In our book Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility Dr. David and I discuss the alarming fact that sperm counts have halved since our grandparent’s generation. My patients are shocked when I tell them this and their next question is usually, “why?” I always answer that it’s hard to lay the blame on one thing, but that our generation has been exposed to the kind of chemical cocktail that would have been inconceivable in our grandparent’s time.
So it was with some interest that I read a new report, authored by Professor Richard Sharpe, a reproductive biologist of the Medical Research Council in the UK, linking the use of chemicals found in food, cosmetics, and cleaning products to an increased risk of birth defects, testicular cancer, and infertility among unborn boys*. You can read about this report on the BBC website here or download a PDF of the actual report here. Professor Sharpe discusses the threat to baby boys of chemicals that block the action of the male* sex hormone testosterone or mimic the female* sex hormone estrogen, which can “feminize*” male* infants whilst still in the womb. Sharpe points out that chemicals that are harmless on their own may be having a cumulative effect that is more sinister.
There is no doubt that male reproductive health is deteriorating – more male babies are being born with birth defects affecting their penises, testicular cancer is on the rise and sperm counts are dropping. Collectively these symptoms are known as Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome, which is a term used to describe the disruption of testosterone in boys. The report examines animal studies that link testosterone-disrupting chemicals to de-masculinization in wildlife.
So what can we do? It would seem that pregnant people are mostly at risk in weeks 8 – 10 of their pregnancies but it makes sense to avoid environmental toxins throughout pregnancy and if possible in the period before conception. As Dr. Sharpe told the Daily Mail. “You can’t do anything about chemicals in the environment but you can control what you expose a baby to through your lifestyle choices. Because we don’t know the complete list of chemicals that may be hormone disrupters, and we don’t know how they interact, we can’t point a finger at an individual chemical. The message is to avoid them, just as you should avoid alcohol and drugs.”
So at the Yinova Center here is the advice we give out Moms-to-be
- Avoid processed foods where possible. That means limiting foods that have been made in a factory.
- Eat as much organic food as your budget will allow. Patients often tell me that the cost of eating organic is what puts them off and I understand this from my own experience. In this Yinova blog entry from last year, I described how, in my own family, we cut down on food wastage in order to be able to afford to eat better quality food.
- Switch your deodorant to one that is made from natural ingredients. After trying quite a few natural deodorants, with mixed results, we decided we really like this one which you can get on Amazon – Alvera Aloe Based Roll-On Deodorant.
- Use natural soaps and cosmetic products. Tom’s of Maine is a great brand as is Kiss My Face. When I was looking for a good natural toothpaste I tried many brands and settled on the Triple Action Aloe Vera Toothpaste by Kiss My Face for it’s minty taste and clean feel.
- Each American family uses about 40lbs of toxic cleaning products every year. This site has some good advice about making your own non-toxic cleaning kit. In my own house I’ve been impressed with how much cleaning can be accomplished with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice.
- Don’t panic! I know how overwhelming information like this can be and really all we can do is our best. There is no need to obsessively avoid every chemical out there. Just cut down the chemical load you are exposed to.