Eat Your Way to a Healthier Endocrine System

While Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are pervasive in our environment, studies show that taking steps to intentionally reduce your exposure to these toxins can significantly reduce your chemical body load.  

According to a 2018 study done by Environment International, diet is the primary exposure source of most phthalates (an EDC), which contaminate the food supply through food contact materials and industrialized production.  

The Endocrine System is made up of glands that make hormones.  Hormones are chemical messengers that influence and control a wide range of physiological activities such as growth, development, regulating sugar levels and body temperature, bone growth, appetite, metabolism, energy levels, puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.   

Given its pivotal role in our bodies, the Endocrine System receives relatively little attention when it comes to discussions regarding the benefits of a healthy diet.  

Metabolism is a function of the thyroid gland, which is part of the Endocrine System, that turns food into energy.  It functions on the cellular level; Hormones produced by the thyroid gland regulate day-to-day metabolism of the body’s cells.  So, when somebody says they have a “good” or “slow” metabolism, they’re talking about their Endocrine System and the hormones they produce.  When your body needs nutrition, hormones spur the metabolic responses—like hunger—that prompt you to seek food.  

 EDCs found in plastics, fragrances, industrial waste, and pesticides can disrupt the thyroid’s normal processes, and therefore, can disrupt day-to-day metabolism.  

When EDCs block connections between hormones and their receptors, they “reprogram” the parts of the Endocrine System that govern metabolism, energy balance, and appetite. EDCs change the sensitivity to glucose (sugar) and the metabolism of lipids (fatty acids).   

All of this predisposes a person to weight gain.  

EDC-related weight gain involves more than just adding a few pounds. EDCs can alter the way our bodies consume food and store energy, affecting individuals across generations.  

Studies have shown that certain EDCs, such as BPAs, interfere with the body’s control of appetite and increase energy storage in fat tissue (adipose tissue).  Unless you’re converting all of this fat storage to energy, which you’re most likely not, you are at risk of gaining weight, which can lead to obesity.  

Food packaging is a major source of exposure to BPAs and DEHP (the most common phthalate), according to new research published today in Environmental Health Perspectives.  The study, conducted by Silent Spring Institute and Breast Cancer Fund, shows that a fresh food diet significantly reduces chemical body load, after just three days.  

Researchers assessed BPA and DEHP levels in adults and children from five families by testing their urine before, during, and after a three-day fresh food diet.  During the fresh food diet, participants ate organic meals with no canned food and minimal plastic packaging, and stored food in glass and stainless-steel containers.   

While participants were eating the fresh food diet, average levels of BPA in urine decreased by over 60%.  When participants returned to conventional diets, their BPA levels increased back to pre-intervention levels.  Average levels of the DEHP metabolites (chemicals that measure DEHP exposure) dropped by over 50% during the fresh food diet.  Reductions were even more pronounced for the highest exposures, which decreased by over 70% for BPA and over 90% for DEHP.  

The evidence collected in this study is staggering and validates the claim that removing or limiting your exposure to EDCs can relatively quickly reduce your chemical body load.  

But what are the steps you need to follow in order to achieve results similar to those seen in the participants of this study?  

The best piece of advice: prepare your food at home.  

EDCs can also show up in your takeout or restaurant food, no matter what you order.    

When you trust others to prepare your food, you are trusting that they take the precautions to wash produce thoroughly, store food items in glass, avoid using any plastics during the preparation of your meal, avoid microwaving any food in a plastic container, and more.   

Even if your food was prepared by someone who took all the precautions listed above, takeout food is often served in plastic containers.  These plastic containers contain EDCs that can migrate from the container to the food you eat.  

In fact, remember that study I mentioned that showed diet as the primary exposure source for most phthalates?  In this same study, the participants’ consumption of cheeseburgers and sandwiches prepared outside the home was associated with 30% higher phthalate levels in participants of all ages.    

But no, we aren’t telling you not to eat cheeseburgers – just opt to cook them at home!   Store any leftovers in glass or stainless steel containers, and use only heat resistant glass or ceramic containers when microwaving leftovers.  

When it comes to the ingredients you use, always opt for organic produce, and make sure to thoroughly rinse it before consumption.  

Phthalates have short half-lives, and if we remove the source of contamination, we can see an almost immediate reduction in phthalate levels in people’s bodies.  

If you’d like to test your levels for yourself, head to Million Marker, a service for people to measure personal exposure to everyday environmental chemicals in their body.  Million Marker will send you the materials for an at-home urine sample.  Then, you simply ship it back and wait for your results.    

Once you receive your results, you’ll also receive recommended changes from Million Marker to reduce your exposure.  The next step is crucial – once you receive your results, follow the recommended changes.    

Implementing consistent lifestyle changes (like the ones mentioned in this article) that limit your exposure to EDCs is the only way to lower your chemical body load.   

After two weeks, test yourself again!  It feels good to see tangible results and provides compelling incentive to continue to strive to limit your EDC exposure.   

So yes, EDCs are pervasive in our world, but there are realistic changes that you can implement to help you control and reduce the impact these chemicals have on you, and your loved ones.   

Together, we can all make a difference – one step at a time.