5 Tips to help you avoid Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

Whilst we have been talking about hormone disrupting chemicals for many years, a new term has emerged on the health scene, EDCS (endocrine disrupting chemicals).

Chemicals are an essential component of our daily lives and here are nearly 85,000 man-made chemicals in the world, that we are exposed to every day. However only 1% of these have been studied for human safety and 1000 or more chemicals may be deemed EDCS based on their endocrine interfering properties[1].

EDCs refer to synthetic chemicals that interfere with our natural hormone systems, leading to hormone imbalance with health effects being felt a long time after exposure. They can either mimic our natural hormones tricking our body into thinking they are hormones or they can block our natural hormones from doing their job.

Exposure to EDCs can even have consequences for our next generation impacting our children and our children’s children[2]. Numerous studies are also showing that the marked rise in reproductive problems, hormone related cancers and metabolic diseases is partly linked to exposure to EDCs. Health concerns related to EDCs include:

  • Hormone related cancers such as breast, testicular and prostate cancer;
  • Reproductive health disorders such as PCOS, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids;
  • Fertility problems in both males and females;
  • Birth defects and impaired brain development in children; and
  • Metabolic disorders including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Pregnant mothers and children are the most vulnerable populations to be affected by developmental exposures, and the effect of exposures to EDCs may not become evident until later in life[3]As information (and misinformation) proliferates about EDCs we are all asking the question of how serious EDCs are and what we can do to avoid them. In the below article I provide clear information around the main groups of EDCs, along with practical advice on how to avoid them or improve your body’s ability to process them and clear them.

EDCs are ubiquitous in our everyday lives. They are in our environment, the food we eat, water we drink and the personal care products we apply. However, with some awareness and education around where the most significant exposure lies, we can markedly reduce our exposure.

 

  1. Avoid pesticides by switching to organic food.

Many pesticides and herbicides are designed to be toxic to pests’ nervous or reproductive systems and may act by disrupting endocrine systems. Such chemicals are also EDCs because of the similarities between insect and animal endocrine systems. Whilst DDTs (found in insect repellents) and harmful insecticides have been banned in most countries, some chemicals remain that need to be looked out for.  Atrazine is a widely used weed killer (herbicide) and has been shown to impact fertility (shrinking testicles and reducing sperm count). Glyphosate, used to kill weeds on lawns and farms, has been linked to obesity, behavioural, and cognitive disorders.

The best way to avoid these EDCS is to:

  • Buy organic fruits and vegetables. Purchasing organic produce ensures that the food you are eating is not treated with harmful EDCs. Shop at farmer’s markets to buy produced which is local and pesticide-free. Always ensure that all of your leafy greens, vegetables, fruits (with thin skin) and grains are purchased organic.
  • Use filtered water. Pesticides are commonly found in drinking water. Use a reverse osmosis water filter to ensure you are drinking EDC-free water.

 

  1. Check your clothing, furniture and mattress.

Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) are commonly found in upholstered sofas, mattresses, clothing (especially pajamas), children’s car seats and padded carpet. Unfortunately they are known to be known to have many side effects, affecting thyroid balance and have even been linked to carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, and immune system disorders[4]. Over time they start to migrate out of their products contaminating household dust and food. They are currently being phased out and being replaced by new flame retardants known as organophosphorus compounds. There are already hints of trouble that some of the substitute flame retardants should be considered suspected carcinogens and that others may negatively affect neurodevelopment and fertility.

The best way to ensure you are avoiding exposure to these EDCs is to:

  • Check your clothing, furniture and mattresses for flame retardants.
  • Avoid polyurethane foam in mattresses and furniture and opt for mattresses made of pure natural fibre wadding which is naturally fire-resistant or natural latex.
  • Vacuum regularly to remove EDCs accumulating in dust.

 

  1. Stay away from non-stick.

PFAs (Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) are becoming known for their pervasive nature. Known as “forever” chemicals, they are persistent in the environment, not breaking down and bio-accumulating in our fat cells. Most commonly found in nonstick and oil repellant or water resistant fabrics, along with pizza and microwave popcorn boxes their convenience comes at a cost. The best way to avoid PFAs is to:

  • Swap Teflon and non-stick materials for stainless steel; and
  • Avoid any takeaway or frozen food boxes that contain a waxy lining.

 

  1. Become aware of plastic packaging.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most well known and most pervasive of all EDCs. BPA absorption into the body can result in the development of metabolic disorders such as low sex-specific neurodevelopmentimmune toxicityneurotoxicity and interference of cellular pathway[5].  BPA was banned from baby’s drink bottles however it is still being used in many water bottles and plastic containers and in the epoxy resins that protect canned foods from contamination. The other exposure we receive to BPAs is via the lining on supermarket and shop receipts. BPA leaching is enhanced by heating or reheating (such as in a microwave), or exposure to sunlight or acidic foods (such as tomatoes). BPA has been replaced by another chemical known as BPS. It is probably not much better for human health with studies showing BPS exhibits similar oestrogenic mimicking activity compared to its analogue BPA, due to their structural commonalities.

