Ep 86: Reducing Your Toxin Load to Improve Your Fertility with Jenna from Million Marker
Fertility Forward Episode 86
There is a growing consumer awareness about the negative health impacts of various commonly-used chemicals, but not many people link this to their fertility. When Dr. Jenna Hua was facing her own fertility struggles, this is exactly what she did, and she has not looked back. As a dietician, environmental health scientist, and founder and CEO of Million Marker, Jenna is an expert on the toxins we are exposed to every day. She founded Million Marker to give consumers insights into our own health so that you can start making the changes that policy will take decades to implement, today! Join us for this fascinating episode to find out what endocrine-disrupting chemicals are, how they affect our health, and why they continue to be used by industry. Jenna gives some great tips on the simple changes you can implement straight away to start lowering your toxin load, and why taking baby steps is important when you start. We find out what you can expect when you take the Million Marker test, and why establishing a baseline is key. We also learn what the literature says about toxins and human health (correlation not causation), and why the dietary education provided to medical doctors is insufficient. So, to find out how to optimize your fertility journey and overall health through avoiding toxins, tune in today!
Rena: Hi everyone. We are Rena and Dara and welcome to Fertility Forward. We are part of the wellness team at RMA of New York, a fertility clinic affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Our Fertility Forward podcast brings together advice from medical professionals, mental health specialists, wellness experts, and patients because knowledge is power and you are your own best advocate
Dara: Today on our podcast, we have a very, very interesting woman on. An environmental health scientist and dietician by training, Dr. Jenna Huais passionate about the environment, public health and everything food. Jenna holds a bachelor in science in nutrition and a master's in public health and PhD in environmental health sciences from UC Berkeley and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford Medical. Frustrated by the lack of data for how harmful chemicals, like BPA, thalates and parabens, from plastics and everyday products affect our health and clinical outcomes, and the absence of personalized approach to mitigate harmful chemical exposures, Jenna set out on a mission to change these. She founded Million Marker, a health tech startup, dedicated to empowering everyone with the data and tools to determine how the products they use, the food they eat, the water they drink negatively or positively influence their health. Million Marker helps people understand what chemicals are inside of them and then provides simple solutions for quickly reducing harmful chemicals through mail test kits, lifestyle audits, product recommendations, and counseling. Jenna, thank you so much for being here today.
Jenna: Thank you so much for having me, Rena and Dara.
Rena: Yay! I'm so excited to have you on because I've recently been cleaning out my kitchen and thinking about the products I've been using and I, I said, oh yes, we're having Jenna on so I can ask her all of these questions. And I know, you know, our clients are wondering this. it's such a hot button topic.
Jenna: Yeah. Especially these days during COVID people use all kinds of purpose cleaner, hand sanitizers and wipes and many of them actually contain quite a bit harmful chemicals so we definitely wanna get the knowledge out there so then people can choose better product and, you know, and then lessen their their toxin load.
Dara: So let's, let's dive in.
Rena: Yeah. And, and because we're obviously a fertility podcast, let's focus specifically on products and for, and how they pertain to fertility. I don't know if that, I would sort of assume that if it's not good for your fertility, it probably isn't good for you in general life, you know, to start out - Is there anything specific that comes to mind that's very, you know, specific to fertility?
Jenna: Yes. Actually everything we test today, it's this class of chemical called hormone disrupting chemical or endocrine disrupting chemical. So this class of chemical, because they mess or interfere with your hormones, the immediate impact is fertility. And one of the reasons that I founded the Million Marker is also because of my own fertility struggle. So it's kind of like a necessity for me when I was going through the fertility struggles, I just really wanted something to tell me, Hey, gimme a sense of insurance and let me know, okay, this is not something that I need to worry about. It's not causing me to have all these issues.
Dara: Was that actually how you started getting into or specializing in environmental health?
Jenna: Not what I started. After I got trained as a dietician, I felt like the medical system is a bit it's, it's kind of wrong that we only spend, you know, 15 minutes consulting patient and we spend a lot of time charting and you can't change people's dietary habits in 15 minutes. So that first prompted me to start studying environmental health cause at the time I thought, if we can actually change the environment, then I don't really have to tell people what to do. They're just forced to change. If we don't have all these fast food outlets out there, that if we just provide good food, then I don't tell people, Hey, eat less fast food because they will not have resources to even buy fast food. So that was what I intended to study, you know, environmental health. But once I got into it and I realized, you know, it's not just where we buy our food. It's also, what's in our food, the environmental exposures that compost of, you know, the air you breathe, the food you eat and also all the products you, you use, you are using and everything just comes into our body. So I felt what we know today is just not enough. And again, there's no really personalized tools because no one, not everybody is trained as a chemist to actually recognize all these chemicals and we don't really know what they do. So what's the simplest way to avoid these exposures? So that, and then during that time I was also going through my fertility struggle. So I just felt that well since nobody's reading my academic papers anyway, so I should, I should do something different and a little more impactful to equip people with the tools so then they can actually do something about it.
Rena: Wow. That's incredible. I mean of all, I'm so sorry to hear that you were struggling, but I think as we've spoken about on this podcast, the silver lining is you, you know, we've met so many other women who got into this field, whatever that is, the fertility space, cause of their own struggles and finding that something needed to be changed. And so they went out and proactively went out to change it. So that’s incredible, that, that drove you to this.
Jenna: Yeah. I also think people need to talk about it more. We don't talk about it enough and we don't have a lot of support. And then it's often a very isolated experience and without tools and then you are trying to figure out everything yourself. So that's also what I really like RMA is doing, what you guys are doing, is having this very comprehensive program to provide support for all aspects of the people's fertility journey. And I think that's extremely important.
Rena: Yeah. Well, okay. For sure. And, and thank you. And we're so grateful to be here part of the program also. So let's go back to the hormone disruptors though. So let's dive into that. What is a hormone disruptor, an endocrine disruptor? What are some examples? How can we avoid those?
Jenna: Yeah. So hormone, endocrine disrupting chemical, hormone disrupting chemical, short for EDCs, it's a class of chemical, mainly synthetic chemicals that we, we're putting a lot of our product using pesticides that's actually again, messing with our hormones. And if you think about how hormones work, you know, hormones literally governing, regulating every bodily function we have from metabolism to growth to child development, to your mood, to your sleep. They just regulate everything and they work as a symphony in our body. So you want your symphony to be in sync. So when you have these like hormone disrupting chemicals coming to your body, it just messes with your hormone signal. When you have this lock and key function and it doesn't work well, it just like, start creating a downstream, like a ton of impact. And again, if you think about fertility, fertility, a lot of time is controlled by hormones, right? When your hormone is not working in sync obviously the first thing that happens is it really impacts fertility. So all the hormone chemicals that we test and then we, the common ones, especially these common ones, like people might have heard about BPA, phthalates, parabens, and oxybenzone these are very common ones using everyday product. And then they, we already have over decades like three, four decades of study showing how these chemicals could actually impact fertility. That's part of the reason why we also want to avoid them. And then in terms of like, you know, where you find these because they're in everyday products so one biggest culprit is plastic. So BPA and phthalates are using a ton of plastic because they're really common plasticizers. Some of the plastic may contain up to 80% BPA or phthalates by weight and BPA is a chemical that makes plastic shatterproof, clear, shatterproof phthalates is making plastic more flexible. So they're just like literally, like, used everywhere. Paraben is often used as preservatives in personal care products and even over the counter ointment and then oxybenzone have been used as sunblock, UV blocker agent that's your commonly-using sunblock. So if you think about your, your skin is your, you know, the largest organ in your body and then you're just putting these things on. And not only in your personal care products, but it's also in your home cleaning products and then in dust in many sources. So when you think about these exposures, you just get exposed to them day in and day out, a constant exposure, no wonder they could have caused any, they were cause an impact.
Dara: But it's so unfortunate that, you know, my perception is that a lot of these things were created for, you know, well-meaning purposes. And you know, I'm assuming over time we've realized how they have negatively impact us, especially I'm assuming during, you know, testing your urine or testing your blood. That a lot of us have a lot of buildup of, of these various endocrine disruptors.
Jenna: Yeah. Unfortunately we have a lag in terms of how we're evaluating these chemicals which before they put out to the environment. Yes. Like BPA is this magical, you know, chemical, actually preserve things. And then it's cheap. It's making plastic so useful. And we have this such complicated relationship with plastic. We, it's so convenient and then we can't really get rid of them. But now that we're slowly learning the impact of plastic in our daily life, in our, you know, marine environment in many aspects, but yeah, exactly. Like you said, we actually didn't know about them before and now we're learning about it then, you know, we wanna get the message out, Hey, by using less plastic and by caring about these chemicals, it's not only good for your own fertility, your own wellness. It's also good for the environment. You know, what's the point if having kids, but they cannot live in a clean and sustainable environment, then what's the point?
Dara: You made a good point that it's, it's not just, and I was, I was thinking that, but I'm happy that you actually said that, that, yeah. It's one thing actually, to reduce the, you know, your purchasing of, of these products and consuming of them for fertility purposes, you know, for the, the health of yourself and a potential baby, but also for the long term impact of our environment of our, you know, marine life. It's so much more so than just fertility.
Jenna: Right. And I think that ultimately the burden really shouldn't be on the consumers. Like before we have a chemical come out, like it should be thoroughly tested, but unfortunately at the glacier movement of, of our public policy that we just want, we just need to, at this point, we need to equip consumers with this knowledge. And hopefully collectively we can push for safer environmental policies. Because today we literally have over 85,000 chemicals are used, in use today. We actually only have about 1% with sufficient, like safety data. So for mass majority of the data, we don't even know what's gonna happen. And then we also started having these, you know, BPA has been banned because of conscious consumer moms, urging policy makers to make changes, to avoid BPA the baby products. That's how we make the change. However, when we made the change while BPA is banned, like manufacturers started using BPA alternatives like BPS, BPF, you can literally swap a letter. They can have on BPA, all the BP to all the way to BPZ, or even BPAF BZ, you know, you name it. So we end up having these regrettable substitutes, which causes just as much impact as the original harm.
Rena: Well, I was just gonna say, right? So all these things that say BPA free, can we trust that? You know, but, and it doesn't sound like we can. It sounds like the safest thing is to just switch to glass?
Dara: Or metal
Jenna: Or metal. Exactly. So the BPA free label is not regulated. So it's completely up to the manufacturer to label that, but we have no idea to know whether BPS or BPF is used. While we want people to become conscious consumers by reading labels but there's no also at the same time, there's no guarantee unless we actually do product testing, which is completely lacking at the moment as a part of a solution, because we also can't possibly test for every single product. That's why, when I first founded Million Marker, I thought, you know, by testing yourself, then you can actually discover, you know, anything unknown from your lifestyle, all the products that you're using.
Rena: Yeah. So, so tell us more about Million Marker and, and what you've developed.
Jenna: So we have a direct to consumer mailing urine test that you can simply purchase online, send us your urine sample. We ask you to complete an exposure journal before sending us your urine sample so then we can pinpoint and give you personalized feedback. You know, where, what part of your lifestyle, what kind of product that you are using could be problematic and contributing to exposure. So we get your lab result, I get your urine analyzed, and then we let you know what your levels are, how you compare with our existing users, how you compare with the national average, and then exactly what you can do to reduce these exposures. We also do a really comprehensive product audit. So we look at all the ingredients that are in all your products. So we will let you know, point out not only the chemicals that we test, but any other problematic ingredients in your product that we have seen, have any kind of health impact in, whether animal models or, or human models. We'll let you know. So then the next time you replenish your products, buying a new product, you can buy a better one.
Dara: Do you also provide suggestions on, on, you know, how to make those changes or, or maybe certain companies that do offer healthier alternatives?
Jenna: Yes. Yes. We end up curating our own list of approved products to make it easier. Those range products from home cleaning products, to tupperware, to water filters, to lotions, all the personal care products. So we let people know, so you don't really have to do the homework. So we check all the ingredients, we screen for all the ingredients, we contact the manufacturer to also make sure that they're, they're having a good manufacturing process. We're also looking to packaging to make sure their packaging is good enough. So we have that list that to, you know, equip people with that knowledge. We also have a chemical glossary that if people are interested in learning more, you know, why is this ingredient bad? What's the latest literature on this ingredient. People can also look that up.
Rena: Wow. Wow. That's incredible.
Dara: I wish that I had met you when I was trying to get pregnant because it's amazing how things have evolved and changed. I remember way back when, when we, you know, when we found out that BPA wasn't great and this is, I think prior to the knowledge that the alternative was, you know, perhaps even equally as harmful or at least still harmful, you know, for example, you know, when I first started training years and years back, 12, 15 years ago, I remember there was the BPA-free can of beans. And that was what we recommended. You know, it's a great alternative. And you know, now it's unbelievable that we know that the alternatives may be just as harmful.
Jenna: Right. And it's also not just in canned beans. The one culprit that people often miss is also canned drinks too. So it's not just can, you know, beans, but, you know, if you drink a lot of carbonated water out of can or beer or wine, anything like that, they would also have BPA. And then even, so the EU, literally, the EU has much better environmental policy than us. So even just like a couple months ago, they slashed a BPA limit by a hundred thousand times. Because what we have seen is that BPA acts at such tiny amounts that they could cause impact. It's very, very low. And these chemicals also don't really follow, you know, a typical toxicology dose response curve. So actually the lower, very low levels, they actually cause much more impact.
Dara: You made a, you made a very interesting point. It's interest, like, especially when it comes to Europe and even I'm from Canada and Canada, there's a lot more stringent rules regarding the banning of a lot of these chemicals. Is there any information or, or insight as to why we're lagging behind in America?
Jenna: Unfortunately, I think that there's a lot of lobbyists, big chemical, it's similar to big food and then big and big chemical is playing in this country. And I think we really need collective consumer actions to urge policymakers to change this because, you know, if we change the policy, the change will be, you know, much more impactful than you know us, why we're trying to do useful things, but the pace can be slow.
Rena: Do you, okay. So I feel like, you know, I know my patients and, you know, I can imagine them listening to this and, and now freaking out and doing a whole sweep of their houses. You know, getting rid of, of stuff. Is there, you know, maybe one or two basic tips you have for someone that is trying to conceive and is listening to this and now having really high anxiety about, you know, household products, personal care, all that. The one or two tips for someone trying to conceive what to do to really have a healthier lifestyle?
Jenna: Absolutely. We definitely don't want people to freak out. These chemicals are everywhere. So you do what you can, you do what you can control and start small. So the first thing is: get rid of plastics as much as you can. We can't get rid of everything, but yes, I often, one of the biggest tips, important one, we give to people - think about where your most exposures are coming from? Obviously food is a big one. Think about your kitchen. So if you use that tupperware every day, please swap it out to glass or stainless steel. And you know, for people who already have kids, thinking about the second, you know, kids probably don't wanna use glass and or stainless steel because they're heavy, they're easy to break. In that case then you can always choose a silicone one, but make sure not all silicones are created equal. So make sure you choose a platinum-based silicone because when the silicone is processed using platinum, they don't use any filters. So there's less contamination. So two brands make these silicone bags. One is Stacher. One is the Zip Top. So those two brands are also on our website so people can check it out. These are better silicone bags. So that's one tip.
Rena: Okay. And that even pertains to, to plastic bags, the BPA?
Jenna: Yes. Yes. So use as little as possible. So plastic is a big one. BPA also in, like this always surprises people, is a thermal receipt, your grocery store receipt, your gas station receipt. Oftentimes people go what receipts, but apparently receipt ink and also receipts are usually coded with BPA. So trying to have your receipt emailed to you. If you absolutely have to touch the receipt, you know, touch the corner and then also wash your hands after.
Dara: So it's interesting. It's great. Now that like a lot of the receipts you can be emailed, but I never knew, and this is something I only learned recently. So I knew about the receipts, but what I was trying to do is I figured, oh, I'll just, you know, use some hand sanitizer because I don't have any soap or water. And I heard that supposedly using the hand sanitizer actually exposes it more.
Jenna: It could be because a lot of the hand sanitizer actually have, because they have antibacterial agents and often time they will add some of the chemicals into, to increase the penetration of the antibacterial chemical agent. So when you touch that receipt, BPAs are already on your hands. And then like, if you use a hand sanitizer with additional skin penetration agent, then you just like have it more. And also not all the hand sanitizers are great. Either whenever there's a fragrance added to the hand sanitizer, oftentime it'll have phthalates. So that's also one we ask people to, Hey, make sure any product that you use opting for fragrance free. Fragrance is almost as the, the code for phthalates.
Dara: I was shocked. I was shocked when I learned that because fragrance is in everything and I always have a hard time saying phthalates, I feel like it's a tongue twister. But I, but I remember learning about that. And I think, I believe like in terms of essential oils, there are some natural scents that are, you know, it's, I guess it's, it's a scent, but it's not necessarily fragrance
Jenna: This is very interesting. So fragrance free is we always recommend people to go with. So sometimes now manufacturers started using vocabulary like aroma, perfume is also a good, is another one that's coded for fragrance, and even unscented - unscented is actually a scent. So unscented doesn't mean fragrance free. So that's, yes. So that's also very, very deceiving. So absolutely opting for fragrance free. So essential oil in general is better than any fragrance. If they say it's, it's used in essential oil, that's better. However, not all essential oils are created equal. What we have seen is sometimes is when essential oil is processed somewhere else, and if they don't follow a great manufacturing process, they use, for example, because they use steam and distillation for essential oil. And when that equipment sometimes is made of plastic and with that high temperature, then all the plastic materials were leaching to that healthy, essential oil. Then that makes essential oil, like, just as bad as regular fragrance because of the leaching. So if you use essential oil, make sure you check with the manufacturer to see, Hey, are you using food grade processing equipment? That's stainless steel. So you don't have these plastic contaminants in your essential oil.
Dara: Oh, wow. So there's another level because I was actually gonna ask, I mean, that's, you know, in school, that's one of the first things you learn about when it comes to the environment is that, you know, plastics that we often use, the tupperware, people still to this day, use it in their microwave because it's microwave safe. But that doesn't, you know, once it's heated, it definitely leaches into your food and same thing with the bag of pop, you know, popcorn that you microwave or even I'm assuming the food that we get when we order in, like, food delivery comes hot and it comes in often these plastic containers, it's probably one of the worst ways to absorb these toxic chemicals.
Jenna: Absolutely. Heat will increase the release of leaching of these chemicals. So never, ever microwave plastic ever, also don't even use the syringe wrap on top of because that's also another thing that people use to, to worry about the splash of the food in the microwave. They put a wrap on top of it, but if your food comes in contact with that heated syringe wrap, it's going to leach all these chemicalsin there. And then for parents with young kids, one other tip we give is, you know, your kids might have plastic toys. So store those plastic toys in a shaded area, don't expose that to sun. And also, same as water bottle. Often see people put water bottles in their car. When that car, you know, has the sun baked in that plastic water bottle, these chemicals will leach into your water.
Dara: Yes. Uber. When, when you know, I think these drivers have good intentions offering water, but that's often the first thing that I recommend, but it's, I never would've thought about the toys for children, but that's such a no brainer now that I think about it.
Rena: What about aluminum? I know that sort of come out as you know, not good.
Jenna: So aluminum a lot of time, yeah, it could be a container. It could also be in deodorant. So aluminum had been linked to reproductive toxicity. That's why we, when people choose deodorant, we ask them to not choose aluminum based deodorant. So that's the case with aluminum, for, you know, for cooking wear, we would recommend to choose stainless steel or cast iron. Ceramic clay are also good, but that's also now things were on, you know, pan and pots and pan. I also wanna mention about non-stick pans and Teflon because a lot of people use it for convenience, but we have also seen this persistent chemical called PFAS in Teflon pans in, you know, non-stick pants. So PFAS is a, we call it forever chemical because it's persistent in an environment. Once you get exposed to it, it's very hard to get rid of. So if you, again, you, you use your pans, pots and pans, you cook every day, contact your food. That would also be a place I would watch out that choose, choose cast iron or stainless steel instead of non-stick pans.
Dara: I'm happy you mentioned that.
Rena: Yeah. So I feel like I, I'm now, you know, thinking about my own home and products and calculating all the things that I need to do.
Jenna: Yeah. One other thing I also wanna mention is water because we drink water every day. Right? So, and then again, like our water source has been contaminated, not only to these forever chemicals like PFAS, you would also have BPA, phthalates, and many other things. So we always recommend people to have a water filter. You also don’t really know whether your pipe is good. Your pipe could be old copper pipe. We have seen, you know, issues with Flint, Michigan with lead in heavy metal in water. So we always recommend to have a water filter. Any water filter is better than no filter, but if people can get their hands on a, a reverse osmosis water filter, that's always kind of a catch all filter and definitely recommend for anyone who's like trying to conceive, pregnant, staying pregnant, or postpartum.
Dara: Reverse osmosis, which I know my friend has had for years. They're quite big contraptions. I wish they were small and easy to fit underneath the sink.
Jenna: Yeah. They're a bit of work, but that's the sort of a catchall water filter. If you have one, you don't have to worry about other contaminants.
Dara: That's good to know. There's so much to think about. The other thing I, I wanted to ask you is I love that you have these mail and test kits, these urine kits, do you often recommend, you know, having an initial test, making some of these changes and then re-testing three months down the road?
Jenna: Yeah, we definitely recommend, because it's also a very powerful experience in my opinion, that, you know, understand your baseline. And then when you see your level changes, it's like when you're doing these healthy, practicing these healthy lifestyle practices, you would see your level decrease and it's wonderful. And our goal is to be able to incorporate these tests into as routine clinical checkup. Like your biannual dental checkup, you know, it's for prevention because they are everywhere. And oftentime, if you, if you slip, if you, you know, if you don't think about it all the time, you will get exposed to them. So having your body burden checked twice a year, I think it's very beneficial. And for people, especially for people who are trying to conceive, I think it's very valuable to do it twice or check it often to make sure, Hey, I'm doing everything right. And also oftentime you just don't know what's in the product. And that actually happened to me when I was testing myself, two things I found out was very, I was very surprised because I already practiced a pretty healthy lifestyle. One thing I found out was one of the vitamin capsules that I was taking are not made of a vegetarian cellulose, like the capsule. So the capsule ended up being made by phthalates. It was not labeled anywhere. So my phthalate level like shoots up, like off the chart. The moment I eliminated that, it dropped down to non-detect level. So that was one thing I learned that completely surprised me. The other thing I learned is also like the packaging tape, because we have so much package or, you know, your return and in the packaging plastic tape. Yeah. A lot of them are also made of phthalates that also kinda shoots up my phthalate level. So I always recommend people to wear a pair of glove or wash your hand immediately after you touch packaging tapes, cause there's just no guarantee that…
Dara: Wow, there's so much information out there. I'm so happy you're on today because you know, I, I think it's great even for myself and Rena to have this reminder, but really for people out there, I think there's a lot that we are somewhat aware of, but there's still so much more education that I think people need. And I love that you use the word prevention. You know, I really think that it, it's great to educate people now to help prevent down the road potential, you know, complications, but just the idea of yeah, learning now, some of the basic things, which you mentioned, you know, the plastics, the receipts, I mean the, the, I think the parabens also the, you know, going fragrance-free, aluminum-free. I don't know about you Rena, but I, I feel like I need to do a, a whole, I need to go through everything at home and start fresh.
Rena: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I'm thinking about that I'm currently poisoning my child by sending her to school with a plastic water bottle.
Jenna: Definitely swap out the water bottle. Often also with plastic water bottle, you know, if they get scratched or if they use that or if they are damaged, that will also increase the leaching of these chemicals. And the one thing we also really want people, you know, when they're trying to conceive, we also think this is the best time to invest the knowledge as well as healthy lifestyle, because not only they will have a better fertility journey creating a great environment for their unborn children, but at the same time, because they're already practicing this healthy lifestyle, they can teach their kids when they're growing up. So then the kids can do better in terms of prevention and then also practicing greener and more sustainable lifestyle. Because these chemicals, what we initially, we thought these chemicals are not going to pass placental barrier. It's not going to pass the next generation, but we end up to be wrong that, you know, your grandparents' exposure can show up in the grandkids. So that's also another thing that we, we really don't want our kids to be exposed.
Rena: Absolutely. I think, and you know, I think it might seem, I know I'm feeling a little bit overwhelmed thinking about all the swaps that I need to do, but I, I think, you know, you pointed out some really good ones to start with. And I think it's important to point out, I mean, look, this is, this is a lot and you don't have to fix everything in one day, you know, it can certainly be expensive and a lot of time, but start with the small things. And I think really the first thing to start with is just awareness.
Rena: You know, and to just be aware, be educated, be cognizant and start making small changes. And as you pointed out, the great news here is we're in control and we can take control of this and make changes to fix this and keep ourselves healthier.
