Suppose you’re struggling with a hormone imbalance that’s causing you heavy and painful periods, migraines, brain fog, low energy, mood swings, unwanted facial hair, or acne. If that sounds like you, you’re likely already on a mission to get things balanced out so you can live your life and stop worrying about what symptom is going to pop up next.
Unfortunately, as women, we are highly sensitive to what we put into our bodies and the environment around us. This can be especially true if we’ve been “sick” for a long time and we are just starting the healing process.
That means we are more susceptible to food and products that contain something called “endocrine disruptors.”
What Are Endocrine Disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors toxins found in products that consist of any chemical that interferes with your body’s hormones or your endocrine system.
They can be artificial, such as the chemicals found in household cleaners and personal care products, and they can also come from natural sources such as plants and herbs.
Endocrine disruptors can be drunk, eaten, breathed in, and absorbed through the skin. Some will have immediate effects, while the impact of others will be seen in your children or even your grandchildren.
The Effect Endocrine Disruptors Have on Your Body
The health and wellness community throws around this term a lot, and the information can be overwhelming and frightening. But what’s really going on inside your body when you’re exposed to an endocrine disruptor or toxin?
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals react in your body differently depending on the specific chemical. Some can increase or decrease your normal hormone levels when absorbed into your body, causing symptoms related to estrogen dominance like heavy or painful periods or cystic breasts.
Other chemicals will mimic your hormones and enter the hormone receptors in your cells disguised as your natural hormones. This might lead to high hormone levels in your blood and tissues, but symptoms of low hormone levels because your cells aren’t able to use them as they should.
They can even cause you to produce hormones such as insulin when it’s not needed resulting in symptoms related to insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes. Additionally, insulin can stimulate further testosterone production, leading to irregular periods, unwanted facial hair, and acne commonly seen in PCOS.
Another way endocrine disruptors affect your hormone levels is by blocking a specific hormone from being produced, ultimately resulting in conditions such as an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism.
Your hormones control every aspect of your overall health. If things like stress and genetics already make you susceptible to imbalances, then you’ll definitely want to do your best to avoid unnecessary endocrine disruptors, which will only damage the delicate system your body uses to keep you looking and feeling your best. But where do endocrine disruptors come from?
Did you notice I specified “filtered water?” That’s because tap water is another serious source of endocrine disruptors.
Everything from pesticides to pharmaceuticals to hazardous waste is in your tap water. It’s pretty disgusting when you get down to it, and all these chemicals are throwing off your natural hormonal rhythm, not to mention making you sick in a million other different ways. You can read more about how and why to filter your tap water in this blog post.
It’s hard to avoid endocrine disruptors within your house when most areas require things like fire-resistant materials to be used during construction.
Unfortunately, flame retardants found on furniture, carpets, and in your child’s pajamas contain polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDE. This dangerous chemical seriously messes up your hormone production, especially in children. Studies have shown that when this chemical was tested on rats, it caused reproductive, thyroid, and liver toxicity, not to mention cancer.
Avoiding using carpet flooring in your home and buying furniture and clothing without flame retardant can help you cut back on your exposure to PBDE.
You might pride yourself on keeping your home tidy and clean, and having a clean house will indeed protect your family against certain infections. It also keeps harmful toxins we might track in from outside from getting on our floors and furniture. So cleaning is important, but you need to exercise caution when choosing the products you use to clean.
Most cleaning companies won’t list their ingredients on their packaging, so you have to be diligent to find cleaners that won’t harm your hormones. When in doubt, vinegar, baking soda, and a safe dish soap will get the job done, and in addition to being better for your health, they’re also much cheaper.
Personal Care Items
It’s estimated that the average woman will eat four to nine pounds of lipstick in her lifetime. Do you know what’s in your lipstick or other personal items?
Even if you’re not swallowing something, you have to remember that your skin is super absorbent of even the nasty stuff. Shampoo, body wash, lotion, makeup, menstrual products, and lube are significant contributors to hormone havoc.
A good rule of thumb is that the better it smells, the more toxic it probably is.
If you’re not sure how your current personal care products rank, you can search them on the Environmental Working Group’s website so you can make smart hormone choices moving forward.
Plants and Herbs
Some plants and plant extracts contain naturally-occurring hormone-like chemicals called phytoestrogens. They mimic estrogen in the body and, when consumed in abundance, can cause estrogen dominant symptoms.
One example of this is soy products. While having tempe once in a while probably won’t affect you too bad unless you have a specific soy allergy, drinking soy milk every day or eating tofu in place of meat for most meals can lead to a buildup of estrogen-like activity in your body.
Another “natural” place for endocrine disruptors to occur is in essential oils, especially lavender and tea tree. Recent studies in children showed that regular exposure to these two essential oils led to premature breast growth in girls and irregular breast growth in preteen boys. It’s thought that lavender oil especially may have an estrogenic effect when applied topically.
Medications and Supplements
Sometimes when we’re sick, we’re quick to accept help from a medicine or supplement without knowing exactly how it works in our body. Many medications, such as birth control, are designed to manipulate your hormone production, which makes sense because that’s how it prevents pregnancy.
On the other end of the spectrum, you might be tempted to take herbs or supplements designed to help you rebalance your hormones. Natural remedies like maca, vitex, dong Quai, red clover, and more are gaining popularity among women trying to balance their hormones on their own. Keep in mind that these are potent herbs and, if misused, can cause further imbalances in your system.
As with phytoestrogens in plants and certain essential oils, we can’t say these herbs are all inherently bad, but they need to be respected and used with caution.
How to Protect Your Hormones From an Endocrine disruptor Rich Environment
There’s not much we can do to avoid endocrine disruptors entirely, but slowly we can cut back on our exposure. Although we can’t control everything that happens when we leave the house, eat out, visit the inlaws, or go to work, we do have a level of control over our own environment.
Swapping out your self-care products, kitchen items, and cleaners for safer alternatives is the first step to limiting your endocrine disruptor exposure. Buy organic when you can, and always wash your food in clean water.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are all around us, but knowing that beforehand gives you the power to make smarter choices for your hormone health.
Getting Your Hormones Back on Track
If you’re struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance are ready to feel better, cutting these toxins out of your life is the first step. Of course, it will take time to make these adjustments in your life, but you will notice a difference.
Achieving hormonal balance will give you energy, joy, and control over your life. Knowing your hormone levels before your journey begins is a great way to get on the right track to hormonal harmony.
The DUTCH test is my go-to hormone panel. It uses urine, which is the most effective at reading hormone levels (especially compared to blood). It’s a lab I run in my Root Cause Blueprint program and gives you a complete picture of where your hormones are now and what you can do to improve them.