I’m actually forcing myself to sit here and write this right now because I want to do a few things.
- Make some sugar wax because, though I’m quite fond of most body hair, I am not fond of my leg hair and I want it gone (For some reason the color and sparseness of my leg hair just makes my legs look dirty).
- Start a big huge project that I’ve been thinking about.. Sewing my own wardrobe (you would think this is naively funny if you knew exactly how bad of a seamstress I currently am).
- Also with the sewing thing, I want to sew myself a comforter – which seems a little more up my alley in skill level. I have organic sheets and a light blanket now, but need something thicker for the winter. The organic mattress I covet is probably a while off :)
And as I’m thinking about all of these things I want to do, I realize I started doing so many DIY projects and home-made things because of caring about my hormonal health. Specifically, trying to not use toxic chemicals, get rid of plastic, and slow down over-production of goods.
This is all to either keep the chemicals out of things I eat and come into direct contact with or to keep them out of the environment in general.
But doing that often takes a lot of time, or money. Or sometimes even time and money (the ultimate lose lose right there).
So how important is it to use natural products and avoid toxic chemicals if you need to focus on your hormonal health? What can you focus on that will have the biggest impact on your health but least impact on going about your normal lifestyle?
Why you should be avoiding certain chemicals to help your hormones out
Chemicals aren’t all bad. Water is a chemical. Just talking about chemicals and grouping them into “bad stuff” doesn’t do anyone any favors.
So what are the chemicals I am talking about avoiding? There are entertain types of chemicals that can look nothing like the actual composition of your own native hormones, but they still act as if they are hormones in your body.
They do this by binding to something called a hormone receptor, which generally binds with a hormone and makes that hormone active wherever it currently is. Instead the hormone receptor will bind to these chemicals and act like they have the actual hormone there. That means you have the hormonal activity without having that much of the hormone. It’s a recipe for too much hormonal activity.
But that’s not the only way they can work. The chemicals that can bind with hormone receptors (known as hormone -or endocrine- disrupting chemicals) can also bind with the receptors but not work like the normal hormone/hormone receptor combo. That would mean that your hormonal activity is being reduced, even though you are producing plenty of that hormone.
Here is a picture for you if you are more visual:
Where are these hormone disrupting chemicals found?
There are a few big offenders when it comes to these chemicals that get into your body and mess with your hormones.
The primary ones?
- Household cleaners
- Beauty products
- Other household items
If those are surprising to you, let me elaborate a bit on why they contain these endocrine disruptors and what you can do about it.
Food seems innocuous enough, and it is. The problem is that a good majority of our food is sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, many of them known endocrine disruptors or not tested for their safety in our endocrine systems (I know, the freakin’ inhumanity!). Some of these pesticides are actually purposely made to mess with hormones so that the pests they are trying to kill off can’t reproduce. As we are much larger, they don’t have the same exact effect on us, but they can still mess with your hormones.
The best thing to do is to choose organic, especially for foods that are higher up the food chain (milk, eggs, meat) and the “dirty dozen” list that is put out every year ranking the most heavily contaminated crops in terms of pesticide/herbicide residue. It’s best to just get organic, but if you feel like you can’t afford it, do focus on getting the heavily contaminated and higher up on the food chain items organic and worry less about the other stuff.
Next we have the household cleaners and air-fresheners, these are often made with a various endocrine disruptors. These mostly become a problem due to inhalation. Most can safely be substituted with less harsh alternatives. Vinegar, baking soda, and castille soap are amazing at cleaning almost anything.
For beauty products, the huge offenders are the parabens and phthalates. These are used in a lot of products to preserve, help lotion penetrate the skin, fragrances last longer, and the list goes on.
Unfortunately, that means if you just pick up any old make-up, lotion, perfume, deodorant, or other personal care products (what else do you use? Help me out here!) at the store it probably has these endocrine disrupting chemicals in it. If you want to find non-toxic products a good place to start is reading this blog.
In terms of other household products, some can be switched easily (the plastics in your kitchen, your cookware), some are not so easy (your carpeting, mattress). Yep, the endocrine disrupting chemicals are everywhere.
With these it’s good to get familiar with the kind of materials that are safe to cook and store food in. Other things tend to be bigger purchases that you can find options that are generally labeled non-toxic.
How important is it to avoid these common endocrine disruptors?
I’m sure you are now sufficiently worried about the fact that you have all of these things in your home. How proactive should you be about replacing them?
The ultimate answer is going to be up to you, but having a lot of these products around could contribute to hormonal issues you are experiencing, infertility, or long term problems such as cancer. If you are interested in doing more reading on the subject I recommend a book called Hormone Deception by D. Lindsey Berkson (warning- when I read this about 6 years ago it freaked me out).
You have to remember that endocrine disruptors are totally ubiquitous now, you can’t get rid of them all. Also keep in mind that, based on studies they have done, the amount you are exposed and amount that it affects you works in a bell curve. That means those with very low levels of exposure have a low chance of their endocrine system being messed up, but with higher exposures your risk also goes down. It’s a sweet middle spot that seems to get the brunt of the side effects.
Here’s a visual:
So maybe you want to play it safe and get rid of as many as you can… How do you make it happen?
First things first, reassess your need
Let’s say right now you use 20 different self-care products, eat lots of cheap processed foods, and clean your whole house with bleach lysol, and windex.
Ok, it both sounds like a huge stretch to change all of that stuff up, but it also sounds expensive, time consuming, and possibly full of lots of failure.
But, what if before you changed everything to better alternatives you first took a good think about what you truly, dearly needed. Maybe you don’t need to wear 3 different types of face-makeup, or maybe you could do without eating granola bars everyday. Whatever it is for you, there is probably stuff you could do without and not even have to worry about replacing.
With the smaller amount of things you then need, you can really devote more time to finding the perfect solution for you and spend more money on it, too.
Next, assess how much you use a certain thing
In order to get more endocrine disruptors out of your body and home without overhauling everything immediately, check in with how much you use something.
Food is usually a logical first switch because you are consuming it daily.
What if you also like to spritz perfume on everyday? Or hairspray? I’d argue that those would be imperative to also switch first because they are very easy to inhale and are near your face.
What do you spend the most time doing? If those activities contribute endocrine disruptors, perhaps find an alternative.
It’s basically the 80/20 rule applied to endocrine disruptors. 20% of your activities/products/foods probably contribute about 80% of your endocrine disruptor load, so if you want maximum effect, change that 20% and don’t worry about the other 80%.
With these two habits to evaluate your endocrine disruptor exposure you can then choose where to eliminate and make changes that will benefit you the most.
What questions do you still have about endocrine disruptors? This post got long and I’m thinking I may need to do another installment. Let me know what you are interested in!