Endocrine Disruptors: Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals ⃒ Paula Owens, MS

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Endocrine Disruptors: How to Avoid Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

Endocrine Disruptors: How to Avoid Hormone Disrupting ChemicalsEndocrine disruptors are defined as exogenous chemicals or a mixture of chemicals that can mimic or block hormones, interfere with receptor binding, and change the metabolism of hormones and any aspect of hormone function. They’re commonly called hormone disrupting chemicals, xenoestrogens, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), obesogens, diabetogens, and metabolism-disrupting chemicals.

When the endocrine system is disrupted, all sorts of health problems occur including hormonal imbalances, infertility, depression, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, immune system suppression and many other health issues.

Endocrine disruptors create hormonal imbalances and metabolic chaos affecting your thyroid, sex hormones, insulin and blood sugar hormones, your nervous system function, and your immune system. They interfere with the body’s metabolism, mitochondrial function, cellular receptor sites, and cause adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, hormonal and immune effects in humans, animals, wildlife, and the environment.

The main targets of endocrine disruptors are the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, gonads and adrenals (HPT, HPG and HPA).

5 Categories of Endocrine Disruptors

It’s estimated that there more than 1,000 chemicals with endocrine-acting properties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists five classes of EDCs that have anti-androgenic properties and weak estrogenic activity:

1. Pharmaceutical drugs, OTC drugs, and synthetic estrogens
2. Phytoestrogens, food preservatives (including BHT and BHA and the food dye Red #3)
3. Pesticides, glyphosate, GMOs, fungicides and herbicides
4. Plasticizers, including bisphenol A (BPA) and some phthalates
5. Industrial chemicals, by-products, and the solvent formaldehyde that was used in carpet manufacturing, and is still used to make plywood (and, is also an ingredient in vaccines)

Sources of Endocrine Disruptors

Hormone disruptors are rampant in the environment, the food chain, the air, soil, water, personal care products and household items. Exposure mainly occurs by ingestion (food and water intake), inhalation, and dermal uptake.

Non-organic foods, wheat, grains, gluten, all processed foods, all fast food, factory-farmed animal protein, farmed fish, non-organic dairy products, unfermented soy, artificial food dyes/colors, canned foods and beverages

 Unfiltered water, which contains drugs, birth control pills, fluoride, chlorine, toxic heavy metals and other contaminants

Marijuana and alcohol use increase estrogen

Glyphosate (RoundUp), pesticides, insecticides and fungicides have been linked to several health problems including low testosterone, increased estrogen, thyroid dysfunction, and other hormone disruption, skin, eye and lung irritation, infertility, birth defects, diabetes, depression, hypertension, leaky gut, GI dysfunction, weight gain, neurotoxicity and cancer.

Synthetic estrogens, oral contraceptives, IUDs, estrogen hormone replacement therapy, OTC drugs and various pharmaceutical drugs (diuretics, antidepressants, antifungals, antibiotics, statins, steroids) affect and alter hormonal balance

Air pollution, indoor air pollution, dust, toxic mold spores, mycotoxins (mold poisons)

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs). There are a number of studies that reveal the detrimental impact of nnEMFs on metabolism and endocrine function including the reproductive system, thyroid function, adrenal hormones, glucose homeostasis and melatonin levels. [Pediatr Endocrinol Rev. 2015 Dec;13(2):531-45.]

Plastics, plasticizers, plastic containers, parabens, BPA, BHA, BPS, PCBs, POPs (persistent organic pollutants), PVC, atrazine, dioxin, DDT, phthalates, petroleum, oxybenzone, Styrofoam, flame retardants, silicone (breast implants)

PFAS or poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances that are commonly found in food packaging, household cleaners, nonstick cookware, firefighting foam, stain-resistant carpets, mattresses, and furniture

Toxic heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, aluminum, arsenic and iron have xenoestrogenic effects on the body. Toxic heavy metals bind to estrogen receptors and change estrogen metabolism.

