5 Dangers Lurking in your Deodorant

hair-spray

Have a think about your morning routine: wake-up, exercise, eat breakfast, brush your teeth and get dressed. Seems harmless enough right? Unfortunately, the step between brushing our teeth and getting dressed often involves putting on deodorant.

Our skin is our biggest organ, absorbing anything we expose it to. This includes the deodorant we rub under our armpits to stop us smelling, every single day. For healthy people, using deodorant won’t have a huge impact on their health. However, for us with an already compromised immune system, any excess exposure to toxins can be damaging.

Deodorants are designed to work outside the body (i.e. stop us smelling). However, they contain chemicals that can pass through our skin and in some cases, leach into our bloodstream. What’s scary about this is that, unlike when we eat toxins, chemicals absorbed through our skin aren’t broken down and expelled as waste through our liver and digestive system. Rather, they enter our bloodstream without being metabolized.

Here are the 5 most common deodorant/antiperspirant* ingredients that may be dangerous to your health:

  1. Aluminium

Aluminium may cause increased gene instability in breast tissue, which may be linked to changes in tumour growth. It has also been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Aluminium is used in antiperspirants to block your sweat glands, reducing the amount you sweat. So it doesn’t actually reduce the amount of sweat you produce, it only blocks it from coming out! Also, aluminium can kill off the bacteria under your arms that doesn’t produce smelly sweat, meaning that the bacteria that does make you pong, can proliferate.

  1. Phthalates

Phthalates are toxic to our reproductive organs. This chemical disrupts the androgen functions in our body and impacts our ability to build and maintain muscle. Phthalates can actually trigger signals to cells to make them die faster and earlier than they should. Avoiding this chemical is particularly important for sufferers of thyroid problems as some studies have linked phthalates to thyroid irregularities as well as hormone changes, fertility problems, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity and diabetes (read how to minimise your exposure to this chemical here).

Phthalates are used in antiperspirants/deodorants to help the product stick to your skin or hair. Shampoo, moisturiser, perfume, body wash and soap all contain phthalates and this chemical can build up in your body over time.

  1. Parabens

Parabens have been linked to changes in the production and regulation of hormones, and in particular estrogen, in our body. Like other endocrine disruptors, parabens penetrate your skin and mimic the actions of estrogen, increasing the estrogenic effect in your body. Parabens are used in antiperspirants/deodorants as a preservative.

  1. Fragrances

Scary: the chemical ingredients in fragrances are concealed and protected by trade law! So much for transparency. This means no one, besides the maker, knows exactly what goes into the product…or even worse, what the reactions could be. And just to make things worse, fragrances are usually used in products with phthalates to make them long lasting.

  1. Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol is a petroleum based chemical that is used to soften cosmetic products, making it easier to apply to the skin. This chemical has been associated with causing damage to the liver, central nervous system and heart. While manufacturers generally argue that propylene glycol is only harmful at high doses, studies have shown that it can be harmful at as small a percentage as 2%. Deodorants generally have a dose of 50% propylene glycol.

*These ingredients are also extremely common in other health care products, such as shampoo and conditioner, moisturisers, shaving gels and make-up – just to name a few!!

MTHFR and the Thyroid

As you will know from our other posts on this topic, the MTHFR gene is responsible for producing the MTHFR enzyme. When the gene is mutated, the enzyme produced does not function correctly. This incorrect function has an impact on our thyroid health and our ability to heal (because managing hypothyroidism or any other autoimmune disease isn’t tough enough!).

Conversion of T4 to T3

The Thyroid System

Unfortunately the relationship between MTHFR and the thyroid, once out of whack, can be a vicious cycle of negative impacts.

At its most basic level, hypothyroidism means low levels of thyroxine (T4) in the body. When we have a MTHFR gene mutation, it becomes more difficult for the body to convert T4 into T3.

But that doesn’t matter right? The doctor will just prescribe T3 to address the problem of an underactive thyroid…Unfortunately, this is not the case. Taking T3 in isolation ignores the body’s problem with producing T4. It’s almost like a band aid affect, as T4 is important for a number of bodily functions (but you need to make sure your body can convert the T4 to the right T3. If it converts to reverse T3 you could experience even worse problems).

