Over the last couple of decades, environmental and reproductive health advocates have been sounding the alarm about the devastating impact that short-term and long-term exposure to toxic chemicals in our environment has on male and female fertility. And, these folks are not just crying wolf: The mounting evidence linking exposure to environmental toxins with impaired reproductive function (including decreasing fertility rates and increasing rates of pregnancy complications) grows larger and larger with each passing year.
Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to completely avoid exposure to the chemicals that harm reproductive health, which is certainly unsettling news for trying-to-conceive couples. These chemicals, often referred to as endocrine disruptors because of their ability to wreak havoc with the normal function of our hormones, are everywhere in our environment. You breathe them in, drink them in, eat them, and apply them to your hair and skin when using cosmetics and shampoos.
While it is impossible to completely avoid exposure to toxins in today’s world, there are steps you can take to mitigate their effect on your reproductive health. Here are 10 things you can do to reduce the toxic burden in your body:
1. Get to know the enemy. Here is an introduction to the chemicals that may be reducing your fertility. By familiarizing yourself with these names, you can take steps to reduce your exposure, remembering of course, that some exposure is inevitable.
Bisphenol–A: BPA is used to make the plastics found in food and drink containers, the lining of tin cans, toys, baby bottles, dental sealants, flame retardants, and plastic wraps. The story of BPA clearly illustrates the uphill climb that environmental and reproductive health advocates face when trying to initiate change. Armed with a large body of scientific evidence (based on animal research) that reveals that BPA exposure contributes to heart disease, diabetes, as well as fertility and reproductive issues, advocates have been lobbying for years to get BPA banned. In January 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did officially state concern about the health effects of BPA exposure, although no additional action was taken to restrict the use of BPA in the manufacturing of plastics.
Parabens: These chemicals are found primarily in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals as a preservative, appearing on ingredient labels with names like methylparaben, ethylparaben and propylparaben.
Phthalates: These chemicals are added to plastics to make them more flexible and resilient. Phthalates are found in lots of different products that we come in contact with daily, including detergents, plastic bags, food packaging, shower curtains, children’s toys, soaps and shampoos, and hair spray. Again, it is important to read labels, as these chemicals may appear in the ingredient listing with names like DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate).
Dioxin: A general name given to a group of hundreds of chemicals that are formed during industrial processes that involve the use of chlorine, including waste incineration, chemical and pesticide manufacturing, and pulp and paper bleaching. Dioxin is released into the air and settles onto the ground where it contaminates soils, and thereby makes its way into the food supply.
Organophosphates and organochlorines: These compounds are used in the manufacture of pesticides and herbicides.
Heavy metals: Due to industrial processes, pollution from automobiles, cigarette smoke, and heavy pesticide use, heavy metals (such as cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic) pervade our food supply and our environment. As a result, most people are exposed on a daily basis to these metals, which can accumulate in our organs and impair reproductive health.
2. Support organic farming. Whenever possible choose organic produce, dairy products, and meats. Buying “organic” guarantees that your food will be free of pesticide residues and artificial growth hormones. And, it is important to remember that many toxic chemicals are stored in fatty tissues, which means that organic dairy products and meats that contain fat (which all of them do to some extent) will have fewer contaminants than animal products coming from conventionally raised livestock.
3. Break the habit. Cigarette smoke is a major source of heavy metal exposure.
4. Say no to BPA. Avoid purchasing food and drinks packaged in plastics containing bisphenol -A. And, never microwave food in plastic containers.
5. Drink filtered water. And, be sure to avoid bottled water packaged in plastic bottles containing bisphenol-A.
6. Supplement with fish oil. Omega 3 fatty acids (found primarily in fish oil) are an important part of a healthy diet, and especially important for trying-to-conceive and pregnant women. But, unfortunately, the fish that are high in Omega 3s also tend to have high levels of mercury. By supplementing with a high-quality fish oil supplement, such as Pregnancy Plus Omega 3, you will reap the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids without the risk of increasing your mercury levels.
7. Put the green in clean. Use only non-toxic cleaning supplies in your home.
8. Free yourself from parabens and phthalates. Read the labels of the personal care products you use very carefully, and avoid products that contain phthalates and parabens.
9. Don’t contaminate your yard. Choose natural, non-toxic alternatives to conventional pesticides and fertilizers for your lawn and garden care needs.
10. Take FertileDetox! At Fairhaven Health, we, too, are concerned about the impact of environmental toxins on reproductive health. In response, we gathered our team of doctors and nutritionists together to develop FertileDetox, a comprehensive formulation designed to enhance fertility in women and men by helping the body’s detoxification systems to neutralize and remove the toxic compounds that diminish reproductive health. For more information on how FertileDetox can enhance your trying-to-conceive efforts, check out www.fertiledetox.com.