Endocrine disruptors, the sneaky cheaters of the hormonal system, pose significant health risks through their mimicry of essential hormones, but by raising awareness and making informed choices, we can strive for a detoxed world with minimal exposure to these harmful chemicals
Sherlock Holmes and the mystery of hormonal cheaters, also known as endocrine disruptors
Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are chemicals that may affect your hormonal (endocrine) system.
But what does it really mean for us and what might be the consequences of permanent contact with EDs? To understand what these chemicals are and how they can impact our health, let’s start by taking a closer look at the hormones in your body.
The hidden heroes: exploring the intricate dance of hormones in your body
Hormones are tiny, yet extremely important, substances that regulate almost all processes that one may think of. They wake you up and control your hunger, metabolism, growth, mood, and emotions. To name a few, because, honestly, hormones take part in controlling almost anything that happens in a human organism. Well, not only humans but today we will focus mainly on our species.
So how is it possible that such small substances play such a crucial role? One may think that we must have a lot of hormones in the body if they are responsible for so many functions.
Sure, if it comes to the number of hormones, that’s undoubtedly true. We have sex hormones like testosterone or estradiol, adrenalin responsible for the fight-or-flight response when we’re under strong pressure and melatonin that takes part in controlling our circadian rhythm. In total more than 70 hormones act in the human organism, precisely in the bloodstream, and belong to the hormonal, or so-called endocrine system. Although quite a few hormones exist in our body, when it comes to concentration, hormones are active on very low levels. To put it briefly, hormones are tiny substances that exist in small amounts that have great power and control our daily actions.
But what exactly controls the action of hormones? This probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise – the brain. It collects all the information from the body, processes it, and makes sure all hormones stay in harmony. Well, at least it’s doing its best.
The power players of your body: discover the fascinating roles of the brain, glands, and hormones
Let’s imagine the endocrine system as a company, where the brain is the boss and the hormones are employees. All employees belong to certain departments – endocrine glands that, in short, are responsible for the production and release of hormones. Pancreas, thyroid, or ovaries/testicles are examples of the endocrine glands that work for us every single day.
If we take a closer look at the structure of our company – the endocrine system, we will see the brain, glands, and hormones. The brain releases substances that tell the glands to produce more hormones or stop the synthesis if there is enough. They work happily in a vast network and depend on each other. If something collapses in one department, most likely it will impact another one. That’s why it’s crucial to keep the hormones in balance.
Without getting into too much detail, the structure of the endocrine system is complicated, but the goal is to make everything work nicely and smoothly. To achieve that it’s essential to keep the hormonal system in good shape, which means a healthy brain and glands and hormones in the right concentration. And not less significantly, to keep the endocrine system free from substances that may affect its fragile balance.
From uninvited visitors to health hazards: how endocrine disruptors are sabotaging Your Health
Each department (gland) recognizes its own employees (hormones) and gives them access to classified data to proceed with actions in the human body. Hormones have a special badge that opens a door – the door is a receptor for hormones. And when they open, that’s when the hormones start to act which means they have biological effects on tissues and cells in our body.
The security system in our organism works well but it has its flaws and not always recognize the threat. Imagine that you accidentally consume food that is contaminated with toxins. Sooner rather than later, your body will give you signs that you have food poisoning, and you need to run to the toilet asap. Well, with endocrine disruptors it’s not that obvious because these chemicals will not give you nausea, fever, or stomach cramps. Their impacts are different, not immediate, and it may take years before we discover the consequences. It may sound like a minor problem, but you will soon learn that it’s something we should think of already today.
From innocent imposters to the silent saboteurs of health and well-being
The human body may not be able to recognize some substances that have similar structures to hormones correctly.
Let us take a moment and get back to our company, the endocrine system, where the brain is the boss and the hormones are employees. Endocrine disruptors are imposters that pretend to work in the bloodstream. They may look like they have a badge to open the door needed to start actions that are normally controlled by hormones.
Endocrine disruptors may look like hormones and so they can mimic a natural hormone. As a result, the organism has no idea that there are other, unwanted substances in the endocrine system rather than only hormones produced in the body.
Hazardous chemicals surround us every day and secretly sabotage our well-being
Reading all of that you may get a feeling like endocrine disruptors are chemicals that are present only in highly specialized laboratories. Well, the bad thing is that we are surrounded by endocrine disruptors every day. The good thing is that at the same time, we are gaining more and more knowledge regarding the solutions on how to avoid them on a daily basis.