T4 is responsible for producing our body’s active form of Vitamin B2, FAD (or flavin adenine dinucleotide if you want to get technical). In order for our body to use Vitamin B2 it must be converted to FAD, but if we don’t have enough T4 then we can’t convert it. Consequently the levels of FAD in our body is reduced.

FAD is important because the MTHFR enzyme relies on adequate levels of FAD to do its job properly! When FAD levels are reduced, the MTHFR enzyme slows down. A sluggish MTHFR enzyme leads to low levels of methylfolate and low SAMe.

SAMe is responsible for maintaining immune responses. Therefore when SAMe gets low, the immune responses start to get out of control. And the cycle starts again.

Adrenal HealthWhat is Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal health, thyroid problems and methylation are all interrelated. When one doesn’t function properly, the others also won’t function properly.

As we discuss above, T4 is required to convert Vitamin B2 into FAD. And FAD is important because it controls the functioning of the MTHFR enzyme. When you can’t convert Vitamin B2 into FAD, you can become Vitamin B2 deficient.

Vitamin B2 is important for adrenal health as it helps to support the strong functioning of them in the face of thyroid issues. So not only does MTHFR impact thyroid health, it also has an impact on adrenal health.

Glutathione

Methylation is also important for the production of glutathione. Glutathione is our body’s protector – it is responsible for controlling the level of inflammation in our body and detoxifying any toxins we have come across. It also helps to regulate our body’s nitric oxide cycle which is essential for a healthy functioning immune system.

When there is a MTHFR gene mutation, synthesis of glutathione is compromised. As a result, the level of glutathione required to maintain its optimum functioning is reduced. Lower glutathione means a reduced ability to detox and fight inflammation, which all have an impact on thyroid health and our ability to heal and manage autoimmune diseases.

MTHFR, Undermethylation and Overmethylation

As we have discussed in our other posts, the MTHFR gene is responsible for the MTHFR enzyme which regulates the methyl cycle (aka all of the important functions our body needs to survive). When this gene is mutated it can lead to the methyl cycle functioning abnormally. These abnormal functions can be related to highly efficient methylation or poor methylation.

Undermethylation

As the name suggests, undermethylation is when there is too little methyl. Undermethylation is related to perfectionism, high levels of self-motivation and desire for high achievement. I bet you’re thinking ‘wow, how can I be an undermethylator?’…but before you get a head of yourself, undermethylation has also been associated with negative health issues such as:

  • Addiction/Addictive personalities
  • Competitive nature
  • Delusions
  • Obsessive compulsive disorders
  • Inner tension
  • Ritualistic behaviour
  • Social isolation
  • Phobias
  • Higher levels of allergies
  • Low serotonin
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Depression

Undermethylation can also result in a number of nutritional deficiencies including low levels of calcium, methionine, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc, homocysteine and SAMe.

Overmethylation

Overmethylation is the opposite of undermethylation. It is when the MTHFR enzyme produces too much methyl. Overmethylation has been associated with:

  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration/Anger
  • Low motivation
  • Paranoia
  • Self-harm
  • Food sensitivities
  • Sleep disorders

Overmethylation can also lead to elevated levels of serotonin (which is not always a good thing), low levels of histamine, low levels of zinc and high levels of copper.

Testing for Under or Overmethylation

As with anything, it’s important not to rely on Dr Google, or the internet, for diagnosis. MTHFR gene mutations and Under or Overmethylation can be tested by your doctor or by 23andMe.

Treatment for Under or Overmethylation

Once you have been medically diagnosed with a MTHFR gene mutation and a methylation problem, you can look to nutritional supplement regimes for treatment. The goal of these supplement programs is to offset the effects of the Under or Overmethylation. Addressing the methylation imbalance is a good start to improving your health.

 

MTHFR

MTHFR – it’s not our abbreviation for a swear word. MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene. But since the scientists who discovered this gene didn’t think that was confusing enough, they went on to label both the gene and the enzyme the gene produces MTHFR.

dna

What is MTHFR?

