How to Avoid the Most Common Hormone Disrupting Chemicals

Trying to conceive? Actually, will you be trying to conceive any time in the future? Nooope, wait. Are you human? Yes?! Ok, great this post is for you.

Let’s talk about endocrine disruptors aka “hormone disruptors”

Unfortunately, they are common and quite pervasive in every aspect of our lives. You can’t completely avoid them unless you are living off the land in some remote part of Siberia. And actually, I’m pretty sure they recently found that the world’s largest lake there contained some level of chemical contamination from an old Russian paper plant… Also, Siberia is cold.

Even though we can’t completely avoid exposure to endocrine disruptors, it’s important to try to avoid them as much as possible. And if you’re already on board with that concept and just want to know my biggest bang-for-your-buck strategies for doing this, just scroll on down to “The 4 P’s” which covers the most common places you’ll find these chemicals.

If you’re still not feeling like this is really a priority, or aren’t just aren’t convinced, read on.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals can have estrogenic, androgenic, antiestrogenic, or antiandrogenic properties meaning they can disrupt your sex hormones by messing with metabolism, the cross-talk between your genetic and nongenetic pathways, interfere with hormonal feedback regulation and neuroendocrine cells, can change DNA methylation and more. These are core, ESSENTIAL functions of the body that have to be working in anyone but especially if you are trying to conceive. The impact can be multigenerational. It’s why I’m so passionate about educating on this topic. In this post, I’m breaking down some of the biggest offenders and offering practical strategies to limit your exposure.

Remember, the solution isn’t to move to Siberia, or to completely overwhelm yourself (or your budget) by changing everything at once. Pick a few things to do now and layer things in as you’re ready.

What are the 4 P’s?

Plastics, pesticides, pollution, and personal care products. 

I like to refer to these as “the four P’s.” The 4 P’s are essentially endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with hormones. The scary part is, you can find them hiding in a number of everyday products and they can really take a toll on your health. Not only can the 4 P’s negatively impact your hormones, but they can also impact your body’s natural detoxification system, nutrient metabolism, gut health, mental clarity, cognition, and development of different diseases.

Take a moment to think about how frequently you encounter plastics, pesticides, pollution, and personal care products. It’s probably a lot, right? (And it’s probably even more than you think.) Because of how frequent our exposure is to these things, it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming to tackle this problem. Below, I go into each of the 4 P’s,  highlight what they are and how they impact your health, and explain how you can minimize your exposure without overhauling your entire life.


Plastics

One of the most well-known chemicals found in plastic is Bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is an industrial chemical used to make plastics and resins since the 1960s. But what’s the problem with it? BPA mimics estrogen in the body. It can cause tons of damage by disrupting hormones, harming your reproductive system, and negatively impacting brain development and metabolism function. This industrial chemical has also been linked to cancer and other serious disorders. And while BPA is dangerous for everyone, the developing fetus and baby are the most vulnerable age group when it comes to BPA’s toxic effects.

The downside is, BPA is hiding everywhere. You can find BPA hiding in products like canned food, glass jars, bottle lids, aerosol cans, beverage cans, and coffee cans. It’s not a  reasonable goal to completely eliminate exposure to BPA. That being said, the EWG provides steps you can take to reduce exposure to BPA:

  • Replace your canned foods with fresh, frozen or dried foods.
  • Limit the number of packaged foods you eat.
  • Never heat food in the can. Always transfer it to a stainless steel pot or pan or glass – not plastic.
  • Additionally, I’d recommend avoiding canned beverages like seltzer. The lining of these cans typically contains BPA and the carbonation combined with the acidity of some of the flavoring added may cause the BPA to leach into the liquid. Try sparkling mineral water in glass containers or consider the soda stream which even has a glass carafe model.
  • Surprizing non-plastic source of BPA: receipts! Yep, thermal printed receipts (re: just about all sales receipts) are printed using BPA. This can transfer to your hands and be absorbed through the skin. If you need to take a receipt, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly especially before eating.

A note on BPA-free: unfortunately, as concern about BPA has grown among consumers, the industry has adapted by creating new (likely equally dangerous) chemicals to replace it that has yet to be studied. So stick with the above tips to avoid BPA and it’s replacements. 

Tips for Minimizing Plastic Exposure

  • Avoid microwave food in plastic containers! Instead use glass, stainless steel, ceramic, or wood containers to store food.
  • When you do buy prepared foods, try to buy in glass over plastic when possible especially acidic foods like tomatoes.  
  • Avoid plastics that are marked 3 (PVC or vinyl), 6 (polystyrene foam), or 7 (can contain BPA). Choose safer plastics marked as 1, 2, 4, and 5.
  • When you’re on-the-go, avoid using disposable plastic water bottles, straws and coffee cups with plastic lids. Instead, drink from glass or stainless steel containers. This is my favorite non-toxic to-go coffee/tea mug! 

Pesticides

Most people don’t realize that you can find so many different pesticide residues in so many places! Pesticides are commonly found on conventionally grown produce. This is even true after it’s been washed or peeled.

