The endocrine system is every bit as important as the muscular system, skeletal system, or nervous system. Know what it does and how to protect it.
Whether we’re aware of it on a daily basis or not, we are kept alive and healthily functioning due to specific proteins in our bodies called hormones. Every second of every day, different hormones are working to allow certain functions to occur in the body. It is because of hormones that we experience moods, tiredness, hunger, sex drive, and being hot or cold. Additionally, hormones are responsible for regulating many functions in the body including blood pressure and water and electrolyte balance. While this is an extremely brief description of the roles and necessity of the body’s hormones, it still goes without saying that optimally functioning hormones is vital for life.
Hormones are part of the endocrine system of the body. This system needs to be operating well in order for us to function. When certain foods and chemicals are taken in to the body, they can have a particularly damaging effect on the endocrine (hormone) system of the body. These foods and chemicals are called endocrine disruptors (or hormone disruptors). Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can cause problems for the proper functioning of hormones, leading to serious developmental, reproductive, immunity issues. These hormone disruptors can cause such serious problem to the body as cancer!
While it can vary a bit from disruptor to disruptor, endocrine disruptive chemicals do harm because they mimic the action of natural hormones in the body and can cause overstimulation. They can cause your body to produce more hormones, stop certain hormones from being made, or can trick the body by mimicking certain hormones. They can bind to receptors inside of cells and block the natural hormone from being able to bind. Because of this, normal signaling fails and therefore, the body cannot respond properly.
Endocrine disruptors can lead to not only cancer, but infertility, birth defects, autoimmune disorders, obesity, diabetes, ADHD, sleep disorders, depression, heart disease, autism, and problems with immunity.
While there are a number of different endocrine disrupting chemicals, some of the main, and worst ones to be aware of include:
- BPA–Used in plastics, lining of canned foods; mimics estrogen
- Dioxin–Chemical formed in different industrial processed animal products; disrupts sex hormones
- Atrazine–An herbicide used heavily on corn crops; disrupts reproductive system
- Phthalates–A plastic found in plastic wrap, plastic food containers, plastic toys, and some personal care products; changes hormone levels
- Perchlorate–A component of rocket fuel; interferes with thyroid functioning
- Fire retardants–Chemicals that are used to make certain products less flammable and can be found in plastic mats, foam furniture, and dust; mimics thyroid hormones
- Lead–A heavy metal that is found in old paint and some water that has been contaminated; lowers sex hormones and childhood development
- Arsenic–A heavy metal toxin that can be found in brown rice and drinking water; disrupts the processing of sugars and carbohydrates in the body
- Mercury–A heavy metal that can be found in fish, contaminated water, and dental fillings; interferes with the reproductive and digestive systems
- Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)–Chemicals that are used to make nonstick cookware and are non-biodegradable; has been linked with kidney disease, thyroid disease, and low sperm count
- Organophosphate pesticides–Chemical pesticides that are found in conventionally farmed produce; causes damage to the nervous system and can affect development, fertility, and behavior
- Glycol ethers–A solvent that is found in paint, cleaning products, and cosmetics; damages fertility
So, the main things that we need to be aware of is what is in the foods and environment around us, specifically:
- Personal care/hygiene products
- Household cleaners
- Artificial and natural flavors in foods
- Yard and garden chemicals
- Perfume, cologne, and other fragranced products
- Furniture, carpet, and shower curtains
Avoid disruptors by:
- Buying organic foods
- Avoid plastic dishes and containers
- Don’t use pesticides on your plants
- Use glass or stainless steel water bottles
- Use organic and natural cleaning products
- If consume canned goods, make sure it’s from a BPA-free lined can
- Avoid the use of non-stick cookware
To summarize, endocrine (hormone) disruptors are chemicals that can strongly and negatively affect the way the body is able to function, thus leading to some serious health consequences. If you wish to be as happy and healthy as possible, avoid any and all endocrine disrupting substances!