How Dr. Yvonne Burkart improved her fertility

How Dr. Yvonne Burkart improved her fertility

Data on chemical exposure is very limited, but there are a slew of ingredients that are better off avoided. So we enlisted board-certified toxicologist, Dr. Yvonne Burkart, to share both her professional and personal insight around infertility and toxicity. The 21-year veteran of toxicology, who’s expertise lies in endocrine disruption, infertility, and cancer, launched The Safe Ingredient Academy 2.0, a digital program that helps busy women eliminate the fear of toxic ingredients in beauty and personal care products. 

Here, Dr. Burkart shares how she overcame infertility by going "low tox” and her best tips on how to maintain a toxic-free home sans stress. 

You use the terminology “low tox.” What exactly does that mean?

A low tox lifestyle is typically comprised of organic, plant-derived, and minimally processed products.

What was the impetus for going low tox?

I didn’t always believe in low tox. In fact, I would have laughed if someone had told me years ago that our environment determines our health. It wasn’t until I was faced with debilitating health issues like endocrine disruption, heavy metal toxicity, and infertility that I even considered addressing environmental toxicity.

I consulted with several doctors who couldn’t give me insight into the causes of my health issues, so I decided to work with a functional medicine practitioner who identified the root causes and recommended lifestyle as the main intervention.

We started by addressing my mercury amalgam dental fillings, diet, stress management, sleep, and exercise. I made huge improvements in my health in a relatively short amount of time, but the icing on the cake was switching out my beauty and personal care products. There was a near-immediate improvement in my energy and cognition. 

Switching to a low-tox lifestyle helped me completely transform my health, allowing me to realize my dreams of motherhood and being able to utilize my toxicology expertise to help thousands of women who are also struggling with toxic exposure.

What health issues do you see that are linked to hormone-disrupting ingredients in products? 

Hormone disruptors can affect the entire body, contributing to a number of health issues like ADHD, autism, metabolic disorders like diabetes, reproductive issues like infertility, reduced immunity, and even cancer (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences).

PFAS are being found in skincare and makeup products. What are these chemicals and what are some steps we can take to avoid them? 

PFAS, polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a type of fluorinated chemical used in the manufacturing of numerous consumer goods to impart a nonstick or waterproof surface. They’re found in fast food packaging, firefighting foams, clothing, dental floss, cookware, cosmetics, and more (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry).

Avoiding products such as waterproof or long-lasting lip products, foundation, and mascara can help you reduce PFAS exposure through cosmetics (1).

Also, endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as PFAS have been shown to suppress the immune system, potentially leading to decreased responsiveness to vaccines and increased susceptibility to infectious diseases (6). 

What are phthalates and how are they associated with the development of asthma and ADHD? 

Phthalates are a class of plasticizer chemicals that help plastics and certain cosmetic products like nail polish and hairspray to be more flexible. These chemicals have been associated with the aggravation of asthma symptoms (2,3) and gestational exposure associated with ADHD in children (4).

Where are heavy metals found and how is exposure to heavy metals like arsenic connected to the development of diabetes?

Heavy metals are naturally occurring in soil, so they’re unavoidable and can sometimes accumulate in certain types of plants, such as rice. Arsenic in drinking water has been associated with an increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in US adults (5).

What are the top five toxic ingredients that can worsen eczema?  

Ingredients in our everyday products can make eczema worse. For example, essential oils contain potent allergens (7) and the same goes for fragrances (8). Preservatives like formaldehyde-releasers, such as DMDM Hydantoin (9), solvents like propylene glycol (10), and surfactants like cocamidopropyl betaine (11) have all been observed to make eczema worse.

What types of hormone-disrupting chemicals are associated with acne? 

Chemicals that disrupt the delicate balance of our hormones are known as endocrine disruptors. The development of acne involves hormonal components, which can be worsened by endocrine disruptors like bisphenol A (12), found in plastic bottles and canned food liners, and phthalates (13), which are often used in fragrances. Avoiding these chemicals as much as possible is beneficial for our overall health, but also for addressing skin issues like acne.

Why should we be aware of aerosol products?

Products that pose a risk of inhalation toxicity, such as aerosol sprays, should be minimized and avoided as much as possible since our airways are the most sensitive route of exposure for consumer goods like cosmetics and personal care products. Products that are sprayed have the potential to contribute to indoor air pollution, which is a risk factor for poor health outcomes.

How can low tox living protect our planet? 

There are a number of synthetic ingredients produced with green chemistry methods that are accepted in the low tox realm. These generally do not create hazardous and toxic waste that ends up in the environment, which can potentially contaminate our air, water, and food supply. 

A key component of low tox living is minimizing petroleum-derived ingredients, which also reduces the environmental impact of oil drilling. Furthermore, zero waste or recyclable packagings such as glass, paper, and metal are ideal for low tox products since they’re also generally non-leaching and therefore do not pose a safety risk.

What do you recommend to patients when it comes to reading labels?

The order of ingredients matters! The ingredients at the beginning of the list are the most abundant in any given product, so being sure to avoid products primarily composed of harsh or irritating ingredients is key. Also, be on the lookout for fragrance and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives like DMDM hydantoin.

What are a few ways we can purge our home of disrupting chemicals without stress or overwhelm? 

Take it step by step and remember that every single product you swap can help you avoid thousands of potentially toxic exposures! This is extremely empowering since we cannot control every single exposure, but we can do our part every single day to avoid environmental toxins and support our bodies’ natural detoxification mechanisms through lifestyle modifications.

One of the best ways to purge endocrine-disrupting chemicals from home is to avoid fragranced products, cooking at home on surfaces that are not nonstick, and filtering our water and air.

Can you share more about your digital program, the Safe Ingredient Academy? And how does your guide help your students and patients live a lowtox life?

The Safe Ingredient Academy 2.0 is a unique digital program that helps busy women eliminate the fear of toxic ingredients in beauty and personal care products in less than 30 days. So they can create a healthy home and protect their family without hours of overwhelming research.

It’s the only program created by an actual toxicity expert that teaches you exactly how to read cosmetic and personal care ingredient labels to help you transition to a low tox beauty and personal care routine with confidence and ease.

References

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