Our endocrine system is like the main cog in a complex network of machinery; it’s a collection of hormone-producing glands that regulate so many things, from metabolism, reproduction, and sleep to mood, tissue function, and growth and development, just for starters. Keeping your endocrine system healthy is at the root of maintaining optimal functionality of just about every cell and organ in your body.
But our endocrine system is under increasing and constant attack from numerous endocrine disruptors, including:
- canned foods
- cleaning products
- fire retardants
- children’s costume jewelry and toys
These common products frequently contain chemicals that interfere with or mimic your body’s hormonal functions. When this happens to a baby in utero or to an infant or young child, their development and growth can be negatively impacted. In both children and adults, endocrine-disrupting chemicals – even in small amounts – can cause or lead to:
- neurological changes
- behavioral changes
- type 2 diabetes
- low birth weight
- weakened immune system
- disrupted thyroid function
- reproductive system problems
These are just some of the possible outcomes from exposure to endocrine disruptors. According to the EWG (Environmental Working Group), six of the twelve worst hormone disruptors are:
BPA (bisphenol A)
PFCs (Perfluorinated chemicals)
Canned foods; some plastics; register receipts (coating)
Plastic food containers & wraps; kids’ toys; fragrance
Produce, mainly corn; drinking water
Non-stick pans; water-resistant clothing, carpets, furniture
Fruits and vegetables
The other six worst hormone disrupting chemicals on EWG’s list are arsenic, flame retardants, glycol ethers, lead and perchlorate. This is by no means an exhaustive list of endocrine disruptors or the products they’re used in, but it’s a start and gives you a good idea of how many everyday products contain these dangerous chemicals.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can greatly minimize your exposure to these toxic chemicals. Buy organic produce, avoid farm-raised seafood and opt for wild-caught (large salt-water fish like tuna, swordfish, mackerel, orange roughy and others have higher amounts of mercury, even if wild-caught), steer clear of fragranced products (laundry and dish detergents, soaps, personal care products, etc.) and antibacterial soaps, replace plastic food storage containers with glass, choose fresh foods over canned, and make your own household cleaning products or check the EWG website for safer commercial products.
There’s a lot you can do to strengthen your endocrine system or balance your hormones naturally, like getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding sugars and refined carbohydrates, getting the right amount of iodine in your diet (or through high-quality supplements) to prevent thyroid problems, including a good balance of fruit and veggies in your diet, and reducing stress in your life. Your functional medicine doctor can pinpoint exactly what your individual needs are in order to keep your hormones and your overall health in good balance.