Many are familiar with dangerous chemicals, such as cleaning supplies or detergents, that when ingested can cause severe sickness. However, there are other more insidious and difficult to avoid toxins known as endocrine disruptors. These substances can cause significant damage to many bodily systems often resulting in developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immunological issues.
An issue of primary concern is their impact on thyroid function. Because the thyroid gland regulates hormones that influence many important bodily functions such as the metabolism, avoiding disruption is essential. Therefore, it is important to know what endocrine disruptors are, how they affect the body, and which of them have specific impact on thyroid function.
A Stealthy Assault
Most people come in contact with a large variety of endocrine disruptors while going about their lives without even knowing it. Some of the most common carriers of endocrine disrupting chemicals are household items such as flame-retardant furniture, beauty products, household cleaners, and plastics. Worse still, studies have shown that even mild exposure to endocrine disruptors can result in major changes in health. The delayed effect of endocrine disruptors, with symptoms often developing many years after exposure, is part of the reason why these substances have been overlooked for so long.
How Do Endocrine Disruptors Interact with the Body?
The endocrine system orchestrates the intricacies of various regions and systems including the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, thymus, pancreas ovaries, and testes. Each of these areas are regulated through precise hormone production and synthesis. Because hormone activity is such a delicate and finely balanced process, even minor changes can induce significant issues. Endocrine disruptors influence this balance by mimicking hormones naturally found in or produced by the body. They frequently masquerade as estrogens, androgens (male sex hormones), and thyroid hormones, resulting in improper hormone levels and subsequent dysfunction.
With greater exposure to endocrine disruptors, there is greater risk of suffering significant hormonal imbalances. Hormone imbalances caused by endocrine disruptors can result in dysfunction of the following areas:
- Male and female reproduction
- Breast development
- Cancer prevention
- Weight regulation
- Cardiovascular activity
- Thyroid function
There are many products that insidiously inhibit health because they contain endocrine disruptors. Before purchasing or using any of the following items, be sure to research their contents and avoid those that contain disruptive agents:
- Personal care products (deodorants, toothpastes, soaps, shampoos, etc.)
- Medications or pharmaceuticals
- Prepackaged, canned, or processed foods
- Foods that may have been exposed to pesticides
- Plastics (containers, toys, etc.)
- Flame retardant products (furniture, clothing, etc.)
In addition to the products listed above, the following endocrine disruptors have specific impact on thyroid function and should be avoided by those with any sort of hormone or thyroid issues.
Iodine is a beneficial halogen that is an essential part of constructing thyroid hormones. However, excessive exposure to other halogens including fluoride, chlorine, and bromine can inhibit iodine transport, which limits production and conversion of thyroid hormones. This is because many halogens compete for the same receptors and if, for example, chlorine is overly present in your system, there will be no receptors available to receive and utilize iodine. It does not take much for harmful halogens to negatively impact thyroid function. Studies found that ingesting 2 to 5 mg of fluoride daily was enough to suppress thyroid function. Therefore, in order to maintain proper thyroid hormone synthesis and conversion, harmful halogens such as chlorine and bromine should be avoided.
Perflourinated Chemicals and Perflourooctanoic Acid
Kitchens in most homes contain a large number of products that harbor endocrine disrupting chemicals. Food wrapping products, nonstick kitchen utensils or cookware, and stain resistant fabrics are often made using perflourooctanoic acid (PFOA).
Even at moderate levels of exposure, perflourinated chemicals can negatively affect thyroid function. One study published in Environmental Health Perspectives showed that the prevalence of thyroid conditions may be associated with greater exposure and production of PFOA. These findings are supported by data that showed increased blood levels of PFOA are associated with changes in thyroid hormone prevalence. Interestingly, moderate exposure to PFOA caused more significant thyroid dysfunction than the greatest levels of exposure.
The most prominent danger of products containing PFOA is dependent on their usage. For example, non-stick products that are heated release PFOA into the air or the food it contacts. To limit exposure to this harmful endocrine disruptor, avoid using products such as Teflon or non-stick items that contain perflourinated chemicals.
Although it may not seem threatening, soy can be a source of endocrine and thyroid dysfunction. Soy contains phytoestrogens that when consumed in high volume can significantly disrupt hormone activity. Increased soy consumption may result in reduced iodine availability and usage, decreased thyroid hormone secretion, and inhibited peripheral T4 to T3 conversion. These factors contribute to poor thyroid activity, which may result in hypothyroidism or exacerbate hormone dysfunction. Those with a sensitivity to soy or are have thyroid issues should limit or completely eliminate soy from their diet. When doing so, it is important to avoid soy in other products as well. Soy may be listed as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lecithin, starch, and vegetable oil.
Saving the Body from Disruption
Because endocrine disruptors are such a prominent part of the western world, it may seem impossible to escape their influence. However, being well-informed of their prevalence and impact can help defend against them. Furthermore, limiting exposure can improve bodily function in many areas and not just those associated with endocrine system.
Avoiding endocrine disrupting products and substances also supports thyroid function, which is an essential component of maintaining good health and overall wellness. Although it can be difficult, eliminating endocrine disruptors is a worthwhile endeavor, which supports lasting wellness.
1. 11 Everyday Toxins That Are Harming Your Thyroid. MindBodyGreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12346/11-everyday-toxins-that-are-harming-your-thyroid.html
2. How Endocrine Disruptors Destroy Your Body + The Dirty Dozen to Avoid. Dr. Axe. https://draxe.com/endocrine-disruptors-how-to-avoid-excess-estrogen/
3. 10 Sources of Endocrine Disruptors and How to Avoid Them. Mercola. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/07/15/10-common-sources-endocrine-disruptors.aspx
4. Major Study of Teflon Chemical in People Suggests Harm To Immune System, Liver, Thyroid. EWG. https://www.ewg.org/news/news-releases/2008/05/13/major-study-teflon-chemical-people-suggests-harm-immune-system-liver#.Wro5uYjwaUk
5. The effects of triclosan on puberty and thyroid hormones in male Wistar rats. Zorrilla LM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18940961
6. Thyroid hormones and methylmercury toxicity. Soldin OP. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18716716
7. Gender differences in the effects of organochlorines, mercury, and lead on thyroid hormone levels in lakeside communities of Quebec (Canada). Abdelouahab N. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18313043