What endocrine disruptors do
Have you ever heard of endocrine disruptors? It might sound complicated, but they’re worth looking into. The basic idea is that there are toxins found in many foods and non-edible products (like certain plastics) that are believed to affect your hormonal balance by mimicking your hormones and tricking your system into believing that you’re already out of balance.
Then your endocrine system (where your hormones come from) overcompensates and you can be thrown into an unhealthy cycle.
The endocrine system consists of glands that release hormones.
Once released, hormones act like chemical messengers. They travel around the body, bind to target receptors on specific cells, and cause predictable cellular changes.
Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are interesting chemicals because they can mimic hormones. In doing so, they can bind hormone receptors and:
- create a powerful response, even more powerful than the original hormone;
- create a less powerful response than the original hormone; or
- create a totally different response than the original hormone.
In the end, EDs can change hormone creation (synthesis), transport, binding, and breakdown.
And even very small amounts can have an influence. That’s why EDs are often measured in ppt (parts per trillion).
Also, EDs are very stable. In other words, they don’t break down quickly. This is why many manufacturers include them in products in the first place. Of course, it also means they stick around in water, air, soil, (and our bodies) for a long time.
Since our hormonal systems are critical to body function and health, when they’re changed by EDs, potential outcomes include:
- oxidative stress
- altered testicular function and suppression of testosterone synthesis
- early onset of menarche
- sensory impairment and social problems (especially when exposed at early ages)
- altered conversion of cholesterol to steroid hormones
- promotion of obesity (by altering metabolism, fat cell signaling, glucose uptake, inflammation, and appetite)
- EDs stored in fat cells (the more body fat, the more EDs have likely been stored)
- altered onset of puberty
- disrupted immune function
- disrupted bone health, cardiac function, and mental status
Interestingly, a non-linear response has been observed in many EDs. This means that an ED might wreak havoc at very low and very high doses. But moderate doses might do nothing at all.
Why? Well, moderate doses of EDs may be the only doses that elicit a strong enough protective response (relative to the dose) by our cells.
And we can’t forget about the potential “cocktail effect.” With the wide variety of EDs coming into the body, effects might be cumulative and hard to isolate.
– via Precision Nutrition
How To Avoid Endocrine Disruptors
Some of these tips are about food (and that’s an important part of the puzzle) but many are about household items. It’s amazing to look at these small things in your life and realize that something as simple as your shower curtain could be having an impact on your hormones!
Implementing the following measures—many of which are included in the EWG’s recommendations for avoiding the worst endocrine-disrupting culprit—can also help you protect yourself and your children from toxins from a wide variety of sources.
- As much as possible, buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic meats to reduce your exposure to added hormones, pesticides and fertilizers. Also avoid milk and other dairy products that contain the genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST).
- Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality purified krill oil, or eat fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity. Wild caught Alaskan salmon is about the only fish I eat for these reasons.
- Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or canned, since chemicals can leach out of plastics and into the contents. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a serious concern; make sure plastic containers and canned goods are BPA-free.
- Also store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap.
- Use glass baby bottles and BPA-free sippy cups for your little ones.
- Eat mostly raw, fresh foods. Processed, prepackaged foods (of all kinds) are a common source of chemicals such as BPA and phthalates.
- Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
- Filter your tap water—both for drinking and bathing. In fact, if you can only afford to do one, filtering your bathing water may be more important, as your skin absorbs contaminants. To remove the endocrine disrupting herbicide Atrazine, make sure the filter is certified to remove it. According to the EWG, perchlorate can be filtered out using a reverse osmosis filter.
- Look for products that are made by companies that are Earth-friendly, animal-friendly, green, non-toxic and/or 100% organic. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, upholstery and more.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove contaminated house dust.
- When buying new products such as furniture, mattresses, or carpet padding, ask what type of fire retardant it contains. Be mindful of and/or avoid items containing PBDEs, antimony, formaldehyde, boric acid, and other brominated chemicals. As you replace these toxic items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool and cotton.
- Avoid stain- and water-resistant clothing, furniture and carpets to avoid perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).
- Make sure your baby’s toys are BPA-free, such as pacifiers, teething rings and anything your child may be prone to suck on.
- Only use natural cleaning products in your home, or make your own. Avoid products that contain 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME)—two toxic glycol ethers that can damage fertility and cause fetal harm.12
- Switch over to organic brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. Remember, you can replace many different products with coconut oil and baking soda, for example. The Environmental Working Group has a great database13 to help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals. I also offer one of the highest quality organic skin care lines, shampoo and conditioner, and body butter that are completely natural and safe.
- Replace feminine hygiene products like tampons and sanitary pads with safer alternatives.
- Avoid artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances.
- Look for products that are fragrance-free. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds — even thousands — of potentially toxic chemicals.
- Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric.
– via Mercola.com
What do you think about watching for these endocrine disruptors in your life? If you try it for a while, you might start to notice a real difference.