What is an endocrine disruptor? According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. The damage is believed to be most severe during prenatal or early pregnancy exposure.
What Makes Up Your Endocrine System?
Your endocrine system refers to the collection of glands that secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system and carry them to the various endocrine glands. The major endocrine glands include the female ovaries, male testes, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, adrenal glands, pineal gland, thymus, hypothalamus, parathyroid glands, and the pancreas. They regulate pretty much all your bodily functions: digestion, metabolism, body temperature, appetite, reproduction, and blood sugar so that everything runs smoothly.
Endocrine disruptors cause hormones imbalances, mimic true hormones, and block hormones from sending signals to your body. They can even trick hormones into sending signals that will harm or kill you.
More frightening is that an increase in hormone-dependent cancers like breast, prostate, and testicular are associated with the increasing number of endocrine disruptors in the environment, according to research.
Most endocrine disruptors are man-made chemicals and heavy metals. Here’s a dozen of them. The Environmental Working Group calls them The Dirty Dozen.
1. Bisphenol A (BPA): BPA imitates the hormone estrogen and causes breast cancer, reproductive problems, obesity, heart disease, infertility, and PCOS. It’s found in canned foods, plastics and in printed receipts. Plastics are most dangerous when they are heated, such as in a microwave or leaving a plastic water bottle in a car.
2. Dioxin affects sexual development in the womb, lowering sperm count and quality, causes cancer and damages the immune system. It’s found in the food we eat, especially animal products and is almost impossible to escape.
3. Atrazine: This toxic weed killer turns male frogs into egg-producing females, causes breast tumors and prostate inflammation. In humans, it’s been linked to prostate cancer. Atrazine is widely used on corn crops as an herbicide and is pervasive in our drinking water.
4. Phthalates cause the premature death of male testicle cells, lower sperm count, cause obesity, diabetes, and thyroid malfunction. Phthalates are found predominately in plastics such as plastic bottles, toys, and plastic wraps. It is also found in deodorants, perfume, soaps, shampoos, and nail polish.
5. Perchlorate causes the thyroid to lose iodine and affects metabolism in adults and brain and organ development in infants and children. Perchlorate is found in our drinking water. Getting enough iodine in your diet counteracts its effects.
6. Fire retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDE’s find their way into breast milk and are known to lower IQ and produce carbon monoxide when burned. PBDE’s are found in flame-retardant clothing, dust particles found in your home, old foam cushions, and carpet padding.
7. Lead causes brain damage and cognitive delays in children, miscarriage, kidney damage, nervous system problems, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Lead can be found in old paint in older homes and some drinking water.
8. Arsenic can kill you in high enough quantities, but lesser amounts it causes skin, bladder and lung cancer, and disruptions in the glucocorticoid system, causing insulin resistance and diabetes, osteoporosis, stunted growth, and hypertension. High arsenic levels have also been found in tap water, apple juice, rice and in rice products like brown rice syrup, rice flour, rice vinegar, rice bread, and cereal.
9. Mercury damages fetal brain development, binds to hormones that regulate menstrual cycles and produce insulin, disrupting both processes. Mercury is found mostly in seafood. Avoid fish from the Gulf of Mexico such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel. Wild salmon and farmed trout are usually free of mercury. But mercury is also found in the old mercury fillings in your teeth.
10. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) cause decreased sperm count, low birth weight, kidney and thyroid disease, and high cholesterol, to name a few. Unfortunately, 99 percent of us have these endocrine disruptors in our body. One, in particular, PFOA, is found in non-stick Teflon pans, and stain- and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture, and carpets.
11. Organophosphate pesticides inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme in the nervous system that is essential to carrying signals between nerves and muscles. Victims of organophosphate poisoning die because they can’t breathe. These are one of the most common pesticides used today. Buy and use only organic produce.
12. Glycol ethers: Rats exposed to glycol ethers end up with shrunken testicles. That’s a good indication, and the European Union agrees, that this chemical can damage fertility and the unborn. It is linked to blood abnormalities, low sperm counts, and asthma and allergies in children. Glycol ethers are common solvents found in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid, and some cosmetics.
Other than avoiding these hormone disruptors, what can you do to protect yourself and undo the damage already done? One of the best things we can do is to get our gut right. A healthy gut expels toxins better than an unhealthy gut. A healthy gut has beneficial bacteria, which science is finding makes a big difference in the number of endocrine disruptors we retain. Probiotics are one of the best things you can do for your gut health.
Dietary choices that help with detoxification include organic fruits, vegetables, seaweeds, and sprouted whole grains, which are high in enzymes, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protective antioxidants.
Another essential cofactor is sulfur, with high levels found in cruciferous vegetables, onions, and garlic, as well as protein sources such as eggs, fish, nuts, legumes and organic meat and poultry.
Medicinal mushrooms protect your body like nothing else, helping to both support immunity and detoxification. Mushrooms have a unique impact on the immune system, modulating the response rather than simply boosting it. They also help to remove toxins from organs and tissues and replenish the body’s systems with important nutrients and therapeutic compounds.
In addition to these dietary factors, natural compounds that can be taken in supplement form for more targeted support include modified citrus pectin and alginates, which are natural binding agents for toxins, supported by clinical research.
For broad spectrum, comprehensive support for detoxification and protection of organs and tissues, a detoxification formula like DN Detox, Detox Greens, Liver Detox and Support and Milk Thistle. Gingko Biloba extract has also been studied for its specific effects in preventing glyphosate-induced toxicity.
An important point to consider is that there are thousands of chemicals now found in our environment, and in our bodies. This cannot be ignored, as the cumulative, combined effects of even very low levels of multiple toxic compounds are unknown and a cause for great concern.
For optimal health support in the face of increased toxin exposure, it’s critical to keep your natural detox functions in optimal shape. With an organic diet, targeted supplements, drinking filtered water, and other healthy lifestyle choices, you can help your body resist the grave impacts of toxic chemical compounds you’re exposed to daily.