They may have been created to make our lives easier, but perfluorocarbons (PFCs) have ended up harming us at least as much as helping. Used in many manufacturing applications, PFCs make your cookware nonstick, your paint glide on smoothly, and your rug stain resistant. But the latest study on these chemicals has found that greater exposure to them may cause women to begin menopause years earlier.
The research, which took place at the West Virginia University School of Medicine1 in Morgantown, had nearly 26,000 participants, all women between the ages of 18 and 65. They were part of a larger study, the C8 Health Project, which included people affected by PFC contamination from a chemical plant in the Parkersburg, West Virginia area between 2005 and 2006.
The volunteers for this study were questioned about their menstruation and menopause, and then blood samples were taken. The blood was tested to determine the amount of two different forms of PFC: perfluoroctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluoroctanate (PFOA).
Unsurprisingly, the women who were between 42 and 64 years old with the highest levels of PFCs were also the ones with the earliest onset of menopause. The median age for the onset of menopause is 51 among typical women. The women in the study who were between 42 and 51 years old who had the highest levels of PFCs in their blood were 40 percent more likely to have entered menopause than their counterparts with lower PFC levels.
Premature menopause with an onset before the age of 40 has been shown to increase the risk of developing heart disease and osteoporosis. In addition, the loss of estrogen that accompanies menopause puts women at greater risk for colon and ovarian cancer, periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cataract formation.
One of the forms of PFC studied, PFOS, influences the level of a particular naturally-occurring estrogen hormone called estradiol. Higher levels of PFOS mean lower levels of estradiol. And when estradiol levels fall off, menopause begins.
But early menopause is not the only problem associated with high levels of PFCs. PFCs are part of a larger category of something called xenoestrogens. These are mostly petroleum-based synthetic estrogens that are now pervasive throughout our food chain, water supply, and environment. The body’s estrogen receptor sites are just as happy to accept these far more potent estrogens as they are the ones actually created by nature.
Problems begin when abnormally high levels of estrogen — pushed up the presence of xenoestrogens — leads to continuous, unrestrained cell stimulation. Just a few of the unsettling issues that can arise are endometrial cancer (of which excess estrogen is the only known cause), increased risk of breast cancer, elevated risk of autoimmune disorders such as lupus, fibroid tumors, depression, and many more.
In order to balance out excessive levels of estrogen in the body (either natural or synthetic), you need progesterone. A physician can prescribe a synthetic progesterone, but that creates more problems than it resolves, including depression, birth defects, increased body hair, acne, and risk of embolism, to name a few.
Natural progesterone, on the other hand, presents no known side effects. Typically administered transdermally in a cream form, natural progesterone may improve bone formation by 15 to 35 percent. And the benefits don’t end there. Progesterone may help protect against endometrial and breast cancers, relieve symptoms of PMS, improve the body fat profile, and normalize libido.
Considering our ceaseless exposure to the multitude of xenoestrogens such as PFCs now omnipresent in our food, water supply, clothing, cookware — everything — supplementation with natural progesterone makes sense for women, no matter your age or menstrual status. With tremendous potential benefits and virtually no risks, supplementing with natural progesterone is one of the smartest things any woman can do for her body.
1 Knox, Sarah S.; Jackson, Timothy; Javins, Beth; Frisbee, Stephanie J.; Shankar, Anoop; Ducatman, Alan M. “Implications of Early Menopause in Women Exposed to Perfluorocarbons.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metobolism. 16 March 2011. The Endocrine Society. 29 March 2011. <http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/jc.2010-2401v1>.