What are Endocrine Disruptors & How They Destroy Health
Your endocrine system is not very well understood, but it’s incredibly important to your health and wellbeing.
Your endocrine system is made up of all of your hormones and helps to regulate all of your body’s processes. An endocrine disruptor is usually a harmful mixture of chemicals that interrupts the normal hormonal processes, signals or immune functions of your body.
They can lead to anything from chronic fatigue to weight gain, low immunity, reproductive problems and even cancerous tumours.
The worst part is, we need very little exposure to endocrine disruptors to experience the health detriments. Plus, endocrine disruptors can last in our systems for years, causing decades of disruption and adverse reactions.
Endocrine disruptors lurk in a range of widely used products from household cleaning items, personal care products, fragrances and cosmetics, to plastic bottles and cans.
The good news?
We’re finally starting to understand the main endocrine disruptor culprits, their effect on our bodies, and how to avoid them.
Keep reading to find out some of the main toxins you should be aware of and how they can destroy your health if you’re not careful.
So what are Endocrine Disruptors & How Do They Destroy Health?
1. Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA's are commonly found in plastic containers and bottles, many canned foods, and even the thermal lining of receipts.
Avoiding BPA isn’t a new idea by any means (you can probably remember the craze on switching to BPA-free water bottles), but you might not know exactly why you should be avoiding it.
BPA is particularly dangerous because it imitates the estrogen hormone, which can wreak havoc on your body’s process.
BPA is linked to scary diseases and conditions like breast cancer, infertility, heart disease, early puberty, prostate cancer, and more.
The issue is, we’ve been so exposed to BPA over the years before it was determined that it was a dangerous endocrine disruptor, but it’s a lot easier to avoid now than before.
Stick to fresh food whenever possible versus canned (more vitamins anyway!), or when buying canned foods, look for BPA-Free which are widely available now.
Say no to receipts at the cash register (better for the environment too) and do your research on which companies make products that are actually BPA-free (they may have equally dangerous ingredients), and stay away from polycarbonate plastics as a rule.
Dioxins are less widely known, but just as dangerous. It’s formed when chlorine and bromine are burned with oxygen and carbon, which is a pretty standard industrial process. This makes it harder to avoid, especially because dioxin is lasting and builds up in your system.
Commonly found in women's menstrual hygiene products such as bleached, commercial pads and tampons, Dioxins are known carcinogens that can disrupt male and female sex hormone signalling.
Instead, choose unbleached organic products in this department.
Avoiding dioxin will be easier for plant-based eaters because dioxin builds up in animal food products during industrial processes. The more a food has been processed, the more dioxin will have likely built up.
Also, following a plant-based diet can help you avoid the regularly contaminated animal food products like meat, fish, butter, eggs, and milk.
You might not know this endocrine disruptor by name, but you probably use it on your lawn. Atrazine is a common weed killer that’s quite toxic and has been shown to turn male frogs into female that even produce eggs.
Atrazine is commonly used on corn crops and contaminates drinking water, and has been linked to conditions like breast tumours, delayed puberty, and even prostate cancer.
Atrazine can be tricky to avoid, especially if it’s in your water, but you can do your best by switching to organic produce and using a high quality water filtration system, or sticking with distilled water which you can remineralise by placing in a glass jar in the sun and adding a pinch of salt.
Our cells die and replenish constantly and that’s completely normal and healthy. But what isn’t normal is when endocrine disruptors signal perfectly healthy cells to die, which is exactly what phthalates do to healthy testicular cells.
Phthalates have also worryingly been linked to hormone changes, low sperm count, obesity, diabetes, and more.
Phthalates are used to soften plastics, as well as to make fragrances stick to your skin for longer. You can avoid this endocrine disruptor by switching from plastic food containers to glass, reading personal care item labels carefully and avoiding those with fragrance, and finding out which children’s toys have phthalates.
Learn more in Bottled Water: Good, Bad, & Best Alternatives.
It’s easy to picture the first four endocrine disruptors, but not so much perchlorate, a component in rocket fuel. Still, if you’re trying to understand what are endocrine disruptors, you need to understand perchlorate.
Unfortunately, perchlorate contaminates much of our produce and milk, so avoiding it is quite tricky. If you ingest too much of this endocrine disruptor, it can cause an imbalance in your thyroid hormones. This is critical for metabolism, not to mention brain and organ development for children.
To counteract perchlorate, ensure you’re consuming enough iodine every day. Mushrooms contain one of the highest plant sources of iodine - eat 1 cup per day raw, sauteed...anyway you can. Other sources include seaweed and sea kelp and also nature-made sea salt which is important to include in your diet also.
Find healthy salts and more in our store.
Learn more in Natural Remedies for Thyroid Health.
Lead is a well-known toxin, but it’s quite disruptive to your endocrine system as well. Lead has been known to lower sex hormone levels, as well as disrupt the signalling process that regulates your body’s stress system.
This stress system is incredibly important and can help your body resist heart disease, depression, anxiety, diabetes, and more.
Older homes are a dangerous source of lead, so make sure your home is well maintained. Make sure you test your water for lead, and use a certified filter if any lead is found.
Studies also show that healthy diets can prevent you from absorbing as much lead, which is another compelling reason to switch to a plant-based diet.
Mercury is a natural but toxic metal that can easily get into your water and air supply from burning coal. This makes it easy to find contaminated seafood, and mercury can interfere with women's menstrual cycles and ovulation, and may also play an important role in diabetes.
To avoid mercury, you can follow a plant-based diet that completely eliminates mercury-contaminated fish. If you want to consume seafood, choose wild-caught fish and Atlantic salmon, Alaskan mackerel, and Pacific sardines.
8. Perfluorinated Chemicals
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are used for non-stick cookware, but they can also be absorbed into the body. They’re incredibly widespread, resistant, and linked to lower sperm quality, kidney disease, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and more.
While non-stick pans make cooking a breeze, skip them to avoid exposure to this endocrine disruptor, as well as clothing, furniture, and carpets that are advertised as stain resistant.
9. Glycol Ethers
Glycol ethers are quite common and found in paints, cleaning products, cosmetics, and brake fluid. They can damage your fertility, lead to blood abnormalities and lower sperm counts.
Children who are exposed to glycol ethers from the paint in their rooms are more at risk for asthma and allergies, making this an endocrine disruptor you absolutely want to avoid.
Make the switch to natural cleaning products, avoid paints with glycol ethers, and learn to read labels on everything to avoid ingredients like 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME).
Learn more in 5 Environmental Toxins to Avoid & What to do if Exposed.
What are Endocrine Disruptors, Answered
These are just some of the endocrine disruptors that exist, but when you realise how dangerous they are to your overall health, it makes complete sense why they should be avoided.
You can make small but effective changes in your everyday life to avoid so many of these toxins, like the following:
- Switch to natural cleaning products, cosmetics, personal hygiene, skincare products without fragrances.
- Become an expert at reading labels so that you know exactly what you’re consuming or putting on your body.
- Follow an organic, local plant-based diet and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
- Avoid using or buying plastics no matter what.
Many endocrine disruptors can be avoided simply by following a clean, healthy lifestyle and a plant-based diet. Small choices over time add up to your overall health, so making the right choice regularly will help you stave off diseases and disorders caused by your environment.
Tolman Self Care.