What is the endocrine system?
The endocrine system affects nearly every cell, organ, and function of the body.
This system is the network of glands which produce hormones.
The endocrine system refers to the process of hormones (chemical messengers) carrying information from one set of cells to another.
What does the endocrine system do?
Endocrine glands release hormones into the bloodstream. This is how they travel to cells throughout the body.
These hormones help regulate mood, growth and development, organ function, digestion and metabolism, and reproduction.
The endocrine system controls how much of each hormone is released at any given time. Factors of how much is released are based on hormone levels already in the blood and/or levels of other substances in the blood (i.e. other minerals).
Some things which affect hormone levels include stress (physical or mental) and environmental factors which will be explored more below.
(To dive into more detail how each gland functions check out this website.)
Why is it valuable to learn about this system during fertility, pregnancy, and caring for a growing little human?
It is vital to understand how the human body works, because you are a human.
If not already, you may be responsible for making the babies and the healthy development of your child(ren).
The endocrine system is important to life as it controls and regulates all the major functions and processes of the body:
- Energy (mood, brain fatigue, digestion, blood sugar levels, etc)
- Reproduction (fertility or infertility)
- Immunity (how well the body responds to bacteria, viruses, and all dis-ease)
- Behavior (i.e. ability to bond with baby; chronic stress responses like fight/flight; or calm collected, etc.)
- Growth and development (milestones of body/mind are met on typical timeframe).
What are endocrine disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals or substances which interfere with the hormone's natural functions. These disruptors will increase hormone levels and decrease production in others; all which travel throughout the body.
Studies have linked endocrine disruptors to weakened immunity, cancer, diabetes, lowered sperm count, lowered IQ, thyroid disease, birth defects, attention deficits, and more developmental disorders.
Due to cells being created in a developing fetus and body - babies and children / adolescence are at highest risk for adverse effects.
Endocrine disruption may show up as an immediate reaction (adverse effect) or - more often than not - a long-term reaction, over years of exposure. A best practice would be to err on the side of caution. To eliminate as much exposure in one’s household as possible.
Maintain a healthier endocrine system.
Understand everything is an advertisement; including pharmaceuticals and ways to make clothes and your home smell fresh. The U.S. and New Zealand are the only two countries were drug manufacturers are permitted to commercialize their products on TV.
Use clean / non-toxic skincare for the whole family. You can shop with me at Beautycounter for makeup and skincare. They create high performance skincare while eliminating 1,800+ questionable or harmful ingredients. Beautycounter is a women-led American company who fights for tighter FDA personal care industry regulations while informing consumers of the grim reality that the personal care industry is self-regulated.
Move the body in functional and challenging ways - and break a sweat.
Consume a variety of fresh whole foods - organic when possible; more than prepackaged foods.
Drink plenty of water every day for your lifestyle. (Not just electrolyte drinks or sparkling water.)
Wash hands throughout the day with warm soap and water; especially before preparing meals and eating.
Consider a water filter system for the shower, kitchen sink, drinking water, or whole house.
Shop at health food stores more often. In addition to cleaner foods they often have clean burning candles, aromatherapy, medicines, whole food supplements, along with household and personal care products.
- artificial food dyes;
- ingredients in food and personal care products with lengthy lists which are difficult to pronounce out loud;
- synthetic fragrances / phthalates - even when it says “natural” or “fresh” (look closely at candles, perfume/cologne, room fresheners, all personal care items, diapers, pads, tampons, toys, stuffed animals, etc.);
- Flame retardants / chemical sprays on clothing (kids’ sleepwear), car seats, furniture, carpet, and rugs;
- non-stick cookware;
- plastic containers, toys, plastic wrap with recycle label #3.
Endocrine disruptors are a part of life. They will always be present; however the amount of environmental disruptors you allow into your home are in your control.
Focus on one area of your household at a time to remove as many toxins as possible. For example, begin with baby’s room:
- How many devices are plugged into the walls? Are they all necessary?
- How many devices require WiFi or Bluetooth connection? Are they all necessary?
- What are the material for baby's clothes? Are they breathable, like cotton? Do they have a flame retardant sprayed on?
- Read ingredients of baby products - diaper cream, baby powder, lotion, oil, wipes, diapers, shampoo, body wash, detergent, etc. Do any ingredients stand out as a potential carcinogen or toxin?
For decades informed consumers knew of the potential carcinogenic risks of Johnson & Johnson's talcum baby powder, but it wasn't until 2018 when they lost a major lawsuit over their baby powder. Now, it is common to see baby powder marketed as “talc free.”
It is not necessary to wait for a major brand like J&J to lose a lawsuit to make an educated decision whether or not you would personally choose to use any of their products or unverified ingredients they may contain.
Once you become familiar with common questionable ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, soy, carrageenan, isobutyl and isopropyl parabens, PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl), m- and o-phenylenediamine, methylene glycol, mercury, PEG compounds, and more - you will find them in multiple products.
All of which will make it easier to be an informed consumer to choose whether you would like to use that product or avoid it.