Jenna: Exactly. And also think about where you get your most exposure. So if you are washing your hair every day, right, you're gonna use your shampoo every day in pretty large amount compared to say a face serum. That's, that's a much smaller amount. So those, whatever you use the most in larger amount, I would check those products first. And then also the other good news is for these transient chemicals, if you eliminate your exposures, you can actually get rid of them. So you, if you just bought a product today, you didn't finish using them. You know, you don't have to swap out like right away. Next time you purchase a product, make sure you, you get a better one. So that way would, you know, lessen your anxiety and then lessen that stress because we also know stress is no good for fertility or for general health. So we definitely don't want people to be overwhelmed.
Dara: That's a good approach. Jenna. You know, small changes. Start next time. Focus maybe on one or two things, a shampoo product, maybe a sunscreen product, maybe adding in a little bit more glassware and in time making those changes. And I think what's great is I'm hoping that the next generation really is gonna be a lot more knowledgeable. I think, you know, we're just seeing kind of this breakthrough in, in research and I'm excited to see where this goes. And I'm hoping that like our, you know, the kids that are in school now will really be much more informed and hopefully won't have to, you know, this will be part of their curriculum. That's my hope.
Jenna: That's my hope too. I think not just kids. I feel like all the physicians also need to be educated. You know, when we were in nutrition, we knew a lot of physicians get like one hour of nutrition during medical school. But nutrition is like, so important. Your diet is so important in any part of wellness, particularly for fertility, but for when it comes to environmental health or chemical exposures, physicians don't get anything. You know, if they want to emphasize on this topic, they will have to get to fellowship stage to study environmental medicine. But even that it's mainly focused on occupational exposures, which is high dose, very toxic exposures rather than these day in and day out, low dose exposures. So I'm hoping there will be more education in the medical system. There will also be more education for the kids in adolescence, because any time that your hormones have a shift when a baby is growing or in adolescence, those are like very, very critical times to not having additional hormone disrupting chemicals in their bodies.
Rena: So, okay. So lemme ask you a question. So if I were to do one of your tests, a Million Marker test, which I'm definitely gonna do, what's the turnaround time?
Jenna: So, we're trying to aim to deliver the results within four weeks. Sometimes we wanna make sure our lab completely passes quality assurance and quality control. If it doesn't pass, we often rerun the test. So in general, we tell people four to eight weeks, but we're aiming on less than four weeks to deliver that result.
Rena: OK. And then how long? OK, so say I send you my test, I get the results. And I see that I'm slowly poisoning myself. How long would it, would it take, once I make changes to then see results in my body?
Jenna: Theoretically, you should see the changes already within three days that, you know, if you swap out, if you clean up and you will see it right away, but oftentimes people don't clean up everything. That's one. So slowly. So we always recommend people to, after you get your results, after you swap, swapping out products, start practicing, come back in two to four weeks to do the second test. That's what we recommend.
Rena: Okay. And then what are the stats on? Okay. Say I'm trying to conceive and I'm now listening to this and realizing my life isn't as healthy as I thought, do you have any stats? The link of, you know, these environmental toxins and infertility?
Jenna: So we know, we have a ton, decades, literally decades of association studies, but association doesn't mean causation. So we know people with higher exposure to these chemicals, they would have worse fertility outcomes, that's including lower sperm quality, lower egg quality, increased IVF failure, as well as the child developmental issues like higher risk of ADHD, autism, language delay. That's another big one and IQ. So these are our associations. We don't have any causal data at the moment. We have causal data in animal models that showing, Hey, animals exposed to these, it's causing these issues, but we don't have any human data on causal impact. Well, I guess the issue is we can't possibly expose human and study them cause it would be unethical. And so far we have not seen many intervention studies by showing, Hey, by detoxing, can we improve clinical outcome? So that's one area that we are trying to work on is can we give patients really concrete data, you know, by putting in these efforts, how much can we improve clinical outcome? We don't have that data yet, but we want people to take precautionary practice. Again, this comes down to prevention. That because we already have decades of like tons of association studies, we know these chemicals are doing harm and you know, they have literally no business of, of being in your body. And why do you want, you know, have yourself exposed? And then the last bit is we have been studying these chemicals one at a time and we know they're bad, but we are actually exposed to a ton of chemicals all at once. So one study got published just like a few weeks ago showing a mixture of BPA, phthalates and PFAS is actually causing more damage than their acting alone. So because of this study, because we already have many studies also on causal impact in animal models, we definitely want humans to avoid these chemicals.
Dara: So there's a lot of potential research that could be done in the future. I know we had Dr. Jorge Chavarro on our podcast and he is one of the leading researchers at Harvard. And I remember years ago when I met him at a conference, a fertility conference, he was doing research back then on the impact of metal cans, you know, sodas, and, and the cans on, on fertility. But I believe since he's been researching a lot more, but you made a good point that a lot of it isn't causal. They're seeing associations or things have been looked at in, you know, in something specific as opposed to more so how it's all connected and combined in our day to day. So just something to, you know, if people wanna look at research, I know Dr. Jorge Chavarro is, is quite involved in nutrition and fertility, but also environmental health and fertility.
Jenna: Oh, I was also just gonna say, I think this is like a really good anchor for people to change their behavior, understanding your numbers, and then because the chemicals are not just like the products you use, right? It's also in your nutrition. They actually, some of these chemicals are used as preservatives in packaged food. So if you eat a lot of, again, also, if you eat a lot of frozen dinners, that's like packaging plastic and you will get that exposure. And a lot of packaged food actually paraben is, is actually used in packaged food as a, a preservative. And it's not even labeled as paraben, it's labeled as a hydroxybenzoic acid. So most of the people eating packaged food, you just wouldn't realize that you are actually getting that paraben exposure. So, you know, by practicing healthy lifestyle with better nutrition, more bonding time with your family and you can decrease your chemical load. So we think this is kind of like a nice anchor also for people to change their nutritional behaviors, dietary habits, in addition to, you know, swapping out products and decrease your chemical burdens.
Rena: Yeah. I love that point. And, and you know, when you're talking about package foods and microwaveable dinners, I kind of cringe and you know, I’m also a health coach and Dara obviously is, is an RD and I know both of us are, you know, into eating natural, fresh foods. So, you know, I was gonna say, if anyone wants a podcast on that and how to make healthy swaps, definitely DM us because we could definitely do an episode on that. I think that's super, super important.
Dara: Yeah. It all works together. I just, I, I love what you said. I'm definitely gonna use this in terms of how your hormones work as a symphony. And it's the same thing in terms of, you know, what you put in your body and, and your environment, you know, all those things work as a symphony together to help make you as healthy as possible.
Rena: Yeah. I think that's a great point. And I think, you know, just to sort of quell anyone's anxiety about this, I think sort of the overarching really positive message is, look, this is about, you know, make some swaps, make some changes and just be mindful. You know, there are easy things you can do in your life to be healthier, both with your household products, what you're putting in your body. And, you know, again, you're not gonna revamp everything in a day, but educate yourself. And, you know, I think you'll start to feel better - body, mind, and soul - once you start living a healthier lifestyle and you know, we're all here to, to help you do that. So please, you know, message us. I think Jenna, it's incredible what you've created and I'm so, so thrilled to have you on. I think this is really inspiring and I learned so much from you.
Jenna: Thank you. We're happy to answer any questions that people might have because education, I think education's the key because only collectively we can make these changes and I'm hoping one day we don't have to exist telling people, you know, exactly what to change. We can move on to other newer biomarkers and other preventional, preventative strategies. It doesn't have always have to be chemical, but we definitely want a message to be out. So everybody start thinking about changing these lifestyle and lower your body burden of toxins.
Rena: Totally. I feel like that's a great point because you know, I'm sitting here thinking about, okay, well there's a fine line. You know, you don't wanna be that sort of crazy person that can no longer, you know, accept a gift or not eat something. And if we all educate ourselves, perhaps that will change. Okay. When you're giving out favors at a party, it's no longer wrapped in a plastic bag, right? It's in a stasher bag or something. It's in glass. And so we can all really work together to be on the same page about health and wellness and make these changes together. Cause I think it's hard when you're the only one doing it because you don't wanna not live your life. But you know, as you said, I think education is key. And then we can really all be on the same page, helping each other be healthier.
Jenna: Absolutely. Because if you don't know, you just don't know what to act. So, you know, here is like knowledge is the key. Once you know it, you can't unknow it and then you can start practicing and please like, you know, spread a message. Like, I always wanna share all the good message to people you love. And so they can also have this knowledge and, and then decrease their body burden.
Dara: For sure.
Rena: I could talk to you forever about this.
Dara: I know we have, I think we, you need to do a follow up down the road cause there's, you know, I would love to get into more specifics or certain products that you like, but where is the best place that we can reach you? Your, your website, your Instagram handle?
Jenna: Yes, we are www.millionmarker.com. We are pretty active on Twitter and Instagram. Again, like, education is key. So we oftentime will invite different practitioners to come to talk about wellness. We'll also do product comparison because again, like we don't want people to be overwhelmed and sometimes product, the super green product might not work for you. And maybe you would choose a less toxic one. So we often compare products as go slow or stop. So definitely ditch the stop category. You can always go first, go with a slow category before moving to the next step. So we do those. We always happy to answer anybody's question. We also have a mailing list that we wanna keep people updated with the latest research. So we also do that. So people can sign up or even just email us for any questions.
Dara: We're signing up.
Rena: Yes. We’re signing up right now, right now. This is amazing. Yeah, really, I could, I could really talk to you all day. I think this is incredible. And I'm, you know, again, so inspired that you got into this because of your own journey.
Jenna: Yeah. I, I just want more people to know more about it. So then, you know, at least there are so many, many things can cause infertility, but at least this is something that we can control and then eliminate this risk. And then just don't have to think about it. We have an assurance that, you know, this is not causing me issues then we just don't think about it and then move on to other things that you have to worry about. There's like just too many things.
Rena: Totally. Well, I'm so happy that you reached out. I think you DM’d me on Instagram or something and I'm so happy that you found us and so inspired by you and can't wait to continue to work together and, and help educate people about this.
Jenna: I'd love to cause I, I also feel there's like such a lag in research that we are actually looking for partners, whether we can do studies together doing intervention studies to actually see how by detoxing we’ll go through a comprehensive program, including nutrition, detoxing. We can actually prove the clinical outcome. Cause there's also, I think there's also a huge health disparity issue here, right? IVF is already so expensive. And then like, yeah, we don't have these tools. And a lot of people who are more and more having fertility issues, they can't even afford, they can't afford IVF. And, and then a lot of people are obviously not aware of these chemical exposures. So I felt like one way we're helping to change is to have insurance being able to, you know, reimburse people for these tests. Yeah. And then to make the test more scalable and then reducing the cost of the test. But without additional clinical data, it's really hard to convince, like, insurance to actually incorporate. And also getting more doctors on board cause what, some of the issues that we're facing is doctors will say, oh, we don't see any causal studies, but I'm like, okay, we already have decades and we're seeing animal models, like why aren't we, you know, studying patients know and then practice this kind of thing. And doctors are asking for, for causal studies, we're saying that, can, can you show me numbers - by doing this, how much outcome I can improve? Like how much risk we can decrease? But without investing in research, doing these studies, there's no way we can know. And NIH has not been doing that.
Rena: Definitely more, more improvement needs to be made. And I don't know if this pertains and I actually wanna do a podcast on this, but I recently learned that fertility treatment can actually be tax deductible. And there's a lot of loopholes with taxes and fertility treatment. So I don't know if Million Marker would fall under that. If you could somehow use it as a write off, but maybe something, you know, if you have an accountant, whatever, look into it because a patient of mine actually recently told me that fertility treatment is taxed deductible. So…
Jenna: Interesting. I know that we can qualify for FSA HSA reimbursement, but that also, depending on what's your insurance provider, theoretically, anything preventative or medical related to wellness can be deducted, but it's also depending on insurance, but ideally if we can demonstrate this can improve clinical outcome, then it'll be just incorporated into routine clinical care and insurance will reimburse it.
Rena: Yeah. I mean, I'm sure I'm definitely not gonna profess to know about this. It's actually the next thing I wanna kinda dive into to learning about cause obviously finances and fertility treatment go hand in hand is a stressor, but definitely something if anyone's listening, you know, maybe just inquire.
Dara: But yes, we, I would love to, I think we should do research on this. I think I do agree that I think, you know, we, we know the three of us know how it could negatively impact, but I do think the more good quality research we get out there, perhaps the, the more people will really listen and, and hopefully there can be changes on a larger scale.
Rena: Yeah. Well, okay. So I, I think maybe that's a good place to wrap part one for today. You know, and stay tuned for part two more from Jenna, more from Million Marker. I think this is fascinating and you've really sparked my curiosity and my sort of wheels are turning. So the way we like to conclude episodes is a note of gratitude. So something that you are grateful for.
Jenna: I'm grateful for that we have this knowledge that, you know, we can act upon. And I'm also grateful that all through my struggle, I kind of learned these things and now I can be an advocate for myself. And I guess I'm also grateful to have, you know, my family being supportive and also have the community like people like you guys are actively trying to change these things and then making it easier for people during their fertility journey.
Rena: I love that. So many things.
Rena: Dara, what about you?
Dara: I'm grateful that my heart is just so warm and open and I think a big part of this today is meeting you, Jenna. Really, I've been fascinated about this topic and have been somewhat overwhelmed of kind of where to begin. And I think just hearing, you know, you speak and, and getting, gaining more knowledge, I have more confidence as opposed to approaching it as you know, I'm horrible. I have all, you know, I have a lot of things that I need to change in my environment. I don't know. You've even inspired me and, and made me feel like I can do it, even small baby steps. And thank you, Jenna, for reinvigorating my interest in this. Yeah. That's what I'm really grateful for at this very moment. Rena?
Rena: You, you took the words right out of my brain - inspire cause I'm also feeling super inspired. Jenna, this, this definitely is not a topic. You know, I, I know Dara and I, our work is pretty streamlined and so it can tend to be kind of the same day in, day out and so this addition of environment and it's really, really sparking my cure curiosity and making me feel really inspired to make changes within my own household and then have new knowledge to share with patients in a really accessible way. And then of course, to meet you, another woman in business who is out there, you know, working to try and make a change and make the world a better place. I just think that's so inspiring. And you know, I say I'm here all the time. I always, always love you meeting other women, working to make a change, huge, huge, you know, supporter of women supporting women. And this has been such a pleasure to have you on. So I am grateful for you and Dara, and, and this.
Jenna: Thank you.
Dara: Thank you so much, Jenna, for being on today.
Jenna: This is so awesome. Thank you so much, guys.
Rena: Thank you.
Dara: Thank you so much for listening today and always remember: practice gratitude, give a little love to someone else and yourself, and remember you are not alone. Find us on Instagram @fertility_forward and if you're looking for more support, visit us at www.rmany.com and tune in next week for more Fertility Forward.