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Paraben – A Silent Killer

Paraben – the controversy

Paraben - A Silent Killer

Paraben - A Silent Killer

Increasing concern for the safety of ingredients in cosmetics has brought some widely used cosmetic preservatives by the family name ‘paraben’ to center stage. Paraben preservatives are listed under multiple names and are used to preserve the majority of cosmetics on the market today, not only to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi but also to promote the abnormally long shelf-life of products. As with chemically preserved foods, paraben preserved cosmetics ensure that the cosmetic manufacturer can produce the product en masse and take comfort in a multi-year shelf life. Paraben preservatives have recently come into question with new studies that link the daily exposure of paraben preservatives to breast cancer and endocrine-disruption issues.

Parabens – what exactly are they?

Parabens are synthetic preservatives that have been in use since the 1920s as “broad-band” preservatives (anti-bacterial and anti-fungal) which means that they work within a formula to prevent the growth of multiple possible contaminants such as bacteria, yeast, mold and fungi. They can be found in approximately 75-90 percent of cosmetics such as make-up, lotion, deodorants and shampoos. According to A Consumers Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, water is the only cosmetic ingredient used more frequently than paraben preservatives. Paraben is the family name for the following permutations of the ingredients found on a common product ingredient label:

Butylparaben
Ethylparaben
Methylparaben
Propylparaben
Benzyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid (p-hydroxybenzoic acid)
Methyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid (p-hydroxybenzoic acid)
Ethyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid (p-hydroxybenzoic acid)
Propyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid (p-hydroxybenzoic acid)
Butyl-parahydroxybenzoic acid (p-hydroxybenzoic acid)
Parahydroxybenzoic acid (p-hydroxybenzoic acid)
Parahydroxybenzoate (p-hydroxybenzoate)

Parabens and Breast Cancer

Though paraben preservatives only account for a very small percentage of a product’s actual formula they are quite potent. A study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology in 2004 expressed concern regarding the use of paraben preservatives. In the UK, researchers found traces of it in 19 out of 20 women with breast tumors. Though the studies did not determine if the ingredient was the cause of the breast tumors, it did establish that pervasive use of this synthetic ingredient is biocumulative.

Paraben preservatives have also been identified as endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system is instrumental in regulating the body’s hormones. Paraben preservatives are believed to mimic the female hormone estrogen when introduced into the body. According to recent research, more than 60 percent of topically applied chemicals via cosmetics, lotions, etc. are absorbed by the skin and dispersed throughout the body by the bloodstream. Once absorbed into the body, paraben preservatives mimic the hormone estrogen and can disrupt the body’s normal hormonal balance. In the Archives of Toxicology (2002), Dr. S. Oishi of the Department of Toxicology, Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health, Japan, reported that exposure of newborn male mammals to butylparaben “adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system.”

This artificial provocation and inflation of estrogen in the endocrine system has been linked to breast cancer in some women as well as the abnormal hormonal development of children including the hormonal “feminization of boys” which may influence the suspected link in decreasing testosterone levels and sperm count in the male reproductive system. It has also been hypothesized to contribute to the early maturation of girls at increasingly younger ages.

Paraben – do all cosmetic companies use them?

Not all cosmetic companies use paraben preservatives and many are phasing out their use now that enough questions have been raised about their overall long term safety. New cosmetic companies, more focused on offering natural and organic products, have made their “no paraben” policy a platform issue. This means there are a wide variety of paraben-free products which are mostly now available for purchase.

With the increasing popularity of the natural and organic body care market more companies are jumping on the proverbial “natural” band wagon. With this additional commercial interest and the lack of FDA regulation around the word “natural” one must never rely solely on a company’s marketing and advertising claims and always read the ingredient label to confirm that an ingredient is truly not being used in the formula.

Alternative Preservative Systems

There are good reasons why paraben preservatives are the defacto cosmetic preservative. They are cheap and effective. However, safer and more natural alternatives are available. With formulas that contain certain organic (living) ingredients and/or water as an ingredient, a more aggressive non-paraben preservative must be used to ensure the stability of the formula. In general, the next best option is a synthetic preservative called Phenoxyethanol which has a synthetic chemical composition inspired by a natural anti-bacterial/anti-microbial chemical found in the sage plant. It’s easier to use a natural preservative in formulas that are basically inert (like most powder mineral cosmetics) or have an oil base and no water (like lipstick or liners). In products such as these, a plant extract or essential oil with anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties such as grapefruit seed extract, grape seed extract or tocopherol (vitamin E) is used as an effective preservative system. In any case, the manufacturer should perform proper stability testing to ensure that the product’s preservative system lasts.

Conclusions

More comprehensive studies are needed to conclusively determine the true scope of the damaging effects of prolonged exposure to paraben preservatives by way of the cosmetic ingredients we use every day. A serious effort to reassess the safety of these products must be undertaken by a non-biased group of researchers. To date, among the studies that have been done world-wide, paraben preservatives have been linked to breast cancer and have been labelled as a possible endocrine disruptor that might have specific damaging consequences for young children and those with ongoing exposure. Luckily, we have more options than ever before and can take ourselves out of the equation entirely by educating ourselves and opting for products that use different preservative systems and fewer questionable ingredients in general.

