Environmental toxins are all around us. You hear more and more about people going “plastic free” or “BPA free”, but have you ever wondered why? How do these chemicals impact your health? And what can you do about them?
What are endocrine disrupting chemicals and why should I care?
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that interfere with your hormonal system. And unfortunately there is an abundance of them in our daily environment. For a list of the common EDCs, click here.
With a plethora of EDC’s in our environment, they are easily absorbed into our body. EDCs can mimic our naturally occurring hormones and confuse our natural balance.
Our hormonal system is an intricate communication network, and it is interdependent with numerous systems (i.e. your brain, hormonal glands, liver, gut etc.). This careful balance allows your hormones to:
- Perform their designated action for a specific amount of time
- Get metabolized and broken down
- Get excreted out of the body
EDCs can bind to your hormone receptors in your body. They generally have a weak hormonal action. Due to their abundance, they are available to continually bind to your receptors and exert a weak hormonal effect. Additionally, they compete with your natural hormones for those same receptors; blocking your naturally occurring hormones from performing their designated action. It makes it difficult for your body to produce, metabolize and excrete your hormones, because EDCs are always present! As you can imagine, this has the potential to wreak havoc on your carefully balanced system.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the role of BPA (one major EDC) in infertility, cardiovascular disease, thyroid imbalance, and many more.
Strategies to reduce your EDC exposure.
The first thing you want to do is limit your exposure. One major step you can take to reduce your exposure to EDCs is eliminate contact with plastic as much as you can. This doesn’t need to be stressful. I encourage you to be mindful of small changes you can make – which overtime go a long way!
10 steps for minimizing your EDC exposure:
- Replace plastic water bottles with stainless steel or glass
- Replace storage Tupperware containers and Ziploc bags with mason jars or glass containers
- Keep reusable cloth bags in your car for shopping
- Take a reusable steel or ceramic mug for when grabbing a coffee/tea
- Change to solid soap and shampoo bars* – there are great options for shampoos and body soaps (*look for natural bars that are EDC free!)
- Switch your coffee machine for a French Press
- Read you the labels on your cosmetics – avoid fragrances, nail polish or hair spray. Or look for things that say “phthalate free”
- Avoid canned foods – the lining of cans are often high in BPA.
- Eat organic as much as possible – limit exposure to pesticides and herbicides
- Get a HEPA filter – great for reducing airborne toxin
Want to learn more? The Environmental Working Group has fantastic resources!
Are your detoxification pathways working?
The next step is to ensure you have strong detoxification pathways. You need robust detoxification pathways to neutralize and clear out the EDCs you are exposed to. Your body detoxifies toxic exposures via your liver, digestion, urinary system, lungs and skin. If these areas are not performing as they should, your detoxification pathways may need extra support.
If this is the case, there are many wonderful natural strategies to improve your detoxification potential. This may include: liver supporting herbs, optimizing digestion, correcting any nutritional deficiencies or running functional lab tests for a deeper understanding of what’s happening in your body.
Dr. Ashley Damm, ND
Naturopathic Doctor – Vancouver BC
References: PMID: 26371021, 25813067, 12414890, 24392816