Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system. The endocrine system is the body’s glands and hormones that manage multiple important functions. The chemicals in this context can block or imitate hormones, which then changes the normal functions of the endocrine system, leading to various adverse health effects.
Endocrine disruptors are found in multiple materials that people interact with every day. These include personal care products, food additives, plastics, pesticides, and other materials and chemicals. Endocrine disrupters enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact. Once they are in the body, they sit in fatty tissues for a long period of time and can slowly change one or more of the body’s processes. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), endocrine disruptors impact several hormones. The organization notes these chemicals often interfere with estrogen, the hormone that’s vital for female reproductive health. They can cause early puberty, reproductive problems and increase the risks of breast cancer.
Other endocrine disruptors impact the thyroid gland which manages growth, development, and metabolism. This can lead to hypothyroidism, where the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormone, leading to weight gain, fatigue, and depression symptoms.
Assessing the impacts of endocrine disruptors is challenging because the level of risk is tied to the type of chemicals involved and the scale of the exposure. Pregnant women, the elderly, small children, and people with suppressed immune systems are more vulnerable to the effects of many of these chemicals. A skilled endocrinologist (a specialist doctor in the field of hormones), can help patients identify risks, propose treatments, and discuss lifestyle or environmental changes that might eliminate or reduce exposure risks.
Endocrine Disruptors and Diabetes
Some endocrine disruptors can change insulin production and secretion, which then alters blood sugar levels in the body. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas that is essential for blood sugar and optimal human health. When the body cannot properly produce enough insulin or stops producing it altogether, that leads to diabetes, a medical condition that requires care in conjunction with an endocrinologist who will craft a diabetes treatment plan.
Avoiding Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors
People can take several steps to endocrine disruptors, including:
- Choosing organic foods that are not grown with pesticides
- Endocrinologists and other doctors often recommend people wear protective clothing and equipment when handling chemicals, especially workers in facilities that are exposed to known endocrine disruptors
- Avoiding synthetic fragrances found in personal care products, cleaners, laundry detergent, and other items as these might contain disruptors that enter a person’s body through inhalation
- Reduce exposure to pesticides and other chemicals by washing produce thoroughly
Endocrine disruptors cause complex interactions within the human body and have multiple implications for human health. By taking steps to reduce exposure to these chemicals, individuals can protect themselves and reduce their risks.
Understanding the complexity of endocrine disruptors requires the expertise of an endocrinologist. These are specialist doctors that study the body’s metabolic and hormonal processes. A leading expert in metabolic and hormonal processes and endocrine disruptors is Dr. Brian Fertig. In his book “Metabolism & Medicine” that you can buy today, Dr. Fertig explores the interconnections between metabolic issues and disease. He’s also a practicing endocrinologist who helps patients understand their hormonal conditions and prescribes innovative and complete treatment plans.