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For those of you who might be interested in learning a little more about LifeWave patches and how they work I thought I would pass on this information supplied by the company this week.
I received the information in an email as I have used a number of the patches and found them to be quite helpful, particularly the energy enhancer, glutathione (Y-Age), and Silents Nights products. I'm not suggesting by any means these products will cure chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity, autism, or any other environmental illness....but in my own experience they can certainly provide an effective means of drug-free symptom relief and improvements in well-being and daily functioning.
LifeWave patches purportedly work on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) - specifically the system of energy meridians said to carry Qi (life force/energy) around the body. In essence the patches work in the same way as acupuncture - but are obviously more practical to use.
There has been much debate over whether energy meridians actually exist and whether TCM is effective so LifeWave has provided links to a number of scientific studies appearing to demonstrate using modern technology that these meridians are real. See Fifth Geek for tech information.
I'll let you make up your own minds and please feel free to comment on the subject below:
Information Provided by LifeWave
There are various articles proving the existence of meridian channels throughout the body, and some of this evidence has been documented for over fifteen years. We thought you could benefit from the research that validates the existence of meridians - and learn what ancient Chinese medicine has known about for thousands of years!
Here is a brief summary of some notable research articles. The abstracts for these articles can be found on www.PubMed.gov, a resource website provided by the United States National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.
In a 1993 study from the Fujian Institute of TCM, researchers used infrared imaging to map meridian channels over the surface of the body. Sampling the infrared signals of "isoenergy" radiated from the body surface, results showed that "594 lines of radiant track have been recorded, [and] their courses coincided or basically coincided with that of the classical Fourteen Meridians" (Hu X, Wu B, Wang P. [Displaying of meridian courses travelling over human body surface under natural conditions] Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 1993;18(2):83-89).
Click here to read the abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8070048
In a related study, the same researchers found that of 164 recorded infrared radiant tracks, approximately 40% travelled down the midline of the back and generally coincided with the Governing Vessel meridian and Urinary Bladder meridian. Also, the intensity of radiation varied within the region (Hu X, Wu B, Wang P. [Displaying of the infrared radiant track along meridians on the back of human body] Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 1993;18(2):89, 90-93).
Click here to read the abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8070049
In a 2005 summary article, researchers analyzed 29 studies that used various methods to detect the biophysical characteristics of meridians. The results clearly showed that "meridians and acupoints objectively exist" (Tu Y, Wei Y. [Advances of studies on the biophysical characteristics of channels and acupoints] Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2005 Nov;25(11):817-819).
Click the link to read the abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16335213
In a 2007 study using infrared thermal imaging, researchers observed for the first time the "time dependent evolution of the infrared radiant tracks" along the meridian channels. This gives clear evidence that the radiant energy of each meridian changes over time and offer new possibilities in the evaluation of meridians and their acupoints (Chen L, Hu X, Li H, et al. [Appearance of human meridian-like structure and acupoints and its time correlation by infrared imaging] American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2007;35(2):231-240).
Click here to read the abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17436364
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is estimated to affect up to 15% of the population in the US and other industrialised nations (1), yet research into why people develop this hypersensitivity to chemicals is sorely lacking. Currently we have mainly animal testing and studies involving small numbers of participants diagnosed with MCS to go on.
One leading theory suggests the development of a hypersensitivity to chemical stimuli in an area of the brain known as the limbic system which controls a variety of functions including emotion, behaviour, long term memory, and olfaction (our sense of smell). Animals studies have shown that both large acute exposures and low-level chronic exposures to certain organic chemicals can result in hypersensitivity of the limbic system to subsequent minute exposures to the same, or similar chemicals (2). Perhaps the most complete theory of the pathophysiology of MCS thus far has been proposed by Martin Pall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington State University. Pall believes the symptoms are the result of a trigger (primarily chemical exposures) that results in the body getting locked into a cycle involving elevated levels of nitric oxide, increased free radical production (oxidative stress), chronic inflammation, and again, excessive sensitivity of the brain and central nervous system to "normal" stimuli (mediated by the NMDA receptor) (3).
What all current biomedical research points to is that excessive exposures to chemicals that exceed the the body's detoxification capacity, may result in the development of MCS in susceptible individuals. This is true whether the exposure is acute and obvious or is more insidious, occuring at a low-level over a prolonged period of time.
