During the last few years, a development long simmering in the background, the increased incidence of gender dysphoria—reduced sexual dimorphism and confusion about the defining behaviors of male and female—has appeared on the front pages of our newspapers and in headlines on the Internet.
As early as 1948, Dr. Francis Pottenger warned about this trend. In an article published by the American Nutrition Society he wrote: “Experimental work with animals shows a loss of secondary sexual characteristics after two or three generations on impoverished diets. Males lose their heavy masculine frame; their makeup begins to resemble the female. Females also tend to lose their distinguishing build so that both sexes approach a state of physical neutrality. . . .
While the recent social media focus on this subject and encouragement by teachers and other adults can explain some of this upsurge, there are good reasons to conclude that a portion of this increase is real and that a growing number of young adults are genuinely confused about their gender and uncomfortable with traditional expectations of sexual behavior.
Shanna H. Swan, PhD, describes many of the modern influences that can disrupt normal hormonal development in infants and children in her book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race, published 2021. Most modern children grow up in a sea of gender-disrupting chemicals, chemicals that can interfere with physical development as well as the complex biochemical pathways of the brain.
This exposure often begins in the womb. For example, male monkeys exposed to bisphenol A (BPA is a chemical compound primarily used in the manufacturing of various plastics) in utero exhibited more female behavior, such as clinging to their mothers, after birth. A 2002 study from the Netherlands found that exposure to dioxins and PCBs (from accidental releases, careless disposal practices, and leaks from industrial facilities or chemical waste-water disposal sites) was associated with more feminine play behavior in boys (such as a preference for dolls over trucks) and with less feminine play behavior in girls. And scientists believe that these estrogen-mimicking chemicals are a cause of declining sperm counts in men, a phenomenon observed worldwide.
Marijuana has estrogenic effects. According to a 2015 study from Denmark, men who smoked marijuana more than once a week had a 29 percent lower sperm count; when marijuana is combined with other recreational drugs, the decline is even greater. Men ages eighteen to twenty-eight who used marijuana more than once a week along with other recreational drugs had a sperm count reduced by 55 percent.
Opioid pain killers can lower testosterone levels and increase DNA damage in sperm. Even Tylenol can cause sperm abnormalities, including DNA fragmentation. Boy babies born to moms who take Tylenol during pregnancy are likely to have less “male-typical” brains and behavior.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs – Ethylene Dichloride – used to produce vinyl chloride monomer VCM from which is produced PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride – is the most widely produced synthetic polymer of plastic. Used in construction for pipes, doors, and windows) are everywhere and can have profound effects not only on physical development but also on the developing brain in ways that affect a person’s sexual identity. When ingested, EDCs alter the normal levels of estrogen in both females and males by binding to and activating estrogen receptors. They are in carpets and fabrics saturated with stain-resistant chemicals, flame retardants, personal care products, air fresheners, scented household products, antibacterial hand soaps, canned foods, and beverages in plastic bottles. Swan describes an experiment in which men exposed themselves to these products and then collected urine and blood samples for analysis. The levels of chemicals increased significantly in the blood and urine, especially an EDC called monoethyl phthalate (MEP), which increased from 64 to 1410 nanograms per milliliter in one volunteer. “This was the direct result of smearing himself with scented toiletries, including hair-care products, shaving gel, deodorant, fragrance, and lotions, as well.
Swan doesn’t mention sunscreen products, which can contain not only estrogenic chemicals but also testosterone blockers. A particularly dangerous EDC in sunscreen is oxybenzone, which is easily absorbed through the skin. Used by pregnant women, it may harm the developing fetus; smeared on growing boys, it may interfere with normal sexual development; in girls, it causes negative effects on the mammary glands. Titanium dioxide also has endocrine-disrupting effects. No one should apply these products to themselves or their children—instead use coconut oil plus a hat and organic cotton tee shirt. Avoid using scented liquid soap and plug-in scented oil in the test room.
Men who ingest EDCs may suffer from symptoms such as low semen concentrations, poor semen quality, lack of sperm motility and eventually a reduced sexual appetite—problems that usually reverse themselves when exposure to estrogens is terminated. For the developing male fetus, however, these environmental estrogens can have severe and lifelong detrimental consequences to reproductive and urogenital development.
Female babies are also affected, usually with premature breast development and early and difficult menstruation.
