This guest blog post was written by functional nutrition practitioner, Amanda Montalvo, RD, FDN-P.
Disclaimer: the information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not designed to replace individualized recommendations from a practitioner. Always check with your doctor before adding supplements or making changes to your treatment plan.
Switching to less toxic products is getting more and more popular. All of this talk about chemicals and toxins in our environment can raise questions about what really matters and how it all really impacts you.
In this post, I’m covering what you want to avoid and how to get started. I want to preface this by saying that non-toxic living shouldn’t be all or nothing. Toxic load— how many toxins are in your body at any given time— is cumulative. This means every time you swap something out for a healthier option, you are reducing the burden on your body.
For this reason, I recommend making changes slowly, so that you don’t overwhelm yourself (extra stress won’t help your hormones either) and can take your time making true, lasting changes.
"What your skin comes in contact with is just as important as what you eat and drink."
A Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Hormone Disrupting Chemicals
Step 1: Identify Sources of Hormone Disrupting Chemicals
Intro to Hormone Disruptors
Since 1979, the number of chemicals registered has grown by over 30%. There are over 80,000 chemicals that are registered in the US and less than 200 of them have been tested for safety.
There are about 1,500 chemicals that have been identified as hormone disruptors and they can work to disrupt hormones in a few different ways:
- They can mimic estrogen in the body, which would increase levels of estrogen.
- They can bind to hormone receptors and blocking the ability of your hormones to do their job.
- They can interfere or block the way natural hormone receptors are made or controlled, like altering how they are metabolized in the liver.
Where do we typically find hormone-disrupting chemicals?
Main Sources of Hormone Disrupting Chemicals
- Tap water
- Commercially-raised meat and dairy
- Foods sprayed with or containing insecticides/pesticides
- Beauty products
- Personal care products
- Conventional menstrual products
- Cleaning products
- Birth control pills
Step 2: Minimize Your Exposure
Now that you’ve recognized where your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals could be coming from, let’s look at how you can start minimizing it.
FILTERING YOUR WATER
In the United States, water utilities are legally required to produce a water quality report by July 1st of each year. These reports aren’t perfect. There are quite a few contaminants that are not regulated and required to be reported on and the maximum contaminant levels set by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) are not health-based standards.
Nevertheless, these reports are a free resource that gives you insight into your water. You can also use the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Tap Water Database. They use public health goals set by California to ensure stricter standards.
If you have well water or want further testing on your tap water, you can look up your local "Cooperative Extension Service" that has lists of local labs for private water testing. Another option is a service called Tap Score, which typically ends of being cheaper and easier and they have a test specifically for well water.
Once you identify what contaminants are in your water (whether you use the free reports or paid), you can choose a filter that filters those. The EWG also has information on this!
Tip: Vitamin C filters are a great way to filter your shower/bath water and can be found on Amazon.
Prioritizing organic produce helps reduce exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals. The EWG puts together a list of the most heavily sprayed produce each year as well as a list of the least sprayed produce. This is a great way to prioritize which produce you will buy organic, and which produce you can get away with non-organic, if needed.
Animal products are another critical area to look at for hormone-disrupting chemicals.
Commercially-raised meat and dairy products contain significant levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals. I recommend always purchasing organic meat and dairy products.
If this is not available to you, getting leaner cuts of meat and reduced-fat dairy can help minimize exposure. This is the only time you will hear me say to reduce your fat. We need adequate levels of fat for healthy hormones.
The key to ditching plastic is making it convenient. Plastic is everywhere and the majority of the time we are using it because it’s easy and it’s the norm. You can make it convenient by always having plastic alternatives on hand.
Here are my favorite ways to ditch plastic:
- Use mason jars and glass Tupperware— stores like Costco, BJ’s, Target, and Walmart have bulk glass Tupperware. Stainless steel works too!
- Get silicone bags. Amazon has a variety of silicone bag options that you can reuse for years.
- Keep reusable shopping bags on hand and invest in reusable produce bags. You can find these on Amazon and easily wash with your regular laundry.
- Get beeswax wrap to replace plastic wrap (and often foil)— you can also use this to store food.
- Get a stainless steel water bottle or glass water bottle.
- Keep bamboo utensils with you when you travel.
- Get stainless steel or glass straws.
- Use a glass french press or stainless steel coffee maker— you’d be surprised how many chemicals can leach out of hot plastic.
Ditching plastic can feel hard at first, but you will save money in the long run and are doing something great for the Earth.
Step 3: Clean Up Your Products
SKINCARE, MAKEUP, AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS
I know it’s hard to let go of your favorite foundation, moisturizer, or shampoo, but there are a lot of great options out there now. You can use the Healthy Living app by the EWG or the Made Safe website to look up where your current products rank and better options.
