Recently, I have been waging a war on the use of plastics in my kitchen and everyday life. This is not an easy process. Plastic is an everyday multi-purpose item and its convenience can not be denied / Despite this, in all plastic lurk many toxins that threaten our health. Plastics are widely known as endocrine disrupting agents – in other words, they wreak havoc with how our endocrine system processes hormones. This may lead to hormonal imbalance.
Plastics – especially BPA and phthalates – are loaded with xeno-estrogens, which are naturally or chemically produced substances that imitate estrogen. Xeno-estrogens attach to estrogen receptors in our bodies and interfere with natural circulating estrogens. This hi-jacking of the body's biochemical pathways causes hormonal imbalance, the results of which are manifold. Hormonal imbalance may result in uterine cysts & fibroids; endometriosis; infertility; prostate abnormalities; damaged ova and sperm; gynecomastia (breast development in men), among others. Many xeno-estrogens activate the CYP-lBl enzyme, which typically occurs occurring estrogens to 4-catechol, a toxic form of estrogen that can damage DNA and increase the risk of developing cancer, especially of the breast.
Unfortunately, plastic products are not biodegradable and remain in our environment for long periods of time. Over time, bio-accumulation occurs as smaller organisms in contact with xeno-estrogens are consumed by larger animals and humans. Animals have been suffering reproductive problems for years, and problems are the worst in areas where pollution is the highest. One example of this is sterility in the Florida panther, which has been linked to predation on animals exposed to pesticides.
In addition to plastics, pesticides and herbicides are another huge source of xenoestrogens in our environment. Although DDT was banned for use in the US in the early 1970s, it continues to be manufactured in the USA and marketed abroad, where it is sprayed on products and then sold in US stores.
The metabolism of estrogens is dependent on how healthy and functional our detoxification system is – in essence, how healthy our lymph, liver and kidneys are. The degradation of estrogen is in constant competition with the elimination of drugs and other toxins from our bodies. This is yet another reason why limiting our exposure to chemicals and toxins is so vital to our reproductive health.
Can I Test My Exposure to Plastic?
I see many people in my clinic who suffer hormonal imbalance, and I suspect that toxic exposure plays a role in the vast majority of them. Although I do not test everyone for this and recommend everyone tried to reduce their exposure to toxins, there is a role in testing. Some people metabolize toxins very quickly and eliminate any exposure to plastics and other toxins; whereas many others have a poorly functioning detoxification system and tend to accumulate a toxic load. The best way to determine your level of accumulation or toxic burden is to get tested. The recommended lab test is called the Phthalates & Parabens Profile from Metametrix ( http://www.metametrix.com ).
So now that I've seen the pants off of everyone, I'd like to offer some cheap and easy suggestions to eliminate exposure to toxic plastics.
Simple Tips to Reduce the Effects of Environmental Estrogens:
– Store leftovers in glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic.
– Avoid the use of the microwave to reheat food and especially do not microwave foods after being stored in Tupperware or covered with saran wrap.
– Choose biodegradable cleaning and laundry detergents (or make your own). A very good cleaning solution consists simply of white distilled vinegar and water. You can use this to safely clean your fridge.
– Do not use products containing chlorine bleach in cleaning.
– Avoid the use of fabric softeners, which place petrochemicals directly in contact with the skin.
– Buy hormone free / non-medicated meats or wild game (which is not treated with chemicals or antibiotics).
– Do not eat farm fish.
– Purchase organic, locally grown produce, free from pesticides, herbicides, chemical sprays or synthetic fertilizers. When in doubt, soak produce in a biodegradable vegetable wash or Vitamin C crystals for 10-15 minutes before consuming.
– Remove all pesticides, herbicides, fungi from your home, including insect repellents and weed killers for the lawn.
– Use essential oils and citronella lamps as insect repellants instead of toxic pesticides. – Avoid condoms that contain the non-toxic nonoxyl-9 that breaks down into nonyphenol, a xeno-estrogen.
– Avoid drinking tap water containing chlorine and other chemicals. Instead drink reverse osmosis bottled water. Consider investing in a filter for the shower to remove the chlorine, which is readily absorbed through the skin.
– Do not let your child chew on plastic toys.
– Choose non-bleached paper products including: coffee filters, paper, napkins and toilet tissue.
How can I detoxify from Plastic Exposure?
Of course, prevention is the best medicine – so the best approach is to avoid use of plastics altogether. However, given the ubiquity of plastic – and the fact that it is practically an essential part of just about every man-made object – this can be tricky. Luckily, there are some dietary tricks and interventions we can call upon to help unburden our bodies of this nasty substance. Let's look at 3 ways you can help your body detox from plastic overload:
1: Cruciferous vegetables help phase 2 detoxification of the liver and hence rapid metabolism of circulating toxins. 2 or more servings per day of cage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, mizuna, watercress, arugula, turnips, collard greens, kale, or rutabaga are recommended. If you are unable to get 2 full servings / day, or have a history of prostate or breast cancer, the supplement indole-3-carbinol is highly recommended.
2: IndolPlex and Calcium D-Glucarate are supplements that help aid the glucuronidation pathway and elimination of toxins.
3: Infrared Sauna. Sweating out the toxins is another bona fide way to eliminate toxins. I get the full benefits of infrared sauna in my hot yoga classes.
How about making the elimination of plastics a New Year's resolution? Please share your thoughts!