Most of the world’s population is unaware of the toxins present at their arm’s reach. They may be dealing with the deadliest of the products, absolutely unknowingly. Same is the case with the endocrine disruptors. They may possibly be lurking in your kitchen, under your wash basin or in your daily food items. They can also be a common part of the cleaning products you use.
What actually are the Endocrine Disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors are the chemicals that interfere with the endocrine or hormonal system of the individual when accumulated inside the body in certain amounts. They can cause issues with the immune, neurological, and reproductive systems of the organism. They may promote cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders, especially at organ level. They are reported to be highly dangerous during the prenatal and postnatal period. Any system in the body controlled by the hormones can be destroyed using these endocrine disruptors.
The following image shows the common glands found in the human body along with the hormones they produce.
How do the Endocrine Disruptors work?
The endocrine system comprises all the glands present inside a living body. These glands produce various types of hormones. These hormones trigger specific functions inside the body. One of the glands found inside the body is the thyroid gland which produces the thyroid hormone. Endocrine disruptors especially mimic the functioning of the thyroid hormones along with the other hormones for disrupting the normal functioning of the body causing different health problems.
Being similar in structure, the endocrine disruptors successively bind with the hormone receptors and cause a less powerful, more powerful or a totally different response than the original hormone.
Harmful effects of the Endocrine Disruptors
They exert an oxidative stress on the living body causing various sensory impairments. They can potentially suppress or alter the synthesis and functioning of the testicular hormones respectively. They can onset early menarche and alter the onset of puberty. They can promote obesity by altering metabolism, fat cell signaling, glucose uptake, inflammation, and appetite. They also disrupt the immune functions, bone health, mental status, and cardiac functions inside the body.
Where are the Endocrine Disruptors commonly found?
With the growing industrialization and commercialization, endocrine disruptors have paved their way to our environment. They may be a common part of our food, cosmetics, and personal care products. They are also found in pharmaceuticals, pesticides, plastics, water, and soil.
Common Endocrine Disruptors
Following are some common endocrine disruptors that are silently present in our surroundings but the harmful effects they offer may not be that silent!
It is found in the plastic food storage containers and plastic water bottles. The canned products also constitute BPA along with their linings which may leach out into the food at higher temperatures. It works as an analogous to the hormone called estrogen produced by Gonadotrophins.
About 90% of the U.S. population is reported to be exposed to BPA. Its exposure has been associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sperm anomalies, reproductive organ dysfunction, and altered immunity. It is also associated with certain cancers and obesity. Avoiding canned products and plastic containers can help us avoid BPA. You can use glass containers instead.
Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs)
PFCs are often employed in making non-stick cookware. These harmful compounds make the products resistant to grease and water. Interfering with the thyroid metabolism, PFCs can cause thyroid diseases and reproductive issues involving altered hormone levels and sperm quality. Avoid PFCs by using cast iron or stainless steel pans.
Phytoestrogens naturally occur in plants and foods like flax seeds, legumes, oats, sesame seeds, and soy products. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring non-steroidal compounds having a chemical structure similar to estrogen thus can act like the respective hormone and may cause fertility issues.
Phytoestrogens can be avoided by minimizing all soy-based products and legumes from your common use. Moreover, the phytoestrogen content can also be decreased from the soy-based products by their processing and alcohol extraction.
Dioxins are toxic carcinogens found in the bleached products and cigarette smoke. Dioxins cause issues with both female and male sex hormones. In addition, it can affect the immune system, compromise neural-development, alter thyroid function, and promotes demasculinization of the male hypothalamus i.e. reducing the male sexual behavior.
Dioxin is the most common disruptor found in the U.S. food supplies thus it is difficult to completely avoid it. It is usually found in dairy products, fish, and meat. Organic vegetables, high-quality animal products like grass-fed and pasture-raised meat could serve as a purposeful alternative.
Mercury is linked to heavy metal toxicity. It is the major cause of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune disorder, characterized by the inflammation of the thyroid gland. It tends to decline the development and functioning of the thyroid gland. It is a usual problem with the middle-aged U.S. women. Moreover, this disease is inheritable and may run through families.
People are exposed to mercury via fish or if they have amalgam fillings. Mercury could be avoided by skipping high-mercury fish like ahi tuna or yellowfin tuna, shark, and swordfish. Mercury fillings must be safely removed by consulting a dental specialist.
The common products used by the people for cleaning and personal care usually contain artificial fragrances.
Most of these fragrances are made up of petrochemicals which may be associated with various allergies, cancer, and nervous system disorders. Fragrances include toxins like phthalates that may potentially disrupt the reproductive system. Moreover, phthalates are anti-androgen in nature. They negatively influence the semen quality and the receptors that govern fat cell growth. It might alter the levels of IGF-1.
We can avoid these fragrances by avoiding the toxic household cleaners available in the market. People should opt for the natural cleaning products that can be prepared at home using baking soda, distilled vinegar, and essential oils. If not possible, then buy a fragrance and phthalate-free product from the market.
Pesticides are common crop sprays that not only protect the crops from pests but also cause endocrine disruption that can harm your thyroid. It is found associated with ADHD also.
To avoid pesticides people should opt for organic products as much as they can.
Measures to avoid Endocrine Disruptors
- People should examine the product they are buying like a critical customer. Identifying the product containing the endocrine disruptors is the first step to avoid the damage.
- The damage can be recovered. People can restore thyroid balance, boost endocrine health, and improve their overall health by opting for healthier and non-toxic alternatives to various products.
- Many endocrine disruptors are produced by the combustion of fossil fuels. Thus a reduced and lesser reliance on the fossil fuels can help keep the damages away.
- Adopt Eco-friendly measures. Plastic and Styrofoam containers must be avoided. Glass, metal, and wooden utensils should be employed to use.