If you’re concerned about safe products performing as well as your current ones, I recommend starting with these brands:
- Primally Pure (has the best deodorant— blue tansy and charcoal are my favorites).
- Beautycounter (best-performing makeup and skincare products— they have something for everyone and test everything for heavy metals and contaminants).
- Cocokind Skincare (simple products with great ingredients).
- Painted Earth Skincare (if you struggle with hyperpigmentation, try their vitamin C moisturizer).
- Dr. Bronner’s (makes excellent and affordable liquid and bar soaps).
- The Detox Market (uses only the highest quality and safest products).
You can also download this free guide on non toxic skincare. I break everything down my skin type, DIY recipes, and the best products, so there’s something for everyone whether you want to make your products or purchase them.
Just like your other personal care products, sunscreen can contain hormone-disrupting chemicals along with other harmful compounds.
What To Look For In Sunscreen:
Ingredients to avoid in sunscreen:
- Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate)
- Added insect repellent
Products you want to avoid:
- Aerosol sprays
- SPF above 50
Ingredients that are okay:
- Zinc oxide
- Titanium oxide
Products to look for:
- Cream-based or sprays that use a bag method
- SPF that works for you (15-50)
- Ingredients to avoid in sunscreen:
One of the cool things about cleaning products is that the majority of them have similar ingredients. This means that if you get a few products that you purchase to make one type of cleaner, you can likely use them to make others.
For example, washing soda is great to combine with liquid castile soap for dish soap. You can also add a ¼ cup of washing soda to your laundry to help get a deep clean on your clothes. Liquid castile is another one of those ingredients. You can use it on its own for dish soap, hand soap, or body wash.
While it’s great to make your cleaning products, there are so many great companies out there now that make effective cleaners that I love. If I were only able to give one piece of advice when it comes to cleaning products, I would say invest in cleaner concentrates.
Cleaner concentrates allow you to use 1-3 tbsp of cleaner and mix with filtered water and fill an entire glass bottle with cleaner. This makes them economical and more sustainable for the environment (and help you reduce plastic!).
I love Rocky Mountain Oils’ cleaner concentrate and Branch Basics.
Be aware of greenwashing. The market for natural, safer products is growing, and with that comes marketing that can make products appear more natural and less toxic than they actually are. You can’t trust a label. You want to make sure you look up the product in the EWG app or Made Safe.
Menstrual products like tampons and pads can contain harmful chemicals like dioxin, which is a known hormone disruptor that is actually banned. The issue is, they are still finding dioxin residue in these products.
Not only can dioxin disrupt hormones, but it’s a known carcinogen that is linked with endometriosis.
The good news is once you swap out conventional tampons and pads you will never go back. Menstrual cups are my go-to swap for tampons. They are made from silicone, don’t cause Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) like tampons can, and can be used for years. Not only are they better for your hormones, but they save you money. If you don’t feel ready for a menstrual cup, you can get organic tampons without plastic.
Period panties are my favorite pad alternative, but you could also use organic pads or reusable cloth pads.
HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL
Hormonal birth control contains synthetic hormones that are designed to disrupt our normal hormone function to avoid pregnancy. Even though they are known hormone disruptors, they typically are not mentioned alongside personal care products and plastics, but if we’re working on getting rid of hormone-disrupting chemicals, we need to address hormonal birth control.
This doesn’t mean that stopping hormonal birth control is right for you; only you can make that decision.
This is about being educated and making informed decisions.
If you want to learn more about how hormonal birth control impacts the body, you can check out this blog post and read about possible side effects in this post. If you want tips for transitioning off hormonal birth control you can read more here.
Take a deep breath, pause, now let it out. That was a lot of information, but here’s the thing: you don’t need to change everything all at once. Remember, every swap you make reduces your toxic load long term. So take your time, do your research, and find what works best for you.
Here’s how I recommend working to reduce your exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals:
- Make a list of all of your exposures. Make sure you include each conventional product you use, cleaners, tampons/pads, etc.
- Pick 1-2 things on that list to swap each month. This may not sound like a lot, but that’s 12-24 swaps a year, which will significantly reduce your toxic load and exposure.
- Research those swaps, take action, and update your list.
Continue making swaps until you work your way through your entire list.
I recommend inviting some friends to join you and supporting each other as you make changes. You can also join my private support group, Detox & Your Hormones here. We’d be so happy to have you and support you on this journey!
Amanda Montalvo (RD, FDN-P) is an Integrative Dietitian and Functional Practitioner that runs Your Non Toxic Life, a blog, nutrition consulting service, and Facebook group that helps women detoxify their minds and bodies and balance their hormones. Amanda started off her education in nutrition with the traditional route, but after dealing with her own health problems after getting off hormonal birth control she quickly realized the value of functional medicine. After healing her acne, balancing her hormones, and learning the value of her menstrual cycle, Amanda found her purpose—to help women create a body in balance and not settle for anything less.
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