It’s common knowledge we encounter a variety of different chemicals throughout our daily lives. From the air we breathe to the food we eat; many chemicals are unavoidable.
However, did you know one group of chemicals – Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) – could be affecting your fertility?
Below, we explore what EDCs are, how they can poorly influence your fertility, and most importantly: how to reduce your contact with them.
What are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?
EDCs are often found in water, air, food, soil, and man-made products. They have the potential to interrupt your body’s natural processes, including your reproductive system.
EDCs occur naturally in some foods, but it’s the artificial EDCs – found in approximately 800 everyday items – which are the biggest cause for concern. These EDCs are in many commonly used items, including plastics, food products, and personal care items. They are also found in various agricultural and manufacturing processes.
How Can EDCs Affect Your Fertility?
Numerous studies highlight how EDCs not only affect egg and sperm quality, but also the quality of an embryo. These chemicals may even have an adverse impact on a child’s long-term health.
Ninety-five percent of us have EDCs within our bodies, but further research suggests those struggling to conceive often have higher concentrations of certain EDCs. Furthermore, couples using ART methods to help them conceive have a lower chance of becoming pregnant if they have a higher level of EDCs.
Exactly how do EDCs interfere with our fertility?
Scientists have found EDCs can block or mimic the female and male sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. In turn, this may cause damage to sperm DNA, a decrease in egg and sperm quality, changes in hormone levels, and create a higher risk of miscarriage, difficulty conceiving, and early menopause. Often, couples struggling to start a family seek alternatives such as IVF, home insemination, and IUI (intrauterine insemination).
Common EDCS include parabens (found in cosmetic and food items), phthalates (used in plastic products to increase durability and flexibility), and bisphenols (used in tin cans, plastic products, and on sales receipts).
But, what about the naturally occurring EDCs mentioned earlier?
While flax seeds and soybeans contain phytoestrogen, which mimics estrogen, you’d have to consume a significant amount of these foods for these EDCs to negatively influence your fertility.
How to Reduce Your Contact with EDCs
Whether you’re trying to conceive on your own, are undergoing traditional or donor egg IVF, or simply want to improve your health, here are some top tips to avoid these EDCs:
- Wash your fruit and vegetables: This helps reduce your intake of any chemicals, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides on the plants you’re eating. Buying fresh produce from local sources can also minimize contact.
- Eat less processed, pre-packaged, or canned food: This limits your intake of plasticizers, phthalates, and BPA. These are often used as a coating for cans or are absorbed from cling wrap or plastics.
- Avoid handling sales receipts: Receipts get their shiny finish from a coating of BPA, so try not to handle them and don’t store them in your wallet.
- Drink out of hard plastic or glass bottles: Soft plastic bottles use various plasticizers to make them flexible.
- Don’t reheat food in a plastic takeaway box or something covered in cling wrap or foil: When heated, these products can release bisphenols and phthalates into your food. Instead, place the food in a china or glass bowl and cover it with a china plate or paper towel.
- Avoid strong chemicals, smoke, air fresheners, and heavily-perfumed products.
- Air your home as often as possible: This reduces the amount of chemical particles you inhale.
- Try to avoid using herbicides or pesticides at home, work, or in the garden. Try to use “green,” non-toxic agents to keep weeds and pests at bay instead.
- Use “green” cleaning products when possible: Avoid harsh chemicals and detergents. Look for non-toxic versions of your usual products.
- Always read the label: This helps you identify if there are any EDCs in the products you’re using. For example, look for personal care products “free of parabens” and avoid foods with anti-bacterial agents, preservatives, or additives.
By being aware of the potential chemicals in and around your home, you can easily reduce your exposure to them. In turn, this may help boost your fertility.