Really simply, we have two MTHFR genes – one from our mum and the other from our dad. MTHFR is a gene that produces the MTHFR enzyme. This enzyme is responsible for regulating our methyl cycle – the biochemical pathway that helps our body detoxify, produce energy, balance our mood, control inflammation, manage our immune function and maintain our DNA.

When the MTHFR gene is healthy, it produces sufficient, highly functioning amounts of the MTHFR enzyme. However when the gene is mutated, the enzyme isn’t produced correctly. Since we have two MTHFR genes, none, either one or both can be mutated.

Why does it matter if the MTHFR gene is mutated?

If both MTHFR genes are healthy it doesn’t matter. However mutated MTHFR genes can cause a range of health problems. Common health problems include:

  • Autism
  • Addictions
  • Miscarriages
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chemical Sensitivity
  • Bipolar
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Low HDL
  • High homocysteine
  • Asthma

For a more detailed list of medical conditions relating to the MTHFR gene mutations, check out MTHFR.net.

Common Endocrine Disruptors

thyroid hormones chemicals

In our post The Thyroid, Your Hormones and Endocrine Disruptors we briefly covered the who/what/how of endocrine disruptors.

The EWG recently published a list of the 12 worst hormone-disrupting chemicals we may be coming into contact with on a regular basis. The most common include BPA, Phthalates, Fire Retardants and Organophosphate Pesticides. Here’s a brief explanation of what these four chemicals do to our bodies and how you can minimize your exposure to them.

BPA

BPA (or scientifically, bisphenol-A) is an estrogenic plastic by-product used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics that can leach into our food or drink from the plastic containers holding them. BPA is an estrogen-mimicking compound that tricks our bodies into thinking it is the real thing. BPA has been linked to everything from breast and others cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. The scary thing is, 93% of Americans have BPA in their bodies!

How to avoid it?

Many canned foods are lined with BPA (even some of the BPA free ones use similar chemicals or BPA byproducts) so always aim for fresh food. When storing food make sure it is in glass as, especially when still warm, BPA from plastic containers (and those take-away plastic cups you get from coffee shops) can leach into our food. Also, plastics with a recycling label #7 or marked with “PC” contain BPA, so avoid these.

Phthalates

About 50 billion cells in our bodies die every day – and that’s normal. But some chemicals, like phthalates can actually trigger signals to cells to make them die faster and earlier than they should. Avoiding this chemical is particularly important for sufferers of thyroid problems as some studies have linked phthalates to thyroid irregularities as well as hormone changes, fertility problems, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity and diabetes.

How to avoid it?

Like BPA, many plastic food containers and plastic food wrap are made with phthalates. Plastics with the recycling label #3 and even some kids’ toys also contain phthalates. Scarily, many personal care products contain phthalates hidden behind labels such as ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’. Given that us, as women, use personal care products on our skin (our biggest organ) daily, make sure they are phthalate-free (you can search for these products here). We like to use the rule “if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin”.

Fire Retardants

Fire retardant chemicals are especially scary for sufferers of thyroid dysfunction. These chemicals imitate thyroid hormones and disrupt their activity. Furthermore, they are extremely persistent, Swedish scientists in 1999 found that women’s breast milk contained an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in fire retardants, and the levels had been doubling every five years since 1972!

How to avoid it?

Try to avoid foam products as many of these are made with fire retardants. Instead, look for products that are filled with polyester instead. Repair any ripped covers on foam furniture or replace the furniture. Many people might not like this one, but vacuum and dust. These chemicals accumulate in household dust (make sure your vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter to get pollutants out of your rugs and floors).

Organophosphate Pesticides

So we have all of these left over compounds created by the Nazis for chemical warfare, what are we going to do with them? Here’s an idea, let’s use them as pesticides on our food! As crazy as this sounds, unfortunately it is true. At the end of WW2, scientists modified these chemical warfare compounds to target the nervous system of insects to protect agricultural crops. Given they make insects insides explode, what damage are they doing to our bodies? Studies have linked the use of these pesticides (and others) to slowed and abnormal brain development, fertility problems, behavioral issues and interfering with testosterone, lowering the hormone and altering thyroid hormone levels.

How to avoid it?

Always eat organic! If possible, also filter your tap water as pesticide residuals can run into water ways.

 

For more information on endocrine disruptors, check out these articles:

The Thyroid, Your Hormones and Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine Disruptors hormones thyroid BPA

You’ve eliminated gluten, started eating more saturated fat, stopped eating that white poison, sugar, and tried to minimise stress, yet you’re still feeling crappy. Maybe it’s time to look at how your thyroid and hormones are being effected by the environment you live in?

Ok so it’s not feasible to live in a bubble of fresh air, free from toxins and chemicals, eating only organic food and drinking pure water (you know, that fancy, wind dried stuff that you pay $50 a bottle for at your local artisanal juice bar…). But realising what sort of chemicals and toxins you are exposed to everyday can help you minimise the bad of the bad and hopefully quick start your hormones into doing their job properly.

You’ve probably come across the term ‘endocrine disruptor’ before, or at least heard of the negative effects chemicals can have on your health. So what is an endocrine disruptor we hear you ask? Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with our body’s endocrine system, producing adverse reproductive, neurological, developmental and immune effects in both us and wildlife.

As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says, “there is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signalling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones”.

Simply, endocrine disruptors mimic our naturally occurring hormones, tricking our bodies into thinking they actually are them. But once we start to use these ‘hormones’ are body reacts differently to how it would if they were the actual hormones.

BPA Hormones thyroid

When absorbed in the body, an endocrine disruptor can decrease or increase normal hormone levels (left), mimic the body’s natural hormones (middle), or alter the natural production of hormones (right).

Endocrine Disruptors and the Thyroid

Given the essential role the thyroid has in our hormone production, exposure to endocrine disruptors can significantly impact its functioning. In fact, endocrine disruptors can interfere with nearly every step in the thyroid system.

Examples of Endocrine Disruptors’ impacts on the thyroid:

  • Endocrine disruptors can alter the thyroid-pituitary-hypothalamus axis through increasing T4 and stimulating the thyroid which can result in thyroid follicular cell proliferation, and in some cases, result in thyroid cancer.
  • It is well established that thyroid hormones are of special importance in the development of the brain, which, in utero, is dependent upon normal levels of thyroid hormones. Studies have shown that exposure to endocrine disruptors during pregnancy can result in significant cognitive problems for the unborn child.
  • Dioxin-like compounds and certain flame retardants, have a high degree of structural similarity with the thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. When we are exposed to these chemicals, they compete with our naturally occurring hormones for the thyroid hormone receptor and transport proteins.
  • Exposure to PCBs (or fire retardants) can reduce circulating levels of thyroid hormone, resulting in hypothyroidism.
  • Studies have shown that endocrine disruptors such as PCBs (or fire retardants) interfere with the way the thyroid hormone functions, but they don’t actually change the amount of the hormone found in the body. This is of interest as we know, our thyroid function is measured by hormonal tests.

Unfortunately, chemicals are not currently tested specifically for their ability to mimic, disrupt, or otherwise act as hormone disruptors. In our next post, we’ll discuss the most common endocrine disruptors and what you can do to best minimise your exposure to them.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism may be caused by a number of factors including:

  • Treatment for hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications which, in some cases, can result in permanent hypothyroidism.
  • Thyroid surgery: Removing all or a large portion of your thyroid gland can diminish hormone production.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation used to treat cancers of the head and neck can affect your thyroid gland and may lead to hypothyroidism.
  • Medications: A number of medications can contribute to hypothyroidism, including certain psychiatric drugs.
  • Congenital disease: Some babies are born with a defective thyroid gland or no thyroid gland.
  • Pituitary disorder: The pituitary gland fails to produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) — usually because of a benign tumor of the pituitary gland.
  • Iodine deficiency: The trace mineral iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function.

Causes

However, possibly the most common cause is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. This is how my journey began.

Autoimmune disorders occur when your immune system produces antibodies that attack your own tissues, in this case, the thyroid.  A virus or bacterium might trigger the response, whilst a genetic component can also be involved.

Quite possibly autoimmune diseases are multi-faceted and a number of factors contribute to the condition, including nutritional deficiencies.  Whatever the cause may be, these antibodies affect the thyroid’s ability to produce critical hormones.