Chemicals and Hormone Health: What You Need to Know According to a Holistic Nutritionist
Updated: Apr 9
Coming into contact with chemicals is hard to avoid, and I bet you don't even
realize just how many chemicals are lurking in your everyday items, products, and within your home.
Chemicals are common, and although there are many things we can do to reduce chemical use in our lives, it's also essential to understand how these chemicals can disrupt our hormones.
"But wait, why is it important to protect our hormones?"
Unless you know the vast responsibility of our endocrine system and the function of our hormones, it can be easy to disconnect from how disrupting them, can actually affect you. Hormones are secreted from our endocrine glands (think pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid and adrenal glands- just to name a few). They are the chemical messengers that literally coordinate and control activities throughout our bodies. This includes metabolism -the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy; mood and behavior ; sexual development and function, and much more.
So anything that can disrupt our hormones, known as EDCs, (endocrine-disrupting chemicals) can cause a cascade of events that may lead to irreversible
damage to our bodies. These chemicals ultimately cause a disturbance in our immune system, reproductive system, and even neurologically.
With that said, let's talk about some ways to lessen the chemical load in our everyday life.
With how often you wash your hands throughout the day, opt for a chemical-free
soap, so you aren't inviting these EDC's into your body multiple times a
day, every day. Many of the antibacterial soaps on the market contain triclosan and/or triclocarban, a possible endocrine-disrupting chemical, with no evidence of being "neither safe nor any more effective than plain soap and water."
Get cleaning sans chemicals
Keeping your house clean is necessary, and luckily you don't have to use loads of hormone-disrupting chemicals to achieve that! In addition to the negative effects these cleaning chemicals have on our own health, these household cleaners, personal care products, and perfumes we use every day actually emit Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs and are now just as much a cause for air pollution as vehicle emissions. Learn more about VOCs here.
Do some research on green cleaners for your home. Again, I like Seventh Generation but really any product that passes the "Think Dirty" app test, is good in my book. You'll even find tons of DIY house cleaners you can make with items you likely already have in
your kitchen. Baking soda, white vinegar and lemon essential oils are a staple in my house!
Check out my DIY Multi-Purpose Spray recipe here.
Don't use things with fragrances
Whenever you can, go fragrance-free. Most companies don't disclose the
chemicals they use when they simply put 'fragrance' on the list of ingredients.
So to be on the safe side, you can use natural oils to make things smell good. I have always been a fan of Simply Earth Essential Oils. I use them to make my own perfume, add them to wool dryer balls for a fresh scent on my laundry, put drops in my multi-purpose spray, and diffuse them in my home.
Check Your Makeup
According to the Environmental Working Group, the average women put at least 12 products on her body every day, exposing herself to more than 168 potentially toxic chemicals. This can happen because there has been no updates to the Cosmetics Regulation since 1938! And while the European Union has pro-actively banned more than 1,400 chemical ingredients for use in their personal care products, the U.S has banned only 9. The reason why this is so harmful is that cosmetics and personal care products are placed directly on our skin- the largest organ, which absorbs up to 60% of what gets put on it. Toxic chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, and fragrance have been linked to both endocrine (hormone) disruption and metabolic changes.
To check the safety of your cosmetics and personal care products, download the THINK DIRTY app and start scanning the bar codes of your products. Get more tips for safer products, here.
My personal favorite makeup brands include Mineral Fusion, 100% Pure and Pacifica.
Cut down on plastics
Plastics with BPA ( bisphenol A ) are full of hormone-disrupting chemicals. These plastics are sometimes marked with a “PC,” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. According to www.ewg.org, "BPA acts like estrogen in the body and should be kept away from pregnant women and children in critical windows of development, according to researchers who have linked it to cancer, infertility, brain, nervous system and cardiovascular abnormalities, diabetes, obesity and other serious disorders." Read the full article here.
Phthalates are another toxic chemical found in plastic food containers, kids toys, plastic wrap and even makeup. These are especially harmful as they trigger "death-inducing signaling" causing cells to die earlier than they should. "Studies have linked Phthalates to hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities (www.ewg.org).
Luckily, you can reduce the number of plastic products you use in your life, therefore reducing your exposure to these harmful chemicals. Start replacing your plastic
Tupperware with glass and choosing reusable zip lock bags, like these Fullcircle bags. I also make sure not to heat food or beverages in plastic containers, or put hot food and beverages in plastic, as the heat actually leaches the chemicals from the plastics into your food or drink. This even goes for the plastic lids on your coffee to go...Pro tip: remove the lid before sipping.
I talked about why going organic is so important in a recent newsletter. Disrupted
hormones is a huge reason to stay away. The pesticides used on non-organic crops are designed to target the nervous system of insects to keep them away. Unfortunately for us, these still commonly used chemicals "interfere with the way testosterone communicates with cells, lowering testosterone and altering thyroid hormone levels." To help reduce your exposure to these toxic chemicals, choose to eat organic whenever you can. If you can't select all organic foods, opt for the organic version of the items on the Dirty Dozen list, at least.
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFC's) are stain, water and grease resistant, often used in nonstick cookware. According to the National Collaborating Center for Environmental Health, "The extreme stability of PFCs makes them ideal for many industrial uses but also means they break down very slowly in the environment and in people. Because of their widespread use and persistence, nearly everyone in the general population now has detectable levels of PFCs in their blood". These chemicals have been linked to decreased sperm quality, thyroid disease, kidney disease, and high cholesterol according to the Environmental Working Group.
In order to reduce your exposure, opt to cook with cast iron, carbon steel, tempered glass or ceramic cookware. I personally use GreenGourment Pans by Cuisinart as they use a ceramic-based nonstick surface called Ceramica, free of PFCs.
It's scary to think about how many chemicals surround us every day. While
we can't control everything that goes on around us, we can at least keep our
home environment clean of these hormone-disrupting chemicals and take steps to
be as healthy as possible. Here is the thing: no, we can't avoid every single possible danger, chemical or otherwise. But when we know the risks and have options, we have the freedom to make the best choices for ourselves and families. And at the end of the day, that's what matters.
Katie Valley is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Registered Health and Nutrition Practitioner. She loves to share all things wellness in her Monthly Newsletter, on Facebook and Instagram. Katie works one on one with clients seeking to make changes to their lifestyle using a Holistic Approach to optimal Health.
Book a free session, here.