As a fertility awareness educator, one of my roles is to help my clients to use their menstrual cycle charts as a vital sign of their health. With the cycle as a real time indicator of health, we can take steps to improve lifestyle factors that may influence the cycle, with the aim of supporting overall health and function of the body.
One way to support healthy hormones is by taking a look at the personal care and cleaning products that we are using, to see if those might contain endocrine disruptors. Keep in mind that everything I am sharing is not intended as medical advice, rather it is for educational purposes only.
What is an endocrine disruptor?
Endocrine disruptors are natural or man-made chemicals that mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones. They may create and contribute to hormone imbalance. These include things like BPA, dioxins, phthalates, and triclosan.
Where are endocrine disruptors found?
- Hormonal birth control. Despite its popularity and effectiveness at preventing pregnancy, it’s the #1 endocrine disruptor because its very purpose is to disrupt the communication between brain and ovaries so that pregnancy does not occur. You can make all kinds of improvements to your cleaning and personal care products, but that may have a limited impact if you continue to use the pill, the patch, the hormonal IUD, etc.
- Synthetic fragrances. Any personal care product or cleaning solution that has “fragrance” on the ingredient label, including but not limited to:
- All-purpose & bathroom cleaners
- Shampoo & body wash
- Disposable menstrual products
- Non-stick pots and pans (i.e. Teflon)
- Pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables
- Plastic food and drink containers
So, where do I start?
Reducing endocrine disruptors is a big job, so it’s important to take these steps at a moderate pace. I highly recommend incorporating only one new change at a time, as you run out of the products you’re currently using. This will help you avoid overwhelm and give you time to research your product replacements. Consider the suggestions below, and if you’re not able to make some of these changes, don’t feel discouraged. You don’t have to live a perfectly “clean” life to be healthy. These are just some things you can try if you’re physically, mentally and financially able to do so.
Switch to reusable or 100% cotton menstrual products. A silicone menstrual cup, cloth pads, or period underwear are all great options. They have a larger upfront cost but will also save you money in the long run since you don’t have to buy new products on a regular basis. To find a menstrual cup that suits your body, take the Put a Cup in It Quiz. If you can’t afford to purchase reusable products, check out the Cloth Connection Outreach Charity or look on Facebook for menstrual product buy/sell/trade groups. You can also buy one reusable product at a time, as you’re able, and slowly build up a stash. If you prefer to use disposable period products but want a healthier alternative, try fragrance-, bleach-, and dye-free products from brands such as just. (sold at Walmart) or Cora (sold at Target).
Wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly. All produce that you purchase at the grocery store is sprayed with pesticides and/or herbicides– YES, EVEN ORGANIC (there are different standards for what is allowed to be used on organic crops). In order to mitigate the potential health impacts of these chemicals, I use Branch Basics All-Purpose spray or distilled vinegar in water to clean our produce, depending on the fruit or vegetable being washed. All that said, I’m not perfect. If I’m short on time and need to get food on the table, I might just do a quick rinse rather than letting our berries soak. But at least 80% of the time, I do a full wash.
Transition to body friendly cleaning and personal care products. As you run out of personal care or cleaning products, replace them with an alternative free of synthetic fragrance, parabens and phthalates. My favorite product that has replaced almost all of our cleaning products is Branch Basics. A simple non-toxic, fragrance free, concentrated formula is diluted with different amounts of water to be used for different personal care or cleaning tasks. I purchased the Starter Kit, which comes with all the bottles you need for different dilutions, and fell in love. I use Branch Basics to clean my home, wash my laundry, and even wash my family’s produce. Use my referral code to receive $10 off your first purchase– the Starter Kit has everything you need to make the switch.
Take a look at your kitchen equipment. When your pots and pans need replaced, switch to ceramic, cast-iron, or stainless steel. If this is too big of a financial commitment, check your local thrift store. You can often find good quality pots and pans for an excellent price. Make sure to research how to cook with and clean these products, since some require slightly different care than non-stick dishware. If you take good care of them, they’ll last longer and possibly save you money over time. Also, consider using silicone, rather than regular plastic cooking utensils. Store your food in glass containers if possible. Never heat food in plastic containers, if you can help it.
Consider coming off of hormonal birth control. This one is controversial, but it needs to be said. I’m not anti-birth control. In fact, I used hormonal contraception throughout college and for the first year of my marriage. I am fully in favor of $0 copay access to contraception for anyone who needs or wants it. HOWEVER, since birth control shuts down communication between your brain and ovaries, and stops normal hormonal processes, it’s important to know that it is an endocrine disruptor. It prevents you from ovulating, and from attaining the benefits to your health that ovulation provides. You cannot have healthy cycles while on hormonal birth control, because you don’t have a cycle. So if you want to take control of your health, you may want to discuss the possibility of coming off the pill with your partner and/or at trusted medical provider.
If you decide that changing your birth control is the right choice for you, make sure to have an alternative plan before you stop your current contraception. See my posts on Instagram to learn more about the benefits and side effects of different types of contraception. There are several posts about your non-hormonal options, including condoms, diaphragms, the copper IUD, and fertility awareness charting.
Remember, you don’t need to be perfect to achieve optimal hormonal health. Any changes that you can make and sustain will be helpful to you. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to hormonal birth control, check out my main website to learn more about fertility awareness charting. You can email me, direct message me on Instagram, or schedule a free discovery call to learn more about the method I teach and my current availability to take clients.