The endocrine system is responsible for keeping our body running smoothly. This system produces the hormones that make us grow, control our emotions, reproduce, maintain a healthy weight, and more. But, as more chemicals seep into our water supplies, foods, products, and the air we breathe, our endocrine system is one of the first body systems to feel the consequences. In the modern world, we are more susceptible than ever to drastic hormone changes from chemicals that can severely alter our bodily processes.
What Are Endocrine Disruptors?
An endocrine disruptor is a blanket term for any harmful chemical – usually man-made – that can interfere with our hormones. The synthetic chemicals found in pesticides, plastics, and other things that taint our foods can alter hormones. When chemicals affect hormones even in very slight ways, the results can turn drastic.
Endocrine disruptors may cause:
- Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep
- Neurological problems
- Developmental delays
- Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
- Infertility or reproductive problems
- Heart disease
- Weakened immune system
How can endocrine disruptors wreak such havoc on the body? They’re best at mimicking your actual hormones, making your body think that they’re the real deal. Therefore, cells bind to endocrine disruptors like they normally would, but the fakes block real hormones from binding, altering the process.
Where Do They Come From?
Unfortunately, endocrine disruptors come from a variety of sources that are difficult to avoid, like our food and air. Harmful chemicals can make their way into our bodies through ingestion, breathing, or even by seeping into our skin. BPA, for example, is a toxic chemical often found in plastics, but you may also find it in can liners so that it can transfer to canned foods. Almost every person over age 6 in America has traces of the chemical in their bodies.
Avoiding the Hormone Harmers
Avoiding everything that may contain an endocrine disruptor is virtually impossible. But, there are some important things you can focus on that can drastically decrease your potential exposure to the harmful hormone harmers.
Keep the House Clean
One of the most common ways to get exposed to endocrine disruptors is by breathing in air with harmful contaminants. Many of the things you use around the home – like your television and furniture, have flame-retardant chemicals, which slowly escape over time. When they do, the particles end up in the air and dust around the home.
Keep your air vents clean, dust often around any dust-producing appliances and furniture, and vacuum daily to reduce buildup from flame-retardant products. A HEPA filter on your vacuum cleaner can help trap harmful particles.
Try to Avoid Plastics
BPA is often the first toxic chemical to come to mind when you think of plastics, but phthalates are another type of chemical common in plastic products. These chemicals make plastic flexible, but they trigger such hormonal changes that cause cells to die prematurely, altering your body processes and affecting your health.
Plastic toy containers, bags, shower curtains, and plastic wrap may all be phthalate-containing culprits, although many products are now switching to phthalate-free construction. Look for a “phthalate-free” label and try to avoid plastics as much as possible.
Choose Glass Over Cans
Cans are common culprits for trapped endocrine disruptors, like BPA, which appear in a can’s lining. Depending on the food inside, the chemical reactions between the food and lining, especially with acidic foods, can cause the lining to break down, releasing harmful chemicals into your food.
Unfortunately, some manufacturers may replace BPA with other dangerous toxins, like BPS and BPF. If at all possible, buy products in glass containers instead of cans.
Although it’s not always easy on the wallet, buying organic food can help you avoid harmful chemicals that taint food from pesticides, antibiotics, and packaging. Farmers grow organic produce and animals without the unhealthy extras, so these foods are much safer to consume.
If you can’t always afford organic foods, opt for ones with minimal packaging, which may contain endocrine disruptors. And, you can buy more of the “Clean Fifteen,” which is a list of produce with the least possibility of contamination from pesticide residue, like onions and kiwis.