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Factsheet: How to Detox from environmental chemicals

By April 20, 2022No Comments
environmental chemicals

In our recent blog post, we outlined how everyday environmental chemicals, such as phthalates, BPA, parabens, and pesticides, to which we are exposed can negatively impact female and male fertility. Because these chemicals are quite literally everywhere in our environment and our homes, reducing and avoiding exposure can seem like an impossible task. But it is possible to significantly reduce your exposure to these chemicals. Here’s how!

Start in the kitchen

By far the most significant exposure to hormone-disrupting environmental chemicals is through the food we eat. So much of the food we buy is packaged in plastic packaging, and we then store our food in plastic containers and cling film in the home. When food is stored in these containers, BPA and phthalates can leach into the food stored in them, and we then consume these chemicals in our meals. 

A recent study found that avoiding packaged food for 3 days resulted in a 66% drop in BPA levels detected in the urine. While another study found that people who ate one serving of canned soup for five days had BPA levels 12 times higher than those who had eaten fresh homemade soup. So simply by cooking fresh food more and reducing our reliance on food from plastic packaging, we can significantly reduce our exposure to BPA. Purchase loose vegetables and fruit where possible in the supermarket or greengrocers, or consider ordering a vegetable box direct from a local farm. 

Pesticides on non-organic fruit and vegetables and other foods are capable of disrupting our hormones. Buying organic when possible and washing fruit and vegetables thoroughly can help reduce exposure to pesticides. Washing vegetables with bicarbonate of soda solution or a pre-made vegetables wash (we really like Bentley Organic Salad, Fruit, and Veg Wash) has been shown to remove over 90% of pesticide residues. 

In your kitchen get rid of all plastic containers and replace them will glass, stainless steel, ceramic, or silicone containers, and avoid wrapping your food in cling film. Plastic containers that claim to be BPA-free can still contain other harmful plastics so it’s best to give those a miss too and never microwave or reheat food in plastic containers. Plastic containers that have the recycling codes 3,6 and 7 on the bottom are the most harmful so it’s worth checking the codes on the products you buy most often and seeking out alternatives where necessary. 

Cooking with Teflon and non-stick cookware is another way that these plastics can make their way into our food, especially when these pans are heated to high temperatures. It’s best to use stainless steel or cast iron pans. A company called Green Pan makes high-quality plastic-free non-stick cookware. 

Check your water, coffee, and chewing gum? 

We all know that drinking plenty of water is essential to our health, but plastic bottled water and tap water can also be a source of these hormone-disrupting environmental chemicals. Using a charcoal filter has been shown to remove BPA from tap water so filtering tap water and storing it in a glass or stainless steel container is an ideal way to ensure the water you drink is free of environmental chemicals. If you like to drink mineral water try to buy it in a glass bottle. 

Coffee sold in plastic capsules and then processed through a machine with plastic tubing exposes the body to significant amounts of BPA and phthalates, especially if you’re having 2-3 coffees every day. Swapping to a French press coffee maker is an easy change to help reduce exposure. 

Lastly, did you know that chewing gum contains a form of vinyl that contains phthalates? So give up on this habit or source plastic-free plant-based chewing gums. 

Detox your bathroom cabinet

Even though phthalates are a form of plastic they are commonly added to cosmetics, hair dyes, body creams, nail varnish, and fragranced products as they act to fix dyes and fragrances in these products. Parabens are a preservative commonly used in cosmetics and skincare which can also act to mimic hormones and disturb reproductive health. So the numerous skincare products we store in our bathroom and the makeup in our make-up bag are major sources of hormone-disrupting chemicals that can potentially interfere with our reproductive health. We apply these products to our skin every day and can absorb these chemicals through our skin or even breathe them in. 

Detoxing your bathroom by swapping your cosmetics and toiletries with products that are formulated without parabens and phthalates is an important step in reducing your exposure to environmental chemicals. Avoiding perfumed products and nail varnish (especially long-lasting gel nail polish) is a great first step, which will significantly reduce exposure to phthalates very quickly. 

Many companies are now producing ‘clean’ and ‘green’ cosmetics free of chemicals so it’s worth doing your research and looking into what is in your favourite toiletries. The Environmental Working Group website https://www.ewg.org/ provides a lot of reliable consumer advice on how to decide which products to use. Be aware of products that sound like they may be natural with claims such as ‘fragrance-free’ or ‘contains plant extracts’ but contain a lot of potentially harmful chemicals. 

Do female personal care products contain chemicals? 

Yes, they do. In fact, tampons and sanitary towels contain a lot of chemicals. These products often contain bleaches and dyes and fragrances which are then absorbed into the body and bloodstream. In one study a group of women swapped their standard sanitary protection for natural brands and in 3 days their exposure to phthalates dropped by 27% and the levels of parabens in their urine dropped by 45%. 

Chemical-free alternatives to tampons and sanitary towels include menstrual cups, period pants, and organic and chemical-free products. 

Dry Cleaning

The chemicals typically used in dry cleaning are known hormone disruptors. Avoid dry cleaning your clothes as much as possible and always air clothes that have been dry cleaned before hanging them in your wardrobe. Many eco dry cleaners, that dry clean without harmful chemicals, are now available so it’s worth checking if there is one near you. 

Professional exposure 

You might be exposed to some of these chemicals in your professional life. If this is the case try to reduce exposure when possible by wearing gloves and face masks and ensuring good ventilation of the professional space. If you have the option you may want to investigate if chemical-free alternatives are available for your business, for example, the company OWAY produces reduced chemical hair dyes. 

How Diet & Lifestyle choices can protect us from these chemicals 

Several diet and lifestyle practices have been found to protect our bodies and our reproductive health from the damaging impact of these chemicals. So, together with reducing exposure, following these dietary and lifestyle practices will really help to reduce the negative impact of BPA, parabens, phthalates, and pesticides. 

Eat kimchi and take a probiotic

The spicy fermented cabbage dish kimchi contains a type of bacteria that has been shown to break down the plastic BPA so that it is no longer harmful. So incorporating kimchi into your diet regularly is a tasty way to protect against exposure to BPA. 

Having a healthy gut microbiome (the population of good bacteria in our gut) has also been shown to protect our bodies against the negative impact of BPA, so a high-quality probiotic supplement that looks after our gut microbiome (such as NuaBiome Women & NuaBiome Men) is a great addition to any supplement programme designed to boost fertility. 

Take a supplement that contains folate and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Women who consumed at least 400µg of folate every day were less likely to be affected by exposure to BPA than those who consumed less than 400µg of folate every day. Those women consuming enough folate did not experience any reduction in chances of conception and achieving pregnancy with BPA exposure, so taking a quality multivitamin that provides 400µg of folate and consuming foods rich in folate such as beans and lentils and leafy green vegetables is an important way to protect reproductive health and chances of conceiving against hormone-disrupting chemicals. 

The antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 can potentially reverse the damage to egg cells caused by the plastic BPA. So taking a fertility-boosting supplement that contains Coenzyme Q10 (such as NuaBiome Women) can help look after our reproductive health in the face of chemical exposure.

Sweat it out

Sweating can help to eliminate phthalates from the body. When researchers examined the concentration of phthalates in sweat and urine, they found that sweat contained twice the concentration of phthalates that urine did. So sweating regularly through aerobic exercise is a good way of helping to reduce our body’s exposure to phthalates.

Sweating in steam rooms and saunas could also potentially help the body detox phthalates, however, using steam rooms and saunas is not safe during pregnancy. Hence, women trying to conceive who could be in the early stages of pregnancy should not use saunas or steam rooms. 

Drink Green Tea & Supplement chlorella

Compounds present in green tea have been shown to protect cells from damage by BPA, whereas the algae chlorella was shown to remove 90% of BPA from a cell culture in a laboratory experiment. Drinking around 3 cups of green tea daily is recommended, and you could consider a chlorella supplement, especially if you are exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals professionally. Chlorella is known to be safe to supplement during pregnancy. However, always check with your GP or healthcare provider before introducing chlorella into your supplement programme. 

References

Carwile JL, Ye X, Zhou X, Calafat AM, Michels KB. Canned soup consumption and urinary bisphenol A: a randomized crossover trial. JAMA. 2011;306(20):2218-2220.

Huang PC, Liao KW, Chang JW, Chan SH, Lee CC. Characterization of phthalates exposure and risk for cosmetics and perfume sales clerks. Environ Pollut. 2018 Feb;233:577-587. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.10.079. Epub 2017 Nov 5. PMID: 29102888.

Genuis SJ, Beesoon S, Lobo RA, Birkholz D. Human elimination of phthalate compounds: blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study. ScientificWorldJournal. 2012;2012:615068. doi: 10.1100/2012/615068. Epub 2012 Oct 31. PMID: 23213291; PMCID: PMC3504417.

Javurek AB, Spollen WG, Johnson SA, Bivens NJ, Bromert KH, Givan SA, Rosenfeld CS. Effects of exposure to bisphenol A and ethinyl estradiol on the gut microbiota of parents and their offspring in a rodent model. Gut Microbes. 2016 Nov;7(6):471-485. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2016.1234657. Epub 2016 Sep 13. PMID: 27624382; PMCID: PMC5103659.

Karwacka A, Zamkowska D, Radwan M, Jurewicz J. Exposure to modern, widespread environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals and their effect on the reproductive potential of women: an overview of current epidemiological evidence. Hum Fertil (Camb). 2019 Apr;22(1):2-25. doi: 10.1080/14647273.2017.1358828. Epub 2017 Jul 31. PMID: 28758506.

Kuruto-Niwa R, Inoue S, Ogawa S, Muramatsu M, Nozawa R. Effects of tea catechins on the ERE-regulated estrogenic activity. J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Dec;48(12):6355-61. doi: 10.1021/jf0008487. PMID: 11312808.

Oishi K, Sato T, Yokoi W, Yoshida Y, Ito M, Sawada H. Effect of probiotics, Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacillus casei, on bisphenol A exposure in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008 Jun;72(6):1409-15. doi: 10.1271/bbb.70672. Epub 2008 Jun 7. PMID: 18540113.

Rudel RA, Gray JM, Engel CL, Rawsthorne TW, Dodson RE, Ackerman JM, Rizzo J, Nudelman JL, Brody JG. Food packaging and bisphenol A and bis(2-ethyhexyl) phthalate exposure: findings from a dietary intervention. Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Jul;119(7):914-20.

Wallner P, Kundi M, Hohenblum P, Scharf S, Hutter HP. Phthalate Metabolites, Consumer Habits and Health Effects. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jul 15;13(7):717. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13070717. PMID: 27428989; PMCID: PMC4962258.

Yamanaka H, Moriyoshi K, Ohmoto T, Ohe T, Sakai K. Degradation of bisphenol A by Bacillus pumilus isolated from kimchi, a traditionally fermented food. Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2007 Jan;136(1):39-51. doi: 10.1007/BF02685937. PMID: 17416976.

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Amy Martin

Marketing Director

Amy is a high achieving individual with a number of marketing awards under her belt, including Young Digital Business Person of the Year 2019. She is a big believer in digital marketing and an expert in executing personalised targeted campaigns. Amy strives to learn from data and campaigns that show return on investment.

Robert Gordon

Managing Director, Gordons Chemists

 

Robert Gordon, director at Gordons Chemist's. Gordons Chemists is a chain of more than 60 pharmacies, located in NI and Scotland. Gordons Chemists is Northern Ireland's largest independent pharmacy chain.

Dr. Debbie Collins

MBBchBAO MRCGP

 

Dr. Debbie Collins MBBchBAO MRCGP, a practicing GP and partner in Belfast. She has a passion for patient education and advocacy. Her special interests are Women's Health and Fertility

Sarah Trimble

Nutritional Therapist

 

Sarah Trimble - a nutritional therapist with a passion for good food instead of fad diets. Sarah has a particular Interest in using the power of nutrition to support hormonal imbalances and reproductive health.

Barbara Scott

Director, Seren Natural Fertility
Chair, Association of Reproductive Reflexologists

 

Barbara Scott is Chair of The Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, founder of Seren Natural Fertility and author of Reflexology for Fertility. In 2017, she was awarded ‘Complementary Therapist of the Year’ by the Federation of Holistic Therapists and has been nominated for several awards within the field of complementary therapy. In 2019 she was awarded the Innovation in Reflexology Award by the Association of Reflexologists.

Barbara speaks and lectures globally on her integrative approach to supporting couples having difficulties conceiving. She has spoken at many of the Fertility Shows and Fertility Fest. Alongside her own busy clinics, she also trains practitioners in providing this integrative, approach to fertility and reproductive healthcare and well-being. The ARR (Association of Reproductive Reflexologists) has trained practitioners globally, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and most areas of the UK.

Her expertise and passion is in advocating a patient-centred and integrative approach to supporting both men and women on their journey to parenthood.

Cindy Charles

Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife

 

Cindy Charles- Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife. Cindy is a committed advocate of social and personal development. Her own life experiences inspired her fertility support services. Cindy has worked with the Fertility Network UK, and has had the privilege to work as a resident Fertility Coach for the London Women's Clinic on Harley Street. Cindy believes in the importance of nurturing our own fertility.