There’s a lot of research to support the fact that pesticides can negatively impact fertility and pregnancy outcomes. For example, this study found that higher consumption of high-pesticide residue fruits and vegetables was associated with lower probabilities of pregnancy and live birth following infertility treatment. Minimizing pesticide exposure can go a long way in protecting and promoting your fertility.

Every year, the EWG compiles a list of the 12 most pesticide-infested and the 15 least pesticide-infested fruits and veggies. Below are the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” for 2018. You can get an updated version on their website for future years!

Dirty Dozen 

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Hot Peppers

Clean Fifteen 

  • Avocado
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapple
  • Cabbage
  • Onion
  • Frozen Sweet Peas
  • Papayas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangos
  • Eggplants
  • Honeydew Melons
  • Kiwis

Tips for Minimizing Pesticide Exposure

  • Try to eat local and organic food. This will help reduce your exposure to pesticides. If you can’t afford to buy organic, buy the fruits and veggies with the lowest pesticide levels (clean fifteen) and avoid the most contaminated ones (dirty dozen).
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them. You can find them at your supermarket or your local health food store. Just be sure to check the ingredients! 
  • Use toxin-free methods to control insects. If you choose a chemical-based commercial insect/pest control treatment, you might be introducing chemicals to your home that are more dangerous than the insects or pests you’re trying to get rid of! The EWG points to a few good resources for toxin-free insect/pest control.

Pollution

This is more than the smog you think of when you hear the word “pollution.” Pollution is anything that reduces air quality in your environment. This includes things like air fresheners – candles, plug-in and spray bottle air fresheners, perfumes, etc. Removing air fresheners from your home is a super simple way to minimize air pollution.

While removing air fresheners from your house is a great way to reduce air pollution in your own home, you can’t avoid these toxins completely. They’re everywhere. And you’ll start to notice how common they are once your nose adjusts to not having them in your home! All you can do is try your best to minimize your exposure.

Tips for Minimizing Pollution Exposure

  • Ditch your air fresheners. Go around the house and collect all of your bottles of air freshener, plug-in air fresheners, candles, perfumes, etc. and just get rid of them! Instead, you can use things like an essential oil diffuser or boiling water with spices.
  • Get some plants for your home. Plants have the ability to take in some of the particulates in the air and process it into oxygen via photosynthesis. And the microorganisms in the soil are responsible for a significant amount of their cleaning effect. Some popular air-detoxifying plants are dracena, spider plants, sword ferns, and peace lilies.
  • Spend time in nature. This is especially important if you live in the city. Make it a point to get outside and expose yourself to some fresh air.

Personal Care Products

This is a big one! Especially for women who, on average, use 12 products containing 168 unique ingredients every day. Men, on the other hand, use 6 products daily with 85 unique ingredients, on average. Take a look at the ingredients in your lotions, make-up, perfume, shampoo, conditioner, deodorants, etc. There are a couple of major offenders to watch out for that are known hormone disruptors: phthalates and parabens.

The word “fragrance” on the ingredients list is often just a mask for other hidden chemicals. Believe it or not, the cosmetics industry can get away with this. The EWG explains how they do this very well:

“When you see “fragrance” on a personal care product’s label, read it as “hidden chemicals.” A major loophole in FDA’s federal law lets manufacturers of products like shampoo, lotion, and body wash include nearly any ingredient in their products under the name “fragrance” without actually listing the chemical.

Companies that manufacture personal care products are required by law to list the ingredients they use, but fragrances and trade-secret formulas are exempt.”

As previously mentioned, two of the most common and problematic toxins found in personal care products (and are often hiding under the term “fragrance”) are parabens and phthalates. Parabens, a group of endocrine disrupting chemicals, act as a preservative in personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and food products. Phthalates, another endocrine disrupting group of chemicals, are used in plastics, solvents, and synthetic fragrances.

Tips for Minimizing Exposure to Toxins in Personal Care Products

  • Choose natural products. Read ingredients and stay on your toes! The EWG has an app where you can search their database, Skin Deep. It has thousands of products that you can scan in the store and check their rating.
  • Consider switching to a safer, high-performance beauty line like Beautycounter. I’ve been using Beautycounter for years and love both their products and their mission which is to get safer products into the hands of everyone. Check out Beautycounter products here.

The Takeaway

The 4 P’s: plastics, pesticides, pollution, and personal care products are endocrine disruptors that can really take a toll on your health. Even though it can feel a little overwhelming to minimize your exposure to these toxins, it can be very beneficial to your health. Doing so can support your endocrine system, your body’s natural detoxification system, nutrient metabolism, gut health, mental clarity, cognition, and help prevent the development of different diseases.

The best-kept secret is that it doesn’t need to be overwhelming! There are some easy swaps you can make that will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to minimizing your exposure to these toxins. Start with one or two actionable strategies and go from there.


Check out this episode of Real Food Radio if you want to learn more about the 4 P’s! Real Food Radio Episode 023: Plastics, Pesticides, Pollution, Personal Care Products and Your Health

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