The endocrine system is a network of glands and organs that produce, store, and secrete hormones. When functioning normally, the endocrine system works with other systems to regulate your body's healthy development and function throughout life.
EDCs are chemicals or mixtures of chemicals that interfere with the way the body’s hormones work. Some EDCs act like "hormone mimics" and trick our body into thinking that they are hormones, while other EDCs block natural hormones from doing their job. Other EDCs can increase or decrease the levels of hormones in our blood by affecting how they are made, broken down, or stored in our body. Finally, other EDCs can change how sensitive our bodies are to different hormones.
EDCs can disrupt many different hormones, which is why they have been linked to numerous adverse human health outcomes including alterations in sperm quality and fertility, abnormalities in sex organs, endometriosis, early puberty, altered nervous system function, immune function, certain cancers, respiratory problems, metabolic issues, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, growth, neurological and learning disabilities, and more.
Examples of EDCs include bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, pesticides, and pollutants such as dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Food consumption is one of the most common ways that we are exposed to harmful chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). This is because we can come into contact with EDCs through the food we eat, the packaging it’s sold in, and the ways we store and cook food.
REDUCING EXPOSURE- THE FOOD WE EAT:
1. Through a process known as bioaccumulation, harmful chemicals can be stored in the fat cells of animals and passed up the food chain. The higher up the food chain you eat, the greater the concentration of chemicals you may be exposed to when eating fatty tissue. Eating lower down the food chain more often can reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.
2. Fast food has been found to contain high levels of harmful chemicals such as phthalates. A US study found that the more take-aways people ate, the more phthalates there were in their bodies.
Fast-food packaging is also a source of exposure to harmful chemicals. Processed foods may contain more harmful chemicals than fresh foods, as chemical additives are added during the production process. Eating fresh, home-cooked food when you can therefore reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.
3. Farmers commonly use pesticides to protect crops and kill insects, weeds and fungi. Pesticide residues can stay on produce all the way to the fruit bowl or dinner plate. Some pesticides in use today are hormone disruptors or have been linked to certain cancers.
Washing fruit and vegetables in clean water can help remove residues from the surface of produce; and peeling will avoid chemicals embedded in the skin of fruits and vegetables. But some pesticides are absorbed throughout a plant, including the parts we eat – so washing and peeling are not always enough.
REDUCING EXPOSURE-FOOD PACKAGING AND STORAGE:
The best way to lower your exposure to harmful chemicals in food contact materials is to choose food that isn’t packaged. For example:
+Buy fresh and loose: Choose fresh ingredients such as loose fruit and vegetables. You can also get foods like bread, pulses, pasta, rice, beans and nuts from bulk stores where you can refill your own containers – glass and stainless steel are good choices.
+Choose stainless steel or glass bottles: Many reusable plastic bottles leach harmful chemicals, including phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). Reduce your risk of exposure by opting for reusable bottles made of stainless steel or glass.
+Store food in glass jars: Harmful chemicals in plastic packaging and containers can leach into your food or drink, so store food in glass jars to reduce your exposure. Cereals, pasta, rice, dried fruit and nuts are all easy to keep in jars.
+Cut down on the take-aways. There are concerns over chemicals used in take-away food packaging. For example, PFAS are often in things such as sandwich wrappers and bags for chips. Reducing the number of take-aways you buy is one option.
You can also help reduce your exposure by being conscious of the way you cook-for example by not microwaving food in plastic containers, by avoiding non stick pans and plastic cooking utensils as much as possible.
When I work with most clients, I often don’t put a huge amount of emphasis on this topic (depending on the client and their case) because there are usually bigger concerns I have when it comes to supporting their health that I want them to focus on first. This is an area that is important to be aware of but I would try not to stress about it. Just do what you can to avoid your exposure in the home at least. I have only covered our food related exposure. As you know there are many other ways we are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis so even by switching up your cleaning and hygiene products for example-every little will help bring that overall exposure level down so that you can reduce the risks.
I am a registered Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist and specialist in Clinical Paediatric Nutrition. If you are interested in starting Nutritional Therapy for yourself, your family or your child then please contact me for more information/FREE discovery call or you can check out my services on my website.