Non-stick cookware, Teflon, plastic coffee makers, k-cups, coffee cup lids, straws, baby bottles, plastic water bottles and storage containers, metal food cans, dental sealants, composites, retainers, mouthguards and Invisalign braces

Dry cleaning products, dryer sheets, liquid fabric softeners, laundry detergents

Photocopies, printers, medical devices, thermal cash register receipts, airline tickets

Fragrances, perfume, cologne, air fresheners

Personal care products: cosmetics, make-up, lotions, sunscreens, moisturizers, hand sanitizers (triclosan), nail polish, nail polish remover, deodorant, antiperspirants, toothpaste

Yard, garden, pest control and household cleaning products

Home furnishings, plastic shower curtains, imitation leather, carpet, drapes, furniture, mattresses, and fabrics that are treated with flame retardants

Health Hazards of Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are linked to thyroid dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, diabetes, and many other health challenges.

Mimic the body’s natural production of hormones: estrogens, androgens, and thyroid hormones

Bind to receptors within a cell and block endogenous hormones from binding

Change how hormones are metabolized

Interfere with the physiology of hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis, the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonads (HPG) axis, and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis

Endocrine disruptors affect testosterone production, resulting in decreased testosterone levels

Increased estrogen, estrogen dominance, poor estrogen detoxification, elevated beta-glucuronidase enzyme, fibrocystic breast disease, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, calcified breast cells, intensified PMS symptoms, ovarian polycystic syndrome (PCOS), ovarian pathology  {{{Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance}}}

Both male and female fertility problems, infertility, increased risk of miscarriage, reproductive abnormalities, pregnancy induced hypertension, preclampsia, low birth weight and birth defects

Thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroid, hyperthyroid, thyroid autoimmunity, thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer). Abnormal thyroid hormones. Endocrine disruptors have been shown to reduce serum T4 levels. According to clinical research, there is a direct correlation between BPA, PCBs, phthalates and plastics linked to thyroid problems. The higher the BPA, plastics and phthalates levels are in the urine, the lower the levels of thyroid hormones, total T4 and total T3, and the higher the level of TSH.

Feminization in males, gynectomastia (moobs)

Testicular hypotrophy. EDCs seems to have a causative role in the onset of testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS). Phthalates, vinclozolin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) seem to play a significant etiopathogenetic role in the onset of TDS. Fungicides, pesticides, PDBE, organochlorides, PCB, DDT, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), arsenic, and cadmium have been proposed to play a role in testicular cancer.

Altered microbiome and disrupted microflora in the GI tract

Circadian rhythm disruption

Triggering of autoimmune disease, including thyroid autoimmune, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease. [Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Jan 2020].

Early onset of puberty in girls and early menopause in women

Proinflammatory cytokine storm. Cytokine overproduction keeps the body in a constant state of inflammation, which leads to even more inflammation and immune dysfunction. Cytokine storms are associated with a wide variety of infectious and noninfectious disease.

Weight loss resistance and obesity. Endocrine disruptors accumulate in the adipose tissue causing increased bodyfat and growth of fat cells and predispose some people to weight gain. Constant and chronic exposures to these chemicals can cause a build-up in adipocytes and other tissues, which can consequently impair other organs’ detoxification and elimination abilities.

An endocrine-disrupting chemical that exerts permanent and even transgenerational changes to fat cells is sometimes called an obesogen. Evidence shows these chemicals disrupt metabolic homeostasis and alter adipose tissue (increase the number and size of adipose fat cells), impair endocrine regulation of adipose tissue and adipocytokine production, reduce basal metabolic rate, and change the regulation of appetite and satiety. This happens especially if the exposure occurs during early development. Research shows that endocrine disruptors pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming and most vulnerable.

People can be predisposed to obesity from exposure to hormone disruptors and obesogens in the womb. Prenatal exposure to environmental toxins and obesogens can produce lasting transgenerational effects on the exposed animals and their offspring to at least the F4 generation. [Journal Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology]

Type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and insulin resistance

Impaired cholesterol metabolism

Calcification of the pineal gland. Fluoride, chlorine, lead, mercury, pesticides, synthetic calcium, artificial sweeteners, gluten and wheat are well-known endocrine disruptors that can lead to pineal calcification.

Cardiovascular disease, increased cardiometabolic risk, and high blood pressure

Fatty liver disease (NAFLD); increased liver markers (AST, ALT and GGT). GGT (a known marker of excessive alcohol consumption) is also a sensitive biomarker for xenobiotic exposures and a high toxic load. Moderate elevation of GGT (>20) has been linked to various chemicals including lead, cadmium, organochlorine pesticides, dioxin, and PCBs.

ADHD, autism, dementia, neurobehavioral disorders, and neurological conditions

Hormone sensitive cancers. Several scientific institutions reported exposure to EDCs as a risk factor in the development of cancer of the testes, prostate, ovaries, thyroid and breast

PCB, dioxins, cadmium, phytoestrogens, ethylene oxide and other hormone-disrupting chemicals may contribute to the development of breast cancer. Arsenic, cadmium, PCBs, and pesticides appear to contribute to prostate carcinogenesis. [J Environ Public Health. (2012) 2012:713696.]

The greater an individual’s exposure to endocrine disruptors, the greater the risk of hormonal imbalances, diabetes, autoimmune challenges, and chronic disease.

There can be a significant lag time between exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and the manifestation of a clinical disorder.

Protective Strategies to Reduce Xenoestrogen Exposure

First, is awareness of the multiple sources of endocrine disruptors. Next, avoiding daily exposure as much as possible. Lastly, gradually transitioning to healthier alternatives.

Food and Water

Shop for organic nutrient-dense foods! Organic food is free from GMOs, glyphosate and contain less pesticides. Studies report a reduction in urinary pesticide levels in just three days after changing to an organic diet. Prioritize organic foods specifically when it comes to animal protein, dairy products, and the EWGs list of Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables. Choose organic, in-season, local-grown foods, wild (never farmed) fish and seafood, grass-fed, organic hormone-free meats and dairy products as much as possible.

Broccoli sprouts, watercress and a variety of plants and cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemicals with rich sources of indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM).

Phytochemicals such as sulforaphane and resveratrol minimize the cellular DNA damage and the endocrine-disrupting capacity of chemicals. [Frontiers in Endocrinology, 2019.]

Avoid canned and processed foods, which contain high fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial sweeteners, food additives, MSG, pesticides and other obesogenic chemicals.

Filter your tap water. Install a water filter in the kitchen, ice maker, and bathroom. Change the filters periodically.

Invest in an eco-friendly beverage container such as lead-free glass, a Yeti, Hydroflask, or Klean Kanteen.

If you have pets, give them filtered drinking water in a ceramic or stainless bowl. Feed them high-quality, grain-free, soy-free food.

Household and Personal Care

Never leave plastic containers, especially drinking water in the sun or stored in a garage, automobile or warehouse. Do not drink water from plastic containers that have been in a hot car, warehouse or garage. If a plastic water container has heated up, throw it away. Don’t refill plastic water bottles. Avoid freezing water in plastic bottles to drink later.

Avoid Styrofoam, plastic wrap, canned foods, K cups, and aluminum foil

Replace nonstick and Teflon cookware with ceramic, glass or stainless steel

Replace plastic storage containers and baby bottles with glass, stainless or ceramic. LunchBots or Bento Boxes to pack a lunch.

Switch to chemical-free, biodegradable laundry and household cleaning products. Avoid chlorine bleach, dryer sheets, liquid fabric softeners and chemical laundry detergents.

Choose chlorine-free products, unbleached paper products, feminine care products, and coffee filters

When grocery shopping, use reusable storage bags to bring food home from the grocery store

Replace plastic coffee makers and Keurig coffee makers with stainless steel percolator or a French press.

Never microwave food or beverages in plastic containers

Replace vinyl (plastic) shower curtains with fabric cloth

Avoid stain-resistance treatments (furniture, clothing, carpeting, rugs)

Don’t use pesticides on your lawn or garden. Avoid weed killers, pest killers, bug sprays, Round Up

Remove your shoes before entering your home

Do not burn chemical fire logs indoors or outdoors

Use chemical-free soaps, personal care products, lotions, nail polish, cosmetics, and fluoride-free toothpaste. Triclosan found in antibacterial products, toothpaste and many other items is an endocrine disruptor and impacts thyroid function.

Avoid products with ingredients that include the words parabens, phthalates, triclosan, stearalkonium chloride, fluoride, fluoro or perfluoro. PFCs can be found in dental floss and a variety of cosmetics, including nail polish, facial moisturizers, and eye make-up. DIY and make your own products with a few simple ingredients.

