Beware! These Common Items in Your House Can Harm Egg Quality

Our modern world is filled with conveniences to make our lives easier. Plastic containers to store our food, pans coated with teflon for easy cleaning, and pesticides to keep our homes free of critters.

But these conveniences may come at a price to your fertility.

Research on common toxicants show a clear association with your ability to get pregnant.

A quick note on terminology…   Technically, a toxin is a natural product such as a poison from a plant or bacteria.  A toxicant is a synthetic or man-made substance that is toxic.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals such as BPA and Phthalates are everywhere

We are all exposed each day to an array of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that abound in our modern environment.

What is an endocrine disruptor?

The endocrine system consists of glands that secrete the hormones which control growth, reproduction, mood, and metabolism. This includes your ovaries, thyroid, adrenals, and the hormones that affect reproduction.

An endocrine disruptor is a substance that you take into your body which binds to one of your body’s hormone receptors -- modifying the way that your natural hormones work.

Almost everyone is exposed to endocrine disruptors on a daily basis. Examples include BPA, phthalates, dioxins, and genistein. All of these can alter your reproductive hormones, decreasing your ability to get pregnant. (study)

Fertility doctors and researchers define poor egg quality in terms of having DNA abnormalities, such as too many or too few chromosomes. This causes a decrease in fertility due to the eggs not being able to be fertilized.

Toxicants that are endocrine disruptors can increase the risk of infertility in several ways including altering reproductive hormone levels and causing harm to the egg.

A recent review of endocrine disruptors sums up the issue:

Endocrine disruptors affect the ovaries, causing decreased antral follicle count and premature ovarian insufficiency.  BPA exposure has been specifically linked in multiple studies to egg quality, and phthalates are linked with hormonal changes.(study)

Let’s get down and dirty with the science…  and then go into steps you can take today to solve these problems.

Bisphenols (BPA and BPS) may be impacting your fertility

BPA (bisphenol-A) was first manufactured in the 1930’s. Since then, it has become a common part of our daily lives. (study) BPA (bisphenol-A) is a plasticizer that is found in many common products including plastic kitchen containers, canned foods, thermal printed receipts, canned beverages, and toys.

In 2008, several studies came out that made headlines about the concerns with BPA, especially in children’s products.  Many states passed laws banning BPA in teething rings and baby bottles, and manufacturers started producing BPA-Free plastics due to consumer demands.

BPS (bisphenol-S) is an alternative used to replace BPA. But…  this isn’t necessarily a better solution.

Studies on the bisphenols, including BPS, that have been produced to replace BPA show that they also have negative effects on reproductive hormones.(study)  In fact, a 2011 study that examined multiple different kinds of commonly used household plastics found most of the plastics leached endocrine disruptors, even the ones marketed as BPA Free. (study)

Animal studies show that bisphenols from plastics causes various reproductive problems including premature ovarian insufficiency.

One study concludes that lifelong exposure to low levels of BPA “reduces fertility with age”.  The fact that this study used low levels of BPA is important. These are the levels that we are exposed to every day. (study)

Another animal study found that increasing levels of BPA directly reduced the number of offspring. One way that it reduced fertility was through impairing the implantation of the embryo in the uterus. (study)

Mice chewing on plastic in cages that contained BPA prompted another study. It was noted that the mice had fewer normal egg cells when they had consumed BPA. The researchers then gave a group of mice low levels of BPA to measure and check the results. These mice also had decreased egg quality due to changes in the chromosomes of the eggs. (study)

To put is simply: animal studies clearly show that BPA decreases egg quality by inducing chromosomal changes.

Human studies on BPA show a variety of different results. Epidemiological studies use large population groups to see if there is an effect from a toxicant. These studies are often difficult when it comes to things that everyone in the population is exposed to. Some epidemiological studies find that BPA may have no impact on overall fertility rates.

But a meta-analysis of several studies concludes that “BPA is an ovarian, uterine and prostate toxicant at a level below ... the proposed safe level.“ (study)

Again, BPA is a toxicant that is affecting the ovaries at levels we are exposed to every day.

Specific research studies on women with infertility also points to and impact from BPA.

A study on women undergoing IVF found that as BPA levels increased the number of good eggs available for retrieval decreased. (study)

An overview of research on infertility due to endocrine disrupting chemicals states that BPA binds to the estrogen receptors and decreases the production of reproductive hormones. (study)

Practical ways to decrease your BPA and BPS levels:

Plastics are everywhere -- and they make life easier!  But there are some simple steps that will help you to drastically reduce the amount of BPA you are exposed to each day.  Let’s take a look at where the BPA is coming from and how your body detoxifies it.

How quickly can your body get rid of BPA?
It is important to know how long it will take to get the BPA out of your system.

BPA is actually metabolized by the body fairly quickly. In adults it usually takes 3 - 24 hours to break down and eliminate BPA.(study) It does accumulate in adipose (fat) tissue, so sudden weight loss may release more BPA into your body.

Taking steps today to decrease BPA exposure could have an immediate effect on your reproductive hormones and fertility.

Can anything help to reduce the effects of BPA?
Melatonin, which your body produces in great quantities when it is dark outside, has been shown in animal studies to specifically reverse the effects of BPA on oocytes.(study)

This is a huge reason to prioritize your evening routine and your sleep! Light in the blue wavelengths at night, such as from TVs, cell phones, and computers, reduces the amount of melatonin that your body produces. Blocking out that blue light, either by wearing blue light-blocking glasses or by turning off electronics and bright overhead lights, will allow your melatonin levels to naturally rise at the right time.  Additionally, you may want to consider a low-dose, time-release melatonin supplement if you have poor quality sleep.

Where is all this BPA (and BPS) coming from?
Canned foods and condiments are a big source of BPA in people’s diets.  A study of food in the US found that 75% of the 267 food items sampled contained BPA or a similar bisphenol. The highest amounts were found in foods that were packaged in cans and condiments, since the linings of the cans often contain BPA. Lowest amounts of BPA were found in fruits, which are usually unpackaged.(study)

Another study found BPA in 73% of canned products! But only 7% of non-canned foods had BPA in them. (study)  Stick with fresh and frozen vegetables!

Both BPA and BPS can leach from plastic water bottles or coffee cups -- especially if they get hot or contain hot drinks.(study) Reusable plastic water bottles that aren’t marked as BPA and BPS free usually do contain one of the bisphenols. Aluminum drinking bottles that are lined with epoxy resin may also contain BPA in the lining. Look for glass water bottles or aluminum bottles without a lining.

Fast food items often contain more BPA than items that you cook at home. The paper or cardboard food wrappers often contain BPA in their coating. In general, people who often eat out or order take-out have higher BPA levels than those who cook at home.(study)

5 action steps you can take today to reduce your BPA levels:

  • Reduce or completely eliminate canned foods. Switch to fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch from plastic water bottles to glass or stainless steel bottles.
  • Cook at home more often. Plan ahead and have some simple meal options, such as vegetables and meat to put on the grill.
  • Get 8-9 hours of quality sleep and let your melatonin levels rise naturally at night. Blocking out the blue light from electronics and bright overhead lights at night will increase your melatonin levels, protecting your eggs from BPA.
  • Stop storing and microwaving your leftovers in plastic (including styrofoam and lined cardboard boxes)! It is time to start collecting glass containers of various sizes to store your hot food in.