For years, alternative practitioners and independent scientists have warned us about hormone disruptors such as Bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates and close to 800 other toxic compounds, dubbed “everywhere chemicals.” These harmful substances earned this moniker because, unfortunately, they are just about everywhere.
BPA, phthalates and other toxins in this class are common industrial products found abundantly in soft and hard plastics, canned and packaged foods, pesticides, household items, cosmetics, beauty care products and so much more. Their danger isn’t just linked to their all-pervasive presence. Significantly, these chemicals can be toxic even in small quantities, especially for children. Studies connect them to cancer, endocrine disorders, metabolic problems, developmental disorders, immune dysfunction and autism.
These chemicals are classified as estrogen-mimicking compounds and endocrine disruptors because most of their harmful effects occur in one of the most sensitive and vulnerable systems in the body: the hormonal (endocrine) system.
Hacking The Endocrine System
In addition to controlling countless biochemical processes in the body, the endocrine system is inextricably tied to the immunological and neurological systems. Constant exposure to endocrine disruptors like BPA essentially “hacks” complex cellular signaling mechanisms when these chemicals mimic other hormones. Disrupting estrogen’s functions is particularly problematic.
When this occurs, cellular processes go awry; free radical damage increases; chronic inflammation accelerates; and a number of serious medical conditions can result. Global health organizations have finally begun to officially acknowledge these destructive effects partly due to the growth of the body of data demonstrating their dangers.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released an extensive report on the human and environmental impact of these types of chemicals. Available on the World Health Organization’s website, “The State and Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012″ represents a significant step forward by leaders in public health policy. As the body of research grows and public awareness expands, the hope is that government and policy leaders can begin to implement important restrictions regarding the use of these harmful chemicals. In the meantime, however, you’re pretty much on your own.
In the WHO report, the authors state: “EDC’s (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals) represent a challenge, as their effects depend on both the level and timing of exposure, being especially critical when exposure occurs during development.” They identify particularly vulnerable populations: children, pregnant women, fertile populations, the elderly, the poor and industrial workers. They recommend the minimization of chemical exposures before conception and during gestation, infancy, childhood and adolescence. In addition, they note that exposures early in life often produce permanent alterations that can predispose people to future illness at an older age. These statements in the report are an important step: They acknowledge the profound effects that these chemicals can have through multiple generations, affecting not only the health, development and reproduction of each individual (human and animal), but also the health of future generations.
How To Protect Yourself
A primary source of BPA and other chemicals is food packaged in cans and plastic containers. Perhaps the most important way to reduce your exposure to these toxins is to eat a diet of fresh, whole foods that are not processed. In particular, your diet should emphasize leafy and cruciferous vegetables.
A 2011 study demonstrated that even short-term dietary changes that incorporated fresh, whole foods, resulted in substantial reduction of BPA and phthalates. Other data show that dairy and spices, perhaps because of the processing involved, can contain higher levels of these toxins. So being mindful of dietary choices along with proper food storage, prep and packaging can help reduce exposure significantly. In this case, “organic” does not always mean “safe.” Organic canned foods, for example, such as soups, beans, etc. most likely have BPA contaminants in the can lining. Look for labels that say the packaging is “BPA free.” There are companies (although few and far between) who have switched to BPA-free containers. This is an area in which our voices can make a difference. Fresh is always a healthier choice.
The next step for better health is to minimize exposure in your home. Numerous body products contain phthalates that may or may not be listed on the label. According to the website thedailygreen.com and other sources, specific ingredients to look out for are DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) in body care products. DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is used in many plastics, including medical devices. BzBP (benzyl butyl phthalate) is used in some flooring and body products. DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in many plastics. Additionally, most plastics marked with the recycling codes 3 and 7 contain BPA or phthalates.
The Role Of Detoxification
Regular detoxification practices in combination with a healthy, whole foods diet and daily exercise can help support your body’s defenses against numerous toxins. Specifically, glutathione, termed “The Mother of All Antioxidants,” can potentially aid in the metabolism and detoxification of endocrine-disrupting compounds. Glutathione is produced in the body, and research suggests that people with low glutathione levels may be at a higher risk for endocrine diseases related to phthalate exposure.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and kale contain an abundance of sulfur compounds that help support glutathione production and other detoxification pathways in the body. In addition, certain nutrients, herbs and foods can increase glutathione levels. Vitamin C, lipoic acid, selenium, n-aceytl-cysteine NAC (n-acetyl cysteine), milk thistle and walnuts support glutathione production and help optimize the detox process.
In my practice, to address toxic body burden, I recommend a gentle detoxification program that helps to remove harmful chemicals and health-robbing heavy metals over time. The cornerstone of this program includes Modified Citrus Pectin and sodium alginates, together with a phase 2 detoxification formula for deeper and more thorough toxin removal. The phase 2 formula contains a blend of powerful herbs and nutrients that can increase glutathione, detoxify tissues and organs, and support vital energy during the process.
It’s important to note that detoxification has become a household word and is often misunderstood. Mobilizing heavy metals and toxins, usually released from fat cells, can potentially do more harm if they are not properly removed. If not detoxified properly, they can be redistributed into other organs and tissues, including the brain. This is why I am very specific about the timing and compounds I recommend in my detoxification programs. I always take into consideration the health status of individuals in my recommendations. For more information, download my wellness guide about safe detoxification of heavy metals and toxins.
Our Modern Age
The truth is, industrial and environmental toxins are fixtures of modern life. But we’re seeing progress. Our information age continues to support independent inquiry, scientific research and increased awareness that will hopefully lead to more stringent regulations of toxins. These advancements offer hope; but, for now, the best we can do is to keep our systems resilient with healthy diet, lifestyle and targeted natural solutions.
For more information, visit www.dreliaz.org.