Did you know that the products you use on a daily basis may hurt your thyroid?
I certainly didn’t.
I used to be under the impression that I led a pretty clean life.
True, I wasn’t living and working in the cleanest of cities (New York City). But I worked in an office and not in an environmentally hazardous chemical plant. And my apartment was in a certified green residential building.
Nonetheless, I quickly learned that my world wasn’t as clean as I thought.
It turned out that many of my beauty and skincare products contained multiple chemical ingredients. Some of which are known to be harmful, while the effects of others are still unknown.
I happily put parabens, phthalates (which includes “fragrance” or “parfum”), retinyl palmitate, ethanol, oxybenzone, formaldehyde, and even pesticides on my skin on a daily basis.
And many more.
Because, as a woman, I use an average of 12 products per day, containing 168 different chemicals. Men use fewer products, only 6, containing 85 different chemicals. (1)
“Sure”, you may think, “these ingredients are bad if ingested. But isn’t that different from putting it on your skin? They won’t get into my body through my skin.”
Unfortunately, that’s not true. Much of what we put on our skin is directly absorbed into our bloodstream.
Just think about progesterone creams, birth control patches or nicotine patches. These products work because they’re absorbed through the skin.
Unfortunately, many of the chemical ingredients we put on our skin are considered endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors mess with your hormones. They can imitate hormones and interfere with their signaling.
The result? Potential health problems.
Endocrine disruptors are linked to health issues such as fertility problems, neural dysfunction and developmental issues, changes in metabolism, early puberty, obesity, asthma, heart disease and even breast cancer.
They’re also linked to immune disorders and autoimmune disease, which by definition includes Graves’ disease.
Of course, harmful chemicals and endocrine disruptors can also be found in other products we use on a daily basis. These include BPA-containing linings in canned foods, plastic water bottles, Teflon-coated pans and cookware, flame-retardant, stain-resistant, and water-resistant coatings in fabrics used for furniture and apparel.
They also find their way into the air we breathe and into the water we drink and shower with.
In 2017, the Environmental Working Group Last year found that most of our tap water is contaminated with many different pollutants. They discovered over 267 toxins in public tap water in the U.S, including 45 known endocrine disruptors. (2)
It’s impossible to completely avoid all these endocrine disorders. Still, there’s a lot you can do to reduce your exposure to these toxins. And thereby give your immune system and thyroid a well-needed break.
So where to start?
You can simply begin with these practical tips:
- Eat organic where possible. This one may be obvious to you, but I still want to mention it. It’s important to reduce your exposure to pesticides and insecticides. Organic foods are also found to be more nutritious than their conventional counterparts and have higher antioxidant levels (3). Fully switching to organic foods may be expensive. And that’s where The Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen overviews can give you guidance. The Clean Fifteen overview lists 15 foods which are generally okay to eat non-organic. As they’re typically less sprayed or have thicker skins that you won’t eat. The Dirty Dozen overview on the other hand lists 12 foods you should always eat organic.
- Switch to healthier beauty and skincare products. As I mentioned earlier our skin is a major entry point to our bodies. So be mindful of the products and ingredients you put on it. Look up the products that you use or single ingredients in The Environmental Working Group’s extensive database. And see how they are rated on toxicity. You can also see what health concerns are related to specific ingredients. See if you can make better choices going forward. I tend to opt for products with a 1 rating. Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make some beauty and skincare products yourself. This website for instance shows you how you can easily make face cleansers, face oils, creams, hair masks, toothpaste and more that work beautifully. They usually only require a couple of ingredients. An advantage is that they’re commonly much more economical than your store-brought products. With higher-quality ingredients.
- Bring more plants into your home. Plants naturally detoxify the air. Research for instance shows that plants can clean the air of formaldehyde and benzene. Good choices are bamboo palms, rubber plants, English ivies, Boston fern, spider plants, aloe vera, Gerbera daisies, chrysanthemums, tulips, and philodendrons. Be careful though if you have small children and/or pets around. Some of these plants may be poisonous to them.
- Filter your water. It’s best to use filtered water for all drinking and preferably also cooking purposes. Choose a filter that removes fluoride, chlorine, and other contaminants. I use a Berkey filter, but there are many other good ones. Also, to avoid toxic chloride fumes (as well as the awful smell) from warm showers, I recommend to use a shower filter. Shower filters are fairly easily installed and relatively inexpensive.
- Avoid canned foods. The linings of these cans often contain bisphenol A (BPA). This is a famous endocrine disrupting chemical, which can get into the food. The only canned food I still purchase is coconut milk. Except for the coconut milk I (sometimes) make at home, I haven’t found good coconut milk (organic with no chemical additives) in anything but a can. Although the brand I purchase specifically mentions that their cans don’t contain BPA, I’m not sure what they’ve used instead. And if that’s any better.
- Freshen your indoor air. Stop using air fresheners. They’re hiding certain smells by releasing chemicals including phthalates into the air. Instead, ventilate your home. Indoor air is commonly a lot more toxic than outdoor air. This is due to gases or particles that are released from things in our homes such as furniture, electronics, household goods, and clothes. Also, change your air-conditioning and heating filters every 3-6 months and get the ducts cleaned annually. Consider installing HEPA air filters. Especially in rooms where you spend most of your time, typically the bedroom.
- Leave your shoes at the door. This will help keep certain toxins as well as bacteria out. Most commonly, a chemical found in asphalt, herbicides, and insecticides. But also many bad bacteria. Just think of all the places you go (public restrooms).
There you have it. 7 tips to reduce your toxic load.
You don’t need to throw away and replace all your questionable items today. I recommend to take it one step at a time. For instance, every time you run out of an item like your shampoo, simply upgrade to a healthier alternative. And go from there.
Remember, a little progress each day adds up to big results.