Phthalates are another EDC and are a ubiquitous type of plasticizers used in a wide range of consumer products including toys, food packaging, cosmetic products, and medical equipment. One of the most common phthalates, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), represents a particular public health concern because 100% of the US population have measurable levels of this EDC. Phthalates can be found in many cosmetic products where they are used as stabilisers and for viscosity control or fragrance.

To avoid EDCs found in plastics:

  • Avoid plastic water bottles and lunch box containers. Switch to stainless steel and glass containers. Ensure you avoid plastics with the number 3,6 and 7. If you have bought a food packaged in plastic remove it immediately and store in a glass jar. This will reduce further exposure to EDCs before consumption.
  • Remove any canned foods from your diet. Even cans listed as BPA free may not be EDC friendly.
  • Try to avoid touching your supermarket and store receipts.
  • Use filtered as opposed to bottled water wherever possible.
  • Avoid heating plastic via microwaves or washing in your dishwasher.
  • Avoid storing canned or plastic-packaged foods in hot areas, like the trunk of a car on a summer day. 
  • Opt for skincare packaged in glass rather than plastic. Ensure there are no undisclosed fragrances added to your skincare. Avoid any skincare that contains the following acronyms:
  • DBP (dibutyl phthalate)
  • DINP (diisononyl phthalate)
  • BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate)
  • DNOP (di-n-octyl phthalate)
  • DEHP (di-2-Ethylhexyl phthalate)
  • DMP (dimethyl phthalate)
  • DIDP (dodecyl phthalate)
  • DEP (diethyl phthalate)

Edible Beauty Australia products are EDC-free i.e. packaged in glass, without parabens, phthalates and synthetic fragrances.

  1. Improve your gut and liver health.

Whilst we can try hard to avoid EDCs the reality is that they are found everywhere from our food supply to our clothing and the air we breathe. To ensure you are optimizing the detoxification of EDCs from your body, supporting the liver is key. Turmeric, Dandelion and Quercetin have all been shown to support the various phases of detoxification. I recommend using our Inner Essentials: Skin+Liver Health supplement daily for 1 month every 3 months to optimise and support your liver health. The best nutrition to support the liver’s detoxification processes comes from the following food sources: cruciferous vegetables, grapes, green and black tea, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, Omega 3s, chicory root, and berries. Cruciferous vegetables, resveratrol, and citrus fruits are also particularly supportive.

A process called “methylation” is an important part of the liver’s second phase of detoxification (where chemicals are made water soluble). Ensuring there are enough methyl donors in the diet is important and the best way to ensure the body has optimal supplies is to supplement with methylated B vitamins such as methylated Vitamin B12 and Methyl Folate is a simple way to support this process. One of the herbs that is particularly beneficial is St Mary’s Thistle and you can find this in our Inner Essentials: Skin+Gut Renew powder.

Ensuring your diet has ample fibre (at least 30 grams daily) and optimising your gut health can also ensure your gut is adequately binding and removing unwanted hormones and toxins. My favourite fibre rich foods include legumes, whole grains, kiwi fruits and flaxseed meal. Using our Inner Essentials: Skin+Gut Renew Powder can ensure that you are optimising your gut health and making it easy to excrete EDCs that do sneak into your body!

________________

[1] Common EDCs and Where They Are Found | Endocrine Society

 [2] Claude Monneret,What is an endocrine disruptor?Comptes Rendus Biologies, Vol. 340, Issues 9–10,

2017, pp 403-405.

[3] Yves Combarnous, Endocrine Disruptor Compounds (EDCs) and Agriculture: The case of pesticides,

Comptes Rendus Biologies, Vol 340 (9–10), 2017, pp. 406-409.

[4] Hussain, T. et al. (2021). Role of Flame-Retardants as EDCs in Metabolic Disorders. In: Akash, M.S.H., Rehman, K., Hashmi, M.Z. (eds) Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals-induced Metabolic Disorders and Treatment Strategies. Emerging Contaminants and Associated Treatment Technologies.

[5] Okugbe E. Ohore, Songhe Zhang,

Endocrine disrupting effects of bisphenol A exposure and recent advances on its removal by water treatment systems. A review, Scientific African, Vol.5, 2019, e00135, ISSN 2468-2276,

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Anna Mitsios

Adv. Dip. Naturopathy. Adv. Dip. Nutrition. B.Com (Honours)

Anna is a certified naturopath and nutritionist and founder of leading Australian natural skincare and wellness company, Edible Beauty Australia. Anna has been featured in various publications including Mind Body Green, Women’s Health and Allure. She is committed to the natural transformation of her client’s skin using proven botanicals, nutrients and herbal formulations, both on the inside and out.  

Anna’s career began in the corporate sector, where she specialised in corporate finance and private banking for over ten years working in Sydney and New York for a large Australian bank. Anna’s career change was sparked by her own health journey, following a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at 18 years of age.  Her diagnosis triggered her intense study of botanicals and nutrition to manage auto-immune condition and assist others in attaining optimal health. Anna’s naturopathy career has included working as a naturopath within a reputable natural fertility clinic in Sydney, within a pharmacy and health food store and running her own naturopathy practice. 

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