Endocrine Disruptors and our Hormones
The Endocrine System
The endocrine system acts as the chemical messenger system for communication throughout our body. The
main purpose of the endocrine system is to control and regulate body functions especially growth and
development. This is accomplished through hormones, potent, biologically-active chemical messengers that
in very small amounts can produce significant biological effects. Hormones are released from the brain,
thyroid, ovaries, testes and other endocrine glands and then carries them through the bloodstream to the
target cells and organs where they activate and regulate various functions.
The system is made up of the pituitary gland, which acts as a control center telling the ovaries or the thyroid
when to send their signals and how much hormone to send. The pituitary gets its cues from another gland,
the hypothalamus, which acts as a thermostat telling the pituitary to increase production, slow down or shut
off. These messages travel back and forth continuously to keep all parts of the organism operating as one
Hormones also guide the growth of a baby's nervous system and immune system and "programs" organs and
tissues such as the liver, blood, kidneys and muscles so they will function properly. During early
development this regulation of growth and development is critical for a child. The thyroid hormone, for
example, is essential for normal neurological function and development. Deficiencies of thyroid hormones
during fetal development or during early infancy can lead to mental retardation, hearing loss and speech
problems. Children with thyroid deficiencies, even those with normal IQ's, can have language
comprehension problems, impaired learning and memory and hyperactive behavior.
Chemicals are now being identified that interfere with this critical system. An endocrine disruptor is any
substance that can interfere with normal hormone function. Most are synthetic, fat soluble compounds that
are either pesticides or industrial chemicals. The pesticides include chlorinated organic chemicals such as
DDT, toxaphene and kepone. Industrial compounds include PCBs, phenol and dioxins. Their most common
characteristics include persistence in the environment and in organisms for long periods of time, and
solubility in fats, rather that water.
Normal hormone activates the receptor at the appropriate level
There are different ways that these chemicals interfere with or disrupt normal hormone activity. Three
classes or types of disruptors have been identified: mimics, blockers, and triggers.
Those that "mimic" are chemicals that act like normal hormones in the body. DES, the synthetic estrogen
given to women during the 1950's and 60's to prevent miscarriages, is a good example of a mimic. Daughters
of mothers given DES have an increased risk of a rare cancer and endometriosis. Sons born to mothers given
DES have an increase frequency of undescended testes, congenital birth defect, hypospadia, and decreased
adult sperm count.
Hormone disrupters give a signal stronger than the body's hormone (and at the wrong time),or hormone
disrupter gives a signal weaker than normal, also at the wrong time.
A second group of disruptors are hormone "blockers". These interfere with how naturally occurring
hormones function. Blockers bind to the same protein receptors as the real hormone, but do not stimulate
any action. They just sit in the way of the natural hormone and prevent it from sending its message. An
example of a blocker is how DDE (a metabolic breakdown product of DDT) blocked action of testosterone,
in male alligators in Lake Apopka, Florida, which led to undersized penises. Testosterone, a male hormone is
needed for proper reproductive development in males.
Hormone blocker interferes with the signal from the body hormones
"Triggers", the third category of disruptors, include chemicals that interfere by attaching to protein
receptors but then trigger an abnormal response in the cell. These triggers cause growth at the wrong time,
an alteration of metabolism or synthesis of a different product. The best known triggers are dioxin and
dioxin-like chemicals. Dioxin acts through a hormone-like process to initiate entirely new responses.
Hormone disruptors intefere by triggering an abnormal response in the cell
1) The key hormones
The endocrine system is a complex interplay between a number of hormones, including the sex hormones
the estrogens and androgens, and other hormone systems such as the thyroid system. Estrogens such as
estradiol (structure below) are the hormones that influence the development and maintenance of female sex
characteristics, and the maturation and function of the sex organs. Chemicals which can imitate an estrogen
are known as estrogenic chemicals. Androgens such as testosterone serve a similar purpose in males.
2) Other factors
There are many variables which affect whether a hormone disrupting chemical has a biological effect,
including uptake, distribution, nature of action and time of action.
3) The complexity of the endocrine, immune and nervous systems and human development
The development and functioning of the human - and animal - body depends on a complex interaction of
chemicals, in which everything must happen at the right time.
Three crucial parts of the human body are the immune system, the hormonal system and the nervous
system. It is easy to detect abnormalities in many other parts of the body - if you break your leg, or are
bleeding, it is pretty obvious. Detecting changes in these systems is far harder. This is one of the reasons that
providing proof of harm to any of these systems is difficult, unless the harm is very substantial - e.g. the
damage to the immune system due to HIV. These three systems also affect each other, particularly during
the development of the body.
Many of the interactions within and between these systems depend on fairly simple chemicals - all potential
targets for imitation by man - made chemicals.
The pharmaceutical industry deliberately produces chemicals that affect these systems - the chemical
industry does it accidentally - Every chemical is potentially a pharmaceutical.
Body Restoration Technique (BRT) is a technique that tests for and removes various
endocrine disruptors in the body, allowing for the endocrine system to deliver and receive
it's messages properly. BRT is a fairly new procedure which is fast becoming widely used by
health care practitioners who recognize that the body is more than the sum of its parts. It's
a system of health care that is truly state-of-the-art in removing endocrine disruptors from
the body, thus allowing the endocrine system to work with much more ease. When this
system is out of balance, symptoms develop and health deteriorates. Many factors affect
the body's state of balance. When the endocrine system is out of balance, it becomes
exhausted. Many symptoms such as pain and disease often develop.