Chemicals to straighten and relax hair are a part of life for many black women, for reasons that range from societal expectations to ease of care. But our society’s discomfort with black women’s natural hair comes with a cost — these products contain chemicals associated with early puberty, obesity, asthma, and increased cancer risk.
True, the majority of hair, body, and makeup products aimed at all women contain multiple toxic compounds. However, researchers believe the health disparities that exist between black and white women may be due to the use of more toxic hair chemicals among African American women.
This was demonstrated in a 2016 study that showed black women’s bodies contained more of these toxic chemicals than in women of other ethnicities.
Relaxers, root stimulators, and anti-frizz products contain almost 70 chemicals identified so far that are known toxins to the human body.
For instance, parabens and phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormone function and are linked to early puberty in girls and pre-term births.
Nonylphenol is associated with obesity and increased cancer risk.
Formaldehyde increases the risk of miscarriage and respiratory issues.
Many of these products also cause eye and skin irritation, burning and blistering the scalp, damaging hair follicles, and causing hair loss. They also cause respiratory disorders.
One product can contain as many as 30 different toxic chemicals and we don’t yet know how these chemicals react in combination with one another.
It’s no wonder black women are shown to suffer more health disorders related to these chemicals compared to other ethnicities.
Black women are more likely than white or Hispanic women to suffer from disorders related to the endocrine system, or their hormonal system.
In fact, hair relaxers have been linked to uterine fibroids in black girls and women at a rate that is two to three times higher than in other women. It’s estimated uterine fibroids affect up to 80 percent of black women during their lifetime.
Other studies have shown that cosmetologists exposed to these products during pregnancy experienced twice the rate of miscarriages.
Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among black women, who generally experience more aggressive forms of the cancer compared to white women.
Additionally, studies show a link between the use of these hair products in girls and early puberty.
Although the black hair care market is an industry estimated to account for $500 billion in sales, very few products are tested for toxicity or the effects they have on human health. In the few cases when they are tested, they are found to be the most toxic hair products on the market.
The Black Women for Wellness Report addresses the complexity around the harmful and toxic nature of black women’s hair products, cultural expectations for black women’s hair, and the positive role of hair salons in black communities.
Other factors that cause early puberty and disrupt hormone function and balance
Although scientists have established a clear link between the synthetic toxic compounds and hormonal imbalances such as early puberty, other factors play a role as well.
One of the most common is consistently elevated blood sugar from a diet high in processed carbohydrates (such as pasta, bread, pastries, etc.) and sugars. These foods raise the incidence of obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes, which in turn raises the risk of early puberty and other hormonal disorders.
Excess body fat and high insulin stimulate the production of estrogen. Both diabetes and obesity are prevalent among African Americans. Genetics play a role in this, as does the fact that many black people in the US do not have access to healthy foods, nutritional education, or safe outdoor spaces to exercise.
Also, compounds in common foods are estrogenic. One study showed infants fed soy formula had estrogen levels 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than normal (soy is a known estrogen mimicker). Also, sex hormones are given to beef and dairy cattle, and the antibiotics given to animals may be a factor.
Puberty also begins earlier in populations who live further from the equator and more prone to vitamin D deficiency. Studies show black people and people with dark skin in the US tend to be deficient in vitamin D due to insufficient exposure to the sun. Taking 10,000 IU a day of vitamin D can be helpful.
A whole foods diet that restricts sugar and limiting exposure to chemicals can help prevent hormonal disorders.
Ask my office for advice on how to reduce the toxic burden on your body, support the organs that help remove toxins, and how to reduce your risk of chronic and serious health disorders.
Infertility has been a growing problem over the last three decades, with most of the attention focused on women’s reproduction. However, 40 to 50 percent of cases of infertility are caused by male infertility. Research shows sperm quality has dropped by 50 percent in the last 80 years. Sperm quality of dogs has also declined sharply over recent years.
