I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we live in a toxic environment.
The toxicity is due to many, many different types of contaminants, and I’m not even including the toxic people in your life. The group that has been on my mind the most lately is xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are a general grouping of molecules that imitate the hormone estrogen in the body. They come from a variety of sources, but mainly synthetic pesticides and plastics.
So what’s the big deal?
Xenoestrogens are hormone disruptors, which is just what is sounds like: a chemical that messes up hormone balance. Exposure to abnormally high levels of xenoestrogens has been implicated in breast cancer, weight gain (especially in the hips and legs), PCOS, and PMS in women, lowered sperm count, prostate cancer and difficulty gaining muscle in men, and early onset puberty in children.
How am I exposed?
If you’re an average, modern human being, you can probably think of 10 different plastic items that have come into contact with your skin in as many minutes. Each one of those contact points potentially increased your body’s xenoestrogen level. Other sources include BPA, phthalates, parabens, and PVC.
What can I do?
The first step is to reduce your exposure as much as possible. Make sure you do the following:
- Dump all of your plastic water bottles in the recycling bin. Replace them with glass or stainless steel, such as a Kleen Kanteen. This has an added benefit of less overall funk. Back when I was a Nalgene girl, my water bottle would regularly get a noticeable odor. My Kleen Kanteen, on the other hand, still tastes fresh and hasn’t been washed in…uh…
- Do the same with your Tupperware. Replace it with glass containers, like Snapware.
- If you do store food in plastic, always put it into a glass or ceramic container to reheat it. Never put hot food directly into a plastic container.
- Replace your plastic cooking spoons, spatulas, and ladles with wood or stainless steel.
- If you buy canned food, choose cans labeled “BPA Free”. Most cans are lined with BPA. Particularly bad are canned tomatoes because the acid in the tomatoes exacerbates the BPA leaching process.
- Choose organic produce when the food has no skin (like greens), or thin skin you might eat (like apples). Ever wonder why organic bananas are so reasonably priced? The fruit is protected by that super thick skin, so using non-organic pesticides doesn’t actually do anything. Except kill the tarantulas.
- When buying food in bottles (olive oil, vinegar, almond butter, etc.), choose glass over plastic.
- Check the ingredients on all of your body care products, included lotions, shampoos, soaps, makeup, toothpaste, and deodorants. Look for parabens, and replace those products with paraben-free versions or make your own. I used to think those yummy smelling body butters from The Body Shop just had to be healthy because the label looks so organic and they’re $20. They make you work for it, but if you peel the concealing label off the bottom the ingredients are listed: parabens and parabens.
- If you must have Starbucks, bring your own coffee cup instead of sipping through the plastic lid on the to-go cups.
- Quit using plastic silverware. There are nice stainless steel options that fold up like a pocketknife and are easy to keep in a car or lunchbox.
- Speaking of lunchboxes, try a Planetbox or stainless steel tiffin. If you usually microwave your lunch, stick with the aforementioned Snapware.
- I know you already take reusable bags to the grocery store (you do, don’t you?!), but consider sticking to natural fiber bags like cotton or hemp, and then you can look like a real hippie. You can also use reusable produce bags instead of accumulating a mountainous supply of single-use bags for every zucchini.
- Remember that soft and flexible plastics will leach greater levels of xenoestrogens than harder plastics.
- Choose non-plastic toys for children. I know, this one is lame. My kid is swimming in Legos, but do what you can.
- Only use glass baby bottles, or better yet, breastfeed.
- Avoid handling receipts. They are coated with BPA.
What else can I do?
The list above will help to lower your exposure to xenoestrogens, but the fact of the matter is, we just can’t avoid them completely. They truly are everywhere, and there’s not much to be done about it. Our culture and economy is dependent on plastics. I’ve tried to do my best in switching out products and appliances at home, but some things are just destined to be plastic. If you’ve seen a stainless steel printer out there, though, let me know.
Anyway, the next step after minimizing your exposure is to support and assist your body in detoxifying from all that buildup. Focusing on cruciferous veggies in your diet (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage) will help supply diindolylmethane (DIM), a natural compound which helps to metabolize excess estrogens. The recommended daily intake of cruciferous vegetables to have an impact on estrogen detoxification is 2 pounds, which is a lot. Supplemental DIM is available if you find vegetables of that magnitude to be prohibitive. Adding in liver and gallbladder friendly foods, like beets and beet kvass, will be supportive of a smooth detox process.
Our exposure to these xenoestrogens and their effects on our bodies, our health, and the downstream effects on our children is, unfortunately, a bit of a dire situation.
By starting with baby steps now, you can slow the compounding of the effects and experience better overall health.