Low energy, weight gain, possible food sensitivities, acid reflux, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes, arthritis, auto-immune disorders and a plethora of other chronic diseases are rampant in our society. While many (arguably most) are caused by the foods we eat, today I wanted to talk about the influence our environment has on these and other dis-ease processes.
Hormone disruptors are pervasive in our environment and awareness of what they are and why they matter is the first step in avoiding them. Broadly speaking, hormone disruptors are any substance that can have an effect on our hormones. When people think of hormones, they usually think of menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause in women and maybe a couple function in men like muscular development and fertility. But we actually have many more hormones and they govern or have an influence on every function in our bodies. From the amount of water we retain (aldosterone) to our fight or flight response ( mainly cortisol) to the hormones that govern our internal daily clock, help us digest food and eliminate waste and more, our hormones play a critical role in our health and hormone disruptors in our environment are wreaking havoc on our bodies and minds.
Hormone disruptors act by occupying the site that a hormone would normally occupy on the cell membrane. Often they act like the the hormone itself, only super-charged; with more activity. They can sometimes bind more strongly to the cell membrane and exert influence for longer periods of time. They may be influencing far more functions than you think as well. Are you aware that most new mothers have detectable amounts of these substances in their breast milk?! Has anyone else besides me noticed that, in general more young men are losing more hair at a younger age than prior generations? (probably hormonally influenced) And dare I say it; young women seem to have more breast development than prior generations (probably also hormonally influenced). In addition, both boys and girls are going through puberty earlier, both men and women are having more problems with fertility. There is also a connection between hormone disruptors and how much fat we are accumulating on our bodies. (That is not an excuse for all, just acknowledgement that it may make it worse.) All this and more can be due to the influence of hormone disruptors.
While there are many kinds of substances that can act as hormone disruptors; from chemicals we use to clean with to pesticides, plastics and more, today I wanted to discuss plastics because I think these, overall, are the ones that we can most readily limit the influence of in our lives.
While most people are now aware of BPA (Bis-phenol A), a substance found in things from the linings of canned foods to dental fillings and the fact that it can have hormonal activity, (something I read about and asked my dentist about 15 years ago and was brushed off as crazy!) it’s likely that other substances will be found to have a similar influence. With the increased awareness of BPA, companies are readily switching to other substances and many of these have not been studied. The solution? Use alternatives to plastic as much as possible. Since these substances can readily leech into your food, store food in glass containers. Use stainless steel or glass water bottles. Never cook in plastic or plastic lined containers. If you purchase prepare food in a plastic container, put in glass before putting it in the oven even if the container claims to be oven-safe. I like to discourage people from microwaving foods but if you must microwave something, use a glass container. Do your best to purchase food wrapped and stored in substances other than plastic ideally or put them in another container until use if the product isn’t available that way. Another option is always to ‘let your money do the talking’ and not buy things packaged in plastic. And contacting companies to encourage change is always a great idea as well.
This article undoubted just scratches the surface. Got some great ideas or comments? I’d love to hear them