It started as a search for connections between toxins and infertility, but Dr. Lora Shahine says fertility can be a microscope into our overall health.
As a reproductive endocrinologist at Pacific Northwest Fertility in Seattle, Dr. Shahine says it's important for all of us to know what's in the products we use.
But what ingredients do we need to be looking out for? BPA and phthalates, in particular, are man-made chemicals usually described as endocrine disruptors.
Here's what that means:
BPA, which is found in food packaging, toys, and even printed receipts and tickets, has been found in higher levels in couples who struggle to conceive. Professional societies in different countries cannot agree on what level is "safe"- yet a study out of Stanford shows higher levels of BPA are associated with miscarriage and lower success with fertility treatments.
Studies have also shown a higher rate of phthalates in women with endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). These diagnoses are commonly associated with infertility - and yet phthalates are found in everything from food packaging to beauty products.
But it isn't just fertility that toxins can impact. Dr. Shahine says evidence shows higher levels of these endocrine disruptors in people with obesity, diabetes, and poor cardiovascular health.
A bigger issue? This isn't as well-regulated as you might think. In Europe, they've banned over 1,300 chemicals from beauty products; in the U.S. only 11 are banned.
So what can we do?
Dr. Shahine acknowledges it can be overwhelming to try and look into the ingredients of everything we're using. So she recommends starting small: take it one product at a time. She also recommends a couple of websites/apps that make it easy to see what's REALLY in your favorite product: EWG.org, and the Think Dirty app.
Other things you can do per Dr. Shahine's suggestions:
- Wash fruits and veggies and try to eat organic to avoid pesticides
- Limit processed foods, since BPA is used in preparation and storage
- Switch from plastics to glass or stainless steel in the kitchen (like water bottles, coffee maker, food containers)
- Don't mix heat with food and plastic
Dr. Shahine is a reproductive endocrinologist with Pacific Northwest Fertility, and the author of Not Broken: An Approachable Guide to Miscarriage and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss.