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Autoimmune Disease and Parabens

One theory on why autoimmune diseases are now so prevalent globally is related to an overload of environment chemicals, toxins, pesticides and heavy metals. So many man-made compounds are part of our everyday lives that our bodies are constantly bombarded with foreign molecules, some of which provoke responses. These harmful compounds can injure glandular tissue, upsetting the endocrine system and wreak havoc across the immune system. Parabens are not proven to cause any specific autoimmune diseases, but they may well contribute to the toxic burden impacting our collective health.

What are parabens and where are they commonly found?

Parabens are chemical compounds used primarily in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, and to a lesser extent, the food industry.  Because of their antimicrobial properties, they are highly desirable as preservatives and widely utilized today in certain products.  Examples include sunscreen, makeup, lubricants and shampoos, to name a few.

Are there research studies that show any connection between parabens and autoimmune disease onset or symptoms?

No.  An exhaustive literature search revealed no scientific evidence of any such findings.  There are a few anecdotal reports by women who suspect beauty products are a factor in their autoimmune disorder, particularly myasthenia gravis.  But even if true, this may be caused by any number of unrelated substances contained within these products.  In addition, the FDA , after consideration spurred by consumer questions and complaints, does not believe there is any reason for concern, and has deemed them safe and without dangerous side effects.

While it is possible that parabens may be associated with immune system dysfunction and reproductive disorders, they are more likely to be implicated in certain types of cancer (primarily breast), as evidenced by some studies from National Cancer Institute and the Canadian Cancer Society, though the data is far from conclusive.  Otherwise, research on parabens’ possible connections to disease is lacking.

Questions for your doctor:

  • If I have an autoimmune disease, should I avoid makeup that contains parabens?
  • Do my medications for my autoimmune symptoms contain any parabens?
  • Are women more affected by parabens than men?
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