Plastic. It's everywhere these days because it is so convenient. Cheap to produce (a petroleum bi-product), strong, light, easy to clean and literally indestructible. But as with many 'indispensable' things that modern society has adopted due to their convenience, plastics are not only having a massive impact on the health of the planet (through production pollution and at the other end of their lifespan, as waste) but they are also contributing to the ever growing epidemic of lifestyle diseases through their affect on hormones.
Plastics - hormone disruptors
Some of the chemicals used to manufacture plastics are hormone disruptive, with phthalates and BPA being the worst offenders. Please also refer to my Blog On the Nose in regards to phthalates in synthetic fragrances. What does hormone disruptive mean, and why does this even matter, after all a lot of the time hormones get a pretty bad press? In actual fact hormones are vital chemical messengers that coordinate the processes of growth, metabolism and fertility. In addition, hormones help to control the immune system.
Hormone disruption can mean several things, including that the chemicals (such as BPA and phthalates): mimic hormones, interfere with the production of hormones, prevent the effective utilisation of hormones, cause generalised inflammation (due to immune system compromise) and they can also impede the detoxification processes required with excess hormones.
Doesn't my body deal with chemical exposure itself?
The human body is incredible and is designed with its own in built detoxification systems but the problem with plastics is that they are everywhere and the chemicals they contain remain in the body for a long time, so we are constantly being re-exposed to these substances and our marvellous detoxification organs, such as the liver, cannot keep up. When the body cannot rid itself of toxins one of the ways it deals with them is by storing them in fat cells, the greater the toxin build up, the more fat cells are produced and the body wants desperately to hold onto them. What this means is that your body may respond to toxin overload with weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Yep, that's right, plastics are obesogenic!!!
Other health risks associated with the chemicals in plastics (due to hormone disruption, particularly of oestrogen) are:
- breast cancer
- prostate cancer
- early onset puberty
- fertility issues
Aargh - what can I do about this?
Firstly, the worst thing to do is to get super stressed about the situation!! Take a deep breath because you don't know what you don't know!! Below I will give you lots of suggestions both about what to use instead of plastics and how to support your body to deal with the chemicals it is exposed to unavoidably in this plastic-filled world.
How to use plastics more safely
- avoid the worst ones completely - those with the number 3, 6 & 7 on the bottom
- do not place hot foods into plastic containers, heating plastic is the best way to get it to release its chemical constituents!
- never heat food in the microwave in a plastic container
- don't store ANY food in plastic for a long time
- highly acidic and highly alkaline substances react with plastics, so avoid storing these in plastics at all (eg.vinegar)
What to use instead of plastic
For takeaway food (tricky I know):
- take your own glass or metal containers
- if you have to pick up in plastic at least transfer the food out of this ASAP
- check out the Fair Food Forager app for food venues that encourage you to BYO containers
For wrapping food:
- beeswax wraps
- unbleached parchment paper
- silicon wraps (do not heat silicon either though)
How to Support your Body to manage chemical exposure from plastics (and other stuff!)
- Drink lots of water (~2 litres per day depending on your levels of activity)
- Eat lots of fibre so that you avoid constipation (when waste sits in the colon toxins can become reabsorbed) - whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds
- Move (the lymphatic system needs you to move in order to function)
- Exfoliate using a loofah or dry skin brushing
- Support your liver: avoid fats, sugar, alcohol and processed foods, and do all of the above! Citrus essential oils are also excellent for liver support, try using lemon or lime oil.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like any further information about any of this or anything else to do with your wellbeing!