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We Need To Talk About Endocrine Disruptors

Publication: The File

When I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s six months ago, I learned pretty quickly that I needed to be my own advocate. I decided to learn as much about what was going on with my body as possible and do whatever I could to fix it, because no one else was going to do it for me. I did the research, changed my diet, detoxed my home, and last but obviously not least; swapped my beauty products for clean alternatives. A common thread throughout my research was the issue of endocrine disruptors, which are harmful to anyone with hormones (yeah you!) but especially problematic for someone with an endocrine autoimmune disorder like myself. 

To make a complicated system a little less complicated, hormones are made in your endocrine system which is a system of glands including the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, pancreas, ovaries and testicles, which regulate almost every cell and organ in your body. These glands respond to your body’s needs and make hormones that regulate processes like your metabolism, breathing, development, sleep, mood, immunity, digestion, and sexual functions to name a few. Seems like they deserve a little attention and credit no?

Because your endocrine system is complex and sensitive, too much or too little of a hormone can throw off the rest of the system resulting in hormonal imbalances that cause a variety of symptoms and diseases. In my case, my thyroid no longer functions, so it can’t make the hormones needed for most of the processes listed above, resulting in symptoms that have honestly been kicking my ass for the last few years. 

Hormonal imbalances can be caused by stress, genetics and/or environmental factors. These environmental factors, or endocrine disruptors, interfere with your hormones by mimicking them, increasing or decreasing hormone production, interfering with signaling within your endocrine system, competing with nutrients and even accumulating in your organs. I’d rather not have a liver full of BPA, its job is hard enough as it is. So even though I’ve been taking replacement thyroid hormones, a constant stream of endocrine disruptors could be keeping those hormones from doing their job.

While there are thousands of chemicals that qualify as endocrine disruptors, the EWG has comprised a list of the most common, the “dirty dozen”: 

-BPA

-dioxin

-atrazine

-phthalates

-perchlorate

-fire retardants

-lead

-arsenic

-mercury

-perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)

-organophosphate pesticides

-glycol ethers

The worst part is that by building up in your system, small amounts of endocrine disrupting chemicals over time can cause damage like heart disease, infertility, cancer, obesity, and depression. If your body is already overburdened like mine, it needs all the help it can get and while we can’t avoid endocrine disruptors entirely, you can reduce your exposure by:

-Avoiding plastics and canned food, BPA-free is safer but not ideal

-Choosing organic produce, pasture raised animals or wild caught small fish

-Eating whole, real foods and avoiding processed foods

-Drinking filtered or spring water

-Using clean beauty products and avoiding any products with “fragrance” or “parfum” as an ingredient, which is typically a catch-all term that doesn’t require companies to disclose ingredients like phthalates

-Avoiding antibacterial products 

-Using a vacuum and/or air filter with a HEPA filter

-Avoiding non-stick pans

-Using non-toxic cleaning products

-Considering using non-hormonal birth control methods

The upside is you’re probably already doing things that help remove these toxins from your body like exercising, spending an hour in an infrared sauna or even taking a hot bath. Another excuse to make time for self care!  I’ll be in my doctor-prescribed candlelit Epsom salt bath. She didn’t specifically prescribe adding a face mask, but at least I know my favorite Kristina Holey + Marie Veronique Micronutrient + Hydro mask is endocrine disruptor free.