**If you’re just here for product recommendations, not the info about endocrine disrupting chemicals, just scroll down to the bottom of the page!**
I’d like to start this out by saying that every time I would start to look into the research about hormone disrupting chemicals, I would often find myself in a semi-panicked state about the topic. I’d have this sense of urgency to switch every single product I owned to a “non-toxic” or “clean” version (Spoiler Alert: “clean” does always equal better!) and I wanted to research each chemical on every product label.
Fast forward like…a couple hours later, when I was overwhelmed with mixed information on the subject. I’d tell myself not to stress about it, and then I would end up not doing anything at all. Repeat this cycle every couple months or so.
We have enough of that already, and certainly don’t need any more. My intent of this blog post is to educate and inform in a realistic way. I’ll then talk about what you can start doing to (slowly) remove endocrine disrupting chemicals from your products, and finally, give you some of my personal product suggestions.
Ultimately, I want you to do your own research, and be an informed consumer! I will include all of my sources at the end of this post, but the one I am drawing the majority of my information from is The Endocrine Society’s (the largest international group of scientists and physicians working in endocrinology) Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, which is a comprehensive review article on all the latest research regarding endocrine disruptors. They also provide a great introductory video on the topic if you’re not so into reading the research studies themselves (I don’t blame you).
EDCs are defined as “a [non-natural] chemical, or mixture of chemicals, that interferes with any aspect of hormone action.”
Your endocrine system consists of a series of glands that produce hormones in your body. These hormones can be involved in tons of bodily processes such as: controlling blood sugar levels, regulating metabolism, immune response, reproduction (in males and females), controlling sleep cycles, and many, many others.
You could see why a disruption to the endocrine system would be important to pay attention to, since your hormones regulate basically everything in your body!
There are a few commonly studied EDCs, so in trying to keep this as brief as humanly possible, I’ll just run through the short list:
**Side note about POPs: since they are stored and accumulate in fat tissue, when people try to lose weight very quickly, these POPs can be released into the bloodstream from the tissue, causing high levels of these EDCs circulating in the blood. This is yet another HUGE reason not to crash diet**
Since my focus is primarily on women’s health and thyroid function, these are the areas I’m going to talk about, but know that there are many other systems impacted by EDCs.
Some of the strongest research has been shown in the area of EDCs and the female reproductive system. Studies have shown that some of the reproductive problems associated with EDCs include:
BPA has been associated with reduced egg quality in patients undergoing fertility treatments. One study found Danish women working in the plastics industry were more likely to seek fertility treatment than those who were not exposed.
It’s important to point out that while there is an increasing amount of research on this topic, there is still a lot more that needs to be done. We still do not know the mechanism by which EDCs affect the female reproductive system, nor do we know how to explain the inconsistencies in the research.
There is solid evidence in animal, biochemical and human studies that chemicals can interfere with the thyroid.
One particular area that EDCs are found to affect the thyroid is in the absorption of iodine, which is essential for thyroid function. The chemicals chlorate and nitrate can inhibit the uptake of iodine, and therefore reduce the thyroids ability to produce thyroid hormones. Chlorate and nitrate can be found in high levels in some water supplies.
Human studies have found that phthalates were associated with reduced serum T4 (thyroid hormone) and in some cases increased TSH (the hormone that communicates with the thyroid), which are both symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Again, more research is needed in this area too–one in particular is that they need to find a biomarker (something to measure in studies) that can look at EDCs impact on tissues rather than just the circulating hormones in the bloodstream.
Ok, so that was a LOT of info to digest, but let’s try to put this into five realistic steps so that we don’t end up in the cycle like I did in a stress/paralysis feedback loop. And maybe you don’t need to change anything yet, but if you’re having a thyroid or reproductive problem, these are some easy places to look first!
1. First, is plastics. This is just another reason to try and reduce our plastic consumption, in addition to the environmental benefits. And I know, plastic is seriously everywhere so it would be really difficult to completely eliminate it. I’d suggest avoiding heating up plastic, like microwaving your food in plastic containers. You can also switch to a glass or stainless steel water bottle. Working on slowly eliminating single-use plastics is yet another great area to focus on.
2. Next, work on switching to products without fragrances listed in the ingredients. I know, I know! This is a tough one. But I swear, you’ll start to realize just how fake and overpowering some of these scents really are once you start switching to fragrance-free products. I’m not telling you to go and dump everything out of your bathroom cabinets, but rather, start by replacing one product at a time once you’ve run out of it.
I do want to point out that “clean” and “natural” products- especially skincare and cosmetics do NOT necessarily mean they are better for us. In some cases, synthetic ingredients have been tested and studied much more than the “clean” versions, so we know they are safer to put on our skin. Let me know if you want more info on this topic, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
One quick note on essential oils. These can be fine in personal care products, but sometimes they can be incredibly sensitizing. They also oxidize when exposed to air (depending on the type of container they’re in) which can reduce their quality, so just use caution, and know that not all essential oils are created equal 🙂
3. Consider getting a water filter. You can go to the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database, where you can search your zip code and it will generate information about contaminants in your tap water. I encourage you to be a little weary of this website because they will list their own “health guideline,” or limits for various chemicals that are not necessarily what the legal limit shows. But, I think it’s still helpful to look at the legal limit and see where your county falls on that spectrum.
If you do decide that getting a water filter is something, the NSF provides some good resources on selecting a water filter, depending on what contaminants you want to filter out.
4. Get rid of any old mattresses, furnishings, or clothing that may have had flame-retardant chemicals on them. Look at labels to ensure they say “contains no added flame retardants.” Can also look to avoid products that have polyurethane foam.
5. Avoid using nonstick pots and pans. Switch to stainless steel or ceramic kitchen items. Hormone.org suggests switching to cast-iron or newer ceramic pans. At a minimum, if your non-stick pans have scratches on them, it’s time to let them GO.
Check out my Amazon link with a list of products that I use and suggest, but here is a rundown of a few of my favorites that I use on a daily basis:
The take home message here should not be OMG all these chemicals are killing me!! Time to replace everything! It should just be an opportunity to take a look at what areas you may want to change the next time you run out of a product or when you’re putting something on your wedding registry or just your personal wish list! It does not have to be expensive either. It can’t hurt to switch, but it may potentially save you down the line on health expenses.