We live in a toxic world, and this toxicity affects androgen levels at an epidemic level
This is reflected in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. But it is also present in the products we consume and we have at least some level of control over this. What many people don’t know if that many common use items and substances found in every home can contribute to this toxic load and thus reduce the androgen levels.
There are many ways to skin a cat, and this is also true with the mechanisms of action of those products, as you’ll see below. Some of them simply act as hormonal mimickers, meaning that the body “recognize” them as estrogens. There is, however, other ways they can contribute to the chemical castration of the modern society.
The Big Drop
Most strength coaches with some level of experience know that it is harder nowadays to put on muscle mass than it was in the 70’s or 80’s. This is in part due to the lowering of testosterone levels since that period. There are other factors, but this is a big one. In a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Thomas G. Travison, Ph.D., of the New England Research Institutes (NERI) in Watertown, Mass., and lead author of the study said: “Male serum testosterone levels appear to vary by generation, even after age is taken into account.”
“In 1988, men who were 50 years old had higher serum testosterone concentrations than did comparable 50-year-old men in 1996. This suggests that some factor other than age may be contributing to the observed declines in testosterone over time.” Keep in mind; this is only a span of eight years.
So in other words, men today are less male than their fathers and grandfathers. And it’s not going to stop there, as medical authorities keep lowering the standards for what is considered low testosterone
How Low Is Low
Two decades ago, the range for normal testosterone was between 500 to 1500 ng/dL. Meaning that below 500 ng/dL, you were considered eligible to hormonal support therapy. Nowadays, the bottom range to be considered low testosterone is merely 300. Not accounting for the fact that there is a five-fold difference in the range from bottom to top, this is about the same amount as a geriatric vegetarian stamp collector. No Bueno!
We need as much of our testosterone as we can. Yes, I’m talking to both males and females here. Excess estrogens have drastic impacts on your health and I’m not just talking about sex drive. But more on this in another article.
Right now, let’s focus on the products you can eliminate of change in your direct environment to help counter the low testosterone epidemic, and support healthy androgen levels.
The Top 10 Testosterone Killers
Whether you have estrogens mimickers or compounds that help prevent testosterone from forming or that dimish testes activity, they all have one point in common: they have a negative impact on testosterone/estrogen ratio. Let’s reviews those mechanisms and their main agents.
There is a class of compounds that are called “xenoestrogens”. This means that they are foreign substances (“xeno”) that mimic the action of estrogens in the body. Figure a lock and key system if your will. Hormones are the key and receptor sites on the cell membrane are the lock. To produce an effect, a key has to activate a lock. Well, those xenoestrogens mimic the action of the real estrogens, as they have an affinity with the cell receptors. They thus bind to them and activate them, producing the same effect real estrogens would. This is simplified of course, but it’s still a pretty accurate picture of what those substances do in the body.
So what are the xenoestrogens in your home?
Otherwise known as BPA, it is probably the most well-known of a family of chemicals used in the production of polycarbonate plastics for its effect on the hardness of plastic. It can also be found in epoxy resins. Not only has it been linked to low testosterone levels, but also to erectile dysfunction and cancers, both prostate and breast. You can find it in:
- Reusable plastic bottles
- Kid’s sippy cups
- Clear, hard plastic items
- The lining of food cans
Another large family of chemical, but the most common forms you will find are methyl-, buthyl-, propyl- or heptyl-. All have a weak affinity for estrogen receptors. They are most present in sun lotions though and this is where they have the potential to cause more damage as the large surface area of the body requires a lot of the lotion. So if you’re out in the sun, please have a gradual exposure or use a parabens-free lotion.
You will find those in a wide variety of products in your medicine cabinet:
- shaving gels
The scent of Death! Many air fresheners, scented candles but also other items with the mysterious ingredient “perfume” are actually phthalates, a compound also used to make plastics more flexible. You can find them in many cosmetics and personal care items as well.
Make sure you stay away from:
- Non-organic/non-Essential Oil-based scented candles
- Body spray
- Most commercial perfumes
- Air Fresheners
- Scented bathroom sprays
- Aromatic personal care products
- They have also been found in a lot of fast-food items
Some xenoestrogens come from the plant kingdom, hence they are known as phytoestrogens. The 2 main ones you are likely to find are:
The main food source for massive amounts of phytoestrogens. Many vegans and vegetarians want to compensate the lack of protein from animal sources by eating more soy, which leads to a host of health issues (articles on this here, here and here). But suffice it to say that a regular consumption of soy, even a large dose of the fermented sources, can have detrimental effects on your testosterone levels. Soy is most commonly found in:
- Meat substitutes
- Soy cheese
- Soy mayonnaise
- Soy sauce
- Soy yogurt
- Textured soy protein (TSP) or textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Hops is actually a rich source of phytoestrogens, and even beer on the weekends does increase estrogen lowering, so regular drinking or large amount have effects on your androgen levels that are compounded by the other health hazards alcohol has.
Another category of items can cause mismanagement of the androgen levels by starving the body of its source – cholesterol. You see, all steroid hormones, of which androgen subclass is only a small part, come the sterol part of this waxy substance known as cholesterol. The fake health concerns that caused the great cholesterol scare of the 70-80’s has now been debunked, but it nonetheless gave rise to a host of measure to lower cholesterol, which in part lead to the androgen issues we are now facing.
Of those, 2 in particular, stand out:
While their beneficial effects are rather dubious, to say the least, their detrimental effects on health are well-known and deserve a second thought. A lesser known fact is that one of the common issues with statin use is erectile dysfunction.
Low cholesterol foods and diets
If you eat less of the foods that contain cholesterol, you are going to have a similar drop in androgens. The irony is that food only accounts for 20-25% of total cholesterol, with the rest being produced endogenously.
The final category of testosterone killers are substances that will affect the production of testosterone directly in the testes or by altering the HPA axis. They are a very diverse group of substances that can be found in surprising places.
The main anti-bacterial agent found in anti-bacterial soap. It, and its cousin triclocarban have a testosterone-lowering effect that comes from alterations of the activity of the testicles. It should also be mentioned that they suck at killing bacteria and are partly to blame for the development of new strains of bacteria that are more resistant. You can find it in:
- Anti-bacterial soaps
- Anti-bacterial detergents
- Kids toys
- Surgical cleaning treatments
Another large family of compounds that affects testosterone production. Most likely to be encountered are BP1, BP2 & BP3. They act as stabilizers in many personal care items, mostly sunscreens. You will also find it in:
- Inks (cashier’s receipt in particular)
- Clear glass or plastic containers that filter UV light
Many commonly prescribed drugs will have an effect on testosterone levels, either directly or over time. Those includes, but are not limited to:
- Antidepressants of the SSRI family
For extra credit
This was a short list of the most common testosterone killers (or estrogen boosters) found in your home. But be wary, they can be in your environment as well. A great example is most herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides are part of the xenoestrogens family and will accumulate in your body. In addition, not only are some of them estrogen mimickers, but others will suppress your enzymatic activity necessary to produce androgen hormones, while other will block the receptor sites on the cell.
As the old adage says – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So go through your kitchen, your medicine cabinet and your cleaning and household products, your cosmetics, and your personal care hygiene and put them through the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep search engine. It will tell you the level of toxicity your products have. You will benefit from this, not just for your testosterone, but your whole health as well.
Coach Charles R. Poliquin
P.S. One of my favorite weapons to battle xenoestrogens is the natural synergistic blend of phytonutrients made by ATP labs, called Estro Control . I have a bottle permanently packed in my suitcase so that when I travel to places like the UK or Australia, I can keep my hormones in top shape
Charles Poliquin is a native of Ottawa, Canada. While completing graduate studies in Exercise Physiology in Canada, Charles began coaching national team athletes, a career move that resulted in coaching Olympic medalists in 22 different disciplines, and world record holders in ten different ones
An accomplished author, he has written for several publications, both paper and online, such as Muscle Media 2000, Bodybuilding.com, Iron Man, Flex, Muscular Development, T-Nation, Muscle and Fitness and Sports Review, on top of producing many manuals for his international training certifications and several books. His works have been translated in 24 different languages.
Here are a few of his athletes:
- Helen Maroulis, Olympic Gold medalist in Women’s Wrestling 53 kg
- Will Claye, Olympic Silver medalist in Men’s Triple Jump
- Adam Nelson, Olympic Champion in Shot Put and most medalled man in the history of shot put.
- Dwight Phillips, Olympic Gold medalist in long-jump.
- Al MacInnis, Olympic Gold medalist in ice hockey, World Champion, and Stanley Cup winner
- Cathy Millen, World Champion in Powerlifting IPF.