How BPA Impacts PCOS and Infertility (And What To Do About It)

Women with PCOS have higher levels of BPA. Learn how to decrease exposure to this estrogenic chemical.

What is BPA?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an environmental endocrine disruptor with estrogenic activity commonly found in plastics, water bottles, canned goods, receipts, and the packaging of our personal care products.

Research shows that BPA exposure alters the functioning of our reproductive, metabolic, and neuroendocrine systems. Specifically, even low levels of exposure have been linked to increased triglycerides, cholesterol, insulin resistance, and infertility. Sperm concentrations are continually decreasing, and evidence shows BPA may be contributing.

How Does BPA Affect PCOS?

PCOS is the leading cause of female anovulatory infertility. It also puts us at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.

A systematic review and meta-analysis reviewed 9 studies with a total of 493 women with PCOS and 440 women without PCOS as the control group. The researchers found that women with PCOS had increased amounts of BPA in their bodies. Eight of these studies assessed BPA in blood while one study assessed follicular fluid. These higher BPA levels were also associated with insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism (increased androgenic hormones like testosterone, body/facial hair, acne, etc).

So, what can we do about this? We can start with reducing exposure in our homes.

Steps to Reducing BPA Exposure

  1. Switch to glass containers instead of plastic. Even if a plastic container says “BPA-free” there are other chemicals used instead, so glass is altogether safer.
  2. Say no to receipts. If you work with receipts often, wear gloves.
  3. Limit canned goods. Most canned goods can be found in other forms of packaging.
  4. Switch to safer personal care products that are BPA-free.
How to Reduce BPA Exposure for Infertility and PCOS

What Do Personal Care Products Have to do with BPA?

BPA-polymers are known to be used in some cosmetic products, and more readily, in cosmetic containers. BPA in plastic containers can leach into our cosmetics, especially over time and when heated, thus further exposing ourselves through our skin. Much of what we put on our skin is absorbed and enters our bloodstream.

The cosmetic industry in both Canada and the U.S. is quite unregulated. Even though ~600 chemicals are banned from cosmetics here in Canada, Health Canada does not thoroughly check that each product on the market is compliant to the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, unless a request is made. According to the Government of Canada’s website, “Health Canada will prioritize compliance and enforcement in response to the level of risk posed by a product and any complaints/incidents received.” PS. in the U.S., only ~30 of these chemicals are banned!

What do I use to avoid BPA?

I feel confident using BeautyCounter cosmetics because they are a certified B corporation and exclude over 1,800 harmful and questionable chemicals from all their cosmetics, skincare, and all packaging, too! BPA is on this ‘Never List’. They also ensure all products are tested for heavy metals and then make this data available for the public. Transparency is critical in an unregulated industry, such as cosmetics.

For the month of July, everyone new to BeautyCounter can get 20% off almost all products using the code CLEANFORALL20.

20% off BeautyCounter products for month of July

Email me if you would like guidance finding the right product for you.

In health,

Dr. Dylan Cutler, Ph.D.

Cosmetics and Skincare Products Are Health Hazards

We pay a lot of attention to what we put in our bodies, but what about everything that goes on our bodies?

Many commercial cosmetics and skincare products cause health problems, including cancers. These are absorbed through our largest organ, the skin. On average, women use products containing 168 ingredients a day.

As consumers we must protect the health and safety of us and our loved ones. We pay a lot of attention to what we put IN our bodies, but not much thought goes in to what we put ON our bodies.

What we put on our bodies, goes in our bodies.

Did you know that the European Union has banned or restricted the use of 1400 ingredients from products, while in the U.S. only 30 are banned?!

Cosmetics and Skincare are Harmful for Our Health

This means that in North America we are on our own in protecting ourselves from these harmful products.

To see which dangerous products you and your family are using, I encourage you to check your products’ safety at Environmental Working Group.org . A quick search of any product in the database will pull up its safety rating, why it’s received that rating, and what it is doing to you.

Fortunately I discovered BeautyCounter a year ago (I wish I had sooner!). These products are rigorously tested for safety and high-quality.

Cosmetics and Skincare are Harmful for Our Health

During my doctoral studies I was shocked to learn some scary information regarding environmental exposures and our health. I had no idea that everyday products, like shampoo, body wash, lotions, lipstick, etc., were likely impacting my hormones, periods, fertility, mood, metabolism, and increasing my risk of cancers (Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2012).

Especially as a woman with PCOS, my endocrine and reproductive systems are already in overdrive just to function. Then I was throwing in endocrine-disrupting chemicals which wreak hormonal havoc (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2011).

I actually feel angry just thinking about the widespread use of these chemical-laden products, without any public education, discourse, or even warning labels.

BeautyCounter provides me with comfort knowing I am using safer products. They exclude 1800 ingredients which have shown to be harmful, or don’t yet have enough data to be sure. As a result, I’ve recently become a BeautyCounter consultant.

We believe in:

  • educating the public with evidence-based science,
  • urging governments to increase beauty industry regulations, and
  • producing safer products which don’t compromise quality

Shop BeautyCounter Here

Cosmetics and Skincare Products Are Harmful

If you have any questions or would like to chat about BeautyCounter and our safer skincare and cosmetics, feel free to email me at drdylancutler@gmail.com.

In health,

Dr. Dylan Cutler, PhD

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Top 3 Supplements for PCOS

Find out which three supplements Dr. Cutler recommends the most frequently for her clients with PCOS, and why.

FAQ: What supplements Should I take for PCOS?

This is one of my most frequently asked questions from women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in my private practice and on social media. My answer will depend on the type of PCOS you have, your symptoms, your lifestyle, possible deficiencies, and other factors. However, there are three supplements that come out on top in terms of high-quality research, benefits, and little likelihood of harm.

It is important to state that managing PCOS is complex and therefore requires a combination of supplements and lifestyle changes. As their name implies, supplements are merely a ‘supplement’ to a healthy lifestyle grounded in sound nutrition, daily movement, adequate sleep and rest, stress management, a support network, and mindset work.

MAGNESIUM

Women with PCOS are up to 19 times more likely to be deficient in magnesium than the rest of the population. While we’re not sure why this is, it is concerning because low levels of magnesium can increase our risk of type 2 diabetes. Women with PCOS are already at increased risk of developing diabetes!

During my PhD I published a clinical study in Food Science & Nutrition which assessed dietary intake in women with and without PCOS. One of the findings was that magnesium intake was decreased in women with insulin-resistant PCOS. Also, the more magnesium that women with PCOS consumed, the lower their testosterone and inflammation were.

Supplementing can benefit in several ways. There is plenty of research on the benefits of magnesium for the general population which may also apply for PCOS. Studies have shown magnesium can help address insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, reduce anxiety, improve PMS symptoms, and lower blood pressure. These are all commonly seen and experienced by women with PCOS.

Natural Calm Magnesium Iced Tea
Photo by Dylan Cutler

I supplement with Natural Calm magnesium citrate to ensure I am consuming enough magnesium each day. The raspberry-lemon flavor makes a delicious hot or iced tea (recipe here)! The recommended daily amount of magnesium for a women over 19 is 320 mg a day.

Omega-3

Along with the brain and mood-boosting benefits that omega-3 fats are known for, like reducing anxiety and depression (previously discussed here), they also have specific implications for women with PCOS.

Supplementing with omega-3 may help regulate periods and decrease testosterone. Omega-3 can also lower reproductive hormones such as LH and the LH to FSH ratio (typically increased in PCOS). Finally, omega-3 has been shown to increase adiponectin which is an anti-inflammatory cytokine.

Photo by Tatyana Nekrasova

I recommend an algae-based omega-3 supplement instead of a fish oil supplement as fish oil can be contaminated with environmental pollutants, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Vitamin D

Women with PCOS are more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D than women without PCOS. These low levels have even been linked to insulin resistance, obesity, infertility, and hirsutism associated with PCOS.

Studies show that when women with PCOS supplement with vitamin D, insulin and glucose levels seem to improve, inflammation subsides, and testosterone decreases.

While the best source of vitamin D is the sun, this option is limited if we live in the Northern hemisphere, wear sunscreen, or stay indoors. Therefore, supplementing can help.

Photo by Brian Garcia

When choosing a vitamin D supplement, look for D3 and at least 1500-2000 IU a day (recommended by The Endocrine Practice Committee). For vegans, be aware that some D3 supplements are vegan while others aren’t.

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

In health, Dr. Dylan Cutler

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Top 3 Supplements for PCOS

Disclaimer: As the sole author of Phruitful Dish, I have based my posts on my own experiences and personal knowledge. However, I am not a medical doctor. The information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Nutritional and supplemental choices should be made in consultation with your health care provider. This blog is intended to inspire and encourage readers to educate themselves on how nutrition and lifestyle are important and often overlooked aspects of health. Therefore, please use the information at your own risk. Occasional links may be provided leading to third party websites. The existence of these links does not infer a responsibility or an endorsement of the linked site, its operator, or its contents.