Estrogen in Meat, Dairy, & Eggs

Estrogen in Meat, Dairy, & Eggs
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The sex steroids found naturally in animal products likely exceed the hormonal impacts of endocrine-disrupting chemical pollutants.

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Recent observed feminization of aquatic animals has raised concerns about estrogenic compounds in water supplies and the potential for these chemicals to reach drinking water. While much attention has been focused on the environmental impacts of xenoestrogens, the endocrine-disrupting industrial pollutants, relatively little research has examined the ecological consequences of environmental loading of actual estrogens. This is somewhat surprising, given that the potency of some estrogens can be thousands of times more estrogenic than typical endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Estradiol, for example, is at least 10,000 times more potent than most xenoestrogens, and dietary exposure to natural sex steroids (in meat, dairy, and eggs) is therefore highly relevant in the discussion of the impact of estrogens on human development and health. And chicken estrogen is identical to human estrogen—they’re identical molecules. So it doesn’t matter if it ends up in our drinking supply from women taking birth control pills excreting it in their urine, or cows excreting it into their milk. The source doesn’t matter; the quantity does.

And a child’s exposure to estrogens in drinking water is about 150 times lower than exposure from cow’s milk, so our day-to-day estrogen exposure levels are more likely determined by whether or not we happen to eat dairy products that day.

Human urine is often cited as the main source of natural and synthetic estrogens in the aquatic environment, but the level of estrogen even in the urine of heavy meateaters, who have significantly higher levels, pales in comparison to the estrogens excreted by the farm animals themselves. Pig, sheep, cattle, and chickens produce literally tons of estrogen every year.

Women may excrete 16 mcg every day, but farm animals may release 10 times more, or in the case of pregnant cows, thousands of times more. Animal waste may contribute an estimated 90% of total estrogens in the environment. Five gallons of runoff water contaminated with chicken manure may contain a birth control pill’s worth of estrogen.

Estrogen levels in poultry litter are so high that when farmers feed chicken manure to their animals to save on feed costs, it may trigger premature development. Poultry manure has among the highest hormone content, quadruple the total estrogens, and nine times more 17 beta-estradiol, the most potent estrogen, which can be considered a complete carcinogen, as it exerts both tumor-initiating and tumor-promoting effects.

Who cares, though? From a human health standpoint, do we really care about feminized fish, or the appearance of intersex cockroaches? The problem is that the hormones get into our food supply. Endogenous steroid hormones in foods of animal origin are unavoidable as they occur naturally in these products.

It’s not a matter of injected hormones, which are banned in places like Europe in order to protect consumers’ health. They are part of animal metabolism, and so as a matter of fact, all foodstuffs of animal origin contain steroid hormones, and the presence of hormones in food has been connected with several human health problems, which we’ll look into next.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

 

Images thanks to staci myers via Flickr.

Recent observed feminization of aquatic animals has raised concerns about estrogenic compounds in water supplies and the potential for these chemicals to reach drinking water. While much attention has been focused on the environmental impacts of xenoestrogens, the endocrine-disrupting industrial pollutants, relatively little research has examined the ecological consequences of environmental loading of actual estrogens. This is somewhat surprising, given that the potency of some estrogens can be thousands of times more estrogenic than typical endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Estradiol, for example, is at least 10,000 times more potent than most xenoestrogens, and dietary exposure to natural sex steroids (in meat, dairy, and eggs) is therefore highly relevant in the discussion of the impact of estrogens on human development and health. And chicken estrogen is identical to human estrogen—they’re identical molecules. So it doesn’t matter if it ends up in our drinking supply from women taking birth control pills excreting it in their urine, or cows excreting it into their milk. The source doesn’t matter; the quantity does.

And a child’s exposure to estrogens in drinking water is about 150 times lower than exposure from cow’s milk, so our day-to-day estrogen exposure levels are more likely determined by whether or not we happen to eat dairy products that day.

Human urine is often cited as the main source of natural and synthetic estrogens in the aquatic environment, but the level of estrogen even in the urine of heavy meateaters, who have significantly higher levels, pales in comparison to the estrogens excreted by the farm animals themselves. Pig, sheep, cattle, and chickens produce literally tons of estrogen every year.

Women may excrete 16 mcg every day, but farm animals may release 10 times more, or in the case of pregnant cows, thousands of times more. Animal waste may contribute an estimated 90% of total estrogens in the environment. Five gallons of runoff water contaminated with chicken manure may contain a birth control pill’s worth of estrogen.

Estrogen levels in poultry litter are so high that when farmers feed chicken manure to their animals to save on feed costs, it may trigger premature development. Poultry manure has among the highest hormone content, quadruple the total estrogens, and nine times more 17 beta-estradiol, the most potent estrogen, which can be considered a complete carcinogen, as it exerts both tumor-initiating and tumor-promoting effects.

Who cares, though? From a human health standpoint, do we really care about feminized fish, or the appearance of intersex cockroaches? The problem is that the hormones get into our food supply. Endogenous steroid hormones in foods of animal origin are unavoidable as they occur naturally in these products.

It’s not a matter of injected hormones, which are banned in places like Europe in order to protect consumers’ health. They are part of animal metabolism, and so as a matter of fact, all foodstuffs of animal origin contain steroid hormones, and the presence of hormones in food has been connected with several human health problems, which we’ll look into next.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

 

Images thanks to staci myers via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

What kind of human health effects? Check out the sequel, my next video: Why Do Vegan Women Have 5x Fewer Twins?

What effects might these female hormones have on men? See Dairy Estrogen and Male Fertility.

The implications of this relatively new practice of milking cows even when they’re pregnant is further explored in:

More on xenoestrogens in:

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

82 responses to “Estrogen in Meat, Dairy, & Eggs

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  1. In addition to fish having gender confusion, could estrogens in meat and other foods also lead to more cancer, particularly estrogen sensitive cancers? If so, what can be done to prevent this. I understand that even plastic water bottles contain estrogens. Perhaps we should avoid these.




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    1. Yes. Search Diethylstilbestrol (DES) on the net. You’ll find DES Daughters and DES Sons. It took the former years to get the CDC to admit DES was causing their diseases.




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    2. Yes and we should also avoid chicken wings, because that’s where the growth hormones are injected, and those cause tumors in the femal organs. Plastic bottles are the cause of infertility and a lower IQ in children.




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      1. Chicken in USA is not injected with hormone, only Cattles do.
        Technically, cattle it is not “injected” with hormones, but by using “implant” under the ear. This implant give a steady slow release of estrogen hormone which promote growth in the cattles.




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  2. Since I stopped eating dairy last summer my periods have gotten lighter and easier. I am assuming this is related? Anyway the deterioration of our food supply makes me angry, and here is another example. Ugh.




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  3. Isn’t it sad (and ironic) to see people eating a paleo diet and avoiding soy because of beneficial plant estrogen,but they’ll gladly consume the real stuff?

    Why don’t animal products come with warning labels like you see on the packages of pharmaceutical drugs?




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    1. It’s obvious because the question of their detrimental effects is far from decided.

      Take dairy, for example, you can find studies which say it is bad for you (can promote cancer etc.) And you can find studies which actually say dairy prevents cancer.

      It depends on your bias what to believe.




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        1. Here are just a few examples

          ‘Kefir extracts suppress in vitro proliferation of estrogen-dependent human breast cancer cells but not normal mammary epithelial cells.’ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17887934

          ‘Fat from different foods show diverging relations with breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.’ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16573374

          ‘Cultured milk, yogurt, and dairy intake in relation to bladder cancer risk in a prospective study of Swedish women and men.’ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18842797

          ‘Propionibacteria induce apoptosis of colorectal carcinoma cells via short-chain fatty acids acting on mitochondria.’
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11840168




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          1. The common theme in these studies seems to be when the milk is fermented it shows benefit either by association or in vitro. Perhaps this may be a function of the bacteria rather then the dairy itself being protective. In the abstract of it is stated that “Unfermented milk extracts stimulated proliferation of MCF-7 cells and HMECs ” which leads me to this conclusion. Perhaps the positive change in gut flora may account for these attributions. Short chain fatty acids are already produced by the bacteria in our gut if a healthy flora is present. I would still not count out the effects of saturated fat and trans fat (from kefir) as well as the IGF-1 raising effects of dairy itself. I doubt that the fermentation would negate this. Either way, it is interesting to note the effect of fermentation on foods.




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            1. i think we can at least conclude that the safest dairy products are low-fat fermented ones which have been consumed traditionally in some cultures like kefir. It resembles the situation with soy products where it appears fermented ones like tempeh are safer and better than not fermented.
              Any food has its bad and good sides. I don’t think demonizing any food is a good idea.




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              1. The difference is, soy is good either way. Food is a package deal, and its important to recognize good components and bad ones and weigh it out. Dairy is overall harmful, and even if fermented, the IGF-1 raising effects of dairy are not negated.
                http://nutritionfacts.org/video/igf-1-as-one-stop-cancer-shop/

                In addition, we really don’t know what the in vivo effects are in terms of xenoestrogens. Perhaps when consumed, digested and absorbed, the xenostregens are more pronounced then when pure Keir is dripped on cells. The studies you provided are extremely limited in scope so extrapolating too much from them is unwise and difficult.




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                1. >soy is good either way

                  It is VERY controversial. You can find studies supporting pros and cons about soy.

                  A great lot of science backing the videos on the site is based on such ‘in vitro’ studies with a petri dish, you know that. And a lot of respective conclusions are drawn from such studies. So, as I said in the above post it depends on your bias what to believe.

                  If we don’t follow any vegan agenda and really want to help people get comprehensive information about health nutrition (not vegan nutrition) then we should at least mention such studies about products we tend to demonize like dairy etc. as well as we ought to provide various views on soy because there are many conflicting study results about it.




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                  1. The negative effects of soy are generally found in studies involving soy isolates / soy protein concentrates, such as hydrolyzed soy protein. This is where the “whole” in “whole-food, plant-based diet” becomes important.

                    Women consuming the most soy products have a
                    lower risk of breast cancer recurrence, according to a new study published in
                    the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

                    Kang X, Zhang Q, Wang
                    S, Huang X, Jin S. Effect of soy isoflavones on breast cancer recurrence and
                    death for patients receiving adjuvant endocrine therapy. CMAJ. Published ahead of print October 18, 2010:
                    doi:10.1503/cmaj.091298.

                    A study in this
                    month’s Journal of the Academy of
                    Nutrition and Dietetics shows that soy products have a marked
                    anti-inflammatory effect. Researchers examined the diets and measures of
                    inflammation in 1,005 middle-aged Chinese women who were part of the Shanghai
                    Women’s Health Study.

                    The
                    more soy products the women consumed, the less inflammation they experienced. Inflammation
                    is linked to cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

                    Wu SH, Shu XO, Chow
                    WH, et al. Soy food intake and circulating levels of inflammatory markers in
                    Chinese Women. J Acad Nutr Diet.
                    2012;112:996-1004.

                    A new study looking
                    at more than 1,500 Asian-American women living in California and Hawaii showed
                    that those with the highest intake of soy during childhood (younger than 12
                    years old) had a 60 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer later in
                    life. Regular soy consumption in adolescence (12 to 19 years old) and adulthood
                    (20 years old and older) also had a protective effect but with 20 and 25
                    percent reductions in risk, respectively.1

                    Korde LA, Wu AH, Fears T, et al. Childhood soy
                    intake and breast cancer risk in Asian American women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009;18:OF1-OF10.




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                  2. unf, the evidence in regards to soy is complete and coherent. Soy is beneficial. You can find many studies showing this. The controversy lies in the media and misinformed individuals, not the evidence.
                    http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=soy
                    Also, your response does not address my main point, that being, food is a package deal. There is good and bad, and bad outweighs the good for dairy products due to a variety of reasons. Fermentation from bacteria may be helpful, but it does not negate the negative consequences of consuming this food (i.e. IGF-1)




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                    1. Toxins
                      you are absolutely right about soy. Controversy created is by the American Dairy Association.
                      To me it appears that they have some people like unf to keep controversy going. NIH has study going to see
                      if consumption of soy reduces risk of breast cancer while there are blogs talking about estrogenic effects of soy
                      may increase the risk.




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                    2. Thank you Toxins for providing the links.
                      I will save them for some of patients who still believe benefit of Soy are still controversial.




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                    3. unf13
                      thanks for sharing the link.I advise my patients to limit soy servings to 5 per day. that appears safe
                      by most studies.




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                2. I am wondering if the IGF-1 in dairy, is the same growth hormone touted in the growth hormones they sell to help you lose weight, gain more muscle, and extend longevity.




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                3. not long ago soy was for cows not humans. We now know that the “natural estrogens” are not all positive. We also know that unfermented soy has other compounds best avoided. but thats for you to read up, not me to beat my head against you to believe.

                  As for your seeming “natural is good” blindness. I got as list for that! 1001 natural poisons, some of them extremely painful but unfortunately slow.




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                  1. Please view the linked videos. Human studies have shown benefit in amounts that are normally consumed (3-5 servings). Please provide studies if you have disagreements with the studies provided.




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  4. my problem is getting enough calcium on a vegan diet. I don’t want to eat artificial dairy products or artificial yogurts full of sugar or non dairy milks with horrible ingredients. I know greens are great but there are only so many I can eat in a day :( I do soak almonds and make a glass of almond milk daily and eat a serving of greens daily but otherwise I cannot say my vegan diet is full of calcium :(




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    1. brit: Many tofus are set using calcium. So, tofu can be a great source of calcium. Just another suggestion for you.

      I am guessing that you are concerned about calcium because you are concerned about your bones. There is no doubt that calcium is important. However, by focusing so much on calcium, some cultures have lost the point: that bone health is *far* more complicated than just how much calcium one takes in. Bone health is a matter of how much of all the bone minerals one takes in, plus how much we avoid “calcium thieves” (a term in the book “Becoming Vegan”), and how much weight bearing exercise we get.

      To make sure you balance out the various factors for bone health, I highly recommend one or both of these resources:
      1) Becoming Vegan – Express Edition by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melaina (a great overall reference book)
      and/or
      2) Building Bone Vitality: A Revolutionary Diet Plan to Prevent Bone Loss and Reverse Osteoporosis–Without Dairy Foods, Calcium, Estrogen, or Drugs (wonderful book focusing solely on bone health)

      If you are interested, here are the links to buy the books:

      http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Vegan-Express-Plant-based-Nutrition/dp/1570672954/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419465869&sr=1-1&keywords=becoming+vegan+brenda+davis

      http://www.amazon.com/Building-Bone-Vitality-Revolutionary-Osteoporosis–Without/dp/0071600191/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419465810&sr=1-1&keywords=building+bone+vitality

      I hope that helps and good luck!




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      1. Personally, I rather survive on 300mg of calcium rather than consume tofu or dairy…
        Better to take plant calcium supplements if you are worried about more calcium but I suggest also considering
        other items like D3,K2,zinc,B12 and iodine if you consume little salt.




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        1. Richard: Personally, I wasn’t much of a tofu fan myself when I first started trying to eat healthy. But I’ve come to like it a lot in many dishes.

          re: dairy – I certainly wasn’t recommending that!




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          1. I did not say anything about the taste of tofu….sugar taste great to most people also, should we all eat more of it? I ate loads of tofu in Japan and China but in the US I would stick to fermented soy…




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      2. excessive calcium in the diet (suppliment pills) reported by Dr Weil in a book to have caused a chemical psychosis, woman would have been put on pharma but they cut the suppliment and she remitted.




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    2. Calcium needs for humans are not as high as the DRI may recommend, and if we consumed a low sodium diet low in animal protein, our calcium needs can be as low as 450 mg per day as discussed more extensively in this article from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. As represented in the figure below, and citing from the article “In a western-style diet, absorbed calcium matches urinary and skin calcium at an intake of 840 mg as in Figure 14. Reducing animal protein intakes by 40 g reduces the intercept [calcium balance] value and requirement to 600 mg. Reducing both sodium and protein reduces the intercept value to 450 mg.”

      http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/Y2809E/y2809e0h.htm#bm17

      Eating beans, greens, veggies, and tubers can provide quite a bit of calcium!




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    3. Sesame and poppy seeds have probably the highest calcium amount. But it also depends on what RDI you believe is right. The official 1000 mg or the possible 450 mg as Toxins pointed out.
      450 mg looks achievable to me. Otherwise a supplement is a way to go.
      Unless you a chimp eating all day long it’s highly doubtful that you can get a 1000 mg from greens.




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    4. you get but dont metabolize enough kali. check vit D levels. i use 5000i.u. daily for osteoporosis (medically induced btw) maybe even some o.t.c. vit K but DO NOT use the HUGE dose prescription pills. they will set your bllod to concrete. they are special situation use for hemop[hiliacs.




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    1. they get into raptor birds far far from civilization, along with our phamaceuticals… somewhere down the food chain from the hawk and eagle theres a plant…




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  5. So I eat, drink low fat dairy for calcium, and I love cheese. Had my hormones checked and I am normal/low estrogen, low testosterone. What’s up?




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    1. If you’re concerned about the “low normal” levels, a healthy exercise program can help increase levels of certain reproductive hormones. If you’re wondering why your levels aren’t higher than normal given your diet, this could be simply because our bodies have regulatory systems in place to keep hormone levels within a specific range. If your consuming a significant amount of a hormone your body’s own production of that hormone may decrease as a result.




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      1. my traditional chineese doc laughs when I mention “normal” levels. I learned to laugh a bit too after discussing other peoples levels well into normal to admirable but still sick as a dog regarding hepatitis. liver tests fine, liver dying.




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  6. I have a question. Do these animal estrogens and hormones in Milk get converted to simpler compounds when you make yogurt at home from organic milk?




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  7. can going vegan mess with your hormones? there are a lot of hormones in the meat, dairy, and eggs I ate and now I no longer eat them. I’ve been vegan since august 2014. My skin is breaking out horribly on my back chest and face and I’m having hot flashes. I was on Byaz birth control and now I’m on Camres but things seem to be getting worse. All my doctor wants to do is keep trying new birth controls and of course is trying to give me the “vegan is bad” talk every time I see her. I refuse to quit my vegan diet, but I do not know what to do about my crazy hormones. advice?




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    1. Hi shayna, Thanks for your question. it is hard to say how your new diet is impacting hormone levels. A whole foods plant-based diet certainly has lots of fiber, which can modulate hormones. Generally, this is a good thing and women eating fiber-rich diets tend to have several health benefits. Is the main concern is dealing with the hot flashes and acne? Was this not a concern before August 2014? I am afraid I have more questions than answers, I’m sorry. Are their specific reasons why your doctor is saying the a vegan diet is bad? That is a very general statement. I feel all diets have the potential to be “bad”. I’ll check with one of our star volunteer doctor’s to see if she has further input. Maybe some of these videos can help in the meantime on hot flashes and acne.

      Best regards,
      Joseph




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    2. Hi shayna, Thanks for your question. it is hard to say how your new diet is impacting hormone levels. A whole foods plant-based diet certainly has lots of fiber, which can modulate hormones. Generally, this is a good thing and women eating fiber-rich diets tend to have several health benefits. Is the main concern is dealing with the hot flashes and acne? Was this not a concern before August 2014? I am afraid I have more questions than answers, I’m sorry. Are their specific reasons why your doctor is saying the a vegan diet is bad? That is a very general statement. I feel all diets have the potential to be “bad”. I’ll check with one of our star volunteer doctor’s to see if she has further input. Maybe some of these videos can help in the meantime on hot flashes and acne.

      Best regards,
      Joseph




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    1. cows are fed zinc and chickens are fed arsenic. look thqat up while your steaming over industrial food. And then realize where all the phosphate fertilizer to mine vegies (even organic asllows rock phosphate) comes from. Its all radioactive because when those phosphorous containing organisms were laying it down, the natural radioactives fit well in the latice. I learned this from conversing with someone who just happened to be setting next to me and we started a discussion wherein I learned a bit of what a crystalographer knows about other things. coral also…go organic if you care to be clean ethically morally and bodily. but puleeeeze dont fall for tghe newage stupid that all “natural” is benisn. Cyanide from apples can kill you. dont eat a potato leaf, and ouch if you eat the eyes! mother nature can be a bitch. Ask Kali!




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    1. From what I’ve read, estrogen works in fish differently than mammals and birds and isn’t in as high concentrations (take that with a grain of salt) However what you definitely have to worry about in fish and sea food is their high levels of MERCURY and other toxins that are bioaccumulated and can lead to memory loss (even dementia), hair loss, and many other health problems if consumed regularly.




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    2. Good question.

      And how do we know if xeno-estrogen and natural estrogen have the same effect on fish and insect?
      I think it is premature to say that natural estrogen causing all of these. I’m quite skeptical, because Organic natural estrogen breaks down quickly in the soil and water, unlike man-made chemical based Xeno-estrogen which may take years or decades to breakdown… we don’t even know how long it takes for plastics to breakdown?




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  8. I’ve been eating 3-4 complete eggs daily for about three months. My LDL “bad cholesterol” dropped to 82 (from 120), BUT my estradial level jumped to 51. That’s about 30 points higher than ideal for a mature man. Any ideas anyone?




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    1. Great article
      Science made alot of assumptions, they simply assumed if you eat estrogen you raise your estrogen level. Forgetting the fact that estrogen hormone from one species may be different from another species. And whether or not the body actually use the estrogen.




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  9. I am wondering how these levels of estrogen may be/are affecting my daughter who was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. I’d like to do something for her other than just say “take this hormone for the rest of your life or until it gets bad enough your thyroid dies.”
    Does anyone have other recommendations for Hashimoto’s help? I’ve ordered the Hashimoto’s Protocol book recently….




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  10. First of all, you’re measuring Estrogen from animal piss and poo not the meat itself. Why not? Why test the piss when the meat is there for the testing?

    Second, Organic estrogen breaks down quickly when exposed to oxygen and soil microbes. The same way as proteins decompose in soil.

    Third, Estrogen measured in drinking water is XENO-estrogen not organic estrogen, why?? Read my second point again!

    Fourth, IF animal poop and piss cause the estrogenization of our water and feminization of fish, AAAAALL fish would’ve turned female alooooooong time ago. Land animals have existed for millions of years on planet Earth, they have been pissing and pooping looooooooooong before humanity came along and domesticate them in farm.

    There were estimated 60 millions Buffalos (where do their piss and poop went? Did aquatic lives turned feminized in 16th century?) before white men arrived in N. America continent, and they are staple food for American Indians. And NO, American Indian men are not feminized from eating Buffalo meat.




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  11. If Chicken estrogen is identical to human’s estrogen, how do they know if the estrogen found in drinking water came from chickens or humans?
    There are 7 billions of humans on the planet you know?




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  12. I don’t get it, if you go back 1000’s of years ago before humans engage in animal farming. There were millions of animals roaming freely on Earth, they are pooping and peeing everywhere. The difference between 1000s of years ago and today is, there are more humans on Earth and those animals living in the farm rather than the wild. What happened to the animal’s excrement and the estrogen content back then?

    And how do we know if natural estrogen have the same effect as xeno-estrogen from man-made chemical? or not?




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