Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that disrupt your endocrine system, which include your thyroid, your sex hormones, your blood sugar hormones, your nervous system function, and your immune system. These disruptors interfere with your body’s growth, development, behavior and reproductive health. Down the road, it can lead to disturbing effects like inability to lose weight, brain fog, lethargy, and increased cancer risk.
The Environmental Working Group, an organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, came up with a list of the Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors. The group empowers people by educating them about the threats that exist and products they buy, so they can make sure that they’re free from dangerous chemical ingredients.
We’ll go through each of the things on the Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors list:
- Natural minerals.
These toxic natural minerals include lead, mercury, and arsenic. Beyond the toxic effects of mercury being heavy metal poisoning, lead can actually affect your sex hormones. It can lower your sex hormones. It can affect what's called the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, which can affect the way your body handles stress and regulates blood sugar. Lead is often found in paint and water.
Mercury is found in seafood. The larger the fish, the more mercury you get. Just one or two cans of tuna per week can raise your mercury to a high level. The smaller the fish, the less mercury it contains. Sardines, herring and anchovies have low levels of mercury.
Arsenic is found in water and rice. Brown rice has more arsenic than white rice. This toxic element can affect the glucocorticoid system, which helps your body handle stress and and affects how your body uses sugar and fat.
One of the things you need to ensure is that your water is clean. You could do that by finding a good water filter. You could find that list at Environmental Working Group, where they'll go through different water filters. The best one is what's called "reverse osmosis." That is the best way of cleaning your water. You can buy an under the sink system or a countertop system.
- Industrial chemicals.
The first toxic industrial chemical is dioxin, which is found in industrial processes and mostly in the fat of animal products. The fat is the area of the animal that stores the toxins. So, if the animal is raised in a toxic environment, you're going to have a lot of toxins in there. That's why it's important to make sure that you're getting incredibly clean sources from a farm that you know if you’re eating animal products, including milk and cheese. This is an important step because toxic industrial chemicals can affect both male and female hormone signaling in your body.
Next is perchlorate, a ubiquitous toxic element. It competes with iodine, which means that you're going to have improper functioning of your thyroid. This is most common in water. As you can see, we're getting a recurring theme here.
Next is fire retardants. Unfortunately, there's nothing much you can do about this, but it does affect thyroid function. You can buy a HEPA air filter that does wonders. I know in Japan, when you go to a lot of hotels, they have these HEPA air filters right in the hotel room. But if you're doing a lot of vacuuming, it's found in toxic dust in almost everybody's place. You can get HEPA filters so that as you're vacuuming you're not getting it in the air.
- Further industrial chemicals.
Another industrial chemical to watch out for are perfluorinated chemicals. This is found in your non-stick cookware. This affects thyroid and sex hormones. It is best to avoid non-stick pans as well as stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture, and carpets. You can use ceramic cookware. There are ceramic pots, good old fast and cast iron pots, or stainless steel.
Glycol ethers are another toxic industrial chemical. These are solvents, and paints, cleaning products, brake fluids, cosmetics. Glycol shrinks the testicles in rats. Imagine what that can do to humans. You can avoid this by going to Environmental Working Group and looking at their approved list of cleaners to make sure that these are gone.
BPA or bisphenol A, which is something you may have heard of, is found in cans. If you're going to be eating canned food or drinks, you want to make sure that it's a BPA-free can. It's also found in thermal receipts. If you go to the grocery store and they give you the receipt, that has BPA in it so be careful how you handle it and don’t crinkle it just get rid of it.
Phthalates, a group of chemicals that are used in making plastics, kill testicular cells. They have been reported to change your hormones and these have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and thyroid irregularities. The best way to avoid this is to avoid fragrances. Phthalates are found in almost all things that are fragranced. Keep in mind that if it says unscented, it doesn't mean that it’s fragrance-free. Sometimes they use fragrances on top of fragrances to create an unscented variant. They mask fragrances to get rid of smell.
Also, avoid plastic food containers if possible. At the bottom of all plastics, check the number. Make sure it doesn't have a number three. If you want to find skincare products that avoid this, then you want to go to the Environmental Working Group. They have a list of skincare products that don't have phthalates in them.
Atrazine, a herbicide, which actually turns male frogs into female frogs, is used in cornfields and it's in the water. This is why it is important to get yourself a water filter. Again, I recommend reverse osmosis.
Another toxic pesticide is the organophosphate pesticide. It was invented by the Nazis as a chemical warfare agent, but it has been used and manipulated by American scientists to create chemicals that are pesticides. This affects testosterone signaling and alters thyroid hormone. Because it's pesticide, you want to buy organic produce or go and see which produce has the lowest levels of pesticides. Every year, there's a list published by numerous people, but EWG has one as well. It talks about the produce, that's low in pesticides.
Another thing to remember that sometimes, organic produce may have, by accident, been packed with non-organic at the store. So, still you need to wash your vegetables and fruits as best as you can.
These are basically the things mentioned in the Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors from the Environmental Working Group. Again, I want to remind everybody that it's up to you to be your own authority in health and you need to decide what you're going to do with all this information. But the point that I want to stress is that not everyone is going to be affected by these things, but there are people who are and I've seen them in my practice.
By making small changes, sometimes these can lead to big effects as the 80/20 rule demonstrates. That says that 20% of your actions yield 80% of the results. If you're trying to lose weight and you're having trouble, one of these endocrine disruptors could potentially be just messing up your hormonal system.
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