In regards to the endocrine system, we might not think that certain factors within the environment could cause disruption to the overall function of this system within the body…until they do. Recent studies have shed light on the fact that manmade and environmental toxins and products are increasing the risk of not only problems like cancer and reproductive issues – but they’re also increasing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
But what is the endocrine system, and what are some of these disrupters that cause such damage? The endocrine system consists of several glands within the body, such as the pituitary gland, the adrenal glands, and even the testes and ovaries. All of these glands work by secreting hormones throughout the body (hormones like estrogen, adrenaline, and insulin), and these hormones travel through the body by way of the circulatory system in order to reach their target site, where they then begin to perform their jobs. The endocrine system is vital in order for growth, reproduction, energy, and homeostasis, just to name a few important functions (yes, fatigue can be a sign of toxicity!).
Because this system is so important for overall bodily functioning, it’s easy to see why disturbing the day to day activities of these hormones can be very troublesome to the body – and that’s where endocrine disrupters come into play. Endocrine disrupters, for the most part, are made by humans, and can have a vastly negative effect on the endocrine system. Some examples of these endocrine disrupters can be found in plastic bottles (BPA), in laundry detergents, mattresses, in children’s toys, in garden and yard pesticides, and even in makeup/cosmetics.
Many different types of endocrine disrupters were banned from use back in the seventies, like DDT (which was used as a pesticide) and PCB (found in equipment that electricians used); even though these chemicals cannot be used in the United States today, several other countries still utilize them for their longevity and ability to work the way that they do – but at what cost? A majority of these disrupting chemicals stick around for years at a time, so the exposure rate doesn’t stop immediately. Even now, we still find endocrine disrupting chemicals on the shelves for our use – specifically, herbicides to kill weeds, and other similar chemicals to eliminate mold and bugs.
When it comes to pesticides and the onset of Type 2 diabetes, there probably isn’t an immediate correlation that comes to mind – however, a recent meta-analysis involving over 66,000 people noted that with exposure to pesticide came a shocking 61% increase in Type 2 diabetes. That’s because this type of endocrine disrupter disturbs the levels of insulin in the body, decreases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, and even changes how certain genes are expressed within the body…which then leads to blood glucose levels rising.
Another similar study, performed over a nine year period of time with over 750 participants, found a correlation between exposure to endocrine disrupters (such as BPA, found in plastics) and Type 2 diabetes….and this is not taking into account any of the risk factors that are typically present with a Type 2 diabetes prognosis, like obesity, family history, diet and high blood pressure.
With an estimated 93% of the world’s population coming in contact with these endocrine disrupters everyday – whether through food, water, the air, or the products used within the home – there is most definitely a need to reduce exposure to these items as much as possible. If possible, try and utilize items like stainless steel bottles, decrease the use of plastic containers, and avoid yard and garden pesticides.
If you suspect chemical exposure (again, we have all been exposed) you can now test for some of the more common chemicals. The EnviroTox panel by Great Plains is an amazing amount of information for functional medicine providers that can help tailor detoxification therapy.
There are some more basic nutrients, supplements and therapies that anyone can incorporate to increase detoxification of these endocrine disrupting chemicals.
1) Sweat! Increasing sweat through Infrared (therassage is our preferred product) sauna can increase blood flow and has been shown to drop chemical load in the body – plus you will feel great after!
2) Foods like Beets, Ginger, Cilantro, Broccoli Seed Extract and Turmeric improve the bodies natural ability to detox. If you currently have a thyroid disorder like Hashimoto’s don’t forget to use foods like Brazil nuts which contain selenium, a critical thyroid nutrient!
3) Fiber, fiber, fiber. Being exposed to a organic, high vegetable based diet will help you decrease exposure and the fiber will improve your detoxification status.
4) B vitamins: Methylated B vitamins (Methyl protect by Xymogen is my favorite) increase detoxification ability and also help with energy and hormone regulation
5) STOP STRESSING! Improving your ability to handle stress actually turns on genes for detoxification. Of course it’s hard to just “stop stressing” but if you struggle from anxiety, depression or chronic emotional stressors research clearly indicates these individuals are more likely to become toxic.
6) Water! The solution to pollution is dilution! Seriously without the water to flush toxins out, how can you expect to detox and improve your health? One of the easiest things we can do to improve is also one of the most forgotten. Take 1/2 your weight in ounces in clean, filtered water and drink that daily. Add more for exercise!
7) Green tea, AKA EGCG can increase detoxification enzymes significantly – and it helps to regulate the immune system so this is especially helpful with Auto-immune disorders like Rheumatoid, Lupus, Hashimoto’s or Graves disease.
8) Glutathione – the master antioxidant. You can take this orally but it needs to be in higher doses to work well. Another alternative is Myer’s Cocktails, a nutrient infusion containing glutathione and all the necessary detoxification nutrients!
9) Check out the Environmental Working Group for more resources like the “clean 15, dirty dozen” list of foods that will help in shopping to avoid chemical exposures!
If you need more ideas on how to reduce your exposure to endocrine disrupters or need more information on the connection with Type 2 diabetes, don’t hesitate to contact your local functional medicine doctors in Boulder, Colorado!
Yours in Health,
Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCP