The endocrine system regulates every function of the body. It consists of the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands, the pancreas, the ovaries and the testes, all linked to the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus is like the mainframe computer of the body sending signals to glands that provide instructions for creating hormones, which are the natural chemical messengers that tell your cells what to do. The endocrine system is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, and metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes.
The endocrine system is all about hormones and glands. As the body's chemical messengers, hormones transfer information and instructions from one set of cells to another. Although many different hormones circulate throughout the bloodstream, each one affects only the cells that are genetically programmed to receive and respond to its message. Hormone levels can be influenced by factors such as stress, infection, and changes in the balance of fluid and minerals in blood.
While your nervous system uses electricity to orchestrate all sorts of things in the body, the endocrine system does even more through the wonder of chemicals.
Endocrine glands spew their hormones directly into your bloodstream. The various endocrine glands send the messenger chemicals via the bloodstream to different parts of the body where they bind to specific receptors that control cellular functions. One messenger hormone, estrogen, is secreted by the ovaries and plays a major part in the regulation of menstruation, fertility, pregnancy and fat cell activity.
Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances, primarily man-made synthetics, that interfere with the function of the endocrine system. These synthetics may be derived from petroleum or vegetable sources and are created for environmentally unfriendly industrial processes using toxic catalysts and reagents.
These chemicals mimic, block or disrupt the actions of human (and animal) hormones and, unexpectedly, do more damage at low levels of exposure than at high levels. These chemicals can also work in sinister yet subtle ways by disrupting the body's ability to produce adequate quantities of hormones or by interfering with the body's hormonal pathways.
These endocrine disruptors are affecting algae and other microscopic life, fish, whales and birds. Humans are exposed when they drink the water or eat contaminated fish.
Endocrine disruptors are stored in a body's fatty tissues and do not get flushed out with water. They accumulating over the years. It is now recognized that the dramatic increases of breast cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and thyroid cancer have been linked to exposure to environmental estrogens. In the past twenty-five years in the US, alone, thyroid cancer has increased more than 45%, with more women being affected than men, and has become the number one cancer in children under age twenty, many of whom suffered from fetal endocrine disruption exposures.
Of the 80,000 plus chemicals used in products, just a fraction were fully tested for toxicity, let alone for their hormone interference potential. Currently, toxicity tests required by the US and Canadian government do not evaluate endocrine disrupting effects.