Endocrine disruptors and how they impact hormone health
Have you ever heard about endocrine disruptors before? If not, you need to. These man-made and naturally occurring chemicals may interfere with the function of hormones in the body. The endocrine system is responsible for keeping your body in balance. While various types of chemicals surround us on a daily basis, endocrine disruptors can potentially modify hormonal signalling, even turning on or shutting off important hormone signals. This disrupts the normal function of bodily systems. Research continues to find links between endocrine disruptors and problems with reproduction, development, neural, and immunity in both animals and humans.
What are endocrine disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can have harmful effects on the body’s endocrine system, also known as the hormone system. Endocrine disruptors hinder the natural hormone system, which can potentially have health effects that continue long after the initial exposure. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/index.cfm), exposure to endocrine disruptors not only has life-long effects, but it can also continue to have consequences for the next generation.
According to Science Direct (https://www.sciencedirect.com/), the majority of endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in everyday products such as certain canned foods, pesticides, cosmetics, metals, food additives, and plastics. The exact potential health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals are still being studied. However, any type of disruption to the endocrine system will result in various health concerns.
Here are some of the health issues that endocrine disruptors may cause:
– Decreases in male fertility
– Male reproductive organ abnormalities
– Female reproductive health issues (i.e. fertility problems, early puberty, early reproductive senescence)
– Increases in cancers (i.e. mammary, ovarian, and prostate)
– Increases in immune and autoimmune diseases
– Increases in neurodegenerative diseases
– Increases in obesity and diabetes
Hormones also help maintain control of energy levels, growth, and development, reproduction, homeostasis, as well as stress and injury response.
How are you exposed to endocrine disruptors?
Majority of exposure from endocrine disruptors occurs through ingestion of food, dust, and water, as well as inhalation of gases in the air and through the skin. Pregnant women can also transfer endocrine disruptors to the developing fetus through the placenta and through their breast milk. Though the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals may not be obvious until later in life, young children and pregnant mothers are the most vulnerable populations to be affected by any type of development exposure including endocrine disruptors. According to the NIH (https://www.nih.gov/), even small amounts of exposure to endocrine disruptors have been shown to have adverse health effects.
The following are some endocrine disrupting chemicals to look out for in your everyday products:
– Bisphenol A (BPA): Found in containers used to store food, water bottles, and other consumer goods. It can also be found in food cans, bottle tops, water supply lines, and some dental sealants.
– Phthalates: Found in plastics, they are also used in vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, raincoats (or other plastic clothing), and personal care products (i.e. shampoo, soaps, hair sprays, and nail polishes).
– Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs): Used in flame retardants, textiles, plastics, wire insulation, and automobiles. Certain PBDEs have been found to be toxic both to humans and the environment.
– Parabens: Majority of parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics as well as in foods and drugs.
If you are concerned about your exposure to endocrine disruptors, consider a consult with a doctor of natural medicine, who can assist you. As a specialist in functional medicine, the best treatment plan will be created to help your symptoms and improve your overall health.