Toxic Breastmilk

sane motherhood snippet

Here are some of the problems with environmental toxins:

  • They affect different people differently and at varying levels of exposure
  • They persist in the environment long after their initial application or use
  • In women and men, their effects on our genome and on our endocrine systems are passed down through generations

A study by Kido et al, recently explored the relationship between the adrenal hormone, cortisol ("stress hormone") and exposure to the persistent toxic chemical, dioxin. There are identified "hot spots" in Vietnam, rendered polluted by the use of defoliation herbicides by the US Air Force from 1961-1971.  Despite 40 years of time passage, this chemical is present in soils, and in people residing in these areas.

Researchers identified 51 women from Phu Cat ("hot spot") and 58 from Kim Bang (control), and measured their saliva, blood, and breast milk levels of dioxin and hormones.  They found that those in Phu Cat had 3-5x higher levels in their breast milk, and that they also had elevated blood and salivary cortisol. They theorize that the adrenal glands bioaccumulate these "fat-loving" toxins, and that elevated cortisol is a result of endocrine disruption by this chemical. Elevated cortisol drives high blood sugar, immune suppression, and poor bone health, in addition to being correlated with depression.

A related Japanese study explored the potential for chlorella to mitigate this exposure. In this study, women took 6 grams of chlorella for 6 months during pregnancy and were found to have lower levels of dioxin and improved IgA immune factor in their breastmilk. Perhaps food based supplementation could represent a preventive measure for those suspected of having high levels of unavoidable exposure.  The known benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh these considerations; however, global efforts toward chemical regulation and reform have never been more critical.

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About Dr. Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your OwnOwn Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She is the founder of the online healing program Vital Mind Reset, and the membership community, Vital Life Project. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from M.I.T. in Systems Neuroscience. She is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. Learn More