Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The jury deliberates...about our armpits!

Many people are recognizing the dangers of constant exposure to toxic substances in products that we use every day...such as deodorant.

Let's face it: No one likes icky body odor, but everyone has to deal with it at some time or another. It's just a fact of life. So unless we live alone on an island somewhere, we will need to address this odiferous fact of life if we ever want to be invited to our friend's birthday parties.

In recent years there has been quite a hullabaloo in the press about potential links between underarm deodorants and antiperspirants and certain cancers, particularly breast cancer because of the close proximity of the underarm area, underlying lymph nodes, and breast tissue. Because I have family and friends whose lives have been severely affected by breast cancer, and because I myself, like most humans, happen to have breasts this obviously concerns me. After quite a long time researching the subject, reading others' opinions, and pondering the general topic of routine chemical exposure on our bodies, I have a few of my own opinions.

I will ordinarily side with the most natural, chemical-free, non-toxic varieties of any product over their chemical-laden alternatives simply out of common sense. Yet, I also prefer not to run around screaming, "The sky is falling!" until I know for a fact that it is indeed tumbling down upon me. Without dragging you through a data-dense pile of conflicting medical jargon, here is what I have decided to focus on and why.

First of all, the four main ingredients that concern me that are commonly in deodorant/antiperspirants are triclosanpropylene glycolparabens, and aluminum

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that is meant to reduce bacteria on the surface of the skin. Triclosan is also a main ingredient in antibacterial handsoaps and body wash. Because bacteria is the main cluprit in body odor, including this ahtiacterial agent in deodorant products would seem to make sense, except that triclosan itself has come under fire for possible health risks as well as the general question of whether constantly bombarding ordinary bacteria with a powerful antibacterial agent might just contribute to the evolution of bacterial superbugs that are nearly impossible to kill. Hmmm... Personally, I prefer to avoid antibacterial soaps and such and instead we use good old fashioned soap in our house. (Castille soap is definitely my all-time favorite, and if you need a little extra antibacterial action for a specific reason a few drops of non-toxic tea tree oil can be added.)

Moving on to propylene glycol. In short, there are several grades of PG used in foods,
grooming products, and industrial items such as antifreeze. While food grade PG is found in everything from ice cream to frozen dinners (one great reason to avoid a steady diet of pre-processed foods), the fact remains that it is a toxin in any of its forms. Certain industrial products use a higher concentration and therefore more dangerous form, while cosmetic and food products of course use a much lower concentration which would seem to carry less risk. My question is: Arsenic is arsenic. Eating a high dose all at once will kill you quick. Eating a tiny dose day after day will kill you slowly over time. Same substance, different application, ultimately the same icky result. So is propylene glycol the same way? It appears that no one is exactly certain so once again, I choose to err on the side of safety and avoid it when I can. If it turns out to be unequivically proven safe one day, great! I have not lost anything and can let my concerns about it go. But if it turns out to be proven UNsafe, then I may have saved myself some harm.

Parabens, acknowledged endocrine disruptors (fancy terminology for "they get in the way of hormones being produced in correct amounts and then doing their jobs properly"), have been found in higher concentrations in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer in some studies. The catch is, no one seems to know what the actual effect is of those parabens being there or how they even got there in the first place. But considering the breast is comprised of glandular and fatty tissue, and some breast cancers are encouraged by certain hormone concentration abnormalities, there is reasonable cause for concern about an endocrine disruptor making itself at home there. Parabens in any form, introduced to the body by any means, are generally considered unhealthy and are probably best avoided.

"I'm kinda worried 'bout this!"
And now we come to the ingredient that actually concerns me the most, aluminum. Now, bear in mind that aluminum is the third most common element and the most abundant metal in our earth's is not a rare substance that only shows up when some mad scientist sneaks it into our granola cereal. The average American consumes 7-9mg of aluminum daily in our food, but aluminum is poorly absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract so most of it leaves as unnoticed as it entered. The question arises when we consider applying concentrated amounts of it daily to human skin in an area only millimeters away from clusters of lymph nodes, and only inches away from glandular breast tissue. Also of concern is the habit of shaving the underarm area, which may lightly abrade the skin and make it easier for applied substances to enter the deeper tissues. There is obvious cause for a thoughtful "hmmmm..." right here. But wait! There's more!

Aluminum is not an antibacterial agent or a perfume, so what is it doing in our pit-stick anyway? Well, the presence of aluminum is usually what transforms a simple deodorant into an actual antiperspirant that not only battles odor but prevents wetness. (This is where your antennae should pop up and start vibrating.) But aluminum does NOT prevent sweat from being produced in the sweat glands! It works by entering the tiny outer opening of each sweat gland where it causes micro-irritation of the lining of the duct, which causes the duct to swell closed. Sweat is trapped within the gland and cannot exit through the swollen-shut duct, therefore no underarm wetness!

But again, I have to wonder if such a total interference with a natural process is a good idea. We must remember that sweating not only cools us off, it is also one of our most effective means of removing toxins from our bodies! So when we essentially padlock the exit door to a whole bunch of sweat glands, we are literally trapping fluid inside. Now, that fluid can and will be absorbed into the lymphatic system and removed from the body through our circulation and eventual excretion through the kidneys...seems like no problem, right? Another "hmmm" right here...
"Ick...I'm a lil' worried too!"

Those are the same lymph nodes that already handle fluid balance in our bodies, doing their part to maintain homeostasis. That's a big word, "homeostasis", that literally means "keeping things constant or stable". Our bodies, including all of the fluid in them which is about 60% of our total body weight, exist in a living state by a miraculous system of checks and balances keeping millions of tiny variables always stable. The lymphatic system plays a key role in that stability, so it could be reasonable to assume that adding more strain to its workload might not be to our benefit healthwise, nevermind the possible effect directly on the lymph node tissue itself by a high concentration of an irritating metal.

So, what to do? Again, for myself I prefer not to run to the streets shouting death-by-deodorant rhetoric so the neighbors all think I'm crazy. But I DO see an opportunity to take the safe route of avoiding the substance in question when possible and save myself the stress of worrying about it. I have perfected a recipe for homemade deodorant that I have become quite fond of, which you can easily try out yourself. I find it to work very well, and I don't sit quietly in an air-conditioned room all day.

As for whether or not any or all of these ingredients increase cancer risk, the jury is still out. Some studies suggest a possible correlation while others are inconclusive...but none have actually ruled it out as a possibility altogether. We can look at it from two sides: On the one hand, there are so many health risks thrown at us every day just by stepping out our front doors, maybe we have bigger fish to fry and shouldn't worry about a litle thing like deodorant. Then again on the other hand, if we already have so many other risks throw at us is it a good idea to burden our bodies with yet one more toxic situation to deal with? Common sense dictates that we not ignore risks to our physical health, while also reminding us that fretting over every tiny possible threat could send us straight to the looney bin from the mental stress of it all!

Meanwhile back at the ranch...I leave it in your hands what you decide to do with your armpits. If you do try out my deodorant recipe, let me know how it works for you. I don't want anyone missing out on any birthday party invitations on my account! And if you have words of wisdom, new data, intresting articles, or gut feelings to share on the subject, I want to hear those too!

Here's to our health! Thanks for reading.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please share your thoughts with me, I would love to hear from you!