Chemicals in flame retardants, food, and water interrupt normal hormone function.
The first study with enough volunteers to assess the real impact of flame retarding chemicals on humans clearly links these chemicals with lower levels of thyroid hormones in pregnant women. A 10-fold increase polybrominated diphenyl esters (PBDEs) was directly associated with a 10.9 to 18.7 decrease in thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in research recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
This study also suggests possible risks to a pregnant woman’s unborn child. “A mother’s thyroid hormones affect her developing baby throughout her pregnancy, and they are essential for fetal brain development,” says Brenda Eskenazi, PhD, professor of epidemiology and maternal/child health at UC Berkeley.
As many as 97% of all Americans have these chemicals in their bloodstream—often at levels 20 times higher than Europeans, who have banned PBDEs. Now banned by several states in this country, polybrominated diphenyl esters are commonly found in carpets, cars, children’s clothing, electronics, furniture, mattresses, and plastics.
Other flame retardants have not yet been restricted—and animal studies show hormone-disrupting effects from these chemicals as well. In addition, new research in British daycare centers and primary school classrooms finds higher than expected levels of PBDEs as well as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in dust there, exposing toddlers and young children to these dangerous toxins.
Flame retardants are only one pollutant that interferes with hormone balance. Used in fertilizers, nitrates that end up in our food and water have been linked to increased risk for thyroid cancer in women, according to a new study in the journal Epidemiology.
These substances can also cause problems in infants—like blue baby syndrome where the blood loses its ability to transfer oxygen from the lungs to tissues—when water from agricultural areas is used to prepare formula. Then there are the long-term risks from exposing developing children to carcinogens.
Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical in plastics, dental sealants, and the lining of tin cans, is a prime suspect in early puberty among girls. More than 130 studies have also linked this hormone-mimicking chemical to a range of health problems from birth and reproductive defects to cancers, diabetes, and obesity.
These are only three of the all-too numerous endocrine-disrupting chemicals we’re exposed to daily. Not only do we live in an increasingly chemical world, but in the last decade I’ve come to realize that the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from all our electronic gadgets, PDAs, cell and cordless phones can also damage hormone function. Radiation from EMFs zeroes in on the thyroid like the bull’s eye on a target.
Too Much or Too Little?
While the Berkeley researchers linked PBDEs to subclinical or undiagnosed hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) in pregnant women, other research suggests that subclinical hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is much more prevalent. I hear from women of all ages—starting in their late 20s—how their doctor has put them on thyroid meds like Armour and Synthyroid.
Next to diabetes, hypothyroidism is the most common endocrine disorder in the United States. A sluggish thyroid will slow your metabolism, making it hard to lose weight. Recent research also links hypothyroidism to greater risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, as well as depression and neuromuscular or reproductive problems.
The Right Minerals
Bromide—a trace mineral found in pesticides (including those used on strawberries), dough conditioner in baked goods, brominated vegetable oils used in citrus-flavored drinks (like Mountain Dew, Fresca, and Gatorade), certain meds, electronics, hot tub and pool treatments, and PBDEs—is increasingly common today. Since bromide competes for the same receptors in the body as iodine—a critical mineral that supports normal thyroid function—it’s no wonder that low thyroid function is so prevalent!
Used in public drinking water and oral care, fluoride is another mineral that alters thyroid function. “The recent decline in iodine in the United States could contribute to increased toxicity of fluoride for some individuals,” one report concludes. Consider the Fluoride & Bromide Provocation Test, which measures levels of substances that prevent the uptake of iodine in the body.
An Iodine Loading Test, which uses a urine sample to measure how well your tissues are absorbing iodine from your diet, is another excellent way to determine if you’re getting this thyroid-friendly mineral.
While commercial table salt usually contains iodine, this is not the best way to boost iodine intake. In fact, “salt iodination, which is performed routinely in many countries, may increase the incidence of overt hypothyroidism,” a new Greek study concludes. Kelp and other sea vegetables are excellent sources of natural iodine. Use Seaweed Gomasio to season your food, rather than iodized salt.
Copper overload—from birth control pills and copper IUDs, copper pipes and cookware, dental fillings and crowns, and foods (cocoa and chocolate, yeast, soy, and even tea)—can also suppress thyroid function. In several decades’ experience with Tissue Mineral Analysis, I’ve observed that elevated tissue levels of copper are frequently linked to a sluggish thyroid. So be sure to get enough zinc—from eggs, grass-fed meats, poultry, seafood, and pumpkin seeds—to keep copper in balance.
Fat Flush for Life