So many of us are striving to live healthier lives. Our main focus for reaching that goal is often diet and exercise. While both of these areas are necessary for optimum health, we may be unknowingly missing another important piece; the chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis. You have likely heard some mention of them before, such as parabens, fragrances, phthalates, and BPA. These chemicals show up in so many of our everyday products and we often don’t even realize they are there. Examples would be, plastics we use for water bottles and food storage, air fresheners, household cleaners, makeup, lotions, shampoos, and other health and beauty products. They have been linked to cancer, diabetes, endometriosis, hormone disruption, metabolic syndrome, and infertility. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
These are chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body. Because of this they will bind with the estrogen receptors in the body, and cause hormone disruption. Many Xenoestrogens are not biodegradable, which means they will store in fat tissue and build up the body’s estrogen levels over time, which can also be problematic. Xenoestrogens have been linked to testicular cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
These are chemical preservatives that keep bacteria from growing in products. Parabens are one of the most commonly used preservatives. They have been shown to be easily absorbed by the human body and are considered Xenoestrogens. When looking for parabens in your products, the ones most commonly used are butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben, although there are many more.
This is another chemical that is used to make plastics and resins. It is found in things such as feminine hygiene products, toiletries, canned food, items packaged in plastic containers and various other products. BPA can enter the body through the skin, or leach into the foods and beverages that we consume. BPA is also considered an endocrine disruptor or Xenoestrogen. It has been linked to various cancers because it evokes several endocrine disorders. A study has also shown it can disrupt your thyroid’s ability to function normally.
It is also worth noting that many BPA-Free labeled products have simply replaced the BPA with BPS or BPF, which can also disrupt cell function, similar to BPA. Plastics that have the label number 3 or 7 or the letters “PC” likely contain one of these three chemicals.
This is a chemical that acts as a binding agent in products and is used to make plastic flexible. Phthalates can also be found in products such as fragrance. Studies have linked phthalates to a worsening of asthma symptoms, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, behavioral issues, male infertility, and neurodevelopmental issues.
According to the Washington Post, “Both phthalates and parabens act on estrogen pathways, which in humans have been associated with such varied effects as decreased sperm count, endometriosis, and insulin resistance.”
There is some dispute on whether or not these chemicals are concentrated enough in the body to cause concern. There are enough studies to support the idea of decreasing our exposure when possible. Another important note to make is that while these chemicals may be studied for safety independently, there are no studies being done on specific products where many chemicals are compounded together. Because of this, we really have no way of knowing the harm these chemicals can be creating in our bodies.
Let’s look at different ways we can lower our exposure to these chemicals in our everyday life.
Look for products labeled “phthalate- free,” “paraben-free,” or “BPA-free”
Finding products that are labeled paraben, phthalate, or BPA- free is a great place to start with decreasing our toxic load. Also note that fragrances are considered phthalates so watch out for those as well. One note about fragrances is that companies are not required to list every single fragrance they use; they consider that to be trade secrets. This is where knowing who you are buying your products from or making your own would be beneficial.
Buy clean health and beauty products
My preferred way to do this is to find a small business who creates their own natural products. The benefit with a small business is that you can ask questions directly to the person who is creating the products you will use. If you want to know if they have used any fragrances in their products, they are likely to be much more open about sharing this information with you. Some people worry that these naturally made products that do not have standard ingredients and preservatives will not be as effective, but I have not found that to be the case at all. There is an abundance of small businesses making health and beauty products now. One of my personal favorites is goat milk soap.
If you are unsure how clean the products you have are, a great resource is the EWG website. You can look up specific products or ingredients and the website will score them for you.
You can also always make your own health and beauty products. There is an abundance of DIY recipes to be found online! One benefit to this is that you have full control over the quality of ingredients that are being used.
Drink filtered water
Our water is filled with many chemicals that we do not realize we are ingesting. Finding a good quality filter, especially one that can filter fluoride, can be very beneficial to your health.
Avoid microwaving plastics
Heating food in a plastic container will cause the chemicals in the plastics to leach into your food. If I am going to reheat food, I heat it in a glass container.
Plastics, particularly soft plastics like a shampoo bottle or toothpaste tube, contain phthalates, and are prone to leaching. If using plastics, look for the ones that have the recycling codes 1, 2, or 5 to reduce your chances of high levels of phthalates. Another great option is to use a stainless steel bottle or a mason jar in replacement of your plastic water bottles. This is also great for the environment, as those options are reusable. Cooking and food storage can be done with cast iron, stainless steel, and glass.
Avoid pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides
Along with other health concerns, these products are all considered hormone disruptors. Avoiding spraying them in your home, on your lawn, and on your foods is a great place to start. Buying organic produce that is free of these chemicals when possible is also another way to reduce your toxic load. Take a look at EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” list to know which fruits and vegetables contain the most and least amount of chemicals on them. In order to save money, I stick with organic mainly for the “Dirty Dozen.”
Rethink your cleaning products
Most cleaning products are the same as health and beauty products, heavily-laden with chemicals. This applies not only to cleaning products, but laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and even air fresheners.
Making your own cleaners from items such vinegar and baking soda, or checking the EWG website for safer cleaners you can purchase are great options.
Another option for replacing candles and other scented items is to diffuse essential oils, or use a wax warmer with some essential oils mixed in with coconut or mct oil.
I like to use the wool dryer balls and put a few drops of essential oils on those to replace the heavily-scented traditional fabric softeners.
Look for feminine products made from organic cotton and avoid any that contain dioxin
Feminine products can be another source for chemicals we are subjecting ourselves to with fragrances and the chemical spraying that is present on non-organic cotton.
This list is not exhaustive, but is a good place to start. If taking on the list in its entirety feels overwhelming, a good starting point is to pick one item on the list and begin working on it. If you are experiencing hormonal imbalance, weight gain, acne, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, low-libido, or problems with fertility, and you feel you need further resources, you can contact our office at 1-918-274-1760.