tissue. More importantly, because organogenesis begins at the time when the fetus is solely dependent on maternal supply, early life exposure to environmental estrogens may lead to adverse short or long term health outcomes due to fetal reprogramming 26.
From testing on animals it has further been proposed that excessive estrogen levels could cause anxious behaviour 27,28, altered fecundency 29, reduced penis size 30 and increased embryo mortality 24. Environmental estrogens are not only capable of binding to estrogen receptors on cell membranes but are also able to bind to neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, neuroepinophrine and dopamine enabling estrogens to influence the body's central nervous system (CNS) 31. Environmental estrogens have also been shown to effect the body’s immune system 30. A large number of studies have also environmental estrogens to contributing to obesity and diabetes, independent of poor diet and physical inactivity; such chemicals including ingredients found in personal care products and cosmetics such as phthalates and phenols 32,33.
More recently studies have found effects of direct exposure to products instead of just individual chemicals. Extensive observational studies have indicated a relationship between certain hair product use and hormonally imbalances including early menache (puberty) 34,35 and uterine fibroids 36 as well as enlargement of breast tissue in boys and men 37.
However, estrogenic (or anti-estrogenic) effects of the personal care products as commercial mixtures have rarely ever been evaluated. In a study of eight commonly used hair and skin products four of the eight personal care products tested (Oil Hair Lotion, Extra-dry Skin Lotion, Intensive Skin Lotion and Petroleum Jelly demonstrated detectable estrogenic activity 38. The estrogenic activity of these products was not predictable by examining their listed ingredients. However, perhaps the most surprising finding about any one product was the estrogenic activity of SP4 (Petroleum Jelly). Petroleum jelly products are also often used on infants as low-cost therapies for common problems such as diaper rash and is manufactured by refinement of the crude petroleum product. While other studies have shown that hair oil use as a child was significantly associated with earlier menarche and hair relaxer use and uterine fibroids among participants in the 36. A third study found an elevated incidence of endometriosis and use of personal care products containing benzophenone-type UV filters 39.
Fortunately, studies have also shown it is relatively easy to reduce exposure by reducing personal care use or using safer products. In one study of around 100 girls they replaced their personal care products with safer alternatives for 3 days. The replacement products were chosen on the basis of whether their ingredient lists included triclosan, benzophenone-3, or parabens. Phthalates are not listed on ingredient lists, but they are often found in scented products. So the researchers avoided products that listed “fragrance” as an ingredient unless they were specifically labeled as phthalate free. More than 90% of the participants had detectible levels of phthalates, parabens, and benzophenone-3 before they started using the replacement products. After using the alternative products for 3 days urinary concentrations of methyl and propyl paraben decreased by 43.9% and 45.4%, respectively, mono-ethyl phthalate decreased by 27.4%, and triclosan decreased by 35.7%. However, there were increases in concentrations of butyl and ethyl paraben, which were detected in about half the girls. These chemicals might have been unintentional contaminants or unlabeled ingredients in replacement products, which they acknowledge they were unable to ensure were paraben free 40.
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- Darbre, 2003
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- Wróbel and Gregoraszczuk 2013
- Gomez et al. 2005
- Pan S, et al 2016
- Williams, R. M., 2004
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- MeLachian et al, 1984)
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- Bernstein, 1988
- Ayotte and Bonefeld‑Jorgensen, 2003
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- Caston et al, 2001
- Vos et al, 2000),
- Brooks et al, 2007
- Fuentes et al, 2000
- Song Y, et al 2014;
- Carwile JL, et al 2011
- James-Todd. 2011
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- Wise LA, 2012
- Gottswinter JM, 1984
- Myers et al 2015
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- Harley KG, et al. 2016
In November 2008, a 12 year old boy, Daniel Hurley collapsed and died in his bathroom 'after using too much deodorant'. The hearing into his death found that “he was overcome by solvents in the Lynx Vice spray”. Unfortunately there were no repercussions for the company as the warnings are spelt out on the can. Despite the warning being there, my own research shows that around 1% of people actually read and understand the labels. However, this is not the first, nor is it the last. On July 12 1998, 10 years earlier a young boy in the UK, this time 16 years old who had an obsession with smelling nice died after months of spraying his entire body with deodorant. Jonathon Campbell had 10 times the lethal dose of propane and butane in his blood. While these are tragic outcomes, the real problems lies in the millions of kids (and adults) around the world who are slowly poisoning themselves. The warning signs on most cans reads something like “deliberately concentrating may be harmful or fatal” or for cans sold to kids “must be used in the presence of adults” and the company has no other responsibility to your health than these labels. If people really knew what was in these cans and read these labels closely I am sure they would have second thoughts about using them and giving them to their kids. Unfortunately, the ingredients are not listed and the warning is all in the small print on the back.
