What are hormone-disrupting chemicals ?
Hormone-disrupting chemicals are found in a huge variety of products that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Whilst there are many different types of chemicals that can negatively impact our hormonal health, certain chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are of particular concern as they are found everywhere around us.
So in what products are these chemicals found ?
BPA is a well know chemical that is found in plastics such as food storage containers while phthalates can also be found in plastics and food packaging, as well as many cosmetic and personal care products like soaps, shampoos, make-up and even nail polish.
What do hormone disrupting chemicals do to our bodies exactly ?
Hormone-disrupting chemicals actually mimick our body’s own natural hormones, tricking the body into producing less of these hormones than we actually need.
In men, these chemicals lead to reduced sperm count and sperm quality, as well as lower testosterone levels. In women, hormone-disrupting chemicals reduce oestrogen production, negatively affect ovarian function and can even increase the risk of miscarriage. What’s worse, the effects of these chemicals may be cumulative and trans-generational.
Dr. Shann Swan, one of the world’s leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologists, has recently released a new book shining a light on the declining fertility of men and women around the globe due to hormone-disrupting chemicals in our everyday environment. The impact of these chemicals is so great that research from Swan’s team in 2017 revealed that the average sperm count in western men has halved since the 1970s, with no sign of this decline slowing down.
Swan notes that exposure of female foetuses to hormone-disrupting chemicals can impact the development of the foetus’ own eggs in utero.
Whilst it is impossible to protect yourself completely from hormone-disrupting chemicals, there are steps you can take to help reduce your exposure:
- Store foods and drinks in glass containers - even “BPA-free” plastic containers may still contain other harmful bisphenol plastics in other forms, such as bisphenol S or F, says Swan.
- Avoid pre-packaged foods, especially those that are heated inside their plastic packaging. Heating foods inside plastics provides opportunity for plastic particles and harmful chemicals to leach into your food.
- Use a good quality water filter that removes microplastics.
- Avoid using cookware that is coated in non-stick coatings such as Teflon – choose stainless steel or ceramic options instead.
- Choose organic, unscented personal care and cosmetic products with minimal ingredients – always read the label and choose ‘phthalate-free’ options.
Are you struggling with fertility and preconception? Would you like to know more about how to protect your fertility and improve the health and wellbeing of your family? Michelle is an acupuncturist and naturopath based in Brisbane who is passionate about all things women’s health and fertility. Book your appointment today to find out how Michelle can help you feel better and get started on your fertility journey. You can also check out the blog to find out more information about all things women’s health.