What is Environmental Toxicity?
We live in a world full of toxins and potential toxic exposures. Toxins are in our air, water, food supply, homes, businesses, and possessions. When these toxins enter our bodies and cannot be detoxified and eliminated, significant symptoms may develop. In fact, some toxic exposures can even mimic the symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. Other exposures can cause severe illness, disability or death.
Toxins include plastics, pesticides, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and other chemicals. Some can seem harmless to most of us because of their common use in our society. These include chemicals like chlorine, fluoride and bromine. Some are known carcinogens, but seemingly unavoidable as they are common in the food chain. Others are used in the workplace and if appropriate protective measures are not taken, entrance into the body of toxic chemicals is unavoidable.
One topic of immense interest for us at the International Center for Health and Wellness is that of Biotoxins. These are biological organisms that produce toxins that bind to the nervous system and affect many aspects of our body’s function. Examples include mold exposure from water damaged buildings, Lyme Disease from tick bites, Ciguatera from contaminated fish, Pfiesteria from water borne algae, red tide illness, and brown recluse spider bites. Biotoxins are difficult to detect and treat. Exposure may have occurred in the distant past and not be remembered. Unless detoxification is instituted, serious symptoms may persist indefinitely and resemble Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For more information on Biotoxins, go to http://www.survivingmold.com.
The symptoms of environmental toxicity are varied and many. They can mimic many other illnesses. In fact, symptoms can very closely resemble those found in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. Depending on the causative agent, there can be fatigue, muscle and joint pains, mental dysfunction (memory, focus, concentration), nausea and poor appetite, visual disturbances, dizziness, involuntary movements, numbness and tingling, taste disturbances and sleep disorders. Immunity can be affected, resulting in frequent infections. Bone marrow can be suppressed, resulting in anemia, bleeding problems, and poor immunity. In severe cases, low blood pressure, lethargy, muscle weakness or paralysis, vomiting and diarrhea, cardiac abnormalities, coma and death can result.
Biotoxin illness symptoms include:
- Muscle aches/pains
- Unusual Pain
- Ice pick Pain
- Light Sensitivity
- Red Eyes
- Blurred Vision
- Sinus problems
- Shortness of Breath
- Abdominal Pain
- Joint Pain
- Morning Stiffness
- Memory Problems
- Lack of Focus/Concentration
- Poor Word Recall
- Decreased Assimilation of New Knowledge
- Skin Sensitivity
- Mood Swings
- Appetite Changes
- Poor Temperature Regulation
- Increased Urination
- Static Shocks
- Metallic Taste
At the International Center for Health and Wellness, we utilize a variety of testing resources to help diagnose and follow treatment of environmental toxicity. Depending on the suspected exposure, testing can vary between hair, blood, urine and stool analysis. However, the first and most important step is a complete history and physical exam by a Physician experienced in diagnosing and treating the broad range of illnesses that can appear with similar symptoms as environmental toxicity. In addition, evaluation by a Functional Nutritionist experienced in the nutritional and herbal treatment of these disorders is essential.
Hair analysis is a good screening tool for heavy metal exposure and to assess for electrolyte and mineral deficiencies. Hair analysis is limited if dyes and certain shampoos are used. Sampling techniques have to be followed carefully.
Urine testing can be very valuable for ongoing exposures. In a special challenge test, a chelating agent (that binds heavy metals and allows for urinary excretion) is given before and then urine is collected and compared to urine collected without the chelating agent. This helps to show the ongoing body burden of metals.
Blood testing is useful for certain toxins, but also to evaluate for other causes of the symptoms that may be treatable and not involve toxins. It is also important to check for complications from toxin exposure.
For Biotoxin illness, a screening test at vcstest.com or survivingmold.com has a high degree of accuracy in predicting which people have a significant risk of Biotoxin illness. The VCS test involves visual contrast sensitivity, coupled with a symptom score, to determine the likelihood of Biotoxin Illness. If you fail the VCS and have the symptoms, further testing is warranted. This includes nasal cultures to rule out organisms that can complicate this picture, blood tests to assess the state of the immune system and to determine genetic susceptibility to different exposures, and other tests as covered in the sections on Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.
At the International Center for Health and Wellness, we believe that treatment for environmental toxicity involves the use of a treatment team experienced in caring for those afflicted with these disorders. Treatment must be comprehensive and holistic to achieve the greatest chance for complete recovery.
Before treating the environmental toxicity, all body organ systems must be supported and balance restored. This includes proper nutrition, sleep, and eliminating ongoing toxin exposure. Supplements and herbs are used to optimize the antioxidant defense system, liver and kidney function. Thyroid and Adrenal function must be supported or corrected. Hormones may need to be brought back in balance. A Physician experienced in these treatments assures the best outcome.
It cannot be stressed how important proper nutrition is in the process. The detoxification pathways of the liver must be optimized and the proper foods, herbs, vitamins and minerals play an essential role. This is where a Functional Nutritionist is invaluable.
Once the body organ systems are supported and detoxification pathways strengthened, specific agents can be utilized to chelate (bind) metals and toxins or to flush them from tissues. These must be monitored carefully as significant side effects can occur. Large amounts of water must be ingested and minerals replaced that also get chelated.
For Biotoxins, specific antidotes and treatments are available. These must be monitored by a physician specializing in the detoxification of these disorders. At the International Center for Health and Wellness, Dr. Gruning has done additional training to learn how to care for these disorders and follows the protocols of Dr. Richie Shoemaker, the recognized expert in identifying and treating Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). Go to survivingmold.com for more information.