Men’s Health: Reducing Your Toxic Load
(Written by Natalia Hnatiw)
As this month is about awareness, I thought I’d write about becoming more aware of what we put into our bodies. Since Father’s Day is just around the corner, I decided to focus on the male side of things.
What are some things that can be harmful to the male body and what can be done to avoid them, to optimize overall health and wellbeing? We have included in our newsletter the documentary “The Disappearing Male,” to illustrate the connection between environmental toxins and male health issues that are rarely addressed.
To put things into perspective, the chemical industry is only 100 years old but poses an alarming problem to men’s health and a toxic threat to the male reproductive system. In the last few decades there has been a steady increase in chemically derived products that contain potentially harmful ingredients. These “endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” or EDCs, like phthalates, parabens and sulfates, are all too common in many everyday products, and have been shown to directly impair sperm function and affect fertility.
Aluminum, for example, which is used in many antiperspirants, is concerning because of its potential impact on future brain function and has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Phthalates, typically used to make plastics more flexible, have been associated with several types of sperm damage, including lower sperm counts, impaired movement and abnormal shape. Lead acetate, an ingredient in some men’s hair dyes, has also been shown to lower sperm quality, even at low to moderate levels.
And then there are xenoestrogens, a type of endocrine disruptor that specifically has estrogen-like effects on the human body. Estrogen is a natural hormone that is important for bone growth, blood clotting and reproduction. Men naturally have lower levels of estrogen than women, but when xenoestrogens enter the body, they increase the total amount of estrogen resulting in estrogen dominance, which has become more prevalent in the male population. Xenoestrogens cannot be broken down by the body so they are consequently stored in fat cells. Buildups of xenoestrogens have been indicated in many conditions including prostate and testicular cancer, obesity, and diabetes. The scary thing is, these EDCs are found in everything from meat and dairy products to shampoo, toothpaste and household cleaning products.
So what can men do to protect themselves? These chemicals are everywhere and can seem somewhat unavoidable, but there are certain steps that can be taken to reduce your toxic load. Start by swapping the chemically derived products that you use on a daily basis for more natural ones. A reliable resource to search for men’s health products free of EDCs can be found at www.ewg.org. You can also download the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep app, which let’s you scan the barcode of any product and compare the ingredients and potential risks associated with that particular item.
Tips to reduce your Toxic Load:
- Buy and eat organic produce and organic free-range meat and dairy to reduce your exposure to pesticides and fertilizers. Choose wild over farm-raised fish to reduce mercury and PCB exposure.
- Avoid pre-packaged and processed foods as they are high in chemical preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and food coloring.
- Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap and canned foods, unless specifically labeled BPA-free.
- Drink distilled or filtered water. Water helps to dilute and flush out toxins. Install a filter on your tap and in your shower to reduce exposure to chlorine, fluoride and other contaminants.
- Improve the quality of your air. Invest in an air purifier and houseplants. One houseplant can clear up to 100 square feet. Peace lilies, pot mums and snake plants have the widest range of toxin elimination.
- Throw away your bleach and conventional cleaning products and switch to natural ones. Better yet, make your own! It’s simple and cost-effective and greatly reduces your chemical exposure.
- Switch over to natural brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorants that are free of phthalates, aluminum and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
- Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances.
- Replace your aluminum or non-stick Teflon pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
- Limit your use of prescription and over-the-counter medication as much as possible.
- Get rid of your microwave, as it emits radiation and has been linked to decreased fertility rates and cancer. There are healthier ways of reheating your food, like on the stove or in a toaster oven.
- Carry your phone in your back pocket or in a bag or briefcase to reduce radiation exposure. Turn your phone on Airplane Mode at night and never sleep with it near your head.