Dr. Lyuda Shkrobot

MD, MSc Gynecologist, Fertility specialist at unq.life fertility clinic

 

Dr Lyuda has a special interest in reproductive immunology. Dr Shkrobot assisted in establishing the first European Donor Egg programme at Sims, coordinating and liaising with Intersono Clinic in Ukraine Advisors. She is passionate about patient-centred, results-driven care.

Lisa Corcoran

Business Development Executive

 

Lisa has 15 years of commercial business experience. She has proven her capabilities in Investment Property Sales and, Management & Business Development for Technology companies that have provided her with an understanding of different customer needs across several sectors. Lisa appreciates the value of customer education and relationship building in long-lasting partnerships.

Aoibheann Murphy

Chief Financial Officer

 

Having trained with PWC, Aoibheann qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1997. She subsequently spent eight years working in industry, gaining invaluable experience in many areas In 2005 Aoibheann became MD of Pangur Consulting, providing professional expertise to a broad client base. She is looking forward to the new challenge of Nua Fertility.
 

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

Right craic!
 

Do you prefer podcasts or books? And of the one that you prefer, what is a show or title that you recommend?

I love sport…any sport…and the outdoors. Living in the Barrow valley I get to enjoy swimming and kayaking in the Barrow and exploring the Blackstairs mountains. Since I hung up my soccer boots (the body just couldn’t take it anymore!), I’ve been cycling with my lovely friends in Mount Leinster Wheelers and was chuffed to have completed the Ironman 70.3 triathlon event in Dublin in 2019!
I’m an avid reader…books beat podcasts hands down!...although recently I’ve dabbled with audio books through the library app Borrow Box. “A Little Life” left its mark on me. A harrowing story, definitely not for the faint hearted.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on women on their journey to parenthood, what would it be?

Don’t be consumed by the roles in your life – parent, partner, employee etc. Parenthood, be it getting there or going through it, will have its tough times. Cherishing yourself as an individual and making time for yourself can help you through those times….it’s good to be a bit selfish!!

Mark Mullins

Director of Sales

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

To be honest it was very difficult. At the beginning we thought that when we decided that we wanted to start a family Deborah would fall pregnant shortly afterwards like many of her friends. As time went by, we started to suspect something was wrong. After initial tests we found out that I had a low sperm count which meant that we would have to go down the assisted pregnancy route. This took me several months to get my head around as I blamed myself for this. All I wanted was my wife to be able to go through the pregnancy journey. We couldn’t wait to become parents. There were many long and painful nights where I thought this would never happen for us. After several failed attempts we decided to look at further ways of improving our chances. This led us to look at fertility supplements, our diet, exercise. I will never forget when that morning during our Two Week Wait when Deborah woke me up at 5 a.m. to show me those two lines, we had both been yearning for! We are blessed to now have our beautiful daughter.
 

On challenging days, what kept you going? Where did you find inspiration?

My wife was my inspiration. She kept me going through those challenging months and years. She was there to help me deal with everything. The guilt I felt when I saw her having to go through everything.
 

What is your ideal was to relax and unwind?

My latest passion is cooking on my BBQ. I find it so peaceful and I just switch off. It just gives me a bit of alone time which everyone needs.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on men as they begin trying to become parents, what would it be?

I would highly recommend communicating with friends and family. A problem shared is a problem halved. Failing that there are some really good private Facebook groups for men suffering from infertility. I found this great support through the good and especially the bad times.

Deborah Brock

Founder & CEO of Nua Fertility

 

Deborah has a personal passion for fertility health, supporting people and communities. With over 15 years experience of working in the Non profit and Education sector, I have had the honour of working together with people and communities focusing on their strengths, capacities and assets. With extensive senior management, project management and creative programme development experience.

How did your experience with fertility inspire you to help start Nua Fertility?

My own personal fertility journey opened my eyes to the world of fertility health. Trying for a baby is one of the most exciting yet vulnerable times in your life. It took myself and my husband over three years and the helping hand of science to become a mum.  I have always worked with people and communities and felt my vision for Nua Fertility could genuinely support others who have fertility challenges.

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

I'm am curious person and love all things research. My ideal evening would be reading and exploring scientific journals! I like to think I am a little bit creative and I LOVE paint by numbers! Its probably the only time I slow down, I become immersed in the painting and think of nothing else.

What do you want to tell someone trying to conceive or already pregnant?

Educate yourself! Knowledge is power. The more you inform yourself about your fertility health the more you are empowering yourself with knowledge. Own your journey and take control over your own fertility health.

What’s something you wish someone told you while trying to conceive?

Open up and talk with friends and family. I was surrounded by amazing friends and family but I never opened up. When your struggling to conceive, a non-judgemental ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on is so powerful.