For some who develop MCS it is obvious what initially caused their illness. Acute exposure to such things as organophosphate/organochlorine pesticides, formaldehyde, or various powerful industrial solvents are obvious examples.
There is much overlap between MCS and Gulf War Syndrome and this is little surprise since military personnel were exposed to a highly toxic environment during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
In many cases however, the initial trigger for the development of MCS remains a mystery. For this reason I have decided to point out a few sources of chemical exposure you may not have considered that could potentially trigger MCS:
1. Mold - For people living or working in water damaged buildings, mold could be a prime suspect if MCS subsequently develops. Dr. Lisa Nagy M.D., a leading environmental medicine physician, has attributed her own illness to mould exposure following water damage to her home. Mold and mycotoxins (mold/fungal toxins) in water-damaged buildings and their biological effects have been well studied. They have been found to trigger the production of autoantibodies that attack the brain and central nervous system, cause peripheral neuropathy, and result in various neuropathological effects including altered blood flow and electrical activity in the brain (4). EiR recommends scientifcally-proven natural mold removal products for body, home and laundry from Micro Balance Health Products.
2. Carbon Monoxide - Since it is a colourless and odourless gas, exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) can go undetected for long periods of time. For this reason it is important to install CO detectors in your home and have appliances such as gas-fired boilers serviced regularly. Pall suggests CO exposure as a likely trigger for the cascade of pathophysiological changes that can lead to MCS and points out that the symptoms of CO poisoning share many many similarities with those of MCS (5).
3. Candida/Yeast Overgrowth - On the face of it perhaps the least obvious source of toxic chemical exposure that might lead to MCS would be an intestinal overgrowth of Candida/yeast. Yet, many MCS sufferers have good reason to believe they also suffer from an imbalance in their gut microflora that has allowed yeast to expand their presence. When we consider the chemical toxins that yeast such as Candida sp. produce as they ferment the carbohydrates in the food we consume, it in fact becomes obvious that when these are absorbed into the systemic circulation from the gut they are able to poison the brain and may ultimately contribute to the development of MCS. These micro-organisms produce ethanol (drinking alcohol), acetaldehyde (a chemical cousin of formaldehyde), and a host of other mycotoxins, which we have already established are neurotoxic.
4. Dental Work - Many MCS sufferers cite dental procedures as the trigger for their illness. Amalgam fillings contain mercury which is a known neurotoxin and increasingly people are complaining of the development of chemical sensitivities after they started using newer techniques for teeth alignment, such as Invisalign (see this blog).
There are no doubt many other hidden sources of toxic chemicals that may trigger the development of MCS in those who are susceptible due to genetic characteristics and other factors. After all, our environment in the 21st century is saturated with such chemicals.
If you have any other suggestions please let us know using the comment form below. It was also be great to hear what you believe caused your own MCS.
1. Caress SM and Steinemann AC (2004) Prevalence of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: A Population-Based Study in the Southeastern United States American Journal of Public Health 94(5): 746–7
2. Gilbert ME (2001) Does the kindling model of epilepsy contribute to our understanding of multiple chemical sensitivity? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 933:68-9
5. Pall ML (2002) NMDA sensitization and stimulation by peroxynitrite, nitric oxide, and organic solvents as the mechanism of chemical sensitivity in multiple chemical sensitivity FASEB Journal 16(11):1407-17
After the initial bewilderment and panic of becoming sensitive to what were previously harmless everyday items and environments, everyone who suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) quickly realizes that there is yet more suffering in store for them. Firstly, their regular doctor is unlikely to take the condition seriously or diagnose it correctly, instead opting for a psychiatric diagnosis. Secondly, no treatment actually targeted at MCS is likely to be forthcoming.
Even when naturopathic doctors and other alternative practitioners who do recognize MCS for what it is are consulted, the treatments on offer are often expensive and only partially successful at best.
For this reason I decided to compile the following list and summaries of five MCS treatments which are most likely to help you if you suffer from this debilitating and isolating condition. I decided on the five treatments based on my own recovery from MCS, feedback from other MCSers (on this site and the wider web), and of course reviewing the current scientific and lay literature.
N.B. The treatments are in no particular order.
1. Chemical Avoidance
This is just as it sounds - the avoidance of chemicals that trigger symptoms and if possible, also those that don't currently cause problems. For most people this is the foundation of managing and recovering from chemical sensitivities. It can be very difficult at first to replace all your usual personal care and household cleaning products as well as detecting hidden sources of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that cause problems in MCS - but it is by far the quickest route to relief from symptoms. In the book Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Survival Guide author Pamela Reed Gibson, Ph.D. includes very useful results from her research in the appendices. From a survey of 917 MCS patients 'chemical avoidance' and 'chemical-free living space' were overwhelmingly the most effective treatments according to respondents (additionally there is zero risk of side-effects). There is also evidence that chemical avoidance over the long-term (most likely years) can actually result in a cure (or at least remission). Anecdotal reports suggest that sustained chemical avoidance can lead to the MCS sufferer regaining tolerance to previous triggers.
2. Martin Pall Protocol
Martin Pall, Ph.D. has established himself as somewhat of a cult figure in the MCS community and for good reason. Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences, Washington State University and Research Director, The Tenth Paradigm Research Group, Pall has published several scientific papers on his theory of the pathophysiological processes that underlie MCS (and other invisible illnesses) and also published a book available to the general public titled Explaining "Unexplained Illnesses". He proposes that highly reactive oxygen and nitrogen-containing molecules - specifically nitric oxide (NO) and peroxynitrite (ONOO-) are produced in excess and these drive a cycle of inflammatory immune responses and other dysfunction. Other independent researchers have confirmed aspects of Pall's theory, notably oxidative stress (an excess of reactive oxygen-containing molecules). The logical treatment for MCS based on Pall's theory is to break the cycle using a combination of antioxidant nutritional supplements. Pall has worked with Allergy Research Group to develop supplements specifically for this task (read more here). Although the Martin Pall Protocol has yet to be put through clinical trials it is not hard to find MCS patients who attribute improvements or recovery to this approach. Prominent medical doctors in the field (e.g. Grace Ziem, M.D.) have also adopted Pall's protocol or variations upon it.
3. Phospholipid Exchange (PLX)
This is essentially a detoxification therapy at the cellular level. Each cell in the body has a cell membrane made up of fatty substances called phospholipids, along with fatty acids. These fatty substances give the cell membrane a level of fluidity that allows them to efficiently allow nutrients to enter the cell and toxins to be excreted. Richie Shoemaker M.D., Patricia Kane, Ph.D. and others have determined (much like Pall) that exposure to environmental toxins, infections, and other stressors can induce oxidative stress and chronic inflammatory processes that lead to a breakdown in the integrity of the cell membranes - untimately resulting in MCS. PLX involves supplying the phospholipids (mainly phosphatidylcholine), essential fatty acids (EFAs), and supporting nutrients to restore cell membrane integrity and the ability of cells to obtain nutrition, detoxify themselves, and generally function as they should. PLX is ideally performed via a series of intravenous infusions but the nutrients can also be supplied orally using nutritional supplements, healthy cold pressed oils, and oils obtained from a specific diet. PLX is somewhat analogous to a car's oil change in which dirty oil that clogs engine components is removed to be replaced with new, clean oil. PLX has been pioneered by Kane and collegues in their Detoxx System and is now used by many doctors who include nutritional medicine in their practise. I have heard firsthand from a number of people affected by MCS who credit PLX (even orally administered) with great improvements and even full recovery.
