My Toxic Journey Story
My awareness of toxins started during my first pregnancy when I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting anything on my skin that contained toxins. I have always been a personal care “product” junkie, so one afternoon during that pregnancy I sat in my bathroom and examined the ingredients in every product I owned. I was shocked! Every.single.product, with the exception of two lotion brands, contained parabens and other troubling ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. I snapped a picture to show all my friends the sheer quantity and how appalled I was and proceeded to throw every item in the trash. That was my start.
After tackling the personal care products, I looked at my house cleaning supplies, then the non-organic food I bought, then my laundry detergent, then the plastic containers in my kitchen, then scented candles I loved burning around the house, and then the makeup I put on my lips and face. The sad truth is, our environment is full of toxins. Toxins that are affecting our health and our hormones. Toxic fragrances, toxic food, toxic water, toxic soaps, toxic air, toxic products, and the list goes on and on. I became a toxin detective. I’ve spent the last 10 years researching ways to keep my family safe and healthy, starting with the most impactful, but easiest, swaps.
If you’re heading down the toxic-free lifestyle road, you’re in the right spot! I’ll save you time by giving you the information it has taken me a decade to research.
What Are Xenoestrogens?
There is one group of toxins I’m particularly worried about – xenoestrogens. They are man-made chemicals in our environment, and likely in the products you use every day, but they’re different from other toxins because they’re estrogenic. What is estrogenic? It means they mimic the hormone estrogen and are capable of binding to estrogen receptors throughout the body, and this blocks the action of natural hormones. Xenoestrogens significantly disrupt the body’s fragile hormonal balance and compromise normal hormone function.
When the body’s normal hormonal function is disrupted, this can contribute to an increased risk of many things. Two additional ways you are exposed to xenoestrogens is by inhalation and absorbing them through the skin.
Xenoestrogens Impact on Health
- Fertility issues
- A more difficult transition into menopause
- Changes in uterine integrity
- Early puberty in children and teens
- Changes in cholesterol metabolism and health of your blood vessels
- Changes in sugar metabolism
- Disruption of thyroid function
- Weight gain
- Changes in bone health
- Imbalanced immune responses
People are exposed to xenoestrogens in 3 ways -- ingestion, inhalation and absorption through the skin. Ingesting xenoestrogens from food and plastic is a very common way to expose yourself, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
Ways We Are Ingesting Xenoestrogens
There are three major ways a person ingests xenoestrogens: Plastics, Cookware, and Pesticides/Herbicides/Insecticides.
PLASTICS OF ALL KINDS
All plastic contains chemicals that disrupt hormone balance in the body and are linked to a number of disease. These plastics can easily leach into your food, especially if the plastic is heated up, and then you end up ingesting it.
Bisphenol A (BPA), BPA analogues, and Phthalates are the predominant xenoestrogens in plastic, but there are at least 9 different synthetic xenoestrogens used in plastic.
Xenoestrogens are harmful to our health, but Bisphenol A (BPA) comes with its own set of complications:
- Negatively affects pregnancy and development
- Generates adipogenesis
- Alters the neuroendocrine system
- Alters bone
Obvious sources of plastic exposure include:
- Plastic storage containers (ie: Tupperware)
- Plastic wrap, plastic baggies, and other plastic food wrap
- Food packaged in plastic
- Plastic supplement bottles
- Water bottles
- Packaging for personal care products
- Plastic plates & single use cups and cutlery
What about unknown places you’re being exposed to plastic on a regular basis? Here are 8 Hidden Sources of Plastic and How You Can Avoid Them.
Non-stick pots & pans made before 2014 contain poly- and perfluorinated chemicals (aka: teflon), which is a synthetic chemical made up of carbon and fluorine atoms. At temperatures above 300oC, teflon coatings on non-stick cookware start to break down, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, and into your food.
To prevent ingesting these chemicals from cookware, toss all your old non-stick cookware, toss any pots and pans with scratches, peeling, flaking or chipping – the scratches allows the chemicals to come into contact with your food much more easily. If you’re looking to purchase new cookware soon, avoid aluminum and teflon cookware.
Safe cookware includes: Cast iron, Glassware, Titanium, Stainless Steel, Stoneware, Ceramic, Carbon Steel, Lava Rock Cookware
PESTICIDES, HERBICIDES, FUNGICIDES
Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides can be ingested and inhaled. A common way we ingest them is by eating conventional (non-organic) fruits and vegetables, and foods that contain genetically modified (GMO) ingredients (ie: soy, canola, corn).
By definition, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides were created to kill living things. Many are known or suspected carcinogens and most have not been tested for their health effects on adults and children.
One pesticide in particular, Roundup, has been popular in the agricultural field for decades. Its active ingredient, glyphosate, is effective at killing weeds and grass, and GMO food crops were created to withstand glyphosate. When it’s sprayed, the food crops live but all other bugs die. Genetically modified crops include soybeans, corn, cotton and sugar cane. Easily, three-quarters of all those crops grown in the United States are grown from genetically modified seeds.
The creator of glyphosate, Monsanto, promised that using glyphosate would lead to a reduction in the total amount of pesticides sprayed on crops, but the opposite has happened. In fact, glyphosate use has increased 12-fold since 1996 and helped spawn 60 million acres of “superweeds” on farmland across the country. Farmers have to use more and more glyphosate on the same corn crop they normally would have used, which has increased the amount we ingest on a regular basis. For more about Glyphosate and How to Detox It, go here.
How To Reduce Pesticide Exposure & Reduce Ingesting It
- Eating an organic diet will drastically decrease your exposure to pesticides.
- Eat organic fruits and vegetables, especially those on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list.
- Do not spray Roundup in your yard or on your garden/crops.
- If the food product contains wheat, oats or legumes, purchase the organic version. These crops are not GMO, but farmers and companies use glyphosate to quickly dry the crops days before processing it. They spray it as a pre-harvest drying agent.
- If you’re a wine drinker, choose organic, especially wine from California.
- Choose organic meat, eggs, dairy, and honey as often as possible. Pesticides can be ingested from farm animals because they’re often fed GMO corn and then we eat their “product.”
How To Detoxify Xenoestrogens From Plastics and Pesticides
Start with the basics. It's important to eat foods that influence the two detoxification pathways and processes, along with the elimination phase. Here's information about the 3 phases of liver detoxification.
To kick-start your xenoestrogen detox, I find it convenient to take a detox blend that contains all the detox-supporting nutrients in one capsule, such as Dim-X. It contains milk thistle, glutathione, broccoli sprout extract (for the sulphoraphane), and a few other powerful ingredients to support endocrine balance and promote detoxification of environmental estrogens in both men and women.
Obvious and hidden sources of plastic are affecting our health and the environment. Our choices matter and making a conscious effort to reduce plastics goes a long way.
I know this is a lot of information and this is also when the overwhelming feelings start creeping in. Choose one thing to focus on at a time! Start with the easiest ones to change first and go from there.
When I started this mission, the first thing I did was remove all my plastic food containers but start with what’s easiest for you. I donated them and replaced them with glass containers. I bought metal lunch containers to pack my kids’ food and snacks, which eliminated the use of plastic baggies.
To get started, I made a checklist with specific to-do’s in order to make gradual changes around your house. Sign up to receive my handy xenoestrogen checklist.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods