The impact of chemical pollutants on female hormone balance is becoming an area of interest in environmental health research. Environmental Health Perspectives published a recent article examining the link between feminine hygiene products and the impact on vaginal physiology, flora and immunology.
Most tampons, maxi pads and feminine hygiene products contain compounds such as plastics, synthetic fibers, preservatives, dyes, phthalates, chemical fragrances and other chemicals. It’s often easy to not think about what’s going on “down there.” However, the vaginal mucosa, like any mucus membrane in the body, is richly vascularized. The difference between mucosa and our skin is that high vascularization makes mucosa permeable and absorbable. Because of this, and the recent concerns around chemical female hormone disruptors, there is research being done on how manufactured feminine hygiene products could be a factor in female health issues.
Synthetic materials used in the manufacturing of these products can also throw off the micro ecology of protective organisms that populate the genitourinary tract. The combination of hormone disruption and/or imbalance of micro-organisms can lead to an increase in vaginal tissue irritation and susceptibility to yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. This can cause women to experience chronic burning, irritation, itching, frequent urination, vaginal discharge and pain in the urethra or the vagina.
What’s even more concerning is the possibility of these chemicals acting as female hormone disruptors, which is a risk factor in the development of breast cancer and reproductive tract cancers. Monthly exposure to these chemicals can lead to a significant body burden over time. Many of these chemicals are known as “pervasive” since they accumulate in the body and do not break down.
This is an area of female health that is lacking in scientific research. However, it is receiving more attention from researchers who study the link between the chemical burden of our modern world and its impact on health.
There are many feminine hygiene products on the market that aim for less chemical compounds and more natural materials, such as cotton fibers. Many women feel that using more natural products have been helpful in alleviating some of their female health concerns.
A great company that is making feminine hygiene products out of organic cotton is Natracare. These products are available in most health food stores, and even some grocery stores, like in the natural heath section at Zehrs.