Hormones are a pretty big deal to say the least.
They’re the chemical messengers that tell the body what to do, when to do it, and how.
But more and more science is drawing the connection between certain chemicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis and hormone disruption — these chemicals have been aptly named “endocrine disruptors” or “endocrine disrupting chemicals.” In fact, just this past week a new analysis was released showing that male sperm count in Western countries has decreased almost 60% in just the past 40 years. This is really very concerning, and unsurprisingly, endocrine disruptors have been identified as one potential culprit.
Given the how widespread endocrine disruptors are nowadays and the potential harm, it’s important that we know exactly what they are and how to protect ourselves.
What are endocrine disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body’s endocrine system: the system of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things. In other words, they interfere with the body’s hormones and the specific functions of those hormones.
Endocrine disruptors interfere with hormones by:
- Mimicking the body’s natural hormones like the sex hormones estrogens and androgens as well as thyroid hormones. This can potentially induce overstimulation.
- Bind to cells’ hormone receptors and prevent the body’s natural hormones from binding, preventing the hormone from getting where it needs to go and doing its job.
- Interfering with the way hormones or their receptors are made or controlled (example: by altering their metabolism in the liver)
What dangers do endocrine disruptors pose to our health?
Endocrine disruptors have been linked to hormonal imbalances, precocious puberty (early-onset puberty) in young girls, fertility issues, reproductive toxicity, reproductive-related cancers, breast cancer, learning problems, and even obesity (fun fact: some endocrine disruptors are further classified as “obesogens“).
How are we exposed to endocrine disruptors?
A number of different chemicals are classified as endocrine disruptors. They include:
- Bisphenol A (BPA) and Bisphenol S (BPS) — Found in plastic products, can linings, receipt paper
- NOTE: BPA-free plastics often contain BPS, BPA’s chemical cousin and an endocrine disruptor. That’s why BPA-free is a load of BP(S).
- Triclosan — Found in antibacterial soap, toothpaste
- Artificial fragrance — Found in personal care products, perfume, home cleaning products
- Phthalates — Found in plastics, food packaging, vinyl shower curtains, children’s toys
- Parabens — Found in personal care products
- Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) — Found in non-stick cookware, wrinkle-free clothing
- Organophosphate pesticides — Found on produce farmed with conventional pesticides
- Atrazine — Found on produce farmed with conventional pesticides, in water
How can we protect ourselves from endocrine disrupting chemicals?
Try to avoid them as much as possible!
Make the switch to natural personal care products. The Natural Beauty Master List is a great place to start — it contains at least one healthier, safe alternative to every skincare, beauty, haircare, and body care product imaginable!
Kick unhealthy chemicals out of your home. I designed The Home Detox Guide to help you do just that. This 55-page guide is jam-packed with information about the chemicals in your home and how to create the healthiest home for your family.
Choose organic produce as much as possible. Don’t forget these 7 Ways to Save Money on Healthy, Real Food to make it a little easier on your savings account!
Limit plastic and cans. Swap our your plastic water bottle for a glass one and your plastic food storage containers for a glass set. And as much as possible, choose foods sold in glass rather than plastic or cans.
Boost your body’s detoxification pathways
The liver is responsible for filtering chemicals as well as excess and used hormones from the blood, and so plays a key role in both detoxification and hormone balance. Support your liver with these 10 Ways to Give Your Liver Some Extra Love.
And check out these 8 Simple Daily Detox Habits for Gentle Cleansing.