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Warning: Have You Been Exposed to This 1960s Chemical?
Bisphenol-A (BPA)… That’s a chemical in plastics.
Most people think we aren’t using BPA anymore. Or they aren’t sure what contains BPA and what does not.
I’ll tell you the full scoop right now.
BPA has been contaminating the food supply through plastics since the 1960s.
BPA is similar to estrogen and can also increase serotonin production.
So some scientists wondered if it could be a factor in the increasing rates of IBD.
IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) refers to a couple of diseases that cause inflammation throughout the digestive system.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two diagnoses that can be termed IBD.
Different parts of the digestive system become inflamed and this causes pain, diarrhea, bleeding, weight loss, and fatigue.
And until recently, scientists did not know the causes of IBD.
But now some recent discoveries point to serotonin and estrogen as playing a causal role in IBD.
This animal study found that BPA does increase the inflammation associated with IBD:
These scientists conducted their study at the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Texas A&M, and published their results in the Journal of Experimental Biology and Medicine.
The scientists had a couple of leads in their investigation into the causes of IBD.
1) Environmental xenoestrogens – chemicals that act like estrogen.
2) Microbial dysbiosis – it causes changes in gut bacteria.
“Microbial dysbiosis as well as exposure to xenoestrogens are thought to be risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease development and relapse.”
BPA is a chemical that acts like estrogen in the body – it’s an environmental xenoestrogen.
“Bisphenol-A has been shown to exert estrogenic activity in the colon and alter intestinal function.”
The scientists performed experiments with BPA on mice.
“We investigated the ability of bisphenol-A to exacerbate colonic inflammation and alter microbiota metabolites.”
They exposed the animals to BPA in food for 15 days.
They also exposed some of the mice to a chemical that makes the mice more likely to develop IBD.
The scientists then looked at the effect of BPA on markers of inflammatory bowel disease.
The animals exposed to BPA had higher markers for IBD.
“Bisphenol-A exposure increased mortality and worsened disease activity as well as inflammation in the middle colon region.”
The scientists examined the waste products from the mice and found strong evidence of changes to gut bacteria.
Gut bacteria produce metabolites – and analyzing changes in these metabolites can indicate changes in gut bacteria.
BPA seems to change gut bacteria – one of the prime markers of IBD.
“Unique patterns of bacterial metabolites were associated with bisphenol-A consumption.”
Results indicate that BPA leads to inflammation in the bowel.
“Bisphenol-A reduced levels several metabolites associated with decreased inflammation in the colon.”
Recently, scientists have connected serotonin with IBD.
Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan.
Animals exposed to BPA had lower levels of tryptophan – so maybe some tryptophan was converted to inflammatory serotonin.
“Bisphenol-A reduced levels of tryptophan in the mice.”
Estrogen and estrogenic compounds such as BPA increase the enzymes that synthesize serotonin.
This indirect increase in serotonin may be one of the reasons for increased inflammation with BPA consumption.
BPA led to increased inflammation and changes in gut bacteria, even in animals not exposed to the other inflammatory chemicals used in the experiment.
BPA alone may cause inflammation in the bowel.
“This is the first study to show that bisphenol-A treatment alone can reduce microbiota metabolites which may be associated with IBD.”
We don’t know yet how much of a factor BPA is in the increased incidence of IBD since BPA was introduced.
But these experiments show that it certainly can be a factor.
Changes to gut bacteria are also associated with obesity, diabetes, heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease…
…almost every chronic disease you can imagine.
Printed receipts and plastic water bottles are probably the worst products for BPA contamination.
I use stainless steel water bottles and wash my hands after handling receipts.
Many of the BPA replacements are just as bad as BPA.
“BPA-free” plastics are probably not much safer than plastics that do contain BPA.
You should consult a healthcare professional about diagnosing and treating health problems.
- Bisphenol-A alters microbiota metabolites derived from aromatic amino acids and worsens disease activity during colitis
- What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center | UC San Diego Health