What do you know about Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?
I hadn't even heard of them before I started studying hormones. But I now know they are like invisible hormone wreckers!
You may be missing a big piece of the hormone balancing jigsaw; Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (or EDC's).
What are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?
They are a group of recognised chemicals that are known to interfere with endocrine (hormone) function in some way. That means they can disrupt your normal hormone behaviour by imitating hormones or interfering with their signalling.
In particular oestrogen is affected. These chemicals are like fake oestrogens, they are similar to our own oestrogens so they can land on our receptors and imitate our own oestrogen, disrupting the normal functioning.
This is known to contribute to an increasing number of health issues including decreased sperm viability, ovarian dysfunction, neurodevelopmental deficits and obesity. And of course they can make your menopause journey a much tougher one!
Where are these endocrine disrupting chemicals lurking?
Everywhere! But when you can't see these chemicals, it’s not easy to know about them.
- the air we breathe
- the food we eat, and the water we drink (pesticides, heavy metals, plastic)
- our household products that we use in the home (air fresheners, scented candles, cleaning and laundry products, fire retardants, kitchenware)
- our beauty and personal products that we inhale or put on our skin (perfume, body lotion, cosmetics, shampoo, shower gel, sunscreen etc)
What are the big EDC's to avoid?
BPA – you know about this one, right? It’s one of the most researched Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. It's in plastic everything, from water bottles, to food containers, to till receipts and tin can linings! BPA has been linked to everything from breast to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease.
Pesticides – when something is invented to kill living insects, you know it can’t be good for us either! Despite many studies linking organophosphate pesticide exposure to numerous health issues, they are still among the more common pesticides in use today. A few of the many ways that organophosphates can affect your hormones include interfering with testosterone signalling and changing thyroid hormone levels.
Phthalates – a group of chemicals found in synthetic fragrance and plastic products, studies have linked phthalates to hormone changes, infertility, birth defects, obesity, diabetes and thyroid issues.
Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFC’s) – these are used to make things ‘non stick’, trouble is they stick to you too! They are very hard to degrade so can stay in the body for a long time. Health issues they’ve been linked with include decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol.
Heavy metals; lead, mercury, arsenic – as well as a host of general health issues, these heavy metals are also linked to hormone disruption. Lead (found in some paint, lipstick and tap water), arsenic (tap water, some rice products), and mercury (amalgam fillings, water, large fish) are best avoided!
7 ways to minimise exposure
We can’t avoid Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals completely, but we can do an awful lot to minimise our exposure;
- Reduce plastic – minimise use of plastic water bottles, food containers, plastic wrap, tins and cans. BPA can leach into food and drink particularly when heated, so avoid putting any plastic into the microwave or oven. Swap to glass or stainless steel where you can.
- Eat organic where possible – especially when you're eating the skins of products (eg salad leaves, fruit) to avoid ingesting too many pesticides.
- Filter your water – water can be contaminated with heavy metals, best to get the best filter you can afford.
- Ditch the candles and air fresheners – inhaling phthalates is the quickest way into the bloodstream, so swap to diffusers and natural candles with essential oils.
- Switch your cleaning and laundry products to a brand that doesn’t use phthalates (Method is a good one in the UK).
- Switch to more natural personal products – There are some amazing natural brands out there now including some of my favourites; Tropic, Schmidt’s natural deodorants, Neals Yard, Green People (best natural mascara!), Weleda, Dr Bronners, Burts Bees, Dr Haushchka – there are plenty more to consider. Check out www.biggreensmile.com for natural brands. And download the Think Dirty App to check your favourite product for toxicity!
- Replace your non-stick cookware with ceramic or stainless steel (use more olive oil or coconut oil to prevent sticking!). I love the Green Pan range too.
Doing more of these things will help reduce your exposure to these chemicals, but also supporting your liver will help to detoxify the ones you can't avoid.
And it's important not to get overwhelmed by this.
You don’t need to do all these things at once! Just swapping one product at a time when you run out, to a more natural brand, and you’ll get there in time.
Contact us for more info if you'd like any help with your hormones or other health issues.