The Third Cornerstone of Epigenetics – Environmental Exposures

Of the four cornerstones, this one may be the hardest to really pin down or make significant in our lives.  But just like the other three, this is where we can make the biggest impact on our health – for today and the future.

When we’re talking environmental exposures, we’re really talking about the chemicals that are in the foods we eat, the cleaning and body care products we use at home and industrial exposures when we are outside our homes.  This one gets really big, really quickly.  And it can be a bit overwhelming.

But it is a big deal.  Let’s focus on two of the most common chemicals – phthalates and parabens. 

Phthalates are a family of chemicals used to make plastic products more flexible and durable, or as solvents.  Let’s get practical – phthalates are commonly found in body care products like soaps and shampoos, as well as vinyl products.  When you see “fragrances” in the list of ingredients, phthalates are likely to be included there.  Phthalates are also commonly found in food packaging, so much of our exposure is in the food we eat.

Parabens are another family of chemicals commonly used as artificial preservatives in the body care products we use, especially cosmetics.  The big thing about parabens is that they are so very common!  Stop in the drug store aisle and start reading the ingredients of your favorite toothpaste, lotion or moisturizer, or even nail polish and you are likely to see “paraben” at the end of a name. 

Why do we care about these chemicals?  They are both xenoestrogens, or a chemical compound that mimics estrogen.  The effect can be significant enough that it is like we’re taking an estrogen pill.  Phthalates are also known to impact thyroid function.  Hormone imbalances is one of the most common reasons women call my clinic – and we can impact a lot of it by decreasing our exposure to these two chemical families.

Now it’s all about minimizing our exposure, right?  To make that a little easier, I strongly recommend that we both (because I need to work on this, too!) work to decrease our “dose” of these chemicals, not eliminate it.  Why?  Because by even decreasing our exposures by 50% is significant and will make true changes in our health. I’m all about trying to make the biggest change possible in our four cornerstones of epigenetics, but working to completely eliminate these chemicals is a bigger challenge than I can take on…and I’m assuming you are in a boat similar to mine!

So, some practical strategy for minimizing the effects of these two chemical families on your health is to eat clean and to change up your body products:

  • Eat fresh and organic as much as you can.  So many reasons to embrace this as much as is reasonable for your routine, not the least of which is minimizing food sources of these chemicals.
  • Trade canned foods for frozen.  Frozen foods have a lot of benefits, not the least of which is they are usually harvested when they’re ripe and then minimally processed. 
  • Trade body care and cosmetic products with phthalates and parabens for those with less of a health impact.  How do you do that??  Take a look down at our Sixty-Second Self-Care Tip for today!  (You know I’d never leave you hanging!!!)

Much more to come about these and other environmental chemicals and toxins.  We’ve barely scratched the surface!!

Sixty-Second Self-Care Tip...

Download and use the Environmental Working Group (EWG) app, Healthy Living, to determine which of your favorite body and cosmetic products are higher risk for these two chemicals…among many others!  Be sure to look at your toothpaste, body washes, soaps…even laundry detergents!  And, Ladies, we love our cosmetics!  Don’t forget about the lipstick or lip balm in your pocketbook! 

Just remember – the goal is to decrease exposure, not totally eliminate it. 


60-second self-care, epigenetics, parabens, phthalates

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