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Environmental Illness?

 

Environmental Illness is a term used to describe an illness including multitude of symptoms affecting multiple organs caused by environmental triggers. Environmental illness may be allergies, sensitivities to chemicals, GI issues, neurological problems, psychological problems, autoimmune diseases, and different symptoms depending on the person. Some can become sensitive to almost everything in their environment like pollen and animal dander. They may start having food allergies to foods that did not bother them in the past.  They may become sensitive to perfumes or fumes from household chemicals. They may have problems with excess weight or hormonal dysfunctions of their thyroid and/or sex hormones. They may develop weird rashes or chronic sinus infections. They may be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. They may carry diagnoses of depression, anxiety, or insomnia. Some may even develop memory issues that can progress to dementia. Does this sound familiar?  

Some are unable to work in an office or other enclosed environment without becoming ill - this is known as sick building syndrome. This could indicate a person may be affected by CIRS or Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), sometimes referred to as Biotoxin Illness, or Mold Illness, initially thought to be caused by mold exposure only. However, with further research bacteria, fungus and viral infections are now also considered to cause CIRS.  

The medical community does not acknowledge a unified definition of “Environmental Illness”. This is probably due to the indefinite possibilities of how a person may react to the exposure. And, to make things harder, no single person reacts the same way as each person has a different genetic makeup and resilience. There are other factors at play that include the amount of exposure; the combination of multiple environmental triggers, and the length of exposure.  

Doctors may not be adequately trained to evaluate if the environment is a possible cause for their patients’ symptoms. Often, patients are diagnosed with a “disease” that includes a set of symptoms and prescribed a medication that usually is designed to ameliorate the symptoms – and the investigation for the cause stops.   

What are some environmental exposures? 

  • Chemicals like pesticides and insecticides that act as xenobiotics, carcinogens, autoimmune triggers, and central nervous system disruptors 
  • Chemicals, dyes, and “additives” added to processed foods 
  • Antibacterial and antiparasitic agents added to our water and food 
  • Microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and mold that produce toxins that weaken and cause problems for the immune system   
  • Heavy metals such as lead or mercury 
  • Radiation from x-rays, radio waves, and other electromagnetic fields 

How do you start the investigation of finding the exposures? 

  • Screening questionnaires for patients 
  • Specific advanced testing for environmental chemicals, mold toxins, heavy metals, bacteria, viruses, and parasites 
  • Specific neuroimaging of brain 
  • Specific blood test markers that indicate a person may be affected by CIRS 
  • Testing your house, car, school, and/or place of employment 

Environmental illness can loosely be defined as: 

“A reaction to common components of a person's environment, including chemicals, food, water and physical particles, that results in symptoms relating to multiple organ systems and a general poor state of health.” 

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine defines environmental illness: 

"ENVIRONMENTALLY TRIGGERED ILLNESSES (ETI) are the adverse consequences that result when the homeodynamic interactions among biological functions are compromised by external or internal stressors. These stressors may range from severe acute exposure to a single stressor, to cumulative relatively low-grade exposures to many stressors over time. The resultant dysfunction is dependent on the patient's genetic makeup, his nutrition and health in general, the stressors, the degree of exposure to them, and the effects of seven fundamental biological governing principles: biochemical individuality, individual susceptibility, the total load, the level of adaptation, the bipolarity of responses, the spreading phenomenon, and the switch phenomenon." 


Dr. Ilona Samara, MD is a leading specialist in the treatment of environmental illness in the Oklahoma City area.  


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