NUTRITION FOR OPTIMAL HORMONAL DEVELOPMENT
Most commentators on hormonal development, including Dr. Swan, recommend a “Mediterranean” diet for parents and growing children, a diet based on organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, wild fish, skinless poultry, nuts, and seeds, with olive oil as the only fat. This advice ignores several fundamental facts:
• Our bodies make sex hormones out of cholesterol.
• Infants and toddlers do not make cholesterol and must get it from their diet.
• A key vitamin your body needs for transforming cholesterol into sex hormones is vitamin A.
Commentators like Dr. Swan warn against animal fats and healthy foods such as cheese, butter and naturally cured meats like salami because EDCs concentrate in the fats of animals. But EDCs concentrate in seed oils as well, including seed oils used to adulterate most oils labeled as “olive oil,” not only as pesticides and processing chemicals, but also as overtly estrogenic substances called isoflavones occurring naturally in soybean oil—and 80 percent of oil used in processed food is soybean oil. One website indicates one tablespoon of soybean oil contains levels of estrogenic compounds equivalent to one birth control pill!
Back to the key fact: we need cholesterol to make sex hormones, and that goes for children as well as adults. In fact, male infants undergo a surge of testosterone—with levels as high as that of an adult male—during the first six months of life. This testosterone surge programs male babies to express male characteristics later in life. Other key periods of sexual differentiation include weeks six through twelve in pregnancy, when the male and female sexual organs form; the second half of pregnancy when a peak of testosterone programs several areas of the brain to express male or female gender identity later in life; and ages two to four during which the number of cells in an area of the hypothalamus associated with sexual differentiation reaches a peak (and thereafter declines in females but remains high in males).
Obviously, mothers and their children need to avoid EDCs during the whole period of growth and development, but especially during these critical periods. A diet rich in organ meats and animal fats, supplying plenty of cholesterol and vitamin A, during pregnancy and growth will ensure that these complicated processes proceed as nature intended.
Babies must obtain cholesterol from their diet—they do not have the enzymes online yet to make their own cholesterol. Mother’s milk—indeed, raw milk from any species—is rich in cholesterol and contains special enzymes to ensure that the baby absorbs 100 percent of that cholesterol. There is no cholesterol in infant formula; all these formulas, including organic varieties, are based on skim milk and vegetable oils—and babies on soy formula are also getting a whopping dose of estrogenic isoflavones. A study conducted in 2000 found that the daily exposure of infants to isoflavones in soy infant formula was four to eleven times higher on a body weight basis than the dose that has hormonal effects in adults consuming soy foods. Circulating concentrations of isoflavones in the seven infants fed soy-based formula were 13,000–22,000 times higher than normal plasma estrogen concentrations in early life.
Most American babies are weaned on pureed fruits and vegetables packaged in estrogenic plastic or containers lined with aluminum—guaranteed to give your baby a bad start in life!
USDA advice suggests giving babies lean meat or tofu, the occasional egg and cheese, fruits, and vegetables, low fat milk, low-trans-fat spreads, whole grains (such as dry breakfast cereals) and reduced salt—in summary, a diet that does not support the optimal hormonal development of your baby boy, nor your baby girl either.
Which are the best weaning foods? foods that will support optimal hormonal development—are chicken liver and egg yolk. The high cholesterol content of egg yolk qualifies yolks as the ideal first food for babies—baby should receive one egg yolk per day, starting at four to six months. (The whites can be allergenic and are best delayed until one year of age.)
Egg yolks and chicken liver also supply vitamin A, with its cofactors vitamins D and K2—to support the creation of sex hormones out of cholesterol in just the right proportions. Red meat and gizzard provide nutrient-dense alternatives. All four of these animal foods are rich in zinc, another important nutrient for sexual development and fertility.
It’s also clear from the chart that fruits and vegetables are not nutrient-dense foods, although well cooked and mashed with butter and cream, they can supplement baby’s diet of healthy animal foods.
Obviously, parents should continue a nutrient-dense diet for their children throughout the growing years, a diet that contains organ meats and plenty of animal fats like butter, cream, egg yolks, lard, tallow, and poultry fat—no skinless chicken breasts, please! Of course, these foods should come from pasture-fed animals not raised in the industrial system. But even if your only choice is supermarket foods, it’s still better to feed your children rich animal foods instead of processed foods based on vegetable oil and sugar. Vitamin A and saturated fat in animal foods can protect the body from dioxins and similar endocrine-disrupting chemicals.