The Villain of the Piece: Endocrine Disruptors

Reader’s Note: This post introduces a little-known topic that can be very dangerous to your life and health. Reading the facts as I present them can be overwhelming… maybe it’s just easier to “give up and hope for the best.” Rest assured, this would not be the best decision you ever made. My approach to this problem is simple: You live in the environment in which you live. There is no such thing as altogether avoiding the toxins I discuss in this post. But you can minimize your exposure to them. If your hormone system ever fails from toxic exposure, I have spent 20 years of research working out practical solutions to allow your body to overcome this type of stress.

In the end, your health is limited only by your willingness to search out and apply effective answers. Giving up? Not the solution at all!

Harmonious Hormones

Your hormones are amazing substances. Working at a molecular level, they are your body’s messengers and influence and control all your organs.  These hormones coordinate and work together to create a symphony of magic in your body.

The orchestra is playing; all the instruments are in harmony and blending their voices in a beautiful symphony. The beautiful sound reverberates in the air—when suddenly a loud squawking is heard from the brass section, and a horrible wail begins from the strings section.  Violins fly through the air, instruments are dropped, and a black coated band of invaders displace the rightful musicians and begin to play their version of the piece.  Chaos ensues.  The conductor is yelling as musicians try in vain to regain their seats. All the while the invaders continue their horrible rendition of the once beautiful song.

Daily, your body is experiencing this invasion. Your systems are invaded repeatedly by toxins that either take the place of or block your body’s correct function.  Now, instead of proper hormone flow and balanced output, we have hormone chaos.  Your cycles hurt, you have PMS, you are angry or sad for no apparent reason, your body begins to grow tumors, benign or otherwise, in your uterus or your breasts, you have hot flashes and night sweats, you are exhausted and depressed, your body is no longer yours. It has been hijacked by these foreign substances that now run the show.

Endocrine Disruptors

These invaders are called endocrine disruptors.

If you are to control your health in our current chemical-rich environment, you must understand endocrine disruptors, which are mostly manmade chemicals.  They are found in pesticides, plastics, plasticizers, metals, additives in food and personal care products, and many pharmaceuticals.  Endocrine disruptors include heavy metals such as mercury and lead, dioxins, PCBs, DDT and pesticides, and bisphenol A. These chemicals have long been proven to cause altered reproductive function in both males and females, increase in reproductive cancers in women and men (breast, uterine, ovarian, prostate, testicular) and decreased fertility in both sexes. Neurological and developmental delays have also been seen in children.

As many of these endocrine disruptors mimic estrogen, there has been a substantial increase in the number of women suffering from estrogen-dominant conditions. These issues include PCOS, ovarian cysts, cervical dysplasia, uterine fibroids, heavy cycles, severe PMS, and other female disorders.

How You’re Exposed

We are exposed to these chemicals in food and water by inhaling gases, particles in the air, and absorption through our skin. One primary source of exposure is the transfer of these damaging and extremely harmful chemicals from the pregnant mother to the developing fetus through the placenta and the infant and small child through the breast milk. Pregnant women and children are the most vulnerable to these toxins, even though the effects may not be evident until later in life and may decrease immunity over time.

The World Health Organization, The Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have defined and cataloged the existence of and the damage caused by these endocrine disruptors that are rampant in our environment.  I would highly recommend that you watch the video Our Chemical Lives.

Many of our everyday personal care products and convenience products contain endocrine disruptors. Some common examples are found in plastic drinking bottles, flame retardant clothing, toys, cosmetics, pesticides, detergents, birth control pills, conventional HRT (hormone replacement therapy), perfumes, nail polish, soaps, spermicides, adhesives, metal smelting, waste incineration, dry cleaning chemicals, dental sealants, food, and beverage packaging. This is just a shortlist of the chemicals found in our clothes, food, and the personal care products we may think of as safe for everyday use.

