Find out the #1 thing my endocrinologist told me to do to protect my children from thyroid disease.
Yesterday I had another appointment with my endocrinologist.
He is well-respected in our town and always has a waiting list 6 months out for people who would like to see him. I brought my kids with me and as we were closing up the appointment I asked him about the strong genetic link associated with Hashimotos and what I can do to prevent my children from developing it.
Without hesitating and in a very serious tone he told me the number one thing I have to do is reduce the amount of endocrine disruptors that my children are exposed to. He also said to watch their growth carefully – especially around the teen years – and if they stop growing appropriately to check their thyroid immediately.
Thankfully we are pretty careful about endocrine disruptors, but I know a lot of people may not be so familiar with them. Here is a condensed overview to help you on your journey to keeping your family healthy!
What are endocrine disruptors?
“Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.” (source) I actually started getting serious about removing exposures when one of my children was negatively affected by these chemicals in utero.
How do endocrine disruptors negatively affect our health?
Just like the name indicates – endocrine disruptors disrupt the endocrine system in one way or another. They can mimic hormones that occur naturally, like estrogen, causing too much or too little in the body. They can block the receptor sites within cells so that hormones can’t bind with them. They can also alter the way our bodies produce hormones. (source)
What are sources of endocrine disruptors in my house?
This is a loaded question that may seem overwhelming to those of you new on this journey. It’s also not surprising considering how prevalent these disruptors are in our environment and how many people struggle with health issues related to them (most of the time unwittingly).
BPA – It’s easy to think we don’t have to worry about BPA because everything now says BPA-free, but BPA is found lots of everyday objects:
- Canned foods contain BPA in the lining. If you eat canned food consistently, then this a definite area of exposure for your family. This is a good resource for the brands that use BPA and the brands that don’t. Switching to fresh food or food in glass jars are other safe alternatives.
- Receipts often contain BPA in the coating on the thermal paper.
- Plastics – BPA is still found in a lot of different plastic items including some baby bottles. If you have kids, you probably have plastic dishes and cups that your children use consistently. Check them to see if they are marked with #7 or PC (polycarbonate). These are indicators that they contain BPA. Plastic reusable water bottles and other hard plastics are also likely to contain BPA. This study showed that students drinking out of a PC water bottle for one week had a 69% increase in BPA levels in their urine.
- Soda cans – Need another reason to ditch your soda habit? Soda drinkers have a significantly higher rate of BPA in their urine than non soda drinkers. (source)
Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs)
These chemicals are used to make nonstick cookware. According to the EWG
Perfluorochemicals are so widespread and extraordinarily persistent that 99 percent of Americans have these chemicals in their bodies. One particularly notorious compound called PFOA has been shown to be “completely resistant to biodegradation.” In other words, PFOA doesn’t break down in the environment – ever. That means that even though the chemical was banned after decades of use, it will be showing up in people’s bodies for countless generations to come. This is worrisome, since PFOA exposure has been linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol, among other health issues. Scientists are still figuring out how PFOA affects the human body, but animal studies have found that it can affect thyroid and sex hormone levels.
Perchlorate, Atrozine, Lead, and Arsenic
What do these four endocrine disruptors have in common? They affect our water supply! Perchlorate is very toxic to the thyroid. “It’s a chemical commonly used in rocket fuel, explosives, fireworks, batteries, bleaches, fertilizers, and airbags; and that barely scratches the surface.” (source) Atrazine is an herbicide that is used prolifically around the United States. Lead and arsenic are toxic heavy metals. These four substances taint our water supply around the United States. I tried to find an interactive map that showed the level of toxicity nationally, but I couldn’t find anything specific so you will have to individually research your area.
The best way to protect your family from these endocrine disruptors is to invest in a good water filtering system. Our family uses an under the sink reverse osmosis system like this one, but we have been admittedly bad about changing the filters. My conversation with my endocrinologist reminded me that I need to get better about that!
Pthalates and Parabens
These substances are often found in personal care products. When my third child was born, the hospital sent me home with baby soap that contained methylparaben. I couldn’t believe that they allowed a known endocrine disruptor in baby soap. When they called me several days later for a follow up I notified them about the ingredients and they seemed concerned and hopefully they stopped handing it out to new mothers. These ingredients can also be found under the label “fragrance” and anything ending in “paraben”. Watch your lotions and soaps and makeup products.
There are many more endocrine disruptors out there, but this is just a quick guide to get you started. Other things you want to avoid are pesticides (buy organic as much as possible – at least avoid the dirty dozen) and toxic cleaning products that pollute the air quality in your house and, you guessed it, interrupt the endocrine system. Make your own non-toxic cleaning recipes – a quick Pinterest search will give you a ton of great options.
Here’s to protecting our family and our environment from these dangerous toxins.
What steps have you taken to reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors?