Perimenopause: P4: Hormone Disrupting Chemicals Everyone Should Avoid
When I was younger, “hormones in the milk” was an often talked about subject. Some people rolled their eyes saying this was ridiculous - but some could imagine the correlation. It was the reasoning behind prepubescent girls getting their periods at age 9 or 10. It was all about the hormones in the milk. Meanwhile, Jergens most popular, most innovative product was the tanning lotions. Not the strong stuff that was basically a dye, but the stuff that you just kept using and it would slowly tan your skin. It was chock full of plastics and fragrances.
Although people were wise to see that consumed goods was having an impact on the sex hormones of young girls, we didn’t talk about the effects on boys, the possibility it could be from other sources or the effects food and skin care products have on adults.
I bring up the body lotion because it is a great example of a product often used that is packed with endocrine disrupting chemicals. This is an issue because they are having a huge effect on our adreanals and sex hormones. In fact, the rise of our exposure to these over the past 50 years may explain a bit of the current gender issues going on today.
The endocrine system is worth protecting at all costs, just like the nervous system. Our hormones regulate growth, maturation, behavior, reproduction, embryo development, metabolism (aka: production, use and storage of energy), balance and maintenance of water and salt (electrolytes) in the body and reaction to stimuli (e.g., fright, excitement, stress).
Introducing constant exposure to chemicals that impact these functions have huge consequences on our overall health and could expose us prematurely to cancers and various illnesses.
The Canadian Care for Occupational Health has the best and clearest description about how EDCs work in the body. A very helpful article can be found here . I highly recommend giving it a click especially if you or loved ones have jobs that work around industrial chemicals or metals.
“Substances can disrupt the normal function of endocrine systems in three different ways:
They can mimic a natural hormone and lock onto a receptor within the cell. The disruptor may give a signal stronger than the natural hormone, or a signal that occurs at the "wrong" time.
They can bind to a receptor within a cell and thus prevent the correct hormone from binding. The normal signal then fails to occur and the body fails to respond properly.
The disruptors can interfere or block the way natural hormones and receptors are made or controlled. This interference or blockage may occur only if relatively large doses of the substance are present.
If the endocrine disruptor stimulates or inhibits the endocrine system, then increased or decreased amounts of hormone may be produced. In some cases, even very small amounts of a disruptor may have a detectable effect. In addition, small amounts of different endocrine disruptor chemicals may have a cumulative effect. In some cases the by-products of the chemicals may have greater harmful effect than the parent chemical.”
What is really sad in the big impact these chemicals is having on boys. The increase of estrogen like chemicals in delaying the maturation process of young boys. They are also producing things like wider hips and breasts on male bodies. This happens not just in childhood but also in the gestation process. In order to give our boys and our girls a fair shot at being healthy young adults, we need to reduce our exposure to these chemicals.
But xenoestrogens are not only concern. Plenty of other chemicals affect the thyroid and adrenal function in the body.
Kinds of chemicals to avoid
Before you freak out about all the chemicals that you are exposed to everyday, I would like to point out that these same chemicals have also SAVED countless lives. We just don’t need them in such great abundance. Salad and fruit without E.coli is a good thing. Crops being saved from crop eating parasites is a good thing. Plastic medical equipment is a good thing. Just be vigilant about the amount of exposure you get.
Through some careful living, small changes and a bit of ingredient reading, you can greatly reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals. The best part of, you will be greatly reducing your environmental impact and waste production.
BPA (bisphenol-A), Phthalates & Parabens
These are compounds you want to avoid at all costs. These are compounds in plastic. Their construction is so similar to estrogen that it takes the role of it in the body, greatly disrupting levels of estrogen in the body. Phthalates have been scientifically linked to endometriosis, infertility and allergy rate in creases. THIS is the chemical that is going to greatly affect the onset of your child's puberty.
DDT, Chlorpyrifos, Atrazine, 2, 4-D, Glyphosate
Used In: Pesticides
Lead, Phthalates, Cadmium
Used In: Children's Products (be cautious of children's products made before 2009. these contain plastics and chemicals that are now outlawed)
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Dioxins
Used In: Industrial Solvents or Lubricants and their Byproducts
Bisphenol A (BPA), Phthalates, Phenol
Used In: Plastics and Food Storage Materials
Brominated Flame Retardants, PCBs
Used In: Electronics and Building Materials
Phthalates, Parabeans, UV Filters
Used In: Personal Care Products, Medical Tubing, Sunscreen
Used In: Anti-Bacterial Soaps, Colgate Total
Used In: Textiles, Clothing, Non-Stick Food Wrappers, Mircowave Popcorn Bags, Old Teflon Cookware
Step to take to avoid extra exposure
Thick skin vegges vs thin skin veggies & GMOs Exposure to GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is greatest when the skin on the fruit or vegetable is thin. Leafy greens always need to be washed and preferably buy organic.
