Environment and Surf Health.

Your health directly affects your performance in (and out) of the water. So this is an important topic.

We are increasingly bombarded with information about all the things in our modern environment wreaking havoc on our bodies.  The term xenoestrogen is one of those terms you have probably heard frequently, on the news, in publications, and probably even more often at the…….gym?  Why?  What are these xenoestrogens?  Xenoestrogen literally means foreign estrogen.  It is defined as any of the by-products of industrial or chemical processing that have estrogenlike effects.  Xenoestrogens are mistaken by the body as estrogen, a hormone normally found in the body of both male and females.  They are endocrine disrupters that ask the body to perform functions that under normal circumstances the body would not facilitate.

One of the main effects of Estrogen is to cause the body to store fat.  So the issue is xenoestrogens can act on the same estrogen receptors in your fat to cause your body to store and retain that fat.  In essence they are “posers”, mimicking estrogen.  For kids, it’s the reason they are reaching puberty so early.  For women, this is the reason it’s so hard to lose that stubborn 5 to 10 pounds that keeps you from getting your ripped physique.  For men, it is the cause of “man boobs” and excessive lower body fat storage.

Here are some ways you can easily change your lifestyle and environment my to reduce the onslaught of xenoestrogens:

1.  Stop using plastic containers for food and beverages.  Most plastics contain BPA and phthalates, both are estrogen-like chemicals.  BPA was developed in 1891 and originally was used as a synthetic estrogen replacement in 1936.  Prior to that, during WWI, BPA was found to make plastics clear and shatter resistant.  Several recent animal studies have shown that BPA is associated with many detrimental health effects:  “mammary and prostate cancer, genital defects in males, early onset of puberty in females, obesity and even behavior problems such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder” (Hinterthuer,  Just How Harmful Are Bisphenol A Plastics?, 2008).  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated that the main problem with using BPA in plastics is that the chemical leaches from the material over time.  Ultimately, BPA ends up in the foods we ingest.  The CDC states that 90% of us have detectable levels of BPA in our bodies.

Phthalates are plasticizers also found in food packaging (cans and plastic packaging) and plastic storage containers.  They too can seep into your food and be ingested.  More on phthalates in a moment.

Tips on limiting exposure to BPA and phthalates:

  • Look for microwave safe containers.  Plastic containers with the number 3 or 7 in the recycling triangle are likely to have BPA.
  • Do not heat your food in plastic.  Place it on a plate for heating.  Heating increases the rate BPA migrates into your food.
  • Use metal or glass water bottles and tempered glass baby bottles.
  • Use glass food storage containers or at the very least, BPA free plastic bottles.
  • Eat more fresh food and less canned food.
  • Avoid bottled water if possible.  They may be cold when you purchase them, but could have been sitting on hot trucks or storage rooms for days.

2.  Use Shampoos, Conditioners, Body Washes, Lotions, Toothpastes,  SUNSCREENS and Deodorants that are free of phthalates and parabens.  Phthalates (mentioned briefly above) are preservatives found in most brands of personal hygiene products.  Essentially, phthalates allow for products to stay on the shelves longer because they decrease microbial growth and degradation of the products (www.ewg.org/chemindex/term/480).  Phthalates are suspected to limit testosterone production in boys, causing malformations in development.  Some research even suspects phthalates have a direct link to abdominal obesity and insulin resistance in men (Stahlhert, M.D., M.P.H.).  So how do you know if you are using products with phthalates?  Look on the label of ingredients.  The majority of the time phthalates are denoted with abbreviations.  Look for dimethyl phthalate (DMP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), Diallyl phthalate (DAP)……the list goes on.  For a complete list of the most common phthalates go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phthalate.

Also look out for SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)

Parabens are also found mostly in cosmetics and personal hygiene products such as shampoo, soaps, etc. (www.ewg.org/chemindex/term/563).    They too are preservatives to prevent contamination and increase shelf life in these products.  Parabens have been linked to breast cancer and traces of parabens have been detected in biopsies of breast cancer tumors.http://thegoodhuman.com/2007/06/21/what-are-parabens-and-why-should-you-avoid-them/

For the chemical names of parabens go to this link: http://www.chemicalland21.com/lifescience/foco/PARABENS%20(METHYL,%20ETHYL,%20PROPYL,%20BUTYL).htm

I bet you are thinking “I don’t actually eat these things so how can they really affect me?”.   You might think it is perfectly fine to put lotion on your skin that has these chemicals.  You would be horribly wrong.  60% of these toxins are actually absorbed directly into the body.  Toxins absorbed subcutaneously bypass the liver where ingested toxins are typically metabolized and detoxified.   By entering subcutaneously, their potency is significantly increased.

Tip:  Go to http://www.ewg.org and put your product into their database to easily determine if your current products are safe for you and your family.  You can also peruse their favorites.  Beware!!  Just because something says All Natural or Organic does not mean it does not contain these chemicals.  Research them first!!

These products usually also contain gluten so if you want to be 100% gluten free then research is needed. And don’t let buzzwords like “organic” or “natural” fool you.  A partial listing of product sources can be found at www.celiac.com.   Another source for allergen-free hair and skin care products is www.gfsoap.com.

3.  Switch teflon cookware to cast iron, stainless steel or ceramic skillets.  You are probably cooking with the correct oil to get your good fats, but are you using the correct cookware to cook your paleo meals?  “Nonstick” pans, while convenient, are coated with perfluorochemicals.  These pots and pans if heated over 500 degrees can emit toxic fumes and have long been suspected to contaminate foods when they begin to chip and peel.


  • Use cast iron or ceramic skillets for cooking
  • Avoid microwave popcorn as these same chemicals are used in the linings of the bags.
  • If you decide to continue using your “nonstick” pans, discard them once they begin to chip and peel.

4.  Filter your water.  Our water is “contaminated with agricultural run off, including many pesticides, and fertilizers containing xenoestrogens, and urine and manure from animals fed growth hormones.”  


  • Purchase a water filtration system.  A filter purchased from a local department store is not going to filter all of these contaminants from your drinking water, but is a good start.  It would be better to purchase a reverse osmosis water filtration system, or a multi stage filter (ceramic and charcoal).
  • Avoid bottled water.  Most are not regulated and could also be contaminated with chemicals from the plastic.

5. Your clothes and bedding. Yes, your clothes and bedding can contain all sorts of chemicals. Polyester and latex especially, choose chlorine free cotton where possible, and choose your washing powder/liquid carefully.

6. Cleaning Products. You prepare your food on the bench or chopping board, you eat of plates, drink from cups, you sit in your bath, all have been cleaned using a cleaning product and all leave behind a residue. Choose your cleaning product carefully. Citrus based product are very effective but can be expensive. You can always just do what grandma did and use vinegar and baking soda.

It may be impossible to eliminate your exposure to xenoestrogens completely. They can cause a myriad of health issues ranging from cancer to infertility.  I urge you to make these changes to improve your and your family’s health.

When you decide to buy new shampoo, go to http://www.ewg.org and check to see which are free of parabens and purchase a recommended brand.  As your cookware needs to be replaced, why not purchase a cast iron, stainless steel or ceramic instead?

A few slight changes can give you a healthier, less toxic, and leaner body in only a few weeks.


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