The 6 Worst Thyroid Disruptors Hiding in Your Home + How to Eliminate Them:
The thyroid is an endocrine gland located in the neck. It uses iodine, tyrosine, selenium and other nutrients from the foods you eat to make two main hormones: Triiodothyronine (T3) + Thyroxine (T4). These hormones are critical to your overall health because they regulate the body’s metabolism, digestive function, mood and energy. A well-functioning thyroid is also critical for fertility and hormonal balance, since thyroid output is closely linked to female reproductive health.
Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is becoming exceptionally common in my practice with hundreds of new cases diagnosed in my practice in past 5 years. While genetics can play a role, thyroid issues may also be triggered by seemingly innocent everyday products hiding out in your home. From toxic personal care products, to environmental pollutants I always urge my hypothyroid + Hashimoto’s patients eliminate following 6 thyroid disrupting chemicals from their homes ASAP:
A recent study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology found that exposure to perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) led to higher instances of thyroid disease. Researchers compared blood levels & exposure with incidence of thyroid problems and definitively concluded that exposure to PFOA was associated with thyroid problems. PFOA are fluoride-containing chemicals that make house hold objects and foods stick & stain-resistant. Along with thyroid disease PFOAs have also been linked to cancer, infertility, birth defects, and weaker immune systems. Here’s where they could be hiding out in your home:
My patients are often surprised to learn that the thyroid gland is one of the most fluoride sensitive tissues in the body. This is due to the fact that fluoride is structurally similar to the thyroid critical nutrient, iodine. Iodine and fluoride are both halogens, they have similar molecular sizes & structures, and are found right next to one another on the periodic table. Due to these similarities high amounts of fluoride from your tooth paste and drinking water can displace iodine in the thyroid and lead to thyroid disease. We need adequate iodine levels to make thyroid hormones, and there’s a consistent body of animal & human research showing that fluoride worsens the impact of an iodine deficiency. Studies also found that fluoride negatively impacts TSH and free thyroid hormone levels, even when you’re exposed to the accepted ‘safe’ concentration of less <0.5 mg/L. Fluoride has also been shown to impact thyroid health in the following ways:
You can decrease your risk of thyroid disease by simply swapping out that fluoridated tooth paste for a natural brand and by filtering your drinking water. Our current favourite natural tooth paste is by designs for health. It’s fluoride-free and contains probiotics to improve the balance of good bacteria in your mouth. We use this water filtration system at home and are saving up for a whole home reverse osmosis water filter. It’s also a great idea to have your iodine levels tested by your ND since adequate iodine intake has been shown to mitigate some of the negative effects of fluoride exposure.
PCBs are a group of human-made chemicals that were largely banned in the 1970s due to environmental concerns. Unfortunately, PCBs are chemically stable so around 10% of those produced still exist in our environment and food supply. Before the ban, companies using PCBs were dumping them into the water where they made their way into the soil used to grow our food and feed farmed animals. PCBs are fat soluble, meaning that they’re stored in fat cells. Once the PBCs accumulate in animal cells they remain there for a long time and can even be transferred to babies through a mother’s milk. The main sources of PCBs come from our diets with research indicating the top three sources are meat, fish, and eggs.
PCBs are problematic for thyroid health because they act like hormones and confuse our bodies into mistaking them for hormones. They bind to hormone receptors where they can interrupt normal hormonal function. Studies show that they specifically impact the thyroid by reducing the concentration of thyroid hormones in our bloodstream. You can reduce your exposure to thyroid-disrupting PCBs by following these simple dietary recommendations:
According to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 9/12 most dangerous and persistent pollutants are found in pesticides. One of the primary reasons that pesticides should be avoided in patients with thyroid disease is because so many of them interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism. Pesticides also interfere with thyroid hormone conversion, interrupting your ability to convert T4 into bioactive T3. Not only do they directly impact the thyroid gland, they also have indirect effects on your endocrine system since many are also considered xenoestrogens; synthetic compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. These xenoestrogens raise your own estrogen levels and high estrogen can lead to lower thyroid hormone levels.
Pesticide exposure is also linked to an increase thyroid gland size (aka goiter) as well as increase rates of autoimmune thyroid disease. Autoimmunity is the leading cause of thyroid dysfunction in North America and studies show a link between increased pesticide exposure and higher levels of the TPO thyroid antibodies that cause autoimmune hypothyroidism. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism it’s essential that you have your antibodies tested to determine if your thyroid dysfunction is due to an underlying autoimmune disease. When a patient tests positive for TPO antibodies I immediately put them on an organic only diet to limit pesticide exposure. Not only do they feel better when eating whole, organic foods, I also see a trend in lowered antibody levels in my patients when they switch to an organic, low pesticide diet.
BPA is everywhere in our environment. It’s likely found throughout your house in the form of plastic water bottles, plastic bags, Tupperware containers and in the lining of canned foods. This is bad news for your thyroid gland. A new large scale study confirmed the link between plastics like BPA and thyroid hormone levels and found that BPA displaces active T3 from thyroid hormone receptors.
BPA can bind to the thyroid hormone receptors, which are present on all the cells in human body, and block thyroid hormone function. It is also shown that these plastics can increase TPO antibody levels leading to higher rates of autoimmune diseases. Unfortunately for your BPA-free plastic water bottles, emerging evidence tells us that BPA-free plastics are just as harmful as their BPA-filled counter parts. Your best bet is to eliminate plastics all together and never ever heat up food in a plastic container. These are my top tips for eliminate plastics from your life:
Phthalates are chemical compounds that can be found in plastics and many common household products. DEHP is a particularly worrisome form of phthalate that is found in personal care products, medical devices and even your food. A new study linking DEHP to thyroid disease found a strong relationship between thyroid disease and this common plasticizer. In this study, urine samples were analyzed for phthalate levels and researchers observed that exposure to DEHP was associated with as much as a 10 percent decrease in certain thyroid hormones. These latest results were consistent with findings from previous smaller studies finding that higher concentrations of urinary phthalates & BPA were associated with greater impacts on thyroid hormone levels.
You can reduce you phthalate exposure by switching to all-natural and organic personal care products. It can be costly to replace all of your favourite makeup and skin care products all at once so I recommend that my patients replace their beauty products slowly as they run out of their usual makeup and moisturizers. Websites like the detox market and Environmental Working Group can be wonderful resources when switching over to natural phthalate-free products. It’s also important to get rid of those plastic food containers and water bottles asap as they’re a common source of endocrine disrupting phthalates.
If you live in the GTA and want to help developing your own personalized thyroid health protocol you’re welcome to book in for an initial consultation or contact me via my website for additional information.
*Note: online services provided by Dr. Sarah to those of you living outside of Ontario are delivered as a Certified Functional Medicine practitioner consult and not as an Naturopathic doctor appointment & as such they will not be eligible for reimbursement through private insurance.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Naturopathic doctor or primary care physician. Do not use the information in this document for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Always speak with your Naturopathic doctor before taking any medication or nutritional or herbal or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read online.
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