4. Ashok Gupta's Amygdala Retraining
The basis for Gupta's therapy is the theory that MCS is the result of chronic activation of the amygdala, a region of the brain that is responsible for the body's response to threats of all kinds, including exposure to chemicals. The aim of the amygdala retraining therapy is to reduce the reactivity of the amygdala to chemicals and therefore break the viscious cycle of dysfunction and disease that has been perpetuated by its chronic activation. Gupta's Amygdala Retraining is a psychological, or mind-body, approach to treatment of MCS. It incorporate elements of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), meditative practices, mindfulness, yogic techniques, and others. Many in the online MCS community have reported success with Gupta's approach, although like any MCS treatment it is far from universally successful. Read a forum post from an EiR member who recovered from MCS using Amygdala Retraining here. The Amygdala Retraining program is available on DVD - www.guptaprogram.com
5. Annie Hopper's Dynamic Neural Retaining (DNR) System
The DNR System developed by Annie Hopper is similar in principle to Ashok Gupta's Amygdala Retraining in that it asserts that the pathophysiology of MCS lies in the area of the brain where the amygdala are located, the limbic system. It also uses various psychological techniques that must be practiced regularly to retrain the brain to be tolerant of every chemicals. Hopper prefers to use the term "rewire" based on the phenomenon of neural plasticity, the brain's ability to change itself (for good or bad) in response to repeated stimuli. Hopper teaches her DNRS at seminars and DVDs are also available - www.retrainingthebrain.com
I personally recovered from severe MCS (I had to live alone and wear a carbon filter mask at all times) using a combination of the above approaches and support the theoretical and practical aspects of each. I am currently working on my own treatment program in the form of an eBook which I hope will contribute to helping other MCSers overcome their illness - look out for The RADD Protocol in the coming months. MCS is not permanent as many have been led to believe. People can and do recover!
If you have tried any of the five MCS treatments discussed above or have had success with any others than please leave a comment below...
So, I again find myself writing on my positive experience with a LifeWave patch...this time the new Aeon product which is aimed at reducing stress and its consequences, both as a standalone product, or as part of LifeWave's Y-Age system which also incorporates patches designed to increase levels of glutathione and carnosine in the body.
Having last year completed a Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional medicine, including a dissertation which involved performing a systematic review of the medical literature, I am quite familiar with the 'hierarchy of evidence' which is revered in academia, and perhaps most of all in medicine. In modern medicine if an intervention does not have numerous randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews of such trials supporting its use it is dismissed as useless or a scam. Now I understand the rationale behind this system and to a point agree with it.
Living with a multi-system illness (chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) ) for the past 20 years has, however, taught me to have an open mind when it comes to treatment options that on the face of it, appear to be nonsense. Such is the case with LifeWave patches. As commentators on many 'scam' and 'sceptic' websites have pointed out - LifeWave hasn't exactly been very clear on the mechanism(s) by which its products are proposed to work - and their explanation seems to have been amended on more than one occasion. At first there was heavy use of "nanotechnology" in promotional materials and now the explanation seems to be firmly centred on stimulation of various acupuncture points. This includes the addition of small plastic beads the wearer places in the centre of each patch before application, apparently to apply gentle pressure to the acupuncture point the patch is placed over. In my personal experience the patches produced pronounced physiological effects without these beads so I suspect they may just be a means to placate various regulatory bodies with an acceptable explanation of the patches action.
Besides the suspect (and changeable) explanations of how the patches work there is scant evidence from research studies supporting their use either. LifeWave says it is dedicated to research and surely now has the funds to perform quality clinical trials, yet I have yet to see such research. The studies that LifeWave talks about on its website and in promotional materials are small and appear to have been conducted by individuals connected to the company in some way or another. Hardly credible or reliable evidence.
Given all of the above and the fact that LifeWave uses a multi-level marketing (MLM) business model, I can't blame people for being highly sceptical.
BUT...no matter how much my rationale and analytical brain complains...each LifeWave patch I have tried myself has worked exactly as advertised, including the new Aeon patch. Not only that but the effects have been of rapid onset (within an hour of first application), pronounced, and persistent i.e. the effects don't wear off, become less pronounced, or disappear completely with continued use of the patches - as one would expect from the placebo effect. Nor importantly, have I experienced a single negative side-effect.
LifeWave report that studies have shown the Aeon patch balances the autonomic nervous system, reducing sympathetic activity while increasing parasympathetic activity, an effect that would be expected to reduce symptoms of stress and physiological effects associated with it. One such consequence of stress is inflammation and LifeWave say one study showed the Aeon patch was able to reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a sensitive marker of general inflammation now commonly used by your doctor.
After two weeks of using the Aeon patch I can say that after just an hour of wearing the first one I began to feel brigther in mood, more relaxed, and more able to enjoy the simple things. I found myself laughing out loud at TV comedies and wanting to go out for walks, which I hadn't done for a while. I even did some paperwork and housework - which I hadn't done for even longer! Beyond this I feel more like myself and hopeful for the future, rather than fearful.
