Written by Dr. Mona Wiggins
Many of you have likely heard the term endocrine disruptors. But what are they, why should you care about them, how might they be affecting you and your health, and what can you do to minimize the risks associated with them? Grab a comfy chair, something to sip on, and let’s dive in…
In order to fully understand endocrine disruptors I think it is first important to understand the endocrine system!
What is the endocrine system?
The endocrine system is the body’s hormone messenger system - a beautiful network of feedback and communication loops helping our bodies function optimally.
To break it down in simple terms:
- The endocrine system is made up of various glands located throughout the body.
- These glands are responsible for making hormones.
- Hormones are the chemical messengers helping the various cells and organs in your body communicate with one another.
- This hormonal communication, made possible by the endocrine (hormone) system, is essential for almost every function in your body including regulating metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, mood, and more.
- When your hormone communication is not working properly, it is possible (and sometimes only a matter of time) before you’ll see these negative health effects in one or many areas of your body.
So clearly, your endocrine system is vitally important for your hormones, your health, and your wellbeing!
But what happens when/if its communication is affected? Let’s talk about endocrine disruptors...
What are endocrine disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals, mostly man-made but also natural substances (hormones, phytoestrogens such as genistein), negatively affecting the endocrine system and the body’s natural hormone communication pathways.
Endocrine disruptors can be found in materials including pesticides, flame retardants, and metals but also in many common household products including some plastic bottles/containers, metal food cans, detergents, cosmetics, personal care products, and toys, to name a few.
When these endocrine disruptors are absorbed in the body, they do what you’d expect: disrupt your endocrine system, your hormones, and potentially your health.
Endocrine disruptors do this by interfering with the synthesis, secretion, transport, metabolism, binding action or elimination of natural hormones. This means our natural hormones, which are required for homeostasis and healthy functioning, are decreased, increased, blocked, mimicked, or in other ways altered.
Why should you care?
By now I likely don’t need to tell you why hormones and our endocrine system are so important. But I’ll just remind you they are the key to most functions in your body… aka you want them working properly so you can be as healthy as possible.
So if your endocrine system is affected by endocrine disruptors, what does this mean for you??
How might endocrine disruptors be affecting you and your health?
By interfering with your body’s natural endocrine (hormone) system, endocrine disruptors have been suspected to be associated with (1),(5)
- Altered reproductive function in males and females
- Increased incidence of cancer, specifically breast cancer
- Abnormal growth patterns and developmental malformations
- Neurodevelopmental delays in children
- Disturbances in immune and nervous system function (possibly including autoimmune disease onset)
It’s important to note the research is very clear on the effects in animals however there is continued need for studies in humans and some controversy amongst certain groups. Human studies are challenging because it’s difficult to control exposures - most of us are exposed to an abundance of toxic chemicals daily in our modern life so studying levels or only one chemical poses challenges.
But also if there is a known toxin to animals, who is going to volunteer to see if they’re negatively affected? (Legally this isn’t even allowed.) Despite the limitations in human studies, to me it seems clear to assume if something can affect our mammal friends it very likely has impact on us, our environment, and our loved ones. So my advice is, whenever possible, to reduce any health risks you have exposure to including endocrine disruptors!
What can you do to minimize your risks associated with endocrine disruptors?
Know the common endocrine disruptors and avoid them when possible!
Environmental Working Group is a great resource for this. Here is a link to what they identify as the top 12 endocrine disruptors, how they work, and how you can avoid them.
Support your overall health and wellbeing.
The endocrine system and associated hormones function best when we are supportive of our body, the nutrients, and rest it needs. Don’t forget you are an integrated whole and all the things you put on or in your body (both emotionally and physically). Take small steps in making changes if this is all new to you and if you are feeling overwhelmed, remember stress negatively impacts hormones too. You can’t control everything so be easy on yourself and your daily process, and praise yourself for the small changes.
Stay tuned for some upcoming blogposts and content to support you.
Tempdrop has some great blogs coming up on endocrine disruptors, and I’ll be posting some on my website and social accounts (linked below) as well! Head to my website to sign up for my email listserv to get notified when I have new blogposts or content coming out.
Mona first came to fertility awareness after years of struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, mental health issues, and significant side effects from hormonal birth control. Fertility awareness has helped her to find true health, freedom, and confidence in her body and she is dedicated to sharing this valuable information with others. She teaches CM, BBT, cervix positioning, and LH testing and offers both one-one-one & self-study courses. You can learn more about working with Dr. Mona on her website and can follow her on social media - facebook and instagram. If you found this post helpful and would like to thank Mona while receiving a special discount, shop Tempdrop with Mona’s discount code.