Unveiling the silent saboteurs: how sneaky endocrine disruptors invade your body
Now that you know how endocrine disruptors are, let’s take a closer look at how they can enter the human body. There are several routes of exposure to these chemicals:
Ingestion, so consumption of contaminated food and water, is the most common route of exposure to endocrine disruptors. These chemicals can be present in pesticides, herbicides, industrial pollutants, and even in certain food packaging materials. Everyday sources include e.g. plastic bottles and lunch- and storage boxes, kitchen utensils, and food packed in plastic or canned.
Endocrine disruptors can also enter the body through inhalation of contaminated air. They may be present as volatile compounds, such as phthalates or certain flame retardants, which can be released from consumer products, construction materials, or indoor air pollutants. The sources also include house dust that contains tiny particles of plastic released from everyday objects.
Some endocrine disruptors can be absorbed through the skin. Personal care products, such as lotions, cosmetics, and sunscreens, may contain chemicals like parabens or phthalates, which can be absorbed into the body when applied to the skin.
It’s important to note that exposure to endocrine disruptors can occur through a combination of these routes. The exposure level can vary depending on individual lifestyle choices, occupation, and environmental factors.
Unveiling the silent threat: how endocrine disruptors hijack your health and well-being!
According to World Health Organization (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Not all chemicals alter the hormonal balance in the same way. They can mimic hormones’ action and trick the body to respond as it happens when hormones reach certain levels. Some endocrine disruptors may affect natural responses and trigger the body’s reaction but at inappropriate times and in an inappropriate way. Other chemicals may block the effects of a hormone from receptors, stimulate or the opposite – inhibit the endocrine system, and consequently, lead to either overproduction or underproduction of hormones.
There’s a long list of adverse health consequences of exposure to hazardous chemicals, including endocrine disruptors. Diabetes and obesity, increased risk of hormonal-dependent cancers, thyroid dysfunctions, polycystic ovary syndrome, fertility disorders both among women and men, asthma, neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, and many, many others have been linked to exposure to chemicals that impact the hormonal balance.
We should also keep in mind, that there are some groups that are more suspectable than others and try to minimize their exposure to harmful chemicals as much as possible. That includes pregnant women and fetuses, newborns and toddlers, and the elderly.
Expose less, live more: unlocking the key to avoiding endocrine disruptors and reducing health risks
Some chemicals that are not particularly good for our health are present among us for good reasons. They can be needed in manufacturing medical devices, fire-resistant materials, or building materials.
At the same time, endocrine disruptors can be present on our dining table, in our bedroom, or in our garden. But they don’t have to be. On this blog, you will find many hints on how to lower your exposure to endocrine disruptors. We will share our ideas and healthier solutions that will help you avoid harmful chemicals.
5 key messages:
• The endocrine system, with its intricate network of glands and hormones, holds immense power over most physiological processes and orchestrates the harmonious functioning of our bodies.
• Endocrine disruptors (EDs), the exogenous chemicals play the role of sneaky cheaters, manipulating the delicate balance of our endocrine system.
• We are constantly exposED. Every day, everywhere, everyone.
• EDs pose a significant health risk, increasing the susceptibility to various lifestyle diseases and disorders.
• Together, we can make a difference. By increasing awareness and making good choices, we can create a detoxED world with minimal exposure to EDs.
Core Explore of Science selected by DetoxED
(for those who want to know and read more about endocrine disruptors…)
Diamanti-Kandarakis, Evanthia et al. “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an Endocrine Society scientific statement.” Endocrine reviews vol. 30,4 (2009): 293-342. doi:10.1210/er.2009-0002
Rutkowska, Aleksandra et al. “Polish Society of Endocrinology Position statement on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).” Endokrynologia Polska vol. 66,3 (2015): 276-81. doi:10.5603/EP.2015.0035
Gore, A C et al. “EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals.” Endocrine reviews vol. 36,6 (2015): E1-E150. doi:10.1210/er.2015-1010
Rutkowska, Aleksandra et al. “Changes in daily life reduce indoor exposure to selected endocrine disruptors in the home environment: a pilot intervention study.” Acta biochimica Polonica vol. 67,2 (2020): 273-276. doi:10.18388/abp.2020_5369 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32558529/
Yilmaz, Bayram et al. “Endocrine disrupting chemicals: exposure, effects on human health, mechanism of action, models for testing and strategies for prevention.” Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders vol. 21,1 (2020): 127-147. Doi:10.1007/s11154-019-09521-z https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31792807/
La Merrill, Michele A et al. “Consensus on the key characteristics of endocrine-disrupting chemicals as a basis for hazard identification.” Nature reviews. Endocrinology vol. 16,1 (2020): 45-57. doi:10.1038/s41574-019-0273-8 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31719706/