The term “organic” is kind of a charade. Yeah ok, they use less chemicals but the FDA regulations are still pretty suspect. Full pesticides can be used on the crop one year, then they turn the soil and the next year the chemicals are still in the dirt but no new pesticides are used. The FDA still considers this “organic.”
Many scientists believe that Non-GMO is worth the expense. I tend to agree. But you MUST look at the source. Farmers markets are cheaper than supermarkets and are now popping up regularly all over the country. If you can get over the hump of “ugly produce” your food bill will crash. Think about it this way: why would you want to eat something the no bugs want?
I go back and forth about whether this is worth spending money on. But I’ll tell you what I do.
My guy hunts so we don’t really have to worry about organic meat. If we have nothing fresh in the freezer, I invest in a cow share from a local farm. Chicken, we buy organic and antibiotic free, because poultry is kind of like the bottom feeder of meats. But I buy a WHOLE chicken and use the crap out of it, even making broth from the bones.
Vegetables, I don’t buy organic unless it’s leafy greens. Everything else, I buy what’s on sale. I do buy my products at the local farmers market, but I’m not yet regular about it. Habits like this take more planning and it just not in my repertoire yet. I’m told Farmers market produce is organic but really, who knows? I just wash everything.
Fruit, I buy organic if it’s something like blueberries. I buy regular grapefruit and bananas, because it has such a thick skin. Beans, I buy dry and buy the bulk. I’m investing in cotton bags so I don’t have to use plastic produce bags anymore. Oh, and I’m bothering my mom for a grapefruit tree in her yard. I just don’t have a yard yet.
The BF and I had a talk about eggs. I once read that unless you are getting your eggs fresh from a farm or buying free range and/or pasture raised, just get the cheapest eggs you can buy. There is a big difference between natural eggs and cheapo eggs, but not much of a difference between cheapo eggs and mid range eggs (cage free for example).
Honestly, local CSA boxes (community supported agriculture) are not hard to find and it’s possible to get a weekly box of fresh, organic produce, delivered to you house or children's school for very little money. Those of you with yard space may want to consider growing a bit of your favorite produce. Those on food stamps will be happy to know that EBT also purchases seeds. That is a HUGE return on investment, right there. You could even sell the leftovers.
Re-think plastics Plastic is everywhere. Any piece of clothing you have that has a stretch, has plastic. Try to reduce your plastic use. You can do this by using more glass and steel products. Get yourself a refillable water bottle, use mason jars, bring your grocery bags, opt for more expensive/quality clothing that lasts and is made of natural fabrics.
When buying plastics, remember to only buy with the recycling code 1,2 & 5. Codes 3 & 4 have a higher content of BPA. Also NEVER microwave food in plastic containers. Avoid buying meats and cheese in plastic. These products are prone to chemical leaching.
Take off shoes in the house Not only does this create a more zen like house and keep things clean, it greatly reduces the amount of fertilizers and pesticides you walk into your home. America is really the only country I’ve ever been to that doesn’t have a shoes-off policy inside the home. Personally I think it is gross. There are all kinds of dirt and dreck on the sidewalk and you are just putting that all over you bedroom and bath mats. Take your shoes off and save time cleaning and your body from getting out of whack.
Reduce skin care products Lotions and cosmetics are LOADED with parabens and EDCs. SO much plastic, research and chemicals go into the whole market. Your skin is the most absorptive organ in your body. So think of skincare like this: if you can’t eat it, don't put it on your skin.
Absolutely avoid fragrances in skin care. These are made of phthalates and parabens. Use only unscented versions of skin care, air fresheners and baby products. When you are purchasing products, if you read the ingredient list and see DPB, DEHP, BzBP, DMP or anything PHTHALATE, get another product. I recommend using oils to moisturize the skin.
Canned foods The coating of canned food often contains BPA. Try to avoid canned food as much as possible. Frozen or dried is the better way to go.
Cook in steel or iron The Teflon coating is full of harmful plastic chemicals. As you cook, it comes off and as the pan ages, more comes off. Using cast iron and steel is a great skill and won’t make you sick
Avoid processed food (even oils & spray oils) Food that have dyes in them are also endocrine disruptive chemicals. Spray oils from an aerosol can often have way more than just oil in them. Try to use the natural stuff.
Cleaning products that are more natural like vinegar, borax, and baking soda It takes more elbow grease and some getting used to but if you use cleaning products more than once a week, you may want to think about making a change. There are natural solutions that won't affect your thyroid function. How to use these is beyond the scope of this article but I can tell you that WELLNESS MAMA has hundreds of articles about this very topic.
Clean, dust, vacuum, HEPA filter Keep your home clean. You can greatly reduce your level of exposure by vacuuming two or three times a week. Even once a week is better than once a month. Keeping things tidy means you are keeping everything that comes into your house under control - including your health. Nano filters in drinking water can process out DEHP from your pipes and keep you safe. Carbon filters are better than nothing.
Other resources https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/endocrine.html https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19478717/ https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/endocrine-disrupting-chemicals-edcs