The problem with deodorants and antiperspirants is three fold. First the propellant gases like propane and butane are toxic and were implicated in the deaths of both boys. This associated with the fact that they are sprayed upward towards the armpit and headspace means you can’t help but breathe them in. The second is the long list of toxic ingredients used in the deodorants and antiperspirants which you don’t know about and which are absorbed through the skin and thirdly the blocking of our pores by the antiperspirants.
To highlight where the problem starts antiperspirants and deodorants are among the top six products causing adverse skin reactions, including itching, burning, dryness, irritant dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. They have become one of the most frequently purchased products worldwide, surpassed in market share only by soaps and hair care products. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most widely marketed products constantly playing on kids’ emotional health, sex and relationships to sell their toxic products.
Deodorants act to reduce, cover up, or eliminate the odour that develops when bacteria break down perspiration. This is achieved by the use of anti-microbial agents and fragrances. Antiperspirants are distinguished from deodorants by the presence of sweat retarding agents. These agents are based on aluminium complexes and may include aluminium chlorohydrate (ACH), aluminium zirconium chlorohydrate glycine complexes (AZAP) or aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydroxy glycine. While the connection between aluminium in antiperspirants and Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy continue to be explored and debated they seem highly unlikely. Other problems such as a link with breast cancer are much more likely. The action of these chemicals limits the levels of perspiration produced in the underarm and other areas, by slowing the action of the sweat glands. Sweat production is reduced due to the fact that the chemicals produce an obstructive hydroxide gel inside the sweat gland ducts, limiting the amount of perspiration that can be excreted. However, we were meant to sweat. Sweating provides a valuable service to our body by eliminating waste products, and cooling down the body. As a result antiperspirants may lead to a build up of toxins in this area just near the breast.
Antiperspirant and deodorant ingredients include anti-microbials such as chlorhexidine d-1-gluconate and triclosan, odour eliminators such as zinc ricitioleate and various perfumes. Other ingredients which may cause contact allergies include formaldehyde, atranorm, evernic acid, fumarprotocetraric acid, cetalkonium chloride, fenticlor, gluteraldehyde, zirconium and dibutyl phthalate. Many of the same chemicals you would find in toilet deodorants. Starting to sound a bit smelly isn’t it. Formaldehyde is a skin irritant and thought to be carcinogenic, and phthalates are suspected of producing endocrine (hormone)‑disrupting effects as they are able to mimic the action of oestrogen and upset our hormone balance. In one study diethyl phthalate, which is a solvent, was detected in 2 out of 8 deodorants. The breast, as a result, is also exposed to a range of these oestrogenic chemicals applied to the underarm and breast area. These cosmetics are left on the skin in the appropriate area, allowing a more direct dermal absorption route for breast exposure to oestrogenic chemicals and allowing absorbed chemicals to escape systemic metabolism. It is also worth noting that the large increase in breast cancer over the last 30 years has been a result of an increase in oestrogen receptive cancers.
Research has shown that repeated application of deodorants permeate the skin resulting in accumulation of some of these chemicals. According to one study butyl paraben was systemically absorbed, metabolized and excreted in urine following application to the skin in a cream preparation. The study conducted over 2 weeks showed concentration peaked in urine 8-12 hours after application. Isn’t it interesting to know that the chemicals you put on the outside of your body get in?
Then the problem is exacerbated even more when they are used in spray containers that we direct towards our face. If your lungs are a uniquely designed sponge for air, they are also a sponge for the contaminants that manage to evade all of your respiratory system’s defenses. All the ingredients and the propellants are rapidly absorbed into the body and detectable throughout the body within minutes to hours.
The safer option is to use roll on deodorant. Unfortunately, it does not look as sexy in the advertisements, but it is much safer. The next step is then to move toward natural products and organic when you can. We have evolved with natural plant products over millions of years and as a general rule they are much safer than synthetic products manufactured from petrol. I also think it is about time we stop overselling these products and teaching kids that too much fragrance can be toxic… and who would want to smell like a toilet block anyway?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are a group of symptoms and not a disease. Children are classified as ADD when they show signs of inattention, such as a lack of close attention to detail, difficulty in sustaining attention or are easily distracted. Some children may be underactive (hypoactive), inflexible, suffer from speech disorders and have poor short term memory, and show sleep and appetite changes. ADHD has the added signs of hyperactivity such as fidgeting, being always ‘on the go’, disruptive or demonstrate other signs of hyperactivity. While there are more precise definitions for these conditions, they are mostly subjective and open to a large amount of interpretation. ADD/ADHD are relatively new conditions and were probably defined as soon as a pharmaceutical company had a drug to use.
