Updated: Apr 26, 2019
ANTIBACTERIAL SOAPS DISRUPT HORMONE FUNCTION
I previously posted an article describing a patient who developed thyroid abnormalities after routine use of antibacterial soaps. The key ingredient in these soaps, triclosan, is an example of an endocrine disruptor—an environmental compound that disrupts hormone function in the body. Now, these antibacterial soaps are under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because of safety concerns.
An article published in the Wall Street Journal, on February 16, 2016, explains that studies on triclosan have suggested that “it can interfere with hormones and cause changes in thyroid, reproductive growth, and developmental systems.” According to the article in the Wall Street Journal, several companies that manufacture cleaning products, including Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, have phased triclosan out of their products. Kaiser Permanente has also banned triclosan from its hospitals.
WHY TREAT THE ROOT CAUSE??
Endocrine disruptors wreak havoc on any or all endocrine organs, including the thyroid, adrenal glands, ovaries, and testes. To give you an example, I commonly have men come into my practice with low testosterone levels. They may have tried testosterone replacement therapy, only to become dependent on it or to experience side effects. This is because testosterone replacement was not addressing the underlying problem—exposure to an endocrine disruptor. From a functional medicine perspective, we want to address the root cause.
When it comes to hormonal imbalances, endocrine disruptors are the first things that need to be removed. Triclosan in antibacterial soaps is just one of many potential culprits. The list of endocrine disruptors is long and includes BPA in plastics, phthalates in cosmetics, and pesticides on produce. The Environmental Working Group has published a list of the “dirty dozen endocrine disruptors,” which are listed in the following table.
It is impossible to avoid exposure to all endocrine disruptors. Many of these compounds are environmental pollutants that cannot be avoided. But there are some simple ways to minimize exposure to these chemicals: drink filtered water, eat organic food, drink and eat out of glass rather than plastic, avoid nonstick products, and use natural cosmetics and cleaning products.
Hormone disruptions can manifest in many ways: delayed or early puberty, infertility, miscarriages, sexual dysfunction, polycystic ovarian syndrome, obesity, fatigue, or even cancer. The factors that contribute to these conditions are complex, but it always makes sense to begin by removing compounds that can disrupt hormone function. If you are struggling with a hormone-related condition, look closely at the chart above, and think about your exposures. Occasional exposure should not pose a problem. Daily exposures probably do. Think about what you have the power to remove. Some solutions are simple: don’t use antibacterial soap! This could be your first step toward healing and feeling better again.
About the Author: Dr. Gerard Guillory, MD is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and has published two books on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In 1985, he opened The Care Group, PC. Today, his clinic is a Primary Care facility that is a hybrid of functional and traditional medicine treating patients with digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, and other conditions. You can learn more about Dr. Guillory here.