When we think about plastic waste or pollution, we usually think about climate change or its effect on the environment - which is obviously very important! But did you know that these things can also have a huge impact on our health?
Here Women’s Health Coach Tara Ghosh explains how toxins interact with our hormones, the knock-on effect on our overall health and what we can do to avoid them.
- Harmful chemicals can be found in almost all areas of our life - from our food to our beauty products
- Some chemicals are known as Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals - and these play havoc with your hormones
- EDCs can affect many areas of our health - including our fertility
- Whilst it’s impossible to avoid toxins altogether, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your exposure.
What are toxic chemicals?
Firstly, let’s cover what exactly toxic chemicals, or toxins, are. Toxins are chemicals that are poisonous and can cause health effects. The obvious examples of this are acids that burn the skin or air pollution that impacts our lungs. However, there are another group of toxins that are a little bit more sneaky - but still very harmful - and these are endocrine-disrupting chemicals or (EDCs).
Our endocrine system is another name for the hormonal systems in the body. EDCs cause havoc with your hormones and as hormones are involved in almost every function in the body, this can have a domino effect on your health (more on that in a minute!)
There is a wide variety of endocrine-disrupting chemicals - from BPAs, and phthalates to pesticides and microplastics and they are sadly all around us.
You can find them hiding in our fragrances and our cooking pans, on our vegetables and in the lining of tinned goods as well as plastic bottles and containers and in many of our period care products. They can make their way into our bodies through eating, via the skin or inhalation. EDCs that are used in products - like food containers or pots and pans - are often more likely to be released when these products are exposed to heat. This is why it’s not great to have these products in your kitchen!
What do endocrine-disrupting chemicals do to the body?
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can mimic our naturally occurring hormones, like oestrogen or thyroid hormones. This can cause all sorts of problems in the body.
In our body, we have hormone receptors, which identify and connect hormonal activity. When foreign chemicals mimic our hormones they can bind to hormone receptors which means our natural hormones can’t do their job properly. They can also overload the liver and interfere with our natural production of hormones.
Whilst various hormones can be impacted by EDCs, oestrogen is a very common victim. As such an important hormone for reproductive health, there’s no surprise that some studies indicate that EDCs can have an impact on our menstrual cycles and our fertility.
For example, one study indicated a link between BPA and egg development. Researchers found that exposure to these toxic chemicals caused a variety of problems during follicle maturation - meaning fewer eggs were produced and those that were, were of poor quality. Some research also indicates that there could be a link between BPA exposure and conditions including PCOS and endometriosis - but more research is needed.
How do we avoid toxins and protect our health?
While the topic of toxins in the environment messing with our hormones can seem vast and intimidating, there are simple steps you can take to make a big impact.
However - here’s a hard truth: we can’t avoid exposure to environmental chemicals. Due to centuries of pollution and plastic production, our world is full of toxins and even people that live off-grid will be exposed to them in the atmosphere. But there are simple ways that you can dramatically reduce your daily exposure and support your health.
- Swap single-use period products for reusables like menstrual cups or, washable pads or period underwear. If you prefer disposables then make sure they are organic and sustainable - and sing and dance about being plastic and chemical-free!
- Stop buying scented candles and air fresheners - they may smell nice but the chemicals used in fragrances can be toxic.
- Likewise, choose a toxic-free deodorant like WILD or Fussy.
- Think about what you are using in the kitchen. Many pots and pans will be lined with products that contain EDCs - and plastic containers will be full of them. Swap to non-toxic utensils and ceramic or metal containers.
- Invest in a water filter. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals make their way into our waterways through pesticides and microplastics - but a water filter does a great job of keeping them out of your body.
- Check out Think Dirty App and EWG’s Skin Deep website to check whether your beauty and cleaning products are safe and find the best non-toxic alternatives.
- Support your detox pathways aka make sure you’re going to the toilet enough! Our body knows to excrete harmful toxins but if you’re constipated it can’t do its job. Eating plenty of fibre and staying hydrated will help you stay regular and flush out all those nasty chemicals.
Then we need to stop worrying about the rest. We can’t do everything, so instead do what is doable and try not to fall into the hole of eco-anxiety. I encourage you to take small, positive steps with as it is easy to become overwhelmed.
If you can, think about tackling one aspect a month or every few months, starting with your food and water, and then with things like your beauty or cleaning products, and cookware as and when they need replacing - your body and your menstrual cycle will thank you for it!
For 100% chemical-free, natural pain relief you can trust - why not try the Myoovi kit?