A foundational pillar of the endometriosis lifestyle is what you put on your body. It’s just as important as what food you put in it, and includes everything from bath and beauty products, to cleaning and laundry products, to the plastics in your house and the pesticides in your water.
Your skin as a major player
Your skin is your biggest organ, as well as one of the thinnest. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health looked into the skin’s absorption rates of chemicals found in drinking water and found that the skin absorbed an average of 64% of total contaminant dosage (Brown et al).
That being said, it’s important to know just what we are absorbing 64% of. If you have a second, jot down what do you expose your skin to during the course of the day. How about, just in the first hour you get ready to leave. You might check check off a list of shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving creme, lotion, face wash, deodorant and toothpaste. Then there’s foundation, mascara, blush, lipstick, hair styling cremes, and perfumes. Not done yet, there’s still clothes that were washed in a laundry detergent, eating off a plate washed with an dishwashing liquid, and touching a variety of surfaces cleaned with chemical cleaners. Which is why it’s so important to know what ingredients are in these products
Fact: Of the more than 80,000 chemicals available in the US, only 200 have been tested for safety. Only 5 are regulated by the EPA.
Why? Amazingly, the country's main chemical safety law -- the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) -- makes it nearly impossible for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take regulatory action against dangerous chemicals, even those that are known to cause cancer or other serious health effects. The regulatory rule of thumb basically is “this chemical is safe until proven otherwise”.
Case and Point: Parabens. These have been deemed “safe” by the EPA, and are used in nearly every beauty product because they’re a fantastically cheap preservative that prohibit mold growth. However, parabens easily penetrate the skin and are known endocrine disruptors. In one study, parabens were detected in-tact in human breast cancer tissues, raising serious questions about association between parabens and cancer.
This leaves you, me, grandparents, teenagers, babies, pets, and the environment open to perpetual poisoning if you don’t take personal responsibility in limiting your exposure. Sadly no governing body is going to do it for you.
There are many sites out there, brilliant sites, dedicated to informing people on the dangers of many of the chemicals found in beauty and home products, so here I’m going to talk specifically about Endocrine Disruptors which have an enormous affect on hormones and are being linked more and more to endometriosis specifically. The National Institute of Environmental Health Services explains these compounds as such:
“Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A [plastics].
Endocrine disruptors may be found in many everyday products– including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides. The NIEHS supports studies to determine whether exposure to endocrine disruptors may result in human health effects including lowered fertility and an increased incidence of endometriosis and some cancers. Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming”
Why this is especially important to women with endometriosis is how ED’s work. Since they mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body like estrogens, they can bind to a receptor within a cell and block the real hormone from binding. This means the normal signal fails to occur and the body fails to respond properly, including: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones. Sounds like a hormonal nightmare because, well, it is.
ED’s are so commonplace that if you don’t actively ensure they’re out of your home and off of your body, you can guarantee they’re in most of your products, from cosmetics to tupperware. That means this must be one of your priorities along with eating a nutrient dense diet, moving well and often, and creating a happy lifestyle. If you do everything else but still apply 10,000 chemicals (which may even be an understatement) to your body every morning you may never fully heal.
The Human Experiment
In this recently produced documentary we learn first hand how our population has become the testing grounds for chemicals. Their affect is detrimental to human health, not to mention the environment, and if you have some free time this is a great movie to help get you motivated to clean up your surroundings from unnecessary and harmful chemicals. Luckily, it streams for free now too (click here)
Beauty and the Beast
Knowing better is the first step in moving towards a toxic free lifestyle, but if you've been living in a Standard American Environment for most of your life assume it may be a little bit of extra upfront work. Chemical laden beauty routines, unfiltered tap water, cleaning products, and home-used plastics are most likely a staple in your house. And even if you’re trying your best you can still be a victim of “green-washing” that makes consumers believe a toxic product is safe through fancy words and packaging.
But don’t be discouraged! Millions of endo-girls, cancer patients, families of autistic children, and chronically ill folks from many walks of life (for richer or poorer) have have cleaned up their acts and are the better for it. Not to mention, this may be the easiest endo-lifestyle change to make at first. You won't have to change your entire diet, or work on moving more and better, you just need to replace certain products for others and then put it out of your mind. Trade in soap for chemical free soap, trade in laundry detergent for chemical free detergent, toxic lipstick for nontoxic lipstick. See, pretty easy solution right there :)
Again, there are many excellent websites out there dedicated to helping you on your way, and I've listed many of my favorites in the links section for this page. In the meantime I've broken down 4 of the potentially most toxic areas of life to look into during your chemical purge with some recommendations based on my own personal experiences.
When you wish they didn't put dioxins, phthalates, and endocrine disruptors in you favorite moisturizer.
The EWG.org database for cleaning products, laundry detergent, and everything else
Making great food and storing it in plastic? Drinking out of plastic water bottles? How plastics affects endometriosis:
Detoxing your chemical load includes minimizing the amount of drugs you take. Here's why: