You are surrounded by environmental toxins (xenobiotics) all day, every day. They’re in your water, food, shampoo, work environment, following you on your commute, and lingering in your home. Although your body really does quite a good job mitigating the risks posed by small levels of exposure, there are times when your body needs an assist. Susceptibility to toxin overload has a lot of individual variability.
Some factors that contribute to that susceptibility include genetics (including errors in methylation), gender, body composition, individual dietary and lifestyle choices, underlying liver and kidney conditions, geographic location, immune system status, and microbiome health. Some or many of these variables can cause you to be more prone to suffering the ill effects of a toxin onslaught.
Being in a state of constant exposure to toxins can have deleterious effects on our health. So, where are these exposures coming from, what does it do to your body, and most importantly, what can you do about it?
Air pollution is a common exposure route of environmental toxins. Air pollution is linked to exacerbating asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema, and cardiovascular disease risk. Assuming that your location is out of your immediate control, you can reduce your exposure to air pollution by adjusting time spent outdoors, using indoor air filters and cleaning them regularly, avoiding outdoor physical exertion on high pollution days, and avoiding sources of outdoor air pollution whenever possible.1
Heavy metal exposures from water supply, dental amalgams, and dietary choices can lead to various health issues ranging from serious degenerative processes to subclinical manifestations that interrupt optimal health, such as brain fog and poor memory. You can avoid exposure to heavy metals in your diet by avoiding high mercury fish species like swordfish and mackerel, assessing your living environment for lead sources in paints and pipes, avoiding cigarette smoke, which is high in cadmium, and opting for non mercury dental interventions.
If you’re curious about how your diet, environment, and lifestyle are impacting your individual exposure to heavy metals, then check out our Heavy Metals Test for insights and personalized recommendations for reducing heavy metal burdens and optimizing essential elements – zinc, copper, magnesium, and selenium.
Radiation is another form of toxin exposure in your environment. Radiation sources include air travel, UVA/UVB exposure from the sun, and exposure from medical diagnostic and treatment modalities. Health effects from radiation exposure range from local tissue damage (think sunburn) to effects on the developing brain of unborn and young children.2 You can reduce your exposure by making healthy travelchoices, using low toxin sunscreens when outside boosting your vitamin D levels, and advocating for medical diagnostic procedures with lower radiation exposure for yourself and your family.
There is a specific subset of environmental toxins referred to as endocrine disruptors. An endocrine disruptor is a chemical, which can be natural or man made, that mimics and/or interferes with various hormones produced by the body. Although endocrine disruptors can affect any hormone in your body, they commonly affect thyroid hormones and sex hormones – progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen in particular.
Interfering with the body’s endocrine system produces adverse effects on developmental, neurological, immune, and reproductive health.3 Endocrine disruptors have no place in your healthy lifestyle. To get an inside look at your hormone levels, consider Thorne’s Thyroid, Fertility, Menopause, and Testosterone at home tests.
Let’s review four common endocrine disruptors you could encounter daily, what effects they can have on your health, and what you can do about it.
1. Bisphenol A (BPA)
This one has probably been on your radar for a while now. BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Common places you’ll find polycarbonate plastics are in containers that store foods and beverages, such as baby bottles and water bottles. Epoxy resins are used to coat metals, like what you find on the inside of food cans.
Epoxy resins can also be found in certain dental repair compounds. BPA wreaks its havoc on your body by mimicking the hormone estrogen. BPA has a chemical structure very similar to estrogen, so it can bind to estrogen receptors in the body and influence processes that are affected by estrogen, like menstrual regularity, symptoms of PMS, and brain function. Higher levels of BPA are found in women with PCOS,4 premature births,5 and children with asthma.6 BPA can also alter thyroid hormone receptors in the body. Bottom line: BPA is bad news.
BPA exposures can be reduced by avoiding canned and packaged foods, choosing glass or metal water bottles, refraining from plastic usage, and, when you must use plastic, avoiding heating your food and beverages in plastic as much as possible. Symptoms of imbalanced estrogens in women can include breast tenderness, PMS mood changes, and abnormal menses. Symptoms of imbalanced estrogen in mencan manifest as libido changes, effects on body composition, and poor mood.
A group of chemicals widely used in cosmetics and body care products as preservatives. They are often found in beauty products as methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. Parabens act as estrogen disruptors in men and women, and have been linked to decreased fertility,7 menstrual dysregulation, and increased risk of pre term birth.8
The best thing you can do to limit your exposure to parabens is to choose paraben-free beauty products. Watch for parabens on the label and utilize resources provided by the Environmental Working Group and other organizations to help guide your natural beauty product options. They have already done the work for you – all you need to do is utilize your purchase power!
Both BPA and parabens can disrupt healthy levels of estrogen. For assistance with rebalancing the estrogen effects in your body, you should support the detoxification of estrogenic compounds in the liver and GI tract.* Thorne’s newest product, DIM Advantage, supports hormonal homeostasis in men and women by supporting estrogen’s metabolism, elimination, and balance, as well as supporting healthy levels of testosterone.*
Chemicals used in plastics to make them flexible. They are also found in cosmetics, scented beauty and household products, and inflatable toys – think of what a beach ball smells like. Phthalates exert their effect on the endocrine system by disrupting reproductive hormones and have the particular effect of being antiandrogenic – affecting healthy testosterone levels. Phthalates are linked to asthma, ADHD, obesity, developmental and behavioral problems, and fertility issues – particularly in males.9
You can reduce your exposure to phthalates by avoiding fragrances in your self care routine, and in your home environment by avoiding plastics, particularly plastic wrap (especially when heated), and choosing phthalate-free beauty products.
You can support the body’s elimination of phthalates by loading up your diet with cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. The compounds in these veggies are in Thorne’s Crucera-SGS®. Far infrared saunas also support the elimination of environmental toxins. Because phthalates are detoxified in the gut through a process called glucuronidation, you can support glucuronidation pathways with Thorne’s Calcium D-Glucarate, which supports healthy levels of beta-glucuronidase in the gut – aiding in elimination processes.*
An antimicrobial chemical used so widely that studies estimate 75 percent of U.S. adults are exposed to it in their personal care products.10Particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, triclosan has likely become a part of your everyday life, whether you realize it or not. Triclosan is used in a wide variety of household products, including soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, dish detergents, and even workout gear (ick!).
Triclosan is not only an endocrine disruptor, it is also a suspected carcinogen. Some researchers believe triclosan contributes to bacterial resistance in the same manner as the overuse of antibiotics.11 Triclosan also might have potent effects on disruption of the microbiome12 – causing adverse effects on immune function, healthy mood, and other vital functions of a healthy microbiome.
How can you avoid triclosan when it’s basically everywhere? Pass on antibacterial soaps. Although these soaps can be appropriate to use in your work environment, the American Medical Association recommends avoiding antibacterial soaps in the home environment. Look for the ingredients triclosan and triclocarban on the labels of personal care products. You can also avoid other types of “antibacterial” products like dish soaps, food containers, “odor fighting” workout clothes, and plastic cutting boards. As a special note during COVID, the bug that causes COVID-19 is a virus – so it’s not affected by antibacterial soaps. Good old fashioned soap and water with appropriate hand washing techniques is still your best bet to prevent viral spread.
Support your microbiome health by supplementing with a daily probiotic, supporting the health of the good bacteria in your gut with a prebiotic, and aiding in healthy gut elimination with fiber.* For some extra microbiome “biohacking” check out the Gutbio™ test by Onegevity Health, a division of Thorne Innovation Labs.
Support for Detoxification
In addition to the specific recommendations listed above for the endocrine disruptors discussed, you can practice everyday measures to protect your body after xenobiotic exposure by supporting healthy detoxification:
- Drink plenty of water to flush out toxins through the kidney’s detoxification processes.
- Have a bowel movement daily to excrete toxins through the bowels and prevent recirculation. That’s right! If they stay in too long, they get reabsorbed. So, get ‘em out!
- Sweat! Whether it’s through exercise, a sauna, or your quarterly board meeting, a little sweat every day helps keep toxins at bay.
- Supplement with Thorne’s Glutathione-SR or a quality whey protein, which helps increase levels of glutathione in the body.* Glutathione is one of the most important antioxidants that support healthy detoxification.*
- If you need to get in front of your daily detox battle, then check out our Wellness Guides for a complete 10-Day Detox program and MediClear Detox and Allergy Elimination guides for targeted detoxification programs.
- Laumbach R, Meng Q, Kipen H. What can individuals do to reduce personal health risks from air pollution? J Thorac Dis 2015;7(1):96-107. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2014.12.21
- Verreet T, Verslegers M, Quintens R, et al. Current evidence for developmental, structural, and functional brain defects following prenatal radiation exposure. Neural Plasticitydoi:https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/1243527
- Monneret C. What is an endocrine disruptor? Comptes Rendus Biologies 2017;340(9):403-405. doi:10.1016/j.crvi.2017.07.004
- Kandaraki E, Chatzigeorgiou A, Livadas S, et al. Endocrine disruptors and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): elevated serum levels of bisphenol A in women with PCOS. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(3):E480-E484. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-1658
- Cantonwine D, Meeker J, Hu H, et al. Bisphenol A exposure in Mexico City and risk of prematurity: a pilot nested case control study. Environ Health 2010;9:62. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-9-62
- Donohue K, Miller R, Perzanowski M, et al. Prenatal and postnatal bisphenol A exposure and asthma development among inner-city children. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2013;131(3):736-742. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.12.1573
- Smith K, Souter I, Dimitriadis I, et al. Urinary paraben concentrations and ovarian aging among women from a fertility center. Environ Health Perspect 2013;121(11-12):1299-1305. doi:10.1289/ehp.1205350
- Geer L, Pycke B, Waxenbaum J, et al. Association of birth outcomes with fetal exposure to parabens, triclosan and triclocarban in an immigrant population in Brooklyn, New York. J Hazard Mater 2017;323(Pt A):177-183. doi:10.1016/j.jhazmat.2016.03.028
- Wen H-J, Chen C-C, Wu M-T, et al. Phthalate exposure and reproductive hormones and sex-hormone binding globulin before puberty – phthalate contaminated-foodstuff episode in Taiwan. PLoS One 2017;12(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0175536
- Weatherly L, Gosse J. Triclosan exposure, transformation, and human health effects. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev 2017;20(8):447-469. doi:10.1080/10937404.2017.1399306
- Carey D, McNamara P. The impact of triclosan on the spread of antibiotic resistance in the environment. Front Microbiol 2015;5. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00780
- Sanidad K, Xiao H, Zhang G. Triclosan, a common antimicrobial ingredient, on gut microbiota and gut health. Gut Microbes 2018;10(3):434-437. doi:10.1080/19490976.2018.1546521