P.S. Thank you Janice for giving me the lead which enabled me to share with so many people.
Vaishali Parekh

www.indian-cooking.info

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Chronically Tired?

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Most of us have noticed at sometime or the other, that the feeling of tiredness and fatigue just refuses to go away, no matter what we do. We eat, we sleep, thinking it would go away, but it doesn’t. Reason to worry, isn’t it?

We visit the doctor and he prescribes some medication, but our body does not respond. Reason to worry some more! Now what do we do?

A common and often misunderstood cause of constant fatigue is a condition called adrenal fatigue. Since very few doctors recognize and treat adrenal fatigue, millions of people live with feeling chronically exhausted and confused about why that’s so. What makes this particularly disturbing is that once adrenal fatigue is diagnosed, it can be treated and resolved and people start to feel better in just a few months’ time.

Why am I sooo tired?

The adrenals (small walnut-sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys) produce numerous hormones — adrenaline and others — that impact bodily functions including blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, liver function and immunity. They also produce two crucial stress hormones — DHEA and cortisol — whose job it is to balance the body’s response to stressful influences, including blood sugar fluctuations. Living with stress — whether mental, physical or emotional, for a protracted period result in a situation where the need for a constant supply of these two hormones outstrips the adrenals’ production capacity. This deficiency dulls cognitive function, energy levels and, of course, our ability to handle stress. It also slows the immune response and with it the ability to fight off infections and even possibly cancer. DHEA and cortisol interact in complex ways that affect many functions — deficiencies can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight gain, fatigue, allergies, infections, mood disorders and poor libido.

Am I suffering from Adrenal Fatigue?

Fatigue is just one adrenal fatigue symptom. If you are chronically tired and have any of the following, you may want to consider asking your doctor for a blood or saliva test to determine whether you have adrenal fatigue:

  • Morning fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Light-headedness after standing up
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Inability to focus
  • Memory problems
  • Body aches, including pain in the lower back
  • Craving for salt and/or sugar
  • Slower recovery from illness than is usual for you.

Since mainstream medical practitioners are slow or fail to recognize adrenal fatigue, it is suggested that those who think they may have it should seek out naturopathic physicians.

How to fix?

Sooo tired

Sooo tired

Once adrenal fatigue is diagnosed, treatment is multi-pronged, including a combination of nutrients and lifestyle changes:

  • Stress reduction. Not surprisingly, your first task is to review what’s causing all the stress in your life so that you can determine what changes need to be made to reduce it.
  • Get more sleep. You need plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep. For those who have trouble falling asleep or who find themselves waking up in the night, 0.5 mg to 3 mg of melatonin, the “sleep” hormone, or 100 mg of the amino acid 5-HTP an hour before bedtime, is prescribed to help the body prepare for sleep. Ask your doctor which you should take.
  • Adjust your diet. People with adrenal fatigue often have blood sugar swings and cravings for sweets, so it’s very important to have breakfast every day and to eat small, healthy snacks between meals. He advises eating plenty of whole-grain foods and protein, including almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts, and avoiding processed foods and simple sugars, including refined grains, fruit juices and, of course, sugary sodas. Also stay away from caffeinated beverages and alcohol. And if you have low blood pressure, which often results from adrenal fatigue and further contributes to fatigue, do be sure you are getting enough salt, which helps maintain blood volume and proper circulation. However, don’t go overboard — 2,400 mg per day of sodium from all sources is usually about right.
  • Exercise — in moderation. While exercise helps regulate stress hormones, too much will exhaust adrenal fatigue patients further. Patients are advised to start by walking 15 minutes a day, adding time as symptoms improve until reaching 45 minutes per day, but again, keeping it to a moderately intense level. Reduce the amount of exercise if afterward you find yourself feeling more tired rather than less — the goal is to increase overall energy.

Supplements

To help speed recovery, the following nutritional supplements are advised:

  • Vitamin B5 — (pantothenic acid) is especially important for stress-hormone production… 500 mg of B5, three times a day is often prescribed. A good multivitamin (or B-complex) will supply enough of the other B vitamins needed.
  • Vitamin C — typically 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg twice daily is prescribed, but reduce this dose if loose stools develop.
  • Adrenal glandular extract (AGE) — made from cow, pig or sheep adrenals, AGE contains growth factors that promote cell healing and also has nutrients to support gland function and repair. Take one to two tablets daily without food, and reduce the dosage if you become jittery or have trouble sleeping.
  • Ashwagandha — this herb, popular in Ayurvedic medicine, helps normalize adrenal functioning. Very effective and my personal recommendation.

Hormone therapy consisting of DHEA, cortisol or other hormones and supplements, is used to treat severe adrenal fatigue, but such measures require the supervision of a physician who is well practiced in the therapy.

Effective adrenal fatigue treatment ends up being an intensive self-care regimen in which you ratchet back the unreasonable demands you’ve been making on your mind and body. Fortunately, given time to recover, the adrenals are able to regain their strength… and with it, your natural energy will return.

Vaishali Parekh

www.indian-cooking.info

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