Thanks to Dr. Amelia Patillo for writing this guest post & shedding some light on the connection between plastic usage and our health.
When most people think about reducing their plastic use, the motivation typically begins with wanting to reduce their environmental footprint. We now know how horrible plastics are for the oceans, ecosystems, and overall health of the planet, but what many don’t know is how plastics can actually negatively affect our health.
Plastics have a wide spread use in the food industry. From plastic containers used for yogurt, milk, dressings and condiments, to soft plastic packaging that house cereals, cheese, crackers, and more. All it takes is a walk through your grocery store aisles to see how much we rely on plastic.
Certain chemicals that are used to make plastic such as Bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are what is known as endocrine disruptors. This means these chemicals can mimic our bodies own hormones (particularly estrogen) and disrupt normal hormonal functions leading to adverse health problems. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked with a host of adverse health effects such as early puberty in females, reduced sperm count in males, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, hormonal irregularities and increased rates of some breast, ovarian, prostate and testicular cancers. Research shows humans are most vulnerable to the effects of endocrine disruptors in utero and in early life. So limiting plastic use when you are pregnant or wanting to get pregnant is a smart idea.
While the actual amounts of these chemicals one will be exposed to is hard to predict, I like to take a conservative approach with plastics and assume that the less exposure we have the better. As a Naturopathic Doctor, one of the cornerstones of our medicine is to treat the whole person, this means not only do I look at the lifestyles and diets of my patients, but I also ensure I gather an appropriate history of potential chemicals they are/have been exposed to in their environment. Hormonal irregularities, and fertility issues are something I see a lot, so educating my patients on reducing their plastic use (among many other lifestyle interventions) is very important.
Reducing plastic use in the home can be overwhelming for some at the beginning. Small steps to eliminate plastics are fine! Here are 5 tips I share with my patients.
- Swap out plastic bags for reusable cloth ones, and bring your own mesh bags for produce.
- Stop drinking bottled water. There are SO many options for cute water bottles these days. I prefer glass or stainless steel.
- Store your food in glass containers instead of plastic ones. Additionally, PLEASE don’t microwave your food in plastic!
- Consume less packaged foods. Focus on fresh produce, and meat from your local butcher.
- Swap out ziplock bags, and plastic wrap for beeswax wraps. Goldilocks is obviously my favourite! I love to wrap my cheese, store my snacks, cover leftovers and save my avocado halves with them.
Dr. Amelia Patillo is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Victoria, BC. She has a B.Sc in Food, Nutrition and Health Science from the University of British Columbia, and completed her 4 year Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine. She has a special interest in Lyme and complex chronic disease, women’s health and environmental medicine. Amelia is passionate about inspiring and empowering others to connect with nature through herbal medicine and spending time outdoors.