Research shows that high levels of the EDC bisphenol A (BPA) are often found in adolescents and adults with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), compared to those who don't suffer from the syndrome. BPA is an industrial chemical used in the production of plastics and resins, like the ones used to store cosmetics. Women with PCOS should be concerned about their continuous exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, as frequent exposure can exacerbate this hormonal issue.
Certain endocrine disrupting chemicals have also been associated with PCOS in daughters born to women with high levels of BPA. As discussed in Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 101, pregnancy is a sensitive window for EDC exposure because the developing baby is vulnerable to hormonal changes.
However safe they may look, your personal care products may contain endocrine disruptors. Just because they're vegan, organic, and cruelty-free, doesn't necessarily mean they don’t contain endocrine disrupting chemicals.
In this article, we'll explain a bit more about the role of EDCs in PCOS – and what you can do to prevent these substances from altering your hormonal balance.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common and highly prevalent endocrine disorder in women. The condition is known to cause menstrual irregularities, as well as cysts on one or both ovaries. Other symptoms include:
- Skin tags
- Abnormal hair growth
- Hair thinning or hair loss
- Weight gain
Research from 2013 suggests that PCOS affects 5% to 10% of females ranging from 18 to 44 years old. This makes it the most common endocrine issue among women of reproductive age in the United States. The syndrome affects about 10 million people across the globe, according to the PCOS Awareness Association.
Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, the exposure to EDCs may contribute to the worsening of symptoms, or even the development of the syndrome in a developing female in utero.
What Are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)?
EDCs are substances that mimic the natural activity of hormones. Because they essentially "mess" with hormones, EDCs prevent our hormones from doing their job when it comes to regulating biological functions. As a reminder, hormones work by regulating every single function of your body, from sleep to fertility.
As PCOS nutrition and health expert Angela Grassi puts it, "EDCs are everywhere in our environment, including the containers that hold the food that we eat and bottles that contain beverages we drink. They are even in our daily shampoo and the toys our children play with."
According to a 2015 study that associates PCOS to EDCs, EDCs could either favor PCOS development in genetically predisposed individuals, or aggravate the natural course of the syndrome throughout life cycle exposure. By disrupting the natural processes of your body, EDCs may cause your system to over or under-produce hormones – which explains the range of ensuing symptoms.
How Do EDCs Contribute to PCOS?
The same 2015 study has found substantial evidence of the hormonal disruption of EDCs from in vitro and animal studies. Their findings have associated EDCs to instigators of reproductive and metabolic abnormalities, all of which resemble PCOS characteristics.
Frequent exposure to EDCs is also known to affect fertility. A study gathering 239 women found that those with higher BPA exposure had a 17% pregnancy rate, as opposed to the other 54% of women who got pregnant with the lowest exposure.
When compared to reproductively healthy adults and adolescents, higher BPA concentrations are observed in women with PCOS. This implies a potential role of this EDC in PCOS pathophysiology. In addition, EDCs have been linked to increasing levels of estrogen and testosterone, weight gain, and glucose metabolism.
Managing EDCs and PCOS
As with a number of syndromes, lifestyle changes are at the core of polycystic ovary syndrome relief.
Although it's impossible to get rid of EDC exposure for good, it's advisable to reduce that exposure as much as you can. Especially if you're a pregnant woman, or a woman with PCOS-related fertility issues.
For the purposes of this article, we'd advise you against using cosmetics that may contain endocrine disrupting chemicals.
At Oliver, we want to protect your hormonal health by creating products that are free of all known or suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals. We only package in glass containers to avoid BPA exposure, and we never include ingredients that mess with your hormones. If you’d like to see the EDC ingredients we’ll never use in our products, we’ve listed them for you here - endocrine disrupting ingredient's we'll never use.