What if I told you that some of the most common endocrine disruptors are sitting right in your pantry or under your kitchen sink?
As scary as that sounds, these disruptors are within arm’s reach every single day, and some of us may even consume foods that throw our hormone balance out of whack without even knowing it.
As a doctor who specializes in thyroid health, I spend a lot of time working with patients to uncover the hidden toxins in their lives. Many of these toxins happen to come from cleaning and personal care products, but there are also a ton of toxins found in the Standard American Diet that can be damaging to the thyroid, and other hormones as well.
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I want to share what these toxins are and some ways that you can avoid them; as well as healthy swaps so that you can help restore your hormone balance one step at a time!
Let’s start by talking about what endocrine disruptors actually are.
What are Endocrine Disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors are toxins that can lead to issues with the reproductive, neurological, and immune systems (1). It is also important to know that endocrine disruptors may be an even larger issue during both the prenatal and postnatal period when organ development is occurring.
There are so many endocrine disruptors seen today that it is very important to be aware of what they are so that you can avoid as many of them as possible.
How Endocrine Disruptors Hurt the Thyroid
So, how do endocrine disruptors disrupt the thyroid? The endocrine system encompasses all of the glands of the body, as well as the hormones that are produced by each one, and that includes the thyroid (2).
Endocrine disruptors can actually target specific thyroid hormones and behave like thyroid hormones in the body, disrupting normal hormone synthesis and causing a host of problems.
Whether you are dealing with a thyroid condition or not, being exposed to products that interfere with the hormone balance in the body is a recipe for disaster.
Now that you know what endocrine disruptors are and why they cause such an issue with thyroid health and hormone balance, here are the specific toxins you’ll find hiding right in your kitchen.
Endocrine Disruptors Hiding Under Your Kitchen Sink
If you were to look under your kitchen sink right now and read the back of your cleaning product labels, chances are some type of artificial fragrance would be listed. Fragrances are also found in candles, air fresheners, aerosol sprays, and personal care products like lotions and body washes.
The issue with synthetic fragrances is that the vast majority of them are made from petrochemicals which are linked to allergies, nervous-system disorders, and even cancer. The scariest part is that companies are allowed to just use the word “fragrance” on the label without listing where it came from and what toxins it contains. Not knowing the actual ingredients can be extremely dangerous as so many of these toxic chemicals can be devastating to our endocrine system and overall health.
Phthalates are one of the toxic ingredients often found in synthetic fragrance and have been linked to reproductive disruption (3).
How to Avoid Synthetic Fragrances
So, how do you avoid coming in contact with synthetic fragrance? First, stop buying toxic household cleaners and make your own natural cleaning products with ingredients like distilled vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. You will also want to avoid anything that comes in an aerosol can and most commercial detergents. Make your own products whenever possible and when purchasing them, be sure that the label states that is it fragrance-free and phthalate-free!
PFCs are perfluorinated chemicals and are commonly used in non-stick cookware. These toxic compounds are used in products to help make them resistant to things like water, stains, and grease (4). Humans are most likely exposed to PFCs by using products that contain perfluorinated chemicals or even consuming PFC contaminated water or food (5).
Unfortunately, these chemicals are so toxic that they wound up on Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptor List (6). Aside from causing thyroid disease, PFCs have been linked to reproductive issues related to hormone levels and sperm quality (6).
PFCs are also known to break down very slowly in the environment, which is a big issue when it comes to exposure.
How to Avoid PFCs
Swap your non-stick cookware for stainless steel or cast-iron pans instead. You’ll also want to avoid water-resistant products that you spray on things like furniture.
You are probably familiar with BPA. This toxin is commonly found in plastic water bottles, plastic food storage containers and the linings of canned products. The problem with BPA is that it has the ability to act like estrogen in the body, which has been linked to certain cancers and even obesity (7).
How to Avoid BPA
To avoid BPA, avoid plastic and canned products whenever possible. Opt for glass water bottles and glass food containers instead of plastic, and if you must buy ziplock bags or canned products, look for labels that say BPA-free.
Endocrine Disruptors Hiding in Your Food
Phytoestrogens can be tricky when it comes to thyroid health. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring in plants and can be found in foods like soy products, flax seeds, legumes, oats, and sesame seeds. The problem with phytoestrogens is that they act like hormones in the body since their chemical structure is similar to estrogen, which can lead to fertility issues (8).
How to Avoid Phytoestrogens
To avoid phytoestrogens, I recommend avoiding all soy-based products. Some phytoestrogens are also found in legumes, so you may want to avoid legumes as well.
Pesticides are commonly sprayed on produce and can cause endocrine disruption that is particularly harmful to thyroid health. In fact, a study found a link between certain pesticides, like fungicides and organochlorines, and hypothyroidism in women (9).
How to Avoid Pesticides
To avoid pesticides, I recommend choosing all organic produce whenever possible. If you cannot purchase everything organic, check the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen List to see which foods are most prone to being heavily sprayed with pesticides, and which you may be able to get away with purchasing conventional produce.
Dioxins are toxic carcinogens found in cigarette smoke and bleached products. They accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals, and can even make their way into our drinking water from chemical factory runoff. Dioxins cause issues with both female and male sex hormones and can impact the immune system (10).
How to Avoid Dioxin
It is difficult to avoid dioxin completely since the food supply in the US is very contaminated with this endocrine disruptor. However, since it is commonly found in dairy products, meat, and fish, you can eliminate dairy from your diet, and stick to high-quality animal products like grass-fed and pasture-raised meat.
Heavy metal toxicity happens to be one of the leading cause of Hashimoto’s and something that I see in my practice all the time. It’s especially dangerous to pregnant women as it can interfere with hormone signaling and fetal brain development (11). Most people are exposed to mercury through their intake of fish or if they have amalgam fillings, however, it is also found naturally in the environment.
How to Avoid Mercury
To avoid mercury, you will also want to avoid any high-mercury fish such as ahi tuna (yellowfin tuna), swordfish, and shark (12). Choose wild-caught salmon and trout to avoid additional toxin exposure. I also recommend seeing a dentist that specializes in safe removal of mercury fillings.
The Bottom Line
While endocrine disruptors can be found in so many things that we are exposed to today, being aware of where they are and what we can do about it, can significantly reduce our exposure. To help restore thyroid balance, and support endocrine health, try swapping out some of the toxic endocrine disruptors in your day-to-day life, and choose healthier and non-toxic options. You’ll be amazed at how a few small steps towards restoring your hormone balance can make lasting change for your thyroid and overall health.
(Read This Next: 10 Toxins Hiding in Your Furniture and 5 Ways To Get Rid Of Them)