As more investigation is done on these disorders, more controversy is raised about possible origins and causes. It’s likely that ADD/ADHD occurs because of a complex of factors, including illnesses and a combination of susceptibility factors such as genetics, maternal diet during pregnancy and length of breast feeding. The child’s exposure to various chemicals in both food and the environment and their current diet are also probable contributing factors. Some chemicals and foods may act as a trigger for the disorder. Whatever the cause, it seems likely from the nature of the symptoms that ADD/ADHD has many contributing factors. No cases are identical, especially when dealing with children. ADD/ADHD however, is definitely not a deficiency of Ritalin or any other drug.
Surveys suggest that as many as 49 per cent of boys and 27 per cent of girls are described as inattentive by their teachers, while serious deficits in attention appear to occur in at least three to 10 per cent of school-age children, making inattention among the most prevalent of all childhood neuro-psychological disorders. Many of these children are diagnosed as having ADD/ADHD.
Many studies identify a worseing of symptoms with certain foods or food additives; others link lead contamination, smoking and alcohol in pregnancy to developmental disorders in children. The possibility of chemical substances in the diet and the environment influencing ADD/ADHD is highly likely.
Sadly, little real evaluation of ADD/ADHD children is actually carried out. They are not routinely evaluated for chemical, nutritional or allergic factors, or assessed for behavioural or environmental issues arising from their home environment. Instead they are given drugs. This is despite the fact that there is growing body of scientific literature showing significant nutritional deficiencies in many of these children. There is growing evidence that a significant number of ADD/ADHD sufferers have a high body burden of heavy metals, particularly lead, mercury, cadmium and possibly even the trace element copper. These metals are potent toxins which block thousands of important chemical reactions in the body and can play havoc with the nervous system. At even moderate concentrations, lead can lower a child’s IQ. Recent research links infant and maternal exposure to lead with higher rates of schizophrenia.
Nutritional deficiency is an underlying cause of ADD/ADHD in a significant number of children. Correcting these deficiencies and inbalances can make substantial improvements in childrens’ behaviour. Sometimes improvement is almost immediate.
The basic problem appears to be deficient levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals that coordinate many of the body’s and mind’s activities) in brain cells. Various chemical substances affect the transmission of messages across the synapse, the gap between individual nerve cells. Acetylcholine, adrenalin, noradrenaline, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin are all examples of neurotransmitters. Some of these chemicals are responsible for other chemical secretions and uptake. They control muscular activity, mood and behaviour. So you can see how they might be involved in ADD/ADHD.
Over-prescription of drugs, (particularly the amphetamine Ritalin, one brand name for methyl phenidate) that manage the symptoms of the disorder, is common. In Western Australia the annual use of prescription amphetamine-like tablets prescribed for ADD/ADHD has exploded. There are many problems associated with taking these drugs. They include anorexia, weight loss, insomnia, lability of mood, nervousness and irritability, abdominal discomfort, excessive withdrawal symptoms, heart arrhythmias, palpitations and psychological dependence. Suicide is also a major complication of withdrawal from amphetamine-like drugs. Children on Ritalin are more prone to become addicted to smoking and illicit drugs. These drugs don’t deal with the underlying cause. The US National Institute of Health has concluded that there is no evidence that Ritalin brings about any long-term benefit in scholastic performance.
These drugs have a noradrenaline-like action. Noradrenaline normally acts to coordinate many nervous system functions. It’s thought to filter out unimportant stimuli, reducing the number of distractions sensed by the child. If ADD/ADHD is a noradrenaline shortage, it could be measured, but no one seems to want to do this. It’s much easier (and more profitable?) to prescribe drugs. If it’s a noradrenaline shortage, it can at least to some degree, be corrected by dietary measures.
There are many reasons as to why a child may have a poor nutrition. These include being breast-fed for only a short period of time. Infant milk formulas and cows’ milk are not the same as human milk. Cows’ milk is great for a calf that needs to put on weight directly after birth. A cow’s brain does not grow after birth. The human brain continues to grow substantially up to the age of three, and then more slowly, up to 18 years of age. It’s not surprising then, that human milk is high in Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and choline, along with many other ingredients essential for the development of a healthy brain and nervous system. Both these nutrients are severely deficient in many infants’ and children’s diets, particularly if the diet is high in grains and processed foods.