Buyer beware! Don’t buy into the BPA-free or bioplastic hype. Anything that’s labeled BPA-free can be legally BPS or BPF. BPS appears to have more estrogen disrupting activity than BPA does. Green or biodegradable plastic sounds great, but it does not live up to the hype.

Visit the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website >> Skin Deep Database and become familiar with the list of harmful ingredients in your skincare products, antiperspirant, deodorant, cleaning products and other household items, and healthier alternatives

Lifestyle Tips

Wash your hands often

Recirculate indoor air daily. Open the windows to fight indoor air pollution.

Change indoor air filters every month

Minimize X-ray and radiation exposure as much as possible

Wet mop floors to diminish chemicals that accumulate in dust

Refuse thermal cash register receipts unless you absolutely need them. Wash your hands after handling receipts. Some receipts contain 250 to 1,000 times the amount of BPA typically found in a can of food.

Educate yourself on the endocrine disruptors found in dental sealants, mercury amalgams, contrast dyes, hair dyes, hair straighteners and Brazilian blowouts

Buy children’s toys (and pet toys) that are labeled phthalate-free

Be aware of noxious gas such as from copy machines, printers, carpets, fiberboards, and at the gas pump

Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter

Prevent flame retardant exposure by replacing old or damaged furniture; opt for natural products that are less flammable

Improve your digestion and balance your gut flora

Rule out hidden infections in the oral cavity, the gut, sinuses, Candida overgrowth, mold toxicity, and dysbiosis

Optimize the health of your organs of elimination and detoxification: skin, gut/colon, liver, gallbladder, kidneys and lymph. A healthy gut expels toxins better than an unhealthy gut.

Support estrogen detoxification, methylation and heathy estrogen metabolism. Estrogen methylation is a critical step in the protective mechanism of estrogen metabolism. We seldom think about the actual effects of toxins on our epigenetics and how methylation is protective. Both 4-OH and 2-OH (not 16-OH) estrogens can be deactivated and eliminated by methylation.

Methylation is required for the protective effects of 2-hydroxy-estrone, and the same detoxification of 4-hydroxy-estrone. Optimal methylation can only occur with a diverse microbiome, optimal gut health, understanding of genetic SNPs, and supporting bio-individual nutrient deficiencies.

Reduce beta glucuronidase if levels are increased. High levels of the beta glucuronidase enzyme indicate poor detoxification of estrogens, reabsorption and recirculation of harmful estrogens, and a decreased ability to excrete or detoxify estrogen. Elevated levels of beta-glucuronidase are associated with an increased risk of dysbiosis, colon cancer and estrogen dominant cancers.

Love your liver! Poor liver detoxification and a congested liver hinders the conversion of T4 to T3, and prevents the elimination of excess estrogen.

Support your detox pathways

Sweat to detoxify hormone-disrupting chemicals, toxic heavy metals, BPA, PCBs, phthalates, mycotoxins and other harmful chemicals that have accumulated in your body. Exercise, hot yoga, detox salt baths, sauna therapy, sunlight exposure, and steam rooms are all great options to detox and get your sweat on!

Nutrient Support to consider

Vitamin B6, folate, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B12

Omega-3s and other essential fatty acids

Vitamin D and daily sunlight exposure


ECGC (green tea extract), resveratrol and sulphoraphane

Targeted nutrients to support methylation, liver, gallbladder, colon, and toxic heavy metal detoxification

Calcium D-Glucarate is a powerful nutrient that supports cellular function and healthy detoxification of lipid-soluble toxins, reduces high levels of beta glucuronidase, unwanted estrogenic hormones and environmental toxins.

Diindolylmethane (DIM) promotes healthy estrogen metabolism and creates a healthier balance of estrogen metabolites (2-OH, 4-OH, and16 alpha-OH). DIM assists in restoring hormonal balance by adjusting the balance of estrogens and blocking aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen.

When it comes to chemicals and toxicology, it seems logical to think higher doses of toxins are more dangerous because the health impacts are more immediate and obvious. However, it’s a completely different story with endocrine disruptors. Small doses and low-level exposure can cause detrimental health consequences.

The negative effects of endocrine disruptors can take years or even decades to show up after exposure, and by the time symptoms are clear the damage may have already been done. It doesn’t take long before dysfunction takes place. Over time, dysfunction becomes disease.

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