Endocrine Disruptors: please don’t disrupt me!

First, what is the endocrine system?

The endocrine system regulates all biological processes in the body including development of the brain and central nervous system, reproduction, metabolism, and blood sugar. Glands and hormones in the endocrine system include, but are not limited to:

  • Adrenal glands – produce and release the hormone cortisol
  • Hipicampus – center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system
  • Hypothalamus – signals the Pituitary gland to release hormones to other glands such as the thyroid, ovaries, and testicles
  • Pancreas – regulates how food is used for energy, releases digestive enzymes for digestion, and insulin and glucagon for blood sugar levels
  • Ovaries – produce eggs and sex hormones, regulated by the Hypothalamus and Pituitary glands
  • Parathyroid – controls the amount of calcium in our blood and bones
  • Pineal gland – produces Melatonin, which affects sleep patterns and photoperiodic (seasonal) functions
  • Pituitary gland – influences many other glands, especially the Thyroid
  • Testes – produce sperm and sex hormones, regulated by the Hypothalamus and Pituitary glands
  • Thymus – serves a vital role in the training and development of T-lymphocytes or T cells, an extremely important type of white blood cell
  • Thyroid – regulates the metabolism and releases thyroxine and triiodothyronine

What is an Endocrine disruptor?

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that have hormone qualities or structures. They bind with our body’s hormone receptor sites and can block and/or mimic natural hormones and hormone functions. Endocrine disruptors lodge in fat cells and are resistant to breakdown.

They cause an unstable supply and production of natural hormones, which affects blood sugar, growth, reproduction, metabolism, sex hormone regulation, mood, stress, and sleep. The are in direct competition with our bodies for essential nutrients which can cause our bodies to be nutrition deficient. In addition to the stress that they place on the endocrine system, they also stress on liver, which is the primary detoxifier of the body, and can cause, aggravate, or contribute to high cholesterol and other liver related issues.

The effects that endocrine disrupters have on our bodies can be devastating to our health and our quality of life.

Symptoms: (just to mention a few…)

  • Acne
  • ADHD
  • Anxiety /depression
  • Autism
  • Bloating, swelling, puffiness
  • Breast tenderness / enlargement
  • Cancer
  • compromised or weakened immune system
  • Diabetes
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fatigue
  • Foggy thinking/memory problems
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Heart disease
  • Heavy, irregular, or absent menstrual periods
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Insomnia / sleep disorders
  • Irritability / mood swings
  • Loss of Libido
  • Migraine headaches
  • Obesity
  • Reproduction problems including infertility
  • Sleep disorders
  • Weepiness
  • Weight gain/loss

They are found in our food, drinking water, air, and daily use products.

Common endocrine disruptor sources include:

  • BPA: Canned food – 75 percent of canned food cans in North America are coated with BPA. Even BPA-free cans may not be safe, as they’re often coated with a similar chemical known as BPS. Paper receipts printed with thermal paper also contain BPA and can be absorbed through the skin. Food wraps, and plastic food containers.
  • Phthalates: used as plastic softeners and preservatives in many personal care products such as household cleansers, soaps, shampoo, hair spray, deodorant, cosmetics, nail polish, perfumes, dental floss, shaving cream, chemical sunscreens, and most things with a fragrance. Other personal care items often contain, but are not limited to phthalates, including food preservatives (commonly found in processed foods).
  • Atrazine, Arsenic, and Perchlorate: Drinking water can become contaminated from:
    • landfills, dumps, industrial effluents and waste disposal, leakage from underground storage tanks
    • sewage, partially treated waste water, and sludge, animal production wastes
    • pesticides, urban run-off, mines, tailings, and spoils, agricultural run-off from crops
    • pharmaceuticals in waste water.
  • Non-organic produce: Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, industrial runoff, and genetically modified foods (GMOs).
  • CAFO Farms: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Farms which mass produce poultry, meat, and dairy products use antibiotics, hormones, and other industrial chemicals to treat the animals to produce higher yields. These chemicals are stored in animal fat, and consumed by humans.
  • Mercury: contaminated fish or shellfish, dental fillings, batteries, pharmaceuticals, immunizations (used as a preservative), CFL light bulbs (do not break, and always recycle carefully)
  • PFAS, PFOAS, PTFE), non-stick cookware also known as Teflon, a DuPont brand trademark, water repellent, and flame retardant chemicals, including frying pans, stain and water repellent treatments for carpets, furniture, clothing, shoes, and leather. There are hundreds of different flame retardants and are used in many types of consumer goods, including clothes, bedding, electronics, furniture, building materials, and automobiles.
  • Other solutions: paint, wood treatment solutions (pentachloropheno), varnish, and most other solutions or compounds that are synthetic, fossil fuel based, have an odor/fragrance, or have contact with skin. Antibacterial products (Triclosan)

Avoidance Strategies for Endocrine Disruptors

As you may have noticed, endocrine disruptors are everywhere and there is no escaping them in our modern world. Start in the areas that affect you the most. The following recommendation range from “I can do that” to “no way”, but do what you can to reclaim your health and quality of life from these toxins.

STEP 1: Start with what you eat and what you smell

  • Replace your plastic water bottle with stainless steel. Don’t drink from, or re-use disposable water bottles.
  • Buy and eat organic produce, meat, and dairy to reduce your exposure to pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and added hormones.
    • Follow the dirty dozen produce buying guide
    • Try to buy organic range-free meat (remember, you eat what they eat. If they eat processed feed that is genetically modified, and sprayed with perticides, it is stored in their fat.)
    • Buy organic dairy, or at least aim for reduced fat or fat free (Most milk today is growth hormone free; however, the genetically modified wheat, corn, and soy feed contribute to stomach ulcers in the cows, which are treated with anti-biotics to sustain milk production, all of which is stored in the fat cells and deleivered in the milk)
  • Reduce seafood consumption or eat fish that is wild-caught. You can also supplement with a high-quality omega 3. I suggest Nordic Naturals.
  • Buy fresh or frozen instead of canned unless the can states that it is “BPA-free.”
  • Buy food products in glass containers instead of plastic containers.
  • Use glass or ceramic containers to heat food in.
  • Avoid soft plastic, or vinly children’s toys. Look for BPA-free pacifiers, teething rings, or anything your child may put in their mouth.
  • Fragrance free – Avoid all things with a synthetic fragrance: air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners… (personal hygiene products, hand soaps, fabric softeners…) and avoid taking in strong oders (perfume, bleach, cleansers, paint, varnish, synthetic rubbers and vinyls…)

STEP 2: When you are ready, take it a step further

  • Use bamboo cutting boards instead of plastic. They’re naturally antimicrobial.
  • Decrease consumption of processed foods (my mother said I need to stop eating plastic).
  • Replace all plastic food storage containers and plastic wrap with glass or ceramic containers.
  • Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware (you can buy non-stick ceramic).
  • Use a HEPA filter when you vacuum to remove contaminated house dust.
  • Avoid backyard burning – dioxins created and released into the air through backyard burning settle on plants, and are, in turn, eaten by meat and dairy animals, which store the dioxins in their fatty tissue.
  • Avoid plastics as much as possible, especially #3, #6 and #7.

STEP 3: Now focus on what you touch

  • Avoid antibacterial products.
  • Use only natural/organic cleaning products in your home, or make your own. (white vinegar, baking soda…)
  • Avoid using pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides in homes and gardens, especially those containing glyphosate (Round-up, GroundClear…).
  • Use a mineral based sunscreen instead of a chemical sunscreen. See the Environmental working Group’s guide to tested products www.ewp.org/skinkeep.
  • Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric.

STEP 4: Now the hard part

  • Use only natural/organic toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. See the Environmental working Group’s guide to tested products www.ewp.org/skinkeep.
  • Look for products that are organic. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, upholstery and more.
  • Avoid “wrinkle free”, “water resistant”, “stain resistant”, “flame retardant” clothing, shoes, bedding, furniture, carpet, tents, backpacks…
  • Filter your drinking water, and if possible, your bathing water, but avoid a reverse osmosis water system. Although the reverse osmosis process results in the formation of a largely mineral-free, chemical-free and pathogen-free water, it is filtered with a plastic membrane, filters can become contaminated with bacteria and viruses easily. It is also known as “hungry water” since it is severely mineral deficient, has an acidic pH, and may remove some vital minerals from the body.

Detoxification Strategies for Endocrine Disruptors

Bodies are different and some people may be more prone to feel the effects of endocrine disruption. There are two genes that have been mapped to the detoxification of the liver. Some people have a genetic mutation (which is not uncommon) and are missing either one, or both genes.

  • Drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. Natural detoxification occurs at night while sleeping.
  • Take time to relax and find pleasure in life. Relaxation and pleasure helps the natural detoxification process. A body under stress cannot adequately process toxins.
  • Baking soda baths help alkalize the body and assist in the detoxification process by dislodging endocrine disruptors stored in our fat tissues. Take a baking soda bath 2-3 times a week. A good rule of thumb is a 20 minute bath with 1 C baking soda where the water level is over your chest. The water must be hot enough to cause you to sweat. If you get sick afterwards, then you may be detoxing too fast. Adjust the amounts of baking soda and/or water accordingly.
  • Take a steam bath or sit is a sauna occasionally to encourage the detoxification process.

Recommendations for reducing endocrine disruptors in your life are echoed time and time again by the following organization:

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
The Endocrine Society
World Health Organization (WHO)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS):
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Don’t give your children soft plastic teethers or toys
Find a better sunscreen http://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/