4 Reasons Environmental Illnesses Affect Women More Than Men

4 Reasons Environmental Illnesses Affect Women More Than Men

Women are much more likely to become sick due to environmentally acquired illnesses than men. Though this is a widely accepted fact in the medical community, there isn’t a clear reason as to why this is. Though, there have been a number of factors which have been hypothesized through studies and doctors’ experiences.

I treat environmental illnesses on a regular basis. Personally, I’ve seen each of the factors presented on this list play a major role in my own patients. Over the years I’ve watched the prevalence of environmental illnesses soar. I’ve also been amazed at the increase in toxin exposures. As a society, we are exposed to more toxins than ever before and our health is undeniably paying the price.

When referring to environmental illnesses, I am talking about anything that is instigated, triggered, or worsened by factors found in the world around us. Environmentally acquired illnesses can include, but are not limited to:

  • Mold illness
  • Chronic inflammatory response syndrome
  • Mast cell activation syndrome
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer

On the whole, women are much more affected by these conditions. Environmental triggers can include both man-made chemicals and natural toxins such as mold. In an analysis of women and men in moldy environments, it’s often found that women are far more likely to have more symptoms.

So, why are women more likely than men to develop environmentally acquired illness?

This is a question that is near and dear to my heart. After years of seeing woman after woman in my office with confusing, chronic conditions, I see it as part of my life’s work to spread awareness as to why this might be.

I view environmentally acquired illness as a war of attrition, and taking whatever steps possible to reduce your overall toxic burden should be priority #1 for all men and women – regardless of their state of health.

I’m also on the board of the NEW professional society International Society of Environmentally Acquired Illness (ISEAI). I encourage you to check out their website after this article. You can find them at their ISEAI website and on Facebook. I’m excited for the awareness and action ISEAI will bring against environmentally acquired illness!

If you are already worried about your environmental exposures and want to jump right into ways you can reduce your toxin burden, you can download my free guide and find out how to Reduce Your Daily Toxin Exposure.


1. Cosmetics and personal care products

Cosmetics and personal care products are shamefully toxic. Women apply an estimated 12 products per day, which contain an average of 168 unique chemicals. That is a staggering number of chemicals that are applied to the body every day. Talk about a war of attrition!

Over time these chemicals can build up, and if you’re body is having trouble detoxing, the effects can become stronger and much worse. I encourage you to clean out your personal care products and cosmetics and replace them all with extremely clean and safe options.

This toxin concern is one of the reasons I’ve started my own skin care line.


2. Harsh cleaning products

I totally get that it’s a little old fashioned to suggest women are more exposed to cleaning products than men. Obviously men can also be exposed to harsh cleaning chemicals on a regular basis, but cleaning occupations are still a female-dominated industry. Plus, cleaning products can be extremely toxic and definitely add to a person’s overall toxic burden, so there is no way we can leave it off this list.

Overall, our cleaning products are unnecessarily harsh. We don’t really need to be blasting our kitchen counters with bleach when vinegar does a fine job. Vinegar effectively kills germs and is much safer than commercial cleaners.


3. Chemical exposure in female-dominated jobs

For the same reason cleaning products must be mentioned, we can’t overlook that a number of female-dominated industries have a higher than normal toxin exposure. Women with careers as hair stylists, estheticians, and in cleaning-related positions are constantly exposed to a higher than average number of chemicals – and these chemicals can be extremely toxic.

Over 2 million deaths every year are due to work-related disease, though I suspect this number is actually much higher. Meaning, we can’t continue to ignore the impacts of these harsh chemicals in these industries any more.


4. Testosterone down-regulates autoimmunity

It’s a little known fact that testosterone actually down-regulates autoimmunity, meaning if your testosterone levels are low this could be part of the problem. When you think of testosterone, you probably associate it with men. But women need healthy levels of testosterone just as much as men do. When testosterone levels are low, it can contribute to inflammation levels and increase a woman’s risk for autoimmune disease.

I tell my female patients to think of testosterone as a protective hormone and their vitality hormone – because low testosterone levels can make you feel as though you’ve lost your spark. As you age, your testosterone levels naturally drop. So, if you’re older and struggling with your health in the autoimmune realm, you should absolutely have your testosterone levels checked.

Patients of mine that have their testerone levels corrected with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy usually report an increase in energy, libido, and an overall satisfaction with life.


Reduce Your Risk of Environmentally-Acquired Illness

We are bombarded by over 80,000 chemicals everyday, which makes it critical that you learn how to Reduce Your Daily Toxin Exposure. No matter where your health stands today, you should take steps to reduce your burden and support important detox pathways.

As a prominent educator about environmental toxicity and mold-related illness, and board-member of the organization, I am delighted to introduce the NEW professional society International Society of Environmentally Acquired Illness (ISEAI) whose mission is to “raise awareness of the environmental causes of inflammatory illnesses and to support the optimal health of individuals affected by these illnesses through the integration of clinical practice, education, and research.”

You can find them at their ISEAI website and on Facebook. I’m excited for the awareness and action ISEAI will bring against environmentally acquired illness!






4 thoughts on “4 Reasons Environmental Illnesses Affect Women More Than Men

  1. Ann Fuller says:

    Hello Dr. Carnahan,
    In the article on glyphosate, you mentioned that toxins are often fat soluble rather than water soluble. In addition to the factors that you discuss above, I would think that because women have a larger percentage of body fat we should also consider that as a contributing factor. I mention this for two reasons. 1) the solubility issue that you previously discussed and 2) we know from research that animals care and accumulate more toxins in their body fat that in lean tissue. as one versed in the research and statistics I know that this may be a jump but it does provide enough information for us to at least consider. The cumulative factors of those that you mention along with the solubility issue may give us some hints.

    Environmental health has been a passion since my first class in community health as a nursing student. Thanks for you contribution to health.

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