Two Harvard social scientists writing in JAMA estimate that 80,000 people will die unnecessarily every decade because of the Trump administration’s repeal of clean air regulations, with another 80,000 deaths caused by the more recent repeal to clean water rules. If you ask a Trump supporter about this, you’ll likely get an answer like “More jobs.” Well, yes, perhaps, but waiting for someone to die or become disabled due to pollution so a spot opens up for you to be hired seems like a pretty callous way to find employment, not to mention poisoning your children in the process.
We talk a lot about chemicals in our food, air, and water. Their total number is mind boggling: we intentionally add 2,500 chemicals to our food as additives, preservatives, and coloring agents. A shocking total of 12,000 chemicals find their way into our food supply via processing, packaging, pesticide residues, and drugs given to animals.
More than 700 chemicals have been found in drinking water, and don’t even ask about air, especially in urban areas and near factories. Then there’s the junk we inhale from new furniture, vehicle exhaust, sprayed herbicides and pesticides, plastics, treated wood, and the formaldehyde in everything from flooring and pillows to mouthwash and furniture polish.
In addition, doctors are seeing more problems with naturally occurring toxins, including the mold biotoxins from water-damaged buildings that make people sick.
The irony in all this is that the medical profession may do a lot of hand-wringing about environmental pollution of air, water, and food, but there’s actually been very little progress in understanding how all this affects patients.
If you’ve been feeling chronically ill and have heard “Your tests are negative,” ask yourself when (if ever) your physician offered to test you for accumulated environmental pollution or accumulated food additives. These tests are available, but of course not covered by insurance. If you ask, you’ll probably hear some variation of “We don’t know what to do with the results anyway.”
Learning more about pollution’s health effects
Actually, we do know some things about all this exposure and we seem to be learning more every year.
—Some people are affected more than others. Some get disabling chronic illnesses, others nothing at all. This leads to a real mess among genuine sufferers who are disbelieved by doctors, co-workers, and family members. Physicians can be especially brutal, insisting that the affected person is “just depressed” or “seeking financial reimbursement.”
—The reason for this disparity is a now-recognized genetic susceptibility in detoxification pathways. Every doctor with a lick of common sense knows that Patient A will do just fine on one medication while Patient B suffers nausea, mental confusion, or even failure of major organs like the liver or kidney. Tests are available to uncover these genetic susceptibilities, but getting insurance coverage for them is well-nigh impossible.
—An ever-growing number of patients start with sensitivities to one or more relatively innocuous substances, but become increasingly sensitive over time, adding newer chemical responses and more intense reactions to their burden. This is called the “spreading effect” of environmental illness syndrome, also known by its preferred name, multiple chemical sensitivities. Dr. Stephen Barrett’s Quackwatch article on MCS dismisses the whole thing as a sham diagnosis and suggests pulling the medical licenses of any physician who diagnoses it.
—Symptoms of environmental illness and multiple chemical sensitivities can affect any organ in the body. The most common symptoms are neurological (fatigue, lethargy, headaches, insomnia, brain fog, blurred vision), musculoskeletal (muscle aches, joint pain), gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting), heart/lung (chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing), ear/nose/throat (sore throat, hoarseness), dermatologic (rashes, flushing, dry skin), and immunologic (increased susceptibility to viruses, swollen lymph nodes, candida).
This 34-year-old article from the EPA shows how worried scientists were in 1985. Over the years we actually started making some baby-step progress until the current administration pressed the reverse button.
Here are some Functional Medicine tests we use in the process of diagnosing and treating environmental illness and multiple chemical sensitivities:
—Nordic Labs DNA Health (examines your genetic susceptibilities).
—Vibrant Wellness Additives (your body’s levels of 57 food additives).
—Great Plains Lab Tox Profile (levels of 172 common chemical pollutants).
—Doctors Data Oxidative Damage Assay (measures environmental damage).
How to improve indoor air
Via Cleveland Clinic, here are 17 immediate steps you can take to reduce indoor air pollution, with more at this link.
–Avoid smoking indoors (quitting smoking is the best answer for overall health).
–Use craft supplies in well-ventilated areas.
–Make sure your gas stove is well-ventilated.
–Remove carpeting if possible.
–Use a dehumidifier and/or air conditioner to reduce moisture.
–Keep trash covered to avoid attracting pests.
–Remove shoes at the door.
–Have car emissions tested regularly.
–Minimize air freshener use.
–Test your home for radon.
–Use carbon monoxide detectors.
–Fix water leaks.
–Dust surfaces and vacuum frequently.
–Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
–Make sure exhaust fans are functioning in your bathrooms and kitchen.
–Keep a lid on scented candles.
Begin a personal detoxification
First, here’s an excellent article from healthline on the best detox steps you can take. There are some important nutritional considerations mentioned at the link that you can start today to support your body in eliminating its current toxic load. You don’t need a restricted specific detox diet like the ones you see everywhere online. Your body can get rid of most toxins on its own if you (a) stop adding more toxins via processed foods, sugar, and alcohol and (b) support your organs of detoxification.
Your detox organs are led by the liver, the largest and, second only to your brain, most complex organ in your body. The late medical essayist Lewis Thomas, MD, once wrote that he’d rather be at the controls of a Boeing 747 at 40,000 feet than at the controls of someone’s liver. I list an excellent liver support supplement (Detoxification Factors) below.
Your other important detoxifying organs are the kidneys. To support them, drink plenty of pure water, avoid drinking from plastic bottles, keep your blood pressure and your blood sugar within normal range, and stay away from excessive use of over-the-counter meds like Advil.
Less involved with detox but not without some importance are your skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract.
Next, there are really only two extremely useful supplements to facilitate detox, so don’t go buying a lot of stuff you’ll never take:
—Detoxication Factors (Integrative Therapeutics), two capsules twice daily for one month if your lab tests show a large toxic load.
—Liposomal glutathione, one teaspoon daily.
Lastly, multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome, in which you react to just about everything, is extremely challenging to treat on your own. Begin by walking out on or (mentally) giving the finger to any doctor who tells you it’s all in your head.
For those outside the Chicago area, most functional medicine practitioners are trained to treat this condition (having an MD degree is not necessary). Just find someone who knows functional medicine. MCS often requires supporting your thyroid and adrenal glands, eliminating intestinal parasites and candida, and intravenous ozone therapy. Here’s a nice article on ozone therapy from a conventional medical journal.
If you’re working with a functional medicine practitioner who recommends ozone therapy but doesn’t offer it, we do, and you needn’t be a WholeHealth Chicago patient. Just call and schedule ozone therapy.
Next week: how toxic metals (mercury, lead, etc.) affect your health and how to get rid of them.
David Edelberg, MD