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PCOS: Can banishing endocrine disruptors help PCOS symptoms?

I had never heard of PCOS until I was invited to be a guest on The PCOS Revolution Podcast with Farrar Duro, DOM. I Googled "PCOS" and learned that it stands for polycystic ovary syndrome, a common endocrine disorder in women that can affect their fertility.

Since our exposures to endocrine disruptors are chronic and overlooked, I welcomed this opportunity to examine whether reducing our toxic exposures from what we buy and do can help those who live with PCOS and for those who would like to reduce their risks from developing PCOS. While the research on PCOS is in its infancy, there are many simple tweaks we can incorporate to reduce the risks of hormone disruption. And this can help not just you, but it may also help your children and grandchildren.

Read on for more. You'll also find below 11 tips to reduce your exposures to endocrine disruptors.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Estimated to affect up to 10% of women of childbearing age(1), PCOS is still being studied for its causes, effects, and management. Those with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance that can contribute to the common signs or complications below, which is not a complete list.

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Excess facial and body hair (hirsutism)
  • Enlarged ovaries that may also contain follicles that surround the eggs. This may lead the ovaries to fail to function regularly.(2)
  • Infertility. According to the CDC, "PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility, affecting 6% to 12% (as many as 5 million) of US women of reproductive age."(6)

While obesity is closely associated with PCOS, studies on whether obesity causes PCOS or is caused by PCOS are "scarce" (3). However, "in the United States, more than half of the patients with PCOS are either overweight or obese"(3). Obesity seems to exacerbate PCOS symptoms(2).

According to the CDC, "PCOS is a lifelong health condition that continues far beyond the child-bearing years."(6) Those with PCOS may be more likely to develop:

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer)
  • Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders
  • Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease(2)
  • Miscarriage or premature birth
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes

Can banishing endocrine disruptors help PCOS symptoms?

Since PCOS is associated with hormone imbalance, I wondered about the endocrine disrupting chemicals that have flooded our environment, homes, and bodies since World War II.

While researchers continue to study the environmental influences of PCOS, we know that there are many endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in household products. How they affect us is complex and the research has a long way to go. You can learn more about this in Detox 101.

It's important to remember that nearly 85,000 man-made chemicals have been introduced into American commerce since World War II. Only about one percent of them have been studied for safety. As researchers study them further, they are humbled by the possible implications for human and environmental health. One concern is the effects from endocrine disruption: Approximately 1,000 chemicals have been tagged as endocrine disruptors or potential endocrine disruptors, but the true number is unknown.

11 Tips to reduce your exposures to endocrine disruptors

Below are 11 tips to reduce your exposures to endocrine disruptors. If you are a caregiver to young children, please be extra diligent in reducing the children's exposures. We are especially vulnerable during certain stages of development (like prenatal, post-natal, early childhood, puberty, and maybe menopause).

1. BPA. A hormone disruptor and a reproductive toxicant(4) in both men and women, Bisphenal A has been used since the 1950s for various purposes. Since obesity and PCOS are associated with each other, it is relevant for those with PCOS to know that BPA also appears to have obesogenic properties, making one prone to being overweight(5). Also, data suggests that BPA concentrations are higher in women with PCOS than in reproductively healthy women(5).

BPA can be found in the inner linings of some canned goods, and in some plastics. So avoiding canned goods and plastics when possible is one way to reduce your BPA exposures. While it's impossible to completely avoid BPA and its substitute chemicals, which can also disrupt hormones, you can significantly reduce your exposures to BPA and BPA substitutes.

2. Eat more a more whole foods, plant-based diet. As is explained in great detail in A to Z of D-Toxing some of the most persistent hormone disruptors accumulate in our food chain, and are found in greater concentrations in animals and animal-based products, like dairy, meat, poultry, and seafood. Cutting down on these types of products and eating more of a plant-based diet is a great way to boost your health for many reasons. 

3. Prioritize your budget for organic foods. While it's impossible to eat a diet that's 100% organic, you can prioritize. Refer to the Environmental Working Group's list of the most polluted foods, the Dirty Dozen list, to prioritize your budget for organic items that are among the Dirty Dozen. And you can use the Clean 15 list to see which items are better to buy non-organic.

4. Wash your hands before you eat. Hormone disrupting chemicals, including BPA, can be found as a coating on some types of paper, including thermal receipts. Other types of hormone disrupting chemicals, like chemical flame retardants, have been found in dust. So wash your hands before you eat!

5. Don't allow shoes to be worn inside your home. The bottom of our shoes can transport toxic chemicals and heavy metals into your home. Examples include lead, arsenic, and not just common pesticides but also pesticides banned or phased out decades ago, like DDT.

6. Discard what you don't need. Most synthetic things contribute to indoor pollutionwhether by emitting toxic fumes, contributing to toxic dust, or making it harder to clean toxic dust. And some things are a reservoir of toxic dust, like carpets, rugs, and stuffed animals. So if you don't need it, get rid of it. The D-Tox Academy can help you edit your stuff (and habits).

7. Buy less stuff. Following up on tip #6 above, buying less is better for your indoor environment and it helps your budget. So buy mindfully. The D-Tox Academy can help you buy less toxic things.

8. Own fewer electronics and things with polyurethane foam. These tend to have toxic chemicals, like chemical flame retardants, that can pose health risks.

9. Minimize unnecessary EMFs. Since reproductive challenges can affect those with PCOS, be aware that EMFs (like from cell phone radiation) have proven to damage sperm quality. For help on reducing EMF exposures that you won't miss, consider the EMF Detox.

10. Avoid or minimize pesticides use. Use pesticides conservatively as these pose risks to human health, especially to young life.

11. Avoid or minimize fragrance. Fragrance can contain up to hundreds of chemicals, including those that can cause toxicity to the brain, nervous system, reproductive system, and more. Read labels to avoid unnecessary fragrance exposures.


(1) PCOS and Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke... Page last reviewed: March 1, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/spotlights/pcos.html

(2) Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Aug. 29, 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439

(3) Yildiz et al, 2008."Impact of Obesity on the Risk for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome." J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan; 93(1): 162–168. Published online 2007 Oct 9. doi: 10.1210/jc.2007-1834. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2190739/

(4) Peretz et al, 2014. Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 122, No. 8. "Bisphenol A and Reproductive Health: Update of Experimental and Human Evidence, 2007–2013." https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1307728 

(5) Barrett et al, 2014. Semin Reprod Med. 2014 May;32(3):166-76. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1371088. Epub 2014 Apr 8. "Polycystic ovary syndrome: do endocrine-disrupting chemicals play a role?" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24715511 

(6) CDC 2019. "PCOS and Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke..." Page last reviewed: March 1, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/spotlights/pcos.html

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