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Does arsenic in rice affect hormones across the menstrual cycle?

I have noticed more and more posts about arsenic in rice lately. Have you? If you are wondering why everyone is talking about arsenic, how it can affect your hormones throughout menstrual cycle and bring hormonal imbalance, let's dive right in!

Why is arsenic in food?

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is found in soil, water, and air, as well as in plants and animals. However, increased global pollution seems to have increased the amount of arsenic found in our food supply too. Most often arsenic can be found as part of other chemical compounds, organic or inorganic, with the latter being the most toxic for humans.

In fact, for most people, the largest source of exposure to arsenic is food and contaminated water. Rice in particular, compared to other foods, will have high amounts, because it takes up arsenic more readily from the environment than other grains do! Moreso, rice tends to accumulate the inorganic (aka the most toxic) form of arsenic and there are numerous studies showing that arsenic can cause hormonal imbalance (by altering two important hormones involved in menstrual cycle), disturb ovulation, and worsen your PMS.

Considering that rice is a staple grain for many women around the world, and the most popular gluten-free grain, you may be wondering what to do and whether rice is even safe to eat?

How do you avoid arsenic in rice?

Well, there is a lot of scientific debate going on right now on this issue, and it seems that lots of interesting research and statistics are about to emerge.

So how much is safe? We don't know. Do we know for sure the amount of arsenic, found in rice and various rice-based products, that is harmful? Not yet. Should we all eat less rice to avoid arsenic? If so, how much less? Not sure. There is little research, and therefore, there are no recommendations. However, if you are like me and do not like uncertainty, let's look at...

what we DO know about arsenic and how to make sure your rice is safe to eat:

  • First of all, good news: arsenic doesn’t build up in the body and is usually (though not always!) eliminated from the body somewhat quickly.

  • If you eat a lot of rice or follow a gluten-free diet, try to alternate it with other grains.

  • Some studies show adequate intake of protein, folate, vitamin B6 and B12 helps prevent absorption of arsenic. So, as always good nutrition is a key!

  • Researchers from University of Sheffield (UK) proposed a way to cook rice that will reduce the arsenic content but preserves the nutrients! They suggest to add rice to a large amount of boiling water, boil it for 5 minutes, then discard the water (thus discarding arsenic that leached out). After that, fresh water can be added as per recipe and the rice is then can be cooked as usual.

  • Arsenic accumulates in outer layers of the grain, so yes, brown rice will have more arsenic than white processed rice. However, it is important to remember that unlike white rice, brown rice also contains very important nutrients and vitamins for a healthy menstrual cycle. I would vote for using brown rice and the "arsenic-free" cooking method described above for best nutrition value.

  • In theory, choosing rice from a particular geographic region may also help. If arsenic concentration in that area is low, then the rice will naturally have less arsenic. However, this is not always easy to determine and may also change with time due to increase / decrease in environmental contaminants.

Love you all! Til next!

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