Now, a recent study shows common pollutants in the environment and in the foods we eat affect male fertility.
The British study looked at the effects of two common pollutants on the sperm of both men and dogs. For this study they studied a common plasticizer that is ubiquitous in our environment and the industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyl 153, which, though banned, is still abundant in our foods and the environment.
They found that when sperm is exposed to both these chemicals at levels found in the environment it damaged the sperm. They reduced sperm motility and fragmented DNA in the sperm. Male infertility is linked to DNA fragmentation in sperm.
Many studies link pollutants to poor sperm quality
The declining rates of sperm quality since the rise of industrialization are no surprise; other studies show links.
For instance, past research has shown that environmental pollutants not only impact male fertility but also raise the risk of testicular cancer. Poor sperm quality has even been linked to the chemical exposure of a man’s mother prior to his birth.
Also, chemicals called “endocrine disrupters” have long been shown to impact male fertility. That’s because they mimic human hormones — the female hormone estrogen primarily, thus throwing male hormones off balance.
If you would like help understanding Pollution effects to Human and Animal’s sperm, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Again, it’s the chemicals in plastics that are to blame for skewing male hormones and promoting infertility.
Low sperm counts and poor sperm quality have also been linked to benzenes, toluene, xylene, pesticides, herbicides, organic solvents, painting materials, and heavy metals.
Sugars and processed carbs impact male fertility
While industrial pollutants take their toll, so does a dietary pollutant that is a staple of the modern American diet: foods high in sugar and processed carbohydrates that spike blood sugar and insulin levels.
Eating a diet high in these blood sugar-spiking ingredients triggers a man’s body to over produce estrogen. This not only gives him more feminine characteristics but also impacts his fertility.
Symptoms of too much estrogen in men include:
Decrease or loss of morning erections, fullness of erections, and the ability to maintain erections
Mental fatigue and poor concentration
Lack of motivation
Decrease in physical stamina
Men with excess estrogen also often have high cholesterol and triglycerides, insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure, abdominal weight gain, the development of “breasts” and “hips,” and varicose veins or hemorrhoids. Some men even have hot flashes thanks to high estrogen.
A variety of factors are shown to contribute to estrogen dominance in men, including estrogen mimicking chemicals in pesticides and environmental chemicals, poor essential fatty acid status (too much omega 6 fatty acids and not enough omega 3), gut infections, and poor liver detoxification.
However, the most common cause is the effect of a high-carbohydrate diet on overall health.
When a man consistently eats a diet that is high in starchy and sugary foods, such as sweets, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, soda, and sweet coffee drinks, this chronically over produces insulin in order to low high blood sugar.
This type of diet triggers an enzyme called aromatase, which synthesizes estrogen. The constant activity of aromatase also leads to insulin resistance—when insulin cannot escort glucose into the cells—which causes hormonal imbalances.
Addressing excess estrogen in men
Don’t be fooled into thinking using testosterone gel is the way around high estrogen. Thanks to aromatase, the additional testosterone will simply be converted into estrogen too. The excess testosterone can also cause testosterone resistance, which makes symptoms of low testosterone worse. Instead, a hormone panel that includes levels of testosterone and estrogen will reveal the mechanisms of the imbalance and what the best course of action is for you.
Functional medicine strategies for male infertility
While we can’t rid the environment of pollutants, we can minimize our exposure and help buffer our bodies. In addition to replacing toxic items in your home, body care, house cleaning, and diet with non-toxic alternatives, you can also help your body by supporting your liver detoxification, antioxidant glutathione status, and body’s stress handling abilities.
It’s also vital to use diet and lifestyle changes to support healthy testosterone levels. Ask my office about functional medicine therapies to support healthy male testosterone and fertility.
After assurance from breast implant makers that concerns about silicone leaks were a thing of the past, more than 10 million women worldwide have received silicone breast implants in the past decade. However, a growing body of research — supported by increased symptom reporting by women —links silicone breast implants to autoimmune disorders and a rare form of immune cancer.
Silicone breast implants linked to autoimmune disease
Doctors commonly advise potential breast implant candidates that the risks are minimal, yet multiple recent studies indicate otherwise.
A recent study at the University of Alberta comparing nearly 25,000 women with breast implants to nearly 100,000 without them confirmed that nearly one in four implant recipients is at risk of developing an autoimmune disorder.
The risk for women with breast implants developing an autoimmune disease is 45 percent higher than for those without implants.
While former studies on the topic have been criticized because they were based on self-reporting by subjects, this study used doctor-based diagnoses to confirm results.
Previous research has also found surgical mesh implants used for gynecological or hernia repair may be linked to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Additionally, patients with allergies prior to the procedure were significantly worse afterward.
In the Alberta study, the strongest links were shown between silicone implants and these autoimmune conditions:
Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder of the salivary and tear glands.
Sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disorder of the lung, skin and lymph nodes.
Systemic sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder of the connective tissue affecting the skin, arteries, and visceral organs such as lungs and kidneys.
The theory behind these findings is that foreign material of the mesh and silicone implants causes an activation of the immune system. The body continues to fight the “invader” and over time autoimmunity develops.
Emerging form of breast implant-related cancer on the rise
Individuals with breast implants are also at risk of developing breast implant large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL. BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer but a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
In most cases BIA-ALCL is found in fluid and scar tissue near the implant, however there are cases where it spreads throughout the body.
The FDA states, “At this time, most data suggest that BIA-ALCL occurs more frequently following implantation of breast implants with textured surfaces rather than those with smooth surfaces.”
Plastic surgeons have identified 615 cases of BIA-ALCL worldwide with the disease occurring at higher rates among women with textured implants. French authorities have recommended against the use of textured implants due to the cancer risk.
At present, however, the risks are difficult to determine due to significant limitations in world-wide reporting and lack of data.
Lax reporting rules at fault for lack of patient awareness
Prior to 2017 the FDA allowed breast implant companies to report breast implant injuries as routine events that did not require public disclosure. This effectively kept the information from the public and may have skewed opinions on the safety of using them.
In 2017 reporting rules were changed and reports of injuries soared. At the current rate, they are slated to increase more than 20-fold in the last two years from the previous two-year period.
According to an ICIJ analysis of FDA data, after the rule change the number of suspected breast implant injuries skyrocketed from 200 a year to more than 4,500 in 2017 alone.
In just the first half of 2018, that number almost doubled to more than 8,000 filed reports.
The increase in reports doesn’t mean implants are suddenly going bad but that they may never have been as safe as patients were told in the first place.
The FDA has acknowledged a “transparency issue” regarding the undisclosed injury reports and that the increase in numbers reflected the change in reporting rules.
Changing the system to better protect breast implant recipients
The FDA warns that as many as one in five women who receive breast implants will get them removed within a decade due to complications such as rupture, deflation, and painful contraction of scar tissue around the implant, but currently there is no warning about autoimmunity.
The good news is that in response to the new information, the FDA and agencies around the world acknowledge that more research needs to be done to determine the autoimmune and cancer risks of implants.
While current studies do not prove breast implants cause these diseases, they do show that women with the implants suffer them at significantly higher rates than women without implants.
It’s proposed that bacterial infection of a biofilm that surrounds the implants is the likely cause of implant-related illness, including BIA-ALCL.
Patient advocates propose rules requiring breast implants to be sold with “black box” label warnings, which are reserved for life-threatening and other serious risks.
Undoubtedly, it will take much larger and longer studies to root out the details and bring about protective actions, and in the meantime, doctors and patients need to have deeper conversations about the benefits and risks of silicone breast implants.
Have you ever wanted to know everything there is to know about your thyroid? This 7-part video series will cover thyroid lab testing, nutrition and infections that affect the thyroid, toxins, thyroid hormone conversion, lifestyle, and adrenal interplay.