In today’s world we are exposed to an increasingly high number of endocrine disruptors from the environment, the food we eat, and skin care products. Today we will be talking about how these chemicals can have a negative effect on our hormones. An endocrine disruptor is any chemical that interferes with the body’s endocrine system. If we are exposed to too many of these endocrine disruptors, it can lead to hormonal imbalances which can cause weight gain, infertility, fibroids, and conditions such as thyroid diseases, endometriosis, and PCOS. Some major endocrine disruptors that we come into contact with a lot include parabens, phthalates, triclosan, PFAS in nonstick pans, flame retardants in clothing and furniture, and chemicals in plastic and Styrofoam products.
There are many chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis that can have a negative impact on our health. First we will be talking about a class of endocrine disruptors known as xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are structurally similar to our own body’s estrogen and they can bind to our estrogen receptors and exert estrogenic effects in our bodies. Some common sources of xenoestrogens include unfiltered tap water, plastics, pesticides, cleaning supplies, and body care products. These compounds can lead to issues related to estrogen dominance and throw the rest of our hormones out of balance.
There has been an increase in thyroid diseases over the recent years and the thyroid disruptors in our environment certainly aren’t helping the issue. A few chemicals that directly affect the thyroid gland negatively include many chemicals in pesticides and herbicides, benzophenone found in many sunscreens, PCBs, nitrates, chlorine, and bromine. Chlorine and bromine can bind to iodine receptors on the thyroid gland, affecting the uptake of iodine that our thyroids need. Chlorine is often added to tap water and is found in high concentrations in swimming pools and hot tubs. Bromine is often used in food production, notably in brominated vegetable oil and brominated flour. Bromine is also used in flame retardants that are commonly found in clothing and household products such as couches, rugs, and mattresses. Nitrate intake also competes with the uptake of iodine in the thyroid gland and is believed to be a big risk for thyroid cancer and thyroid disease.
Hormones in Meat and Dairy
The meat and dairy industry isn’t as clean as it used to be. These days many animals are pumped with synthetic hormones that end up in the food supply. Avoiding conventionally raised meat and choosing organic meat or meat that doesn’t contain any added hormones is the best option.
What You Can Do
The best thing you can do to keep your body safe from these endocrine disruptors is to avoid your level of exposure. While it’s pretty much impossible to avoid these chemicals entirely, you can limit your exposure quite a bit if you are mindful. Some things you can do include:
- Limit your use of plastic and Styrofoam by using glass or food grade stainless steel water bottles and containers to store leftover food
- Look for skincare and cleaning products that are free of parabens, phthalates, and other endocrine disruptors
- Get a high quality air filter for your home that removes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your living space (look for air filters that include both a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter)
- Avoid brominated vegetable oil and brominated flour products
- Avoid cooking with nonstick pans that contain perfluorinated chemicals
- Drink clean, filtered water or spring water without any added chlorine
- Consume clean meat that doesn’t contain any added hormones
The less toxins you put in your body, the less work your body has to do!
And of course, focusing on eating a healthy diet will go a long way too. Eating a clean diet will help give your body the nutrients it needs to function optimally so it can detoxify all of these chemicals. When your body can get rid of these endocrine disruptors, there is less of a chance of them hanging around and wreaking havoc on your hormones. You can also include foods rich in phytoestrogens, as these have been shown to help detoxify synthetic xenoestrogens from the body because they also bind to estrogen receptors. Some healthy foods that contain phytoestrogens include soy products, seeds (flax seeds are especially high), beans, lentils, oats, fruits, and vegetables. While our bodies are designed to consume food containing phytoestrogens, and they have less of an estrogenic effect in our bodies, it is important to note that for sensitive people, these compounds can still affect their hormones negatively. Every body is different and will react differently to compounds that can bind to hormone receptors.