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I frequently see women in my practice with hormone imbalances that show up as PMS, fibroids, heavy periods, hypothyroidism, weight gain, challenging perimenopause, and more.

While we always work together to seek the root cause and support the body in finding balance, there are hidden sources of hormone disturbance that are likely lurking in your body right now.

What if I told you that your hormone imbalance might have less to do with your body’s hormone production and more with toxins found in the environment? I’m talking about endocrine disruptors, chemicals that wreak havoc on our hormones.

Keep reading to learn more about:

    • What endocrine disruptors are and where you find them
    • How endocrine disruptors increase adverse health risks
    • Practical steps to take, beginning today, to stop endocrine disruptors from disrupting your hormones

Let’s jump right in!

What Are Endocrine Disruptors?

Over 85,000 different chemicals are released into the environment every year. We know little about many of them regarding health risks, let alone what happens when the body is exposed to thousands of chemicals in combination.

A lot of these chemicals fall into the category of endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruptors are manufactured chemicals that affect the endocrine system and hormone levels in the body. They also include some heavy metals (like lead) that are released into the environment because of human activity.

Endocrine disruptors can mimic our hormones, block hormones, affect hormone receptors, or impact endocrine glands responsible for making hormones.

Top endocrine disrupting offenders include:

    • BPA (Bisphenol A) – a chemical used in plastic, receipts, and consumer goods
      Dioxins – toxic byproduct from chemical and herbicide production
    • Phthalates and plasticizers – chemicals that make plastic more soft or pliable
    • Perchlorates – component in rocket fuel
    • Atrazine – widely used herbicide
    • Flame retardants – found in furniture and children’s pajamas
    • Heavy metals, including lead, arsenic, and mercury
    • PFAS (Per- and polyfluoralkyl substances) – “forever chemicals” that create a water-resistant coating in cookware, clothing, carpet, makeup, and more
    • Pesticides – neurotoxic substances used in agriculture
    • Glycol ethers – solvents in paint and cleaning products
    • Parabens – preservatives used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals
plastic

Endocrine Disruptor Health Risks

Endocrine disruptors may play a role in the following:

  • Metabolic disorders, including diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Changes in the microbiome
  • Infertility
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Endocrine disruptors also have generational impacts as they are passed from mother to child through the placenta and breast milk.

Examples of endocrine disruptors that mimic hormones are xenoestrogens, chemicals that mimic human estrogen. Examples include BPA, PCBs, parabens, pesticides, and more. Xenoestrogens may play a role in an estrogen-dominant hormone pattern that cause symptoms like PMS, tender breasts, and heavy bleeding. They also increase cancer risk.

Endocrine disruptors don’t just affect us. They disrupt ecosystems, affect animals, and many are persistent, meaning slow to break down. They continue to cycle in the environment.

How to Reduce Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are hidden yet all around us. You’ll find them in water, soil, and air. They are unknowingly brought into your home in items you buy and found in the food you eat.

The good news is that when you know where these chemicals hide, you can change your behavior or implement easy solutions to reduce exposure. Here’s how:

    • Filter your drinking water. Tap water may be a significant source of endocrine disruptors and other toxins depending on where you live. Learn more about the drinking water where you live and what type of water filter you need using EWG’s Tap Water Database.
    • Filter indoor air. Chemicals from upholstery, furniture, and building materials contaminate indoor air. Portable indoor air filters are a good investment. You can also frequently open windows, dust, and vacuum to improve air quality.
    • Eat organic food. Choosing organic significantly reduces pesticides, herbicides, and other toxins in the body.
    • Choose fresh food over packaged. Food packaging, like the lining of aluminum cans and plastic wrap, is a source of endocrine disruptors.
    • Use food as medicine. Eat to support hormone balance, detoxification pathways, and to protect cells from the damage that toxins can cause. Learn more about food as medicine for hormonal health in this article.
    • Eliminate plastic or reduce it as much as possible. There are certain plastic items we can’t do without, but most plastic has a safer alternative, especially in the kitchen. Choose glass, ceramic, or stainless steel instead. Never heat food in plastic as endocrine disruptors can leach into the food.
    • Ditch the non-stick cookware. Choose ceramic or cast iron instead.
    • Ditch scented products. “Fragrance” in candles, perfume, air fresheners, and many personal care products may contain endocrine disruptors. Choose unscented products or essential oils instead.
    • Make smart purchases. If you need a new couch or are renovating your home, choose non-toxic materials over what is conventionally available.
    • Wear natural fiber clothing. Synthetic clothing is made from plastic and may contain endocrine disruptors.
    • Choose organic cotton when possible. By children’s clothing that is flame retardant-free.
    • Choose safe cosmetics and personal care products. One of the most significant sources of chemical exposure, especially for women, comes from what we put on our skin. Use EWG’s Skin Deep Database to find safer alternatives.
    • Choose safe cleaning products. Cleaning products may be another source of hidden toxins. EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning
    • Avoid touching receipts. Receipts are a source of BPA that can absorb into the skin. Ask for the receipt in the bag, an email receipt, or decline a receipt.
    • Work with TārāMD. Here at TārāMD we can help you get to the root of your hormone imbalance and understand the role endocrine disruptors play for you. We offer functional testing for toxins and can work backward to find the source.

While we can’t control every endocrine disruptor we come in contact with, awareness plus some new habits can reduce exposures dramatically and make our homes safer.

If tackling all these lifestyle pieces feels overwhelming, focus on one thing at a time. Wait until you run out of a product, and then research an alternative for your next purchase. Over time, you’ll live in a cleaner environment, which is good for your body and your hormones.

Suzanne Fenske, MD, FACOG, ABOIM, NCMP

Suzanne Fenske

With a unique combination of both academic and integrative training, Dr. Fenske focuses on treating complex conditions such as hormonal imbalances, perimenopause, menopause, chronic pelvic pain, endometriosis, fibroids, recurrent infections, sexual dysfunction as well as optimizing women’s health and wellbeing during their annual examinations.

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