A recent report by the Environmental Working Group found the average level of the bromine-based flame retardant in American women’s breast milk was 75 times higher than the average found in recent European studies. I don’t know what you think, but flame retardants should not be in mother’s milk! They should not be in salmon or cow’s milk, but they are. The places children are supposed to be the safest, inside our bodies and at our breasts, are where we are inadvertently passing toxins on to our future generations.

Endocrine Disruptors

Hormones “talk to” cells by plugging into “mailboxes” on the cell called receptor sites. The hormone plugs into the mailbox and downloads instructions to the cell. Endocrine disruptors look like hormones to the cell. They are literally “counterfeit hormones” and fool the cell into letting them plug into the mailboxes. Once in the mailboxes, these chemical toxins block real hormones from plugging in, and may continue to do this for the life of the cell. This makes the cell “deaf” to instructions from the body, leading to many malfunctions and disease processes.

How Endocrine Disruptors Cause Damage

Endocrine disruptors mimic hormones in the body, such as estrogen, testosterone, or thyroid hormones. They bind to receptor sites in the cells and block the real hormone, preventing the hormone from completing its action, creating confusion or no action at all. Endocrine disruptors can also block or interfere with the way natural hormones or their receptors are made or controlled.

Hormones are your body’s messenger system. Microscopic amounts of hormone are released directly into the bloodstream and exert extraordinarily profound and far-reaching effects on the body. Hormones are measured in nanograms (parts per billion) and pictograms (parts per trillion). Hundreds of different hormones course through our bodies at any given time, precisely and in exact measurements, to carry out their duties in the beautiful symphony we’ve talked about previously.

Endocrine disruptors are the villain of the piece. They are the evil infiltrators that ruin the magnificent choreography of the body and disrupt the symphony. They block, damage, and destroy these fragile hormones, creating any of the countless health problems you can encounter when your hormones do not work correctly.

Worse yet, you are being poisoned by the countless chemicals allowed into our environment. I’ve read that over 80,000 manmade chemicals have been introduced into our food and water supply in the last 60 years. Our bodies have not had time to adapt to these chemicals, and most have never been evaluated for health risks in humans. No wonder we as a nation are so sick.

The Result of Toxins

What are the consequences of this flow of toxins into our world and our bodies? How are they affecting the intelligence and behavior and our offspring’s health after years of accumulation of these pollutants?  No one knows for sure, but we can point to an infertility epidemic, an increase in behavioral and psychological problems, and a very alarming rise in deaths from all kinds of cancer. Politics and economics combined do not create a climate of rapid change—after all, look at how long it took for cigarettes to be “proven” to be bad for your health.

There are many dangers that I have been warning my patients about for years, and the “establishment” is very slow to accept these things as truth. It is essential for all of us to be wise and savvy consumers, research, and be our own advocates. Trust your intuition. If something seems wrong, it probably is.

When my son was eight years old, he would ask me why they showed sugar cereals on TV as healthy and good for children. It is disheartening to tell your child the industry lies and advertise things purely for profit in blatant disregard for life and health, but the truth is that they do.

Our Standard American Diet is killing us. If food has ingredients that you cannot pronounce and you do not recognize, it is safe to say these ingredients are not healthy for your body and very well may be endocrine disrupters. Consuming endocrine disrupters is destroying your symphony of health.

EndNote:

When I started research on a treatment solution for Endocrine Disruptors back in 2001, the whole subject was considered highly controversial and even pseudo-science. My assertion at the time that most thyroid problems came from or were made worse by endocrine disruptors was deemed to be laughable. Try this: Google “endocrine disruptors and thyroid disease.” You’ll get more results than you could read in many years, including many papers from the NIH (National Institutes of Health), CDC, and every major university.

Things have changed. We are still a long way from any significant action being taken by industry or government to curb this problem, but awareness and research have expanded exponentially.

Later, I’ll post some guidance on avoiding endocrine disruptors and have a section on therapies that help relieve this stress on the body.

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