While researching and creating my program Detox Done Different, I noticed that with almost every single toxin I was talking about, the same pattern was emerging.
I kept finding this term “endocrine disrupter” again and again – with almost every single toxin.
In fact, most environmental chemicals like pesticides, heavy metals, flame retardents and phthalates are endocrine disrupters.
I heard it so many times that I became almost numb to it – and I think that happens to many of us when these terms are tossed around so much. We can’t connect the word to how it really affects US and OUR HEALTH any more – we disconnect.
We’ve almost heard this term so much that we don’t even register it anymore. So just what is an endocrine disrupter?
The endocrine system is integral to the functioning of the entire body. The endocrine system is made up of a network of glands including the pineal gland, pancreas, pituitary gland, ovaries, testes, thyroid, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus and adrenal gland. All of which are kind of important to our health.
Their job is to secrete hormones into the bloodstream, and hormones are the chemical messengers of the body. It’s the way that the body communicates to control many of the life functions.
So when we’re talking about endocrine disrupters, what we’re really talking about is hormone disrupters.
When we mess up the hormones in the body, we’re disrupting everything! Hormones are essential to almost every process in the body, including your growth and development, metabolism, (and therefore weight), reproduction and fertility, learning and memory.
An endocrine disrupter is hormone-mimicking a substance that interferes with the normal function of the endocrine gland system that secretes hormone–chemical signals which regulate the function of the body.
They do this in a bunch of different ways; they can increase or decrease the production of hormones, imitate hormones, turn one hormone into another, interfere with hormone signalling, tell cells to die prematurely, bind to hormones, and accumulate in organs that produce hormones.
Disrupting the endocrine system has devastating developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immunological effects on the body, and can eventually lead to cancer, diabetes, infertility and obesity.
Top 12 Hormone-Altering Chemicals
So just what are the worst endocrine disrupters, and how can you avoid them? Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group put together a list of the dirty dozen endocrine disrupter chemicals. (1)
Mimics estrogen – used in the lining of food cans, receipts made of thermal paper and plastics marked with a “PC” (for polycarbonate) or recycling label #7.
Disrupts sex hormone signaling – due to industrial use the food supply has been widely contaminated with this chemical. Conventional animal products are the most likely to be contaminated.
The “gender-bender” herbicide that can turn male frogs into females that produce completely viable eggs – used on most corn crops, other produce and it’s now a pervasive drinking water contaminant. Buy organic and properly filter your water.
Causes hormone changes and triggers “death-inducing signaling” in testicular cells, telling cells to die prematurely – used in most plastic, plastic wrap made from PVC (recycling label #3) and many personal care products hidden under the label “fragrance”.
A component in rocket fuel that displaces iodine, which the thyroid needs to make thyroid hormones – contaminates produce and milk supplies. A good water filter is needed to get it out of the water.
6. Fire retardants
Persistent chemicals that bio-accumulate in the body (and have been found in polar bears and women’s breast milk), can imitate and disrupt thyroid hormones – avoid fire retardents in new furniture, carpets and mattrasses. If the polar bears can’t escape it, we probably won’t have much luck either. This is where deep, daily detoxing becomes important.
Highly toxic to almost every system of the body, and disrupts the hormones by lowering sex hormone levels and interrupts the stress response signalling (the HPA axis) – old crumbling pain and lead pipes are the main contamination sources.
Interferes with normal hormone functioning in the glucocorticoid system, which has been linked to weight gain/loss, protein wasting, immunosuppression, insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes), osteoporosis, growth retardation and high blood pressure – has contaminated the food and water supply.
Binds to a hormone that regulates women’s menstrual cycle and ovulation, interfering with normal signaling pathways – mercury has contaminated the air and ocean through burning coal. The biggest sources of exposure are eating fish, dental amalgams and vaccines with the preservative thimerosal, like the flu shot (contains mercury).
10. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) – aka non-stick cookware
Linked to decreased sperm quality and can affect thyroid and sex hormone levels. 99% of Americans have PFCs in their body, because they don’t break down – ever. Stop using non-stick pans, and avoid water- and stain-resistant fabrics.
11. Organophosphate pesticides
Interferes with the way testosterone communicates with cells, lowers testosterone and alters thyroid hormone levels. It’s also a neurotoxin that was used by the Nazi’s in chemical warfare (anyone else feel like we’re in a silent chemical war right now?) and is one of the most common pesticides used today. Choose organic!
12. Glycol Ethers
Linked to lower sperm counts, shrunken testicles and “may damage fertility or the unborn child” according to the European Union. Found in paint, cleaning products and cosmetics.
(1) “DIRTY DOZEN ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS”, OCTOBER 28, 2013, http://www.ewg.org/research/dirty-dozen-list-endocrine-disruptors