The endocrine system is not often talked about, yet it’s incredibly important to your health and wellbeing.
Your endocrine system is made up of all your hormones and helps to regulate all of your body’s processes.
And an endocrine "disruptor" is usually a harmful mixture of chemicals that interrupts the normal hormonal processes or immune functions of your body.
These disruptors can lead to anything, from chronic fatigue to weight gain, to lowered immunity, reproductive problems and even cancerous tumours.
The worst part is, you need very little exposure to endocrine disruptors to experience detrimental health problems. Plus, endocrine disruptors can last in your body for years, causing decades of discomforts and adverse reactions without you realising the source of the problem.
Endocrine disruptors lurk in a range of widely used products from household cleaning items and personal care products, to fragrances, cosmetics and plastic bottles and cans.
So, what's the good news?
Well, we're finally starting to understand the main culprits of endocrine disruption, their effect on the body and how to avoid them.
So, here we cover off the main toxins you should be aware of and how they can destroy your health, particularly if you’re not conscious of some of the daily products you consume.
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.
Dioxins are 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" (cancer-causing agents) that can disrupt male and female sex hormone signalling.
Instead, choose unbleached organic products when it comes to this area.
The food you eat can also be contaminated with dioxin residues, particularly heavily processed, factory produced foods and industrially farmed animal products. For this reason, it's important to eat a diet as close to source as possible, with minimal processing to avoid risk of exposure to hidden dioxins in foods.
You might not know this endocrine disruptor by name, that is a common ingredient in many weed killer products. Atrazine is quite toxic and is commonly used on industrial corn crops. It also can contaminate 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 or spray-free local produce and using a high quality water filtration system at home.
Phthalates have worryingly been linked to hormone changes, low sperm count, obesity, diabetes and more.
It's important to remember that our cells recycle constantly as a normal, healthy process. But what is NOT normal, is when endocrine disruptors signal perfectly healthy cells to die, which is exactly what phthalates do to healthy 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" (which is almost always synthetic).
Perchlorate blocks iodine uptake into the thyroid, and decreases the production of thyroid hormone, a critical hormone for metabolism.
Perchlorate exposure occurs from ingestion of natural or manmade perchlorate in food or water, particularly factory produced products and industrially farmed dairy.
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 or cooked, anyway you can as often as you can.
Other quality sources, include seaweed and sea kelp and also nature-made sea salt which is important to include in your diet also.
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 ensure you're eating a diet rich in locally, sourced plant-based, seasonal whole foods as much as possible.
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, deep water fish (rather than "farmed" varieties to minimise your risk).
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 may be helpful in cooking, choose stainless steel or cast iron pots and pans, to help avoid exposure to this endocrine disruptor.
Keep in mind also that a good way to avoid this chemical is to avoid linen, furniture and clothing 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 butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME).
Learn more in 5 Environmental Toxins to Avoid & What to do if Exposed.
The Main Takeaway
Hormonal imbalances, allergies, chronic fatigue and other common health problems, are largely affected by disruptions to your endocrine system.
For this reason, it's very important to be aware that there are many harmful chemicals in the environment, household products and even in the foods and personal care items you consume, that can cause endocrine disruption.
Being aware is the first step.
Then, it's all about making small adjustments to your daily habits and product choices, that ultimately can make a big difference to your health over the long term.
- Switch to natural cleaning products, cosmetics, personal hygiene, skincare products, without synthetic fragrances.
- Become an expert at quickly identifying harmful ingredients on product labels, before you buy them and put them on or in your body.
- Follow a diet that is rich in locally sourced, plant-based foods and avoid processed foods and industrially raised animal products as much as possible.
- Avoid consuming foods and products that are stored in plastics as much as you can.
The secret to maintaining a healthy functioning endocrine system is to basically be "chemically-conscious".
By adopting a clean diet and lifestyle, you'll go a long way to staving off diseases and disorders caused by these hidden chemical ingredients.
Tolman Self Care.