Endocrine Disruptors - by Sharon, EQ Registered Dietitian
Ever wondered if there’s something in your diet that’s preventing you from being the best YOU that you can be? Something that’s making it more difficult for you to lose weight or harder for you to conceive? Have you picked through your daily diet over and over and can’t find the culprit?
Endocrine disruptors, tiny chemicals lurking inside the foods you eat, the water you drink, the blankets you cuddle up to at night, the electronics you share your memories through, and so on, may very well be the answer!
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified 1000 chemicals currently in use which have the ability to seriously interfere with the way your body runs. These chemicals work by mimicking hormones in your body in a manner that stops your own body’s hormones from functioning properly.
Endocrine disruptors have long lasting effects on fertility, weight, and can also lead to insulin resistance and negatively impact your cancer risk.
The endocrine system includes a variety of glands and organs, most notably the ovaries and testes, thyroid, pancreas, and pituitary and adrenal glands. Because of the role the endocrine system plays in the body, any factor which disrupts its functioning can have huge implications for metabolism and growth.
Endocrine Disruptor impact on Pregnancy
One of the scariest facts about endocrine disruptors is that they are particularly dangerous for growing fetuses. If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, please evaluate your current exposure to these chemicals.
Studies show that when endocrine disruptors are consumed during the gestational period, it has lasting health effects on the fetus that often present in adulthood despite undetectable to low levels of the particular endocrine disruptor being found in the child/ adult. The thought being that these chemicals have the ability to change our genetics to an extent, which can also be passed on from generation to generation.
One of the most common ways in which we expose ourselves to endocrine disruptors is through the water we drink. Though many of us (men included) do not take birth control pills or other medications that affect hormonal levels, we likely are consuming them just by drinking water. Waste water containing excreted drugs plus improperly disposed of medications find their way into the water we drink. Municipal water systems do not have the capability to remove them from public drinking water, and most bottled water companies choose not to remove them either.
Opting for bottled water adds another endocrine disruptor to the mix, as BPA and other chemicals contained in the plastics used to make water bottles linger in the water, and enter your body as you drink. Don’t be tricked into thinking that your BPA-free water bottle does not contain these harmful chemicals – usually manufacturers switch to something like BPS which consumers haven’t caught on to yet, but which has the same endocrine disrupting effects as BPA.
One study of pregnant women is of particular concern. In the third trimester of pregnancy study participants’ urine was measured for how much BPA it contained. Subsequently their children were measured at ages 5 and 7 years old to determine the percentage of their bodies which were fat. Female children of the women with the highest levels of BPA in their urine had the largest body fat percentages.
A summary of the study can be found here:
Other dietary sources of endocrine disruptors include: pesticides on fruits and vegetables, soy-based products, plastics chemicals leeched from food storage containers and plastic wrap, and preservatives.
Way to Reduce Your Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors
Select a bottled water that is labeled BPA and BPS-free. Optimally the bottled water would also indicate that it is free of trace pharmaceuticals, chlorine, and fluoride. Penta Water is one brand that states its bottled water fits this criteria.
Alternatively, you may opt for installing a reverse osmosis water filtration system which can help with reducing the endocrine disruptor content of your water, or selecting a water filtration system which has the ability to remove viruses and bacteria – since the viruses and bacteria are smaller than plastic, if a filter can remove viruses and bacteria it should be able to remove plastics.
Buy organic produce whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list each year of the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide content, as well as the 15 with the least. The “Dirty Dozen” as they call them, would be the fruits and veggies that you would optimally buy organic. Avoid buying packaged goods such as cold cereals and deli meats which contain BHT and BHA.
Opt for cast iron or stainless steel pans for cooking when possible, to avoid undesirable chemicals used in non-stick coatings on pans.
Whenever possible go for fresh or frozen vegetables and foods in place of canned ones. Cans are often lined with a BPA-containing chemical liners to help prevent the food from absorbing the metal taste from the can. Even cans which are labeled as BPA-free may be using a chemical equally as undesirable as BPA to line their cans.
Limit the amount of soy in your diet. Soy can mimic estrogen in the body, disrupting normal hormonal balance. Flax seeds are another food which can affect hormone levels. Some say that flax seed can adapt to your hormone needs and actually help you; however in some, it can lead to estrogen dominance – it’s better to err on the side of caution and limit flax.
Use essential oils in place of perfumes and air fresheners. Fragrances used in perfumes, cleaners, and air fresheners are among the list of potential endocrine disruptors. Young Living Essential Oils sells a variety of quality oils which depending on the oil can be used in your home, on your body, or even in your food. Kuumba Made is another brand that offers a line of roll-out fragrances oils, which make convenient perfume alternatives.
Ways to Reduce Levels of Endocrine Disruptors in Your Body
Drink a lot of clean water and exercise more. Studies show that both urine and sweat contain measurable levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals such as BPA. Therefore, exercise and good hydration can help these chemicals find their way out.
Consider an iodine supplement. Certain endocrine disruptors work by binding to thyroid hormones in place of iodine. When you take in more iodine, you help with excreting these chemicals, and thus improving your thyroid function. This works particularly well at removing bromine – based disruptors as well as perchlorate (an endocrine disruptor found mainly in produce and milk), fluoride, and chlorine.
Start taking a probiotic supplement. Two particular strains of probiotics have been shown to have the ability to help remove BPA from the body, Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacilus casei. Below is a list of commercial probiotic supplements which contain these two strains:
Nexabiotic by Bioprosper Labs
CVS Pharmacy Adult Probiotic
Propolis Plus by Essential Formulas
Mega Probiotic-ND by Food Science
Primal Defense by Garden of Life
Healthy Origins 30 Billion Jarro-Dophilus by Jarrow Formulas
LactoPrime Plus by Klaire Labs
Probiotic 10 by Now Foods
Poly-Dophilus by Pathway Ultimate Flora Critical Care
Renew Life ProBiota 12 by Seeking Health
Probiotics Ultra by Syontix