Having good hormone health

What are hormones?

Hormones are chemical substances produced and stored by glands throughout our body. These glands are what we call the endocrine glands and they make up the endocrine system.

The major endocrine glands are the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands, and pancreas. In addition, women produce hormones in their ovaries. When the body needs these substances, the blood carries the hormones to specific organs, tissues, or cells in our body when and wherever needed.

Something called ‘endocrine disruptors’ mess up this process. Most of us are exposed to endocrine disrupters in some form or another and these can have a detrimental impact on our overall hormone health.

What is the endocrine system?

So, what is the endocrine system and how can endocrine disrupters impair it? And, more importantly, what can we do to prevent this? Well, the endocrine system is one of the body’s primary communicating, regulating, and coordinating systems. The endocrine system helps to regulate and maintain:

> Body energy and metabolism
> Electrolyte balances
> Reproduction
> Growth and development
> Appropriate responses to the environment, stress, and injury

Some of the factors that affect endocrine organs include aging, certain diseases and conditions, stress, the environment, and genetics. However, there are changes we can make to our diet and lifestyle to lessen this impact

How big an issue are endocrine disruptors?

There are certain substances and chemicals within our environment that either mimic our natural hormones (leading to imbalances) or interfere with our natural hormone production.  These substances are what we refer to as endocrine disrupters. Believe it or not, endocrine disrupters are everywhere!  Here are just some of the places we’ll encounter them:

> The food that we eat
> The deodorant and cosmetics we use
> Female personal care products
> Plastic products like water bottles and food wrapping
> Cleaning products
> Cow’s milk
> Our drinking water!

This cocktail of endocrine disrupting substances is playing havoc with our hormones. Girls are menstruating younger, some as young as six!  Excess oestrogen circulating in our system is on the rise. This can lead to conditions such as breast and ovarian cancer, PMS, endometriosis, and fibroids. In addition to this, other conditions that stem from an imbalance of hormones are also on the rise. These include diabetes and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  In more extreme cases, endocrine disruptors may even lead to fertility issues

Endocrine disruptors are playing havoc with our hormones

Changing your diet and lifestyle to avoid endocrine disruptors

The good news is that there is lots we can do to avoid our exposure to endocrine disrupters and their impact on our health.

1. Eat organic
Conventionally grown crops are unfortunately sprayed with pesticides and herbicides which play havoc with our hormones.  By choosing organic we can drastically reduce this exposure. Conventionally farmed animals are routinely given antibiotics, which makes their way into the food chain and again can impact on our endocrine system.  Cattle are routinely given growth hormones, particularly dairy cattle, to stimulate milk production. By choosing organic we are limiting our exposure to these substances and our endocrine systems with thank us!

2. Avoid dairy foods
Dairy is unfortunately high in oestrogen, as well as growth hormones, which contributes to oestrogen dominance and inflammation.  There are many other dairy-free calcium-rich foods we can enjoy without suffering the impact dairy products may have on our hormones.  E.g. sardines, leafy greens, almonds, seeds, lentils, beans, tofu, rhubarb.

3. Avoid BPAs
BPA stands for bisphenol A and it is a chemical used to make plastics, therefore found in plastic bottles and plastic wrapping used for food purchased, particularly in the supermarket.  This chemical leaches into the liquid contained within the bottle or into food wrapped in plastic and interferes with our endocrine system.

To avoid BPA, avoid drinks and water in plastic bottles and try to buy meat and fish from the fresh fish counter or a good butcher, or even better a farm shop or farmers market where it is more likely wrapped in paper rather than plastic. For drinking water bottles, try a BPA free refillable plastic bottle, stainless steel or glass bottle for bottled water.

4. Use organic personal care
Conventional tampons, sanitary towels or menstrual cups are made using non-organic cotton and then bleached using chemicals to make them nice and white.  Some then even have perfumes added to them. Opt for organic sanitary protection, or better still a menstrual cup, which is made from BPA free material and reusable, making it far kinder to the environment.

5. Filter your water
So many women these days are either taking the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).  Unfortunately, these synthetic hormones make their way into our drinking water, along with a cocktail of other toxic substances, including fluoride. Fluoride may help to protect our tooth enamel but at the expense of being toxic to our entire bodies.  Much better to practice good dental hygiene and reduce your sugar intake!  A good water filter will remove hormones and fluoride from your drinking water.

6. Use non-toxic cleaning products
Conventional cleaning products are highly toxic, containing chemicals that interfere with our hormones.  Choose eco-friendly, non-toxic brands, or make your own using vinegar or diluted essential oils in a glass spray bottle.

7. Use natural deodorants and cosmetics
There are some fantastic non-toxic personal hygiene and cosmetic products available these days, so there is no need to use conventional, chemically-laden products that interfere with our hormones.  Natural deodorant can also be made easily from coconut oil, bicarb and essential oils for a less costly alternative.

If you have already taken these steps and are still concerned about your endocrine system or would like to discuss hormonal health further, you can ask a qualified specialist who has experience in this area

More information:
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
Endocrine disruptors and reproductive health 

This self-care health hack is from Superfied expert nutritionist Lara Seago

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