Endocrine disruptors are natural and synthetic molecules that mimic our estrogens, androgens and thyroid hormones. These disruptors interfere with the endocrine system and how it functions by interrupting our bodies hormonal communication system, which in turn affects the production of hormones and how they interact with their receptors. Hormonal processes play a key role in the health of our blood, brain, guts, and organs.
As I discussed in my last blog Hormones & You, our bodies communicate through our nervous system and hormones. When these endocrine disruptors get into our system they are messing with the messages your normal hormones are trying to send to each other. They can reduce or inflate the messages being transferred ~ think of it as a game of ‘telephone’. I am sure we have all watched a sentence pass through a circle of people and heard it come out sounding totally different by the time it reaches us again!
For decades we have been exposed to hundreds of toxins and over time this exposure creates an accumulation of toxins that can clog our systems leaving our bodies/systems unable to properly remove and detoxify. For example, if our livers are overworked (they perform over 200 vital functions) they are not able to properly remove toxins and excess hormones and rather than sending them out of the body will push them back into circulation causing an excess and imbalance. This is why boosting our detoxification pathways through cleansing can play a key role in hormone balance. More on that later.
Endocrine disruptors have been shown to play a role in auto immune diseases, allergies, inflammation, obesity, diabetes and insulin resistance, hormone related cancers and infertility to name a few. And I want to emphasis here that although many times we place the focus of endocrine disruptors on women, they also play a big role in the lives of men.
To monitor the intake of these disruptors it is good to look at our diets, lifestyle and the environments we live in.
My goal here is to educate you and not to induce fear or guilt. I believe it is important for all of us to be knowledgeable and to take on what we can when we can. Because I know that eating healthy and taking care of ourselves can be a FULL TIME JOB! My hope is that many of you are lucky enough to have a partner who shares in supporting you on this journey.
So lets talk about a few of the most common and dangerous disruptors and how to best avoid them:
BISPHENYL A (BPA) ~ is an industrial chemical that is used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960’s. These polycarbonate plastics are used in making water bottles along with other beverage and food containers. The epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. It has been found to accumulate
BPA is a synthetic hormone that can mimic estrogen and trick the body into thinking it’s the real thing by binding and activating estrogen receptors and has been shown to cause breast cancer, reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. And please note that although BPA free means BPA free it can be replaced with BPS a chemical from the same family that is also known to be an endocrine disruptor.
Best ways to reduce your BPA exposure is to buy fresh food and less canned food since most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin; say no to receipts since thermal paper is often coated with BPA; replace plastic with glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers; avoid heating plastics in microwaves or dishwashers as the plastics breakdown over time allowing BPA to leach into foods.
PERCHLORATE is a chemical used in the making of rocket fuel, fireworks, explosive and some bleaches and fertilizers. Today, we can still find perchlorate in packaging for dry food such as baby rice cereal, flour and spices. Unfortunately, it also winds up in the food we eat. Past chemical spills of rocket fuel that leaked into our water systems are used to water farmlands, both organic and non-organic, and is why we still find these chemicals in our produce.
Perchlorate compromises iodine uptake into the thyroid ~ women can be more sensitive than men. Our thyroid hormones regulate metabolism and are critical for proper brain and organ development in infants and young children.
To limit your intake of perchlorates buy organic foods from local farmers; filter your tap water using a reverse osmosis system (both drinking and bathing if possible as your skin absorbs contaminants); and get good levels of iodine in your diet.
DIOXINS are a group of highly toxic chemical compounds formed during the production of pesticides, herbicides and other industrial processes. Chemical waste from these processes contaminates our drinking waters, soil and air. Although they have been banned since the 1980’s because of their high toxicity along with their slow breakdown they continue to linger in the environment and accumulate in the food chain. Dioxins are concentrated in the food chain as they are stored in animal fats ~ 90% of our exposure come through meat, dairy and seafood. Once they enter our bodies they build up and are slow to leave.
