How the prevalence of plastics, pesticides, and other noxious substances is leading to a host of health problems—and what you can do about it
Q: There seem to be so many more hormone problems today—folks on thyroid medication, men with low T, and women having difficulty getting pregnant. Not to mention the diabetes epidemic! What’s going on? —Francesca B., Port St. Lucie, Fla.
A: The answer, in a nutshell, is that the accumulation of plastics, pesticides, and other chemicals in our environment has put a burden on our planet—and our bodies.
Many components of plastic, especially softer plastics, break down into hormone-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol-A and B, xylene, and phthalates. Our industrial food supply is mostly grown with a pesticide called glyphosate, which is extremely toxic to our kidneys. This may be why there is an epidemic of kidney disease among farmers in Central America and Sri Lanka.
Not only is our soil polluted, but so are our oceans and our air. A recent study published in the European Review of Medical Pharmacology describes the impact of environmental air pollution on the rapidly rising incidence of type 2 diabetes. Some statistics say that 30 percent of Americans have type 2 diabetes, which is largely due to overconsumption of refined carbohydrates, but also exacerbated by industrial pollutants. Exposure to pollutants causes insulin resistance through a chain reaction in our bodies, with our interconnected immune, lymphatic, cardiovascular, respiratory, and endocrine systems.
The only way to fight back against this noxious stew is to take care of our health as vigorously as possible with nontoxic methods. Our soil, air, and water are already polluted. And if we add booze, sodas, prescription medications, cigarettes, and junk food on top of that, we’re setting ourselves up for a host of health issues.
Top Health Issues Caused by Hormone Disrupting Chemicals
1 – Low T:
About half of the men in my practice are concerned about their low testosterone levels. Many of them also take statin drugs, which block the formation of the all-important cholesterol molecule, a precursor to progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. But even men who don’t take statins are exposed to pollutants that interfere with normal hormone production, reduce or confuse hormone activity, and impair hormone clearance.
Even if you have high cholesterol, a statin may not be necessary. Cholesterol per se isn’t the problem—the problem is plaque in the arteries that causes high blood pressure, which can lead to strokes. If you’re at high risk for a stroke, reduce your consumption of animal products—a mostly vegetarian diet with a little healthy fish mixed in is your best option. And start some form of physical activity every day.
2 – Thyroid Issues:
The thyroid gland, which regulates body temperature and energy levels, is extremely sensitive to radiation, including x-rays, CT scans, and mammograms. We also get more radiation from the sun than we used to, due to the erosion of the Earth’s protective ozone layer. The thyroid gland is also full of blood vessels, and our blood is formed from bone marrow and the nutrients in our food, which is increasingly compromised.
3 – Fertility Problems:
Many young women in my practice have abnormal menstrual patterns—or no menses at all—and this is a widespread problem. A 2015 report from the World Health Organization showed that more money is being spent per year on improving fertility than on birth control. Fish and frogs are becoming hermaphroditic because of chemicals in our water supply, and this is likely having an effect on humans, as well.
To help stave off hormonal issues, steer clear of foods and beverages that are stored in plastic.
Natural Ways to Hormone Disrupting Chemicals
The good news is that there are steps we can take—that we must take—to reduce the health-wrecking impact of pollution on our bodies. The first step is to go organic as much as possible, and avoid GMOs, highly processed foods, and any consumables packaged in plastic—even those handy bottled waters.
Beyond food and water, check your beauty and cleaning supplies. Make sure your shampoos, soaps, and other products are free of phthalates and sodium laureth sulfate. Support companies that use organic ingredients. Use baking soda and white vinegar to clean at home. You can add a few drops of essential oils of lavender, bitter orange, or oregano for an anti-bad-bug kick.
How to Detox from Hormone Disrupting Chemicals:
- Elimination: To remove toxins that are already present in your body, you have to make sure that your channels of elimination are working properly. This starts with having at least one easy-to-pass, dark brown formed stool daily. Urine can have a little pale yellow color first thing in the morning, but it should run clear and be a light-straw color.
- Sweat: Sweating is another important natural detox function. Sweating from exercise is excellent. You can also benefit from far-infrared saunas or ozone steam cabinets.
- Supplements: Supplements can also help, and two of the best are glutathione (or its precursor N-acetyl cysteine) and vitamin B3 (niacin).
- Glutathione: Glutathione is used by the body to bind and eliminate toxins. If you’re constantly exposed to toxins, your stores of glutathione are likely depleted.
- Niacin: Some folks may not enjoy the “niacin flush” that occurs from taking B3, but it’s really only a superficial issue. Start with the lowest dose (100 or even 50 mg) and work up from there until you find a dose that gives a strong flush within 20 minutes. The cleansing niacin flush typically lasts for another 20–40 minutes.
Take an Environmental Toxin Test
To determine your body’s toxic burden, I favor a unique test (around $220) that measures a wide variety of common industrial chemicals that are deeply embedded in our food, beverage, and personal care products. Ask your doctor to request the GPL-TOX urine test from Great Plains Laboratory in Lenexa, Kan.