We all desire health and vitality; they're the reasons many people commit to a more natural way of living. While you may try to be careful about what you put in your body, have you thought about what you're putting on your body? Our skin absorbs much of what we put on it, so much so that doctors often prescribe medicine to be topically administered.
Did you know that many of the conventional beauty and personal care products we apply to our skin are laden with potentially harmful chemicals that are known to alter your body's natural cycles and processes?
One of the most threatening of these substances are endocrine disruptors or hormone disruptors. These interfering chemicals are shockingly common and have been associated with numerous health issues, from increased cancer risk to infertility.
Hormone disruptors affect your body's endocrine system in several ways. Many of these chemicals imitate the natural hormones in your body by decreasing or increasing their production and interfering with the signaling system in your body that regulates hormones. There are even substances that compete with essential nutrients or send signals that cause the cells in your body to die prematurely. There seems to be dozens of different ways in which these chemicals can mess with our bodies.
To explain how it all works, let's dig into human biochemistry. Basically, when chemicals interact with receptors in your body, it's like a key trying to fit into a lock. In this case, the key is a particular type of hormone molecule that is produced by your system (or that your system has been exposed to) and the lock represents a chemical receptor in your body.
The way your system works healthfully is by allowing hormones and other compounds to bind to receptors in order to induce certain functions or states. If a chemical introduced into your system has a chemical structure that is shaped in just the right way so that it can fit into one of these "locks," it kick-starts whatever reaction that receptor is responsible for.
So, which hormone disruptors should we be concerned about?
One of the most prevalent hormone disrupting chemicals in beauty and personal care products is phthalates.
Phthalates are commonly found in synthetic perfumes and fragrances, including skin care, lotions, detergents and cleaning supplies. Phthalates serve as hormone disruptors by mimicking estrogen, one of the body's natural sex hormones. Not only does it trick your body into thinking you have more estrogen, but some types of phthalates have been shown to inhibit the synthesis of testosterone, which makes hormonal imbalance issues worse.
Another estrogen-impersonating substance that is widely used in everyday household items is called triclosan. This compound is used as an antibacterial agent in many products, from makeup and deodorant to soap and toothpaste.
Triclosan mimics estrogen just like phthalates have been shown to do. This means that the chemical structure of triclosan is shaped in a way that makes it possible for it to become a great impersonator of your naturally occurring hormones — and estrogen isn't the only one.
A study performed by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that short-term exposure to triclosan was also associated with the disruption of thyroxine, a thyroid hormone. Thyroxine plays a large part in regulating growth and metabolism. In extreme cases, the disruption of this particular hormone may cause your metabolism to slow down or irregularities in growth.
To avoid triclosan and its associated health risks, scrutinize any product that markets itself as "antibacterial" to determine if it's formulated using triclosan. A list of products containing triclosan can be found here.
Anyone who wants to limit their exposure to these chemicals should reduce their use of scented products, conventional department store perfumes, lotions, cleaning products and laundry detergents. There are natural alternatives that don't contain phthalates and triclosan — you don't need products laden with chemicals to smell and look great.
If you're currently using conventional products, it's not too late to make a difference in your health.
Streamlining your personal care routine and selecting natural products is the best way to avoid the dangers of hormone disruptors. A spray of perfume, a dollop of lotion may seem pleasant but if they're laden with hormone disruptors, there's nothing lovely about them.
Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and give up products with hormone disrupting chemicals for good!
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