Dioxins mimic thyroid hormones interfering with the transport and metabolism of the signaling of male and female sex hormones.
Ways to reduce levels of intake are to eat moderate amounts of meat, dairy and fish and choose lean meats and fish cutting off excess fat when preparing,; and eating more fruits and vegetables.
FLAME RETARDANTS are chemicals used to make products flame resistant. PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), similar in structure to PCBs and dioxins, are a class of flame retardant chemicals used in furniture, building materials, plastics and electronics. Although they are being phased out along with the use of BVO (brominated vegetable oil) that was used in sodas to help dissolve colors and flaboras and to prolong shelf life, they are a long living chemicals and remain in soils and waters creating again a food chain reaction.
Flame Retardants have a similar structure to our thyroid hormones and in addition to disrupting the balance of androgen and estrogen signaling they can accumulate in our organ tissues over time.
Avoid these chemicals by choosing clothing, furniture, electronics, and plastics that are PBDEs free; purchase wild caught fish vs farmed fish; and again reduce your intake of animal fats by choosing lean meats and cutting off fat before cooking.
PHTHALATES are a group of chemical toxins used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break and some are used as solvents. They are found in hundreds of products ranging from plastics and food packaging to cleaning agents and cosmetics to inflatable toys and garden hoses to the enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements. If you see a product with the ingredient “fragrance” or “perfume” it most likely has phthalates. We are exposed to phthalates by eating and drinking foods that are in contact with containers and through our skin by using products containing phthalates. Our children are at risk because of they love to chew and suck on plastics. Although they are toxic, our bodies are able to break them down and release them through our urine.
According to the EWG phthalates can induce ‘death-inducing signaling’ in testicular cells making them die earlier then they should and are also linked to hormone changes that affect lower sperm count, birth defects and obesity and thyroid irregularities.
Ways to reduce intake include avoiding plastic products (food containers, wraps and children toys) labeled with recycling #3, along with those products that contain the ingredients “fragrance” or “perfume” or “parfum”.
PARABENS are esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid and can include synthetically made methylparaben, ethylparaben propylparaben and heptylparaben. Used as preservatives to extend shelf life, these chemicals are found in a wide range of products like deodorants, cosmetics, detergents, polyester fabrics and foods (beer, pancake syrup, sauces, desserts and frozen dairy products).
Parabens mimic estrogen in the body interfering with your thyroid function. These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin.
Avoid cosmetics, personal care products, medicines and food that contain these chemical ingredients ~ starting today.
There are several additional endocrine disruptors that can be found here on the Dirty Dozen List by the EWG. I feel top five ways to reduce intake of these chemicals is to:
Use glass or stainless steel in place of plastic whenever possible
Eat organic, local foods that can be traced to the farmer and their practices
Use organic, personal care products and household detergents that do not list parabens or phthalates.
Drink filtered water that removes endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Reduce your intake of meat and dairy and/or when you do eat meat or fatty fish, remove the excess fat before cooking.
I cannot end without talking about your largest organ, the skin. Please remember, when chemicals come in contact with your skin they go directly into your bloodstream and that means they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream without any filtering of any kind and head right to your delicate organs…making this path one of the most important to be aware of ~ truly.
This last month the EU banned the outdoor use of three bee killing neonicotinoids in Europe. “These chemicals act like endocrine disruptors on the bees, which act on their nervous system causing paralysis, decreasing the function and survival of the queen bee, worker bees and the honey production.” These endocrine disruptors also impact human life.
I am also over the moon excited to share that Hawaii has banned two endocrine disrupting chemicals used in sunscreens. Oxybenzone and octinoxate not only cause coral bleaching but the are also endocrine disruptors and when applied topically can cross the skin and reach the blood, negatively affecting the functions of important immune and reproductive hormones. Thank you Hawaii for taking the first step to protect our beautiful coral reefs.
Take care of your bodies moon family; they are magnificent machines that perform intricate and magical processes.
To healthy and vibrant lives,
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