When patients come to me for help in taking charge of their health, one of the essential changes I encourage each of them to make is to reduce their toxic load—specifically to rid themselves of as many endocrine disruptors (EDs) as possible.
But why the fuss over endocrine disruptors? It’s pretty simple: EDs are chemicals that can increase the production of some hormones and decrease the production of others. They can imitate your hormones, interfere with hormone signaling, and generally wreak havoc on your endocrine system, making hormones do things they shouldn’t. We're talking about things like stimulating cancer development and triggering immunity, fertility, metabolic, developmental and cognitive problems just to name a few. Additionally, endocrine disruptors stop hormones them from doing what they should be doing—namely protecting you from the aforementioned maladies and keeping your body’s natural hormones balanced.
With such a massive downside, it’s a no-brainer to want to give EDs, such as BPA (bisphenol-A), parabens, phthalates, PBDE’s (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), mercury, lead and organophosphate pesticides, a wide berth. Problem is, it’s easier said than done.
EDs are virtually everywhere, tucked inside thousands of everyday items, such as food, personal care products, sunscreen, perfume, antibacterial washes, household cleaners, laundry products, vinyl shower curtains, plastic toys, electronics, household dust, bug sprays—the list goes on and on!
In short, there’s virtually no escaping them completely, but you can significantly cut your exposure, starting with these easy-to-implement 15 tips:
1. In the kitchen, store food in glass containers, for both pantry storage and in the fridge.
2. If you use a microwave, heat foods (frozen or not) in microwave safe glassware or ceramic containers; never plastic, no matter what the label says! Skip plastic wrap coverings when heating foods in the microwave to prevent EDs from dripping into the food.
3. Adjust cooking time to prevent food from drying out.
4. Trade non-stick cookware for good old-fashioned, cast iron or stainless steel versions.
5. Use glass glasses at home and carry a stainless steel water bottle to keep endocrine disrupters out of beverages. Also, remember that the young are especially vulnerable to the effects of EDs, so the less plastic they drink from, the better.
6. Ditch old, ED-flaking, plastic cooking utensils, strainers and cutting boards for metal or sustainable bamboo versions.
7. If you use a dishwasher, look for the greenest alternatives possible. Wash with the minimum amount of detergent you can and make sure it’s free of phosphates and fragrances.
8. For hand-washing and general household cleaning, avoid ED-laden anti-bacterials. Instead, use eco-friendly products or, better yet, make your own using non-toxic ingredients like castile soap, lemon and vinegar.
Here are a few terrific recipes to get you started from Living Well Spending Less.
In the Fridge & Pantry
9. Eat local and organic foods as much as possible. They’ll be packing considerably fewer (if any) endocrine-disrupting pesticides and herbicides than the factory-farmed versions.
10. While fresh and raw is best, you can also get your beans and soups out of a box or carton – but skip the cans, unless they’re clearly marked “BPA-free,” to insure they’re not lined with endocrine-disrupting BPA (plastic) film.
11. After grocery shopping, before you put your purchases in the fridge or pantry, remove plastic cling wraps and packaging. Then decant items into glass or ceramic containers for storage, to keep EDs from leaching into the food.
12. Drink fewer EDs by brewing your own organic teas and sports drinks instead of buying sugary beverages in plastic bottles.
13. Meat-eaters should look for fresh, organic, grass-fed meats, raised without antibiotics or hormones. Factory-farmed animals tend to store environmental toxins in their fat, which gets passed on to you when you eat it.
14. For poultry fans, free-range organic, is the gold standard, but it can be expensive. Contain costs by alternating organic poultry with local or less expensive antibiotic and hormone-free. Just be sure to avoid factory-farmed or processed chicken products.
15. Get to know the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15, the Environmental Working Group’s list of fruits and veggies raised with the most and least amount of endocrine-disrupting pesticides, and buy accordingly.