One explanation for the higher rates of ADD/ADHD in males is that males have a higher demand for EFAs (Omega 3 oils). Males don’t appear to absorb them well and are less efficient at converting them to an important group of chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins regulate many activities in the body and play an essential part in others. Many of the foods that are linked with ADD/ADHD also inhibit the conversion of the EFAs to prostaglandins. Foods such as wheat, dairy and salicylate-containing foods, including some of the food colours. Conversion is also blocked by deficiencies in Vitamins B3, B6, C, biotin, zinc and magnesium. There are many studies now that show the benefit of supplementing the diet with fish oils and flax seed oil, not only for adults but for kids being treated with Ritalin. What’s also interesting about the EFAs is that many of our parents were dosed with them once or twice a week in the form of cod liver oil.
ADD/ADHD children appear to be deficient in a number of nutrients:
Essential fatty Acids (Omega 3 rich oils).
It may be that there is an absence of these nutrients in the diet. It may be the effects of medication, stress, and other lifestyle factors, including exposure to some environmental contaminants, that have lead to nutritional deficiencies. For example, the use of antibiotics has been shown to have an effect on the nutritional status of children, as they deplete the body’s levels of zinc, calcium, chromium and selenium. Antibiotics, other medication and food preservatives can also have a serious detrimental effect on the healthy gut bacteria which in turn affects the ability of the gut to absorb nutrients.
Academic performance and behavioural problems improve significantly when children are given optimal nutrition and nutritional supplements. In one study, supplementing with just 200 milligrams of magnesium for six months improved magnesium status and significantly reduced hyperactivity. Magnesium plays a key role in the production of noradrenaline. One of the main sources of magnesium in our diets is green vegetables, but few kids get enough of these. Other nutrients involved in the production of noradrenaline include manganese, iron, copper zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6.
Noradrenaline formation may be affected by an absence of the amino acids L-phenylalanine or L-tyrosine, which are its building blocks. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, Vitamin C, Folic acid and the minerals zinc, magnesium and copper are necessary for the conversion of phenylalanine and tyrosine to noradrenaline.
It has been proposed for many years that food additives and other food constituents can contribute to ADD/ADHD. While this is refuted by the food additive industry, there’s growing evidence that this is the case. It’s also becoming apparent that there are biochemical explanations as to why some foods and food additives, particularly the food colours, may be contributing factors. For example, salicylates inhibit the conversion of the EFAs to the protective prostaglandins, as mentioned earlier. Many foods that contain salicylates - tomatoes and granny smith apples, as well as aspirin and the food colours like tartrazine (102) - may exacerbate ADD/ADHD.
Food additives linked with ADD/ADHD can also deplete the body of vitamins and minerals. Tartrazine decreases blood levels of zinc and increases its excretion in the urine.
Food additives to avoid are
102, 107, 104, 110, 120, 122, 123, 124, 127, 129, 132, 133, 142, 151, 153, 155, 160b, 168, 173, 250, 251, 252, 282, 320, 321, 420, 421, 621 (MSG) 622, 624, 627,631, 635, 951 (Nutrasweet®, Aspartame®).
The diet of the pregnant and breast-feeding mother is very important. Infant and early childhood health conditions have a big role in the health of middle childhood. This is supported by research on alcohol exposure at various stages of pregnancy, hence the importance of good foetal and childhood nutrition.
What to do about food
For any child with ADD/ADHD it’s important to identify foods that may be causing a problem. This is best done with a professional such as a naturopath. or a doctor specialising in nutritional and environmental medicine. With these professionals you can devise an elimination diet to identify potential environmental and dietary culprits. Some of the culprits are shown below.
The main foods causing sensitivities and allergies include:
- Cow’s milk and associated dairy products;
- Some legumes – soybeans, peanuts;
- Nuts and seeds –pistachio nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, cottonseed;
- Crustaceans – shellfish, shrimps;
- Fruits (non-citrus) – cherry, apple;
- Citrus Fruits – oranges, lemons, limes;
- Wheat and Other Grains – corn, rice, rye, oats, barley, buckwheat;
- Cola nut products – chocolate, cola;
- Spices – cinnamon, bay leaf, peppers, peppermint, oregano, sage, thyme, cumin;
- Food Additives – coal tar dyes, preservatives, flavour enhancers, artificial sweeteners; and,
- Caffeine – coffee, tea, chocolate, cola drinks.
The brain uses only glucose for energy. The research on sugar suggests that it may not be a major factor in ADD/ADHD. However, brain glucose that comes in waves of high highs and low lows is likely to affect a kid’s mood.