A Girl’s Beginner’s Guide To Endocrine Disruptors

Whether from the food you eat, the air you breathe, or the makeup you wear every day, you have been —and continue to be — exposed to endocrine disruptors.

By Maggie Tynan3 min read
L Julia/Shutterstock

Endocrine disruptors interfere with our body's natural hormones. If you’ve spent some time with Evie, you’ve heard about them before – but let’s take a look at these hidden chemicals in your environment and the havoc they’re wreaking on your body. 

What Is the Endocrine System?

The endocrine system is a network of glands and organs that use hormones to regulate many bodily functions. These functions include our metabolism, energy level, reproduction, growth and development, and mood. Endocrine disruptors (EDCs) are chemicals, some natural and some man-made, that mimic and interfere with our natural hormones, but look and act similarly enough that they can be mistaken as the real thing by our bodies. These chemicals have been linked with many problems, including, but not limited to, developmental, reproductive, and immune problems.

The endocrine system consists of the brain, gonads, thyroid, pancreas, and adrenal glands. These glands release hormones, which then travel through the bloodstream to their specific receptors in the other organs of the system, so the body is able to operate correctly. This system is especially important for women since our hormone levels are changing throughout the month. Endocrine disruptors act as pseudo-hormones that interrupt and handicap this system. 

What Endocrine Disruptors Do 

When EDCs enter the scene, it can cause the hormonal message to be misunderstood, the wrong response to be sent, or the correct response at the wrong time. Sometimes it can even block certain parts of the process altogether. When this happens, a host of health problems can follow. Notably, for women, some of the chemicals are connected with PCOS and endometriosis, both of which can cause infertility. 

Some endocrine disrupting chemicals are connected with PCOS and endometriosis, which can cause infertility. 

Where Are These Disruptors?

The unfortunate news is that EDCs are everywhere. An obvious example is hormonal birth control, the whole point of which is to suppress and inhibit the normal hormonal process to avoid pregnancy. But any fragrance, pliable plastic, as well as many foods and beauty products that are a part of your daily routine most likely contain them. Some examples of common disruptors are BPA (contained in most plastic products), PFA (used in the coatings on non-stick pots and pans), PBDE (in most flame retardants), phthalates (in plastic products, cosmetics, and plastic children's toys), and parabens (in food, makeup, and personal products). 

Why It Matters 

Besides the obvious harm that happens when the body's natural functions are manipulated, side effects from EDCs include fertility problems, acne, migraines, PCOS, cancers, thyroid issues, obesity, ADHD, metabolism problems, and immunity issues. Further, some of these chemicals are “forever chemicals,” meaning they don’t break down, rather they build up in the body over time.

Although it might seem overwhelming, it’s worth it to know what’s in your food, makeup, and household items and do what you can to limit exposure.

What’s a Girl To Do?

Endocrine disruptors are an easy thing to freak out about. Everywhere you look there are fragrances, parabens, and plastics. You most likely have been exposed to them your whole life, but that’s no reason not to try and limit your exposure to them now. 

Here are some ways you can start to eliminate EDCs: 

  • Check your makeup; is it clean? If it has fragrance, parabens, diethanolamine, or triethanolamine on the label, get rid of it. These are only a few toxic ingredients, but there are many great resources that can help guide you through the toxic world of makeup and skincare. 

  • Switch from nonstick pots and pans to cast iron, glass, or stainless steel. This goes for all dishware and food containers as well. Choose glass or stainless steel over plastic

  • Try to limit your intake of food and drinks that are stored in aluminum cans.

  • Opt for filtered tap water if and when you can.

  • Never take receipts – they are full of BPAs.

  • Cut artificial fragrances out. If you want to go all the way, cut out anything that has the word ‘fragrance.’ 

  • Do your research and be aware. There are many great resources that can help, such as the Environmental Working Group’s database, Detox Me app, and Think Dirty app. These are only a few resources – one google search will provide many more. 

Closing Thoughts

Endocrine disruptors are everywhere, and they have the potential to do a lot of harm. But now that you've been educated, it's time to take ownership of your life and body. There's no need to be paralyzed by fear; rather, use these tips as a starting place, and do what you can to start actively investing in your endocrine health. While you don't have complete autonomy to regulate what you are exposed to, it’s important to take your health seriously. Start by making small changes, and over time, they will add up.

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