Endocrine disruptors: what are they and how do they affect fertility?

disruptores endocrinos

Whether it’s on blogs, television, or at the doctor’s office, the term endocrine disruptors often comes up. But what does it really mean? We spoke to Dr. Daniel Bodri to find out what they are, where they are found and how they affect the fertility of men and women.

What are Endocrine Disruptors?

Our body is made up of an endocrine system consisting of a number of organs. This system is made up of glands and cells that secrete hormones, also known as ‘chemical messengers’.

These hormones circulate in the blood and are responsible for regulating various bodily functions, such as emotions, body temperature, metabolism and reproduction.

We could simplify by saying that endocrine disruptors are chemicals capable of mimicking our hormones and therefore altering the proper functioning of the body and negatively affecting our health.

endocrine disruptors, fertility

Where can Endocrine Disruptors be found?

They are found in food packaging, canned goods, cosmetics, personal care products, burnt wood smoke, cigarettes, pesticides, additives, clothing and even children’s toys.

These substances enter through the mouth, nose and skin and, unfortunately, they are everywhere and impossible to avoid completely.

It is therefore important to read labels carefully and pay attention to limit exposure to these endocrine disruptors as much as possible.

endocrine disruptors, fertility

How do they affect our health?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines endocrine disruptors as external substances that disrupt the hormone system, causing adverse health effects.

However, the same substance can have different effects depending on its concentration and the time of exposure. These compounds are particularly harmful during pregnancy and postnatal development, without a linear pattern, and may be active at low doses and not at high doses.

The effects of endocrine disruptors on the body are varied, interfering with multiple hormones in the hormone system. They can block or enhance their functions, causing damage.

They mainly affect reproductive and sexual health, with consequences such as:

  • Reproductive problems in women: infertility, polycystic ovaries, early puberty, endometriosis….
  • Reproductive problems in men: reduced semen quality, fertility problems, genital malformations…
  • Metabolic diseases: diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome…
  • Thyroid disorders: hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, cancer
  • Alterations in the neurological system: autism, learning difficulties…
  • Neuroimmunological disorders: multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia…
aparato fem lupa

Endocrine disruptors and fertility: how they affect and how to avoid them

Several studies have shown a negative link between endocrine disruptors and fertility. They can cause problems such as:

  • Reduced fertility
  • Decreased fecundity
  • Poor ovarian health
  • Endometriosis
  • Penile and testicular abnormalities
  • Prostate, testicular, and breast cancer
  • Reproductive organ malformation
  • PCOS

For example, exposure to BPA (bisphenol) during a woman’s reproductive years can compromise embryo implantation. Many plastic products contain BPA, including certain containers for food and beverages. Due to its widespread use, a study in Denmark found that women under 40 working in the plastic industry were more likely to seek fertility assistance than non-exposed women of the same age.

endocrine disruptors, fertility

The Importance of Hormones in Fertility

According to a 2009 scientific statement by the Endocrine Society, endocrine disruptors can affect fertility hormone levels such as estrogen and testosterone, as well as thyroid hormones.

  • Estrogens:

For instance, sexual and reproductive development is controlled by estrogen, a hormone produced during follicular development. It plays a crucial role in the proper development and maintenance of the female sexual and reproductive system, including menstruation, bone production, fetal growth, and breast gland enlargement.

  • Cortisol:

Another example is cortisol, known as the stress hormone, which reacts to danger. It is produced by our adrenal glands and released during stressful situations. Cortisol increases the availability of glucose (sugar) in the blood for the brain and affects the liver, muscles, fat tissue, and pancreas. However, excessively high cortisol levels can lead to long-term health problems. If the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol, it can disrupt almost all processes in the body and cause health issues such as insomnia, weight gain, anxiety, or even diseases like diabetes.

Hormones are crucial for reproduction. Thus, it makes sense that abnormal hormonal levels can impact your fertility and various aspects of the reproductive system, including ovulation and sperm count.

Endocrine disruptors can interfere with or limit the endocrine actions of the uterus, ovaries, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus. This can lead to infertility, early menopause, and affect both female and male fertility.

endocrine disruptors, fertility

How to limit exposure to Endocrine Disruptors

  • Reduce plastic usage
  • Avoid microwaving plastic
  • Eat organic
  • Opt for high-quality hygiene products (be cautious of fragrances and perfumes)
  • Filter tap water
  • Ventilate and vacuum regularly
  • Wash fruits
  • Choose fatty fish like sardines or mackerel
  • Limit barbecues

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