How everyday life is wreaking havoc with your hormones
Lynn and Mark take pride in how well they care for their home and family. They go the extra mile to keep a spotless home. They make sure the kids are clean and well fed. On the surface, they look like a healthy and happy family. But what Lynn and Mark don’t know is that maintaining their seemingly ideal lifestyle is exposing the family to a daily dose of hormone-disrupting chemicals that may have far reaching health effects.
Endocrine disruptors—chemicals that alter normal hormone function—can be found in many of the common products consumers use every day. Often derived from petrochemicals, these dangerous compounds quietly make their way into our lives disguised as “harmless” household cleaners, air fresheners, plastic toys, food containers, cosmetics, perfumes, and personal care products. Exposure also comes from car exhaust, processed foods, industrial chemicals, and the persistent pesticides that are ubiquitous in our environment. Over time, these endocrine disruptors accumulate in body fat where they can reside for decades, wreaking havoc with natural hormone balance.
There are over 85,000 manufactured chemicals in the U.S., lurking in the things we touch and taste every day. Once dismissed as unimportant because they were emitted in very small quantities, research now shows that even tiny amounts of these endocrine disruptors can have devastating effects on our well-being. Over time, they can lead to a broad range of health problems including obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, immune dysfunction, thyroid issues, osteoporosis, and hormone-dependent cancers including breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers—as well as behavioral and neurological problems.
Names to Know
Thanks to a growing body of research—as well as an uptick in news coverage—the public at large is becoming increasingly aware of the dangers endocrine disruptors pose. As a result, many manufacturers are taking steps to lessen the presence of endocrine disruptors like BPA, dioxin, phthalates, fire retardants, atrazine, perchlorates, lead, arsenic, PFCs, and glycol ethers in their products. While these may sound like names you forgot to memorize in chemistry class, they can translate into real health threats. To learn more about the unseen toxins, here are three examples of endocrine disruptors that are invading our world:
BPA, which stands for Bisphenol A, is an industrial chemical used to make two common synthetics: polycarbonate and epoxy resin. Epoxy is used to line the majority of the more than 130 billion food and beverage cans made in the U.S. every year. So, skip the cans and choose fresh or frozen food whenever possible. BPA is also found in 40 percent of the receipts that you grab without a thought from the store clerk. Say “no” to receipts when possible or grab it with a tissue if saving it is necessary. Don’t let it roll around in a purse or pocket and never let a child play with it. BPA-free is getting a lot of attention, but be a wise consumer. Some companies are replacing BPA with bisphenol 5 (BPS). While this allows them to claim that a product is “BPA-free,” recent research suggests that BPS also disrupts hormones.
Phthalates. This chemical plastic softener is often found in cosmetics. It’s used to keep nail polish from cracking, in hair spray to maintain flexibility, and as a solvent and fixative in synthetic fragrances. Phthalates are easily absorbed by the skin and make their way to the bloodstream. How do you know if a product harbors phthalates? Since manufacturers aren’t required to list them, look for the term “parfum” or “fragrance” on cosmetic and personal care product ingredient labels. You’ll also find phthalates in many plastics, including food containers, toys, and medical devices like IV tubes and catheters. When possible, check labels for DBP, DNOP, DiNP, DEP, BBzP, DEHP, DiDP, DMP, DnOP—that’s your clue that phthalates are part of the product.
Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs). Do you love how your eggs slide effortlessly out of your non-stick frying pan? Unfortunately, the PFCs that prevent food from sticking to your cookware can leach into your food and stick to you! In fact, these endocrine disruptors are so widespread that researchers believe 99 percent of Americans now have PFCs as part of their chemical body burden. They don’t break down—ever— so every one that has ever been here is still here. Time to refresh your cooking style. Skip non-stick pans, and choose alternatives like glass, ceramic, or cast iron. Beware of coatings that promise fewer stains and water-resistance on your clothes, furniture, and carpeting. PFC’s are also used to coat the inside of most popcorn bags and fast food containers.
With such a wide array of endocrine disruptors and ways that we encounter them, knowing how to spot these annoying additions to everyday life can mean a big difference in your overall health.
Xenoestrogens and DIM
Xenoestrogens are a sub-category of endocrine disruptors with estrogen-like effects that can be even more potent than the estrogen made by the ovaries. Just like all endocrine disruptors, they upset the natural hormone balance. But exposure can also lead to estrogen dominance. Supplementation with DIM (diindolylmethane) is a good way to help lessen the health effects of xenoestrogen exposure. DIM doesn’t increase or decreases estrogen—it merely directs how it is metabolized. Since estrogen can be broken down into “good” estrogen metabolites or “bad” estrogen metabolites, DIM plays the role of a traffic cop, re-routing the estrogen metabolite to a safer pathway. This same safe pathway can also help promote more efficient fat metabolism, antioxidant activity, and cancer prevention—all welcome additions to helping your body as it detoxifies and gets rid of the xenoestrogens. While DIM is a natural plant nutrient found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and Brussels sprouts, it wouldn’t be very appetizing to eat several pounds of this type of veggies every day. That’s why supplementing with 120 mg of a proprietary DIM complex that is standardized to 25 percent DIM per dose and listed on supplement labels as BioResponse DIM, is a good solution. Because we’re talking about eliminating hormone disruptors, it’s also a smart idea to add a high-absorption curcumin and a tannin-free, high-absorption OPC grape seed extract with a DIM supplement. Curcumin enhances the detoxification enzymes, which makes it easier for the body to rid itself of the toxic xenoestrogens. An OPC grape seed extract aids in stopping the accumulation of fat cells — the very type of cells known to house these hormone disrupting chemicals. This combination in a supplement will give you an excellent edge in fighting estrogen dominance so prevalent due to endocrine disruption.
Living in the Real World
Even with greater awareness, we will always probably be dealing with endocrine disruption. Don’t let it drive you crazy with anxiety and fear, but instead, use these facts to keep yourself educated about what you can do for yourself and your family. Do what you can with a balanced nod to real life. The more you learn, the greater you’ll be equipped to make your environmental lifestyle healthy and free of endocrine disruptors.
Tips to Avoid Endocrine Disruptors
- Get rid of plastics (including water bottles) and use glass.
- Buy organic food whenever possible.
- Make your own household cleaners.
- Opt for chemical-free cosmetics and personal care products.
- Always read product labels.
- Do not microwave food in plastic containers.
- Use unbleached paper products and feminine protection.
- Trade in garden pesticides and herbicides for natural alternatives.
- Visit helpful websites like EWG.org, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.