Endocrine disruptors - What you need to know
Exposure to even low amounts of EDCs can play havoc with the body’s system. It could lead to an increased risk of cancer, disturbances in both male and female reproductive system, the immune and the nervous system.
In fact, constant exposure to endocrine disruptors could lead to early or premature menopause in women. EDCs have been linked to Parkinson’s, thyroid disorders, obesity and neurological problems as well.
Before we examine how EDCs work, let’s begin by understanding the human endocrine system. It is a complex network of organs and glands that make hormones and release them into the blood stream, which then travel all over the body, to different tissues and organs.
The endocrine system consists of the hypothalamus, the pineal gland, the pituitary gland, the thyroid, the parathyroid, the thymus and the adrenal glands. In females, it consists of the ovaries and the testes in males.
These hormones, or the body’s chemical messengers, which are released by the glands, coordinate and control almost all the body’s functions, beginning from growth, reproduction, metabolism, moods, emotions, sleep, as well as the body’s response to stress and injury. More than 50 hormones have been identified in humans.
Based on their chemical makeup, hormones are said to be of four types – peptides like insulin; steroid hormones like testosterone, aldosterone and cortisol; amino acid derivatives like epinephrine and norepinephrine and fatty acid derivatives like prostaglandins.
Some more common yet vital hormones include estrogen, the female counterpart to the male testosterone. It is produced in the ovaries and it regulates menstruation, menopause, reproduction and your sex drive.
Then there is cortisol or the stress hormone, which is pumped out by the adrenal glands when the brain feels that you are in danger, followed by insulin, melatonin and serotonin, your body’s natural mood stabiliser.
A hormonal imbalance takes place when your endocrine system is releasing too much or too little of one or more hormones. Generally, this imbalance is caused by your lifestyle. For instance, eating certain kind of foods like red meat, dairy, soy products, caffeine and processed food could trigger an imbalance. A menopause or perimenopause diet plan is highly recommended.
Hormonal imbalance can cause many health issues like irregular menstruation due to PCOS and amenorrhea, infertility, acne, both type I and type 2 diabetes, thyroid disorders and obesity.
The answer to hormonal imbalance lies in maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, quality sleep, and managing stress.
Foods to help maintain hormonal balance1. Cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli and brussel sprouts
2. Good fats like olive oil, flaxseed oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados
3. Rainbow of vegetables
4. Quality protein
5. Flaxseed powder
6. Whole fruits.
7. Herbs like ginger, turmeric, paprika and garlic
8. Wholegrain carbohydrates like brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa.
9. Magnesium-rich foods like dark green, leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds
10. Fermented foods like kefir, fermented vegetables and probiotic yogurt.
What EDCs or endocrine disruptors do is imitate or interfere with the natural working of the hormones. They could block the path between the hormone and the receptor or they may even cause the gland to produce too much or too little of the hormone. They could also mimic a hormone, thus causing your body to react at the wrong time or overreact.
You don’t have to search hard for endocrine disruptors as they are often found in everyday products like certain kinds of plastic bottles and containers, detergents, food, beverages, toys, cosmetics and pesticides.
Some common endocrine disruptors (Xenoestrogens)Bisphenol A (BPA) – Found mostly in lining of canned goods, food packaging material and plastic bottles, it has been linked to cancer, especially breast cancer, fertility issues, obesity and early puberty.
Phthalates – They are found mainly in PVC plastic, plastic toys and plastic wraps. They have been linked to defects in the male reproductive system, low sperm count, miscarriages and gestational diabetes.
PFAS chemicals – They are used mostly in making cookware, waterproof clothing and food packaging etc. Drinking water is a common source of exposure. It could lead to thyroid diseases, cancer and weakened immunity.
PCBs – used as coolants, transformers, capacitors and other usually in electrical equipment they are good insulators that don’t burn easily) are linked to breast cancer.
Atrazine – Found mostly in pesticides, it has been linked to cancer and Parkinson’s mainly.
Flame retardants – It is linked to cancer and attention and IQ deficits in children. It is found mostly in foam cushions, mattresses, insulation and electronics.
Perchlorate – It interferes with the working of the thyroid gland. It generally contaminates food and water.
Parabens – Used as a preservative in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry are linked to menstrual irregularity.
• Wash your hands frequently and definitely before eating.
• Dust your house thoroughly with a damp cloth and vacuum
• Open windows and use fans
• Opt for fragrance-free creams, detergents and cleaning agents as far as you can.
• Reduce your use of plastic
• Avoid canned food and drinks
• Eat organic as far as possible to avoid pesticides
• Drink filtered water
• Reduce exposure by removing all products from your household
• Be a discerning consumer by constantly looking for eco-friendly alternatives.
• Use detoxification via panchakarma, massages or saunas to get rid of toxins built up within you.
• Make sure your liver is functioning well and aid it in the detoxification process by eating fibre and using leafy greens vegetable juice.