In conclusion, the absence of evidence or understanding of how something works...does not necessarily mean it doesn't work. Scientists still haven't fully explained how antidepressant drugs, first produced more half a century ago, exert their effects. My point then is this - if like me you are suffering from a multi-system illness - sometimes you have to be open to things you perhaps wouldn't ordinarily be (keeping safety in mind of course). You never know in what form relief may come. I suspended my disbelief and gave LifeWave patches a try and am reaping the rewards. I like my new open mind, it gives me hope that I will stumble across other unexpectedly helpful approaches to achieving even better health in the future.
When thinking about how food sensitivities and/or intolerances may be affecting our health, something that is often overlooked is the role that biogenic amines may be playing.
What are Biogenic Amines?
Biogenic amines are a group of chemicals derived from amino acids (and therefore protein-containing foods) that have a number of functions and effects within the body, some desirable, and some not. The most well known biogenic amines are the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, and histamine, best known for its role in allergies. Others, which are less well known, include tyramine, tryptamine, and phenylethylamine.
These biogenic amines may act as neurotransmitters, be involved in local immune responses (such as the inflammation produced by histamine release), or regulate functions of the gut.
The classic neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline are all essential to proper brain function. Imbalances causes problems such as depression and anxiety.
In relation to food intolerances however, we are more concerned with the biogenic amines contained in foods and beverages that can cause local symptoms in the gut includig nausea, diarrhoea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as triggering symptoms elsewhere in the body, such as migraines, asthma, and hives.
Dietary Sources of Biogenic Amines
Biogenic amines are present in both plant and animal foods. They are produced when certain bacteria metabolise specific amino acids in food and beverages. For example, bacteria of the enterobacteriaceae group (e.g. E.coli, klebsiella, proteus, salmonella) breakdown the amino acid histidine, to form histamine.
Major sources of biogenic amines in the diet include:
- Aged Cheese
- Fermented/Pickled Foods (sauerkraut, soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, tofu)
- Processed, Cured and Pickled Meats
- Red Wine
Other foods and drinks that either contain biogenic amines or increase levels in the gut include:
- Fruits (avocado, citrus fruit, grapes, papaya, pineapples, plums, strawberries)
- Vegetables (aubergine/eggplant, spinach)
- Nuts (peanuts, coconuts, Brazil nuts)
- Dried Fruit (raisins, figs)
- Fish (particularly tuna and mackerel)
- Drinks (beer, chianti, vermouth)
Health Problems Associated with Biogenic Amines
The dietary biogenic amines that appear to trigger symptoms in some people are histamine, tyramine, and phenylethylamine.
Histamine - It is now estimated that up to 5% of the adult population suffer from hitamine intolerance (HIT), making it a major cause of food intolerance. HIT can cause digestive upsets including chronic diarrhoea or constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea. It may also causes systemic symptoms such as migraines, low blood pressure (hypotension), and palpitations. Finally, as you may expect, HIT can trigger allergic conditions including hayfever, eczema, asthma, and hives.
Tyramine - Has a strong association with migraine, high blood pressure (hypertension), depression, and Parkinson's disease. Tyramine is a major problem for people taking MAOI antidepressant drugs as they block its breakdown which can result in dangerously high blood pressure.
Phenylethylamine - Connected to migraine headaches, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and schizophrenia.
Dirk Budka, an expert on biogenic amine intolerances, believes that 40% of those suffering from IBS can be helped by addressing such intolerances. He also states that they are an important underlying factor in allergic conditions such as hayfever, eczema, and asthma, but are not considered by many healthcare practitioners (both from conventional and alternative/complementary medicine backgrounds).
Learn more at:
First of all Happy New Year to everyone! I hope 2009 brings renewed health and happiness to all visitors to The Environmental Illness Resource. I will continue to do my small part to bring you information and resources to make sure this is the case!
Over Christmas I couldn't help but reflect on how far I have come on my own personal journey in the last 4-5 years. This can best be illustrated with photos (Apologies in advance for the poor quality of some of them!).
Christmas 2003 - Mask Required!
1. This is me Christmas 2003 playing video games with friends while wearing my I Can Breathe! mask with carbon filter:
At this time I would occasionally visit friends wearing my mask like this but was still mostly confined to my flat/apartment. The masks were great as they enabled me to be around people without getting sick but it gets very hot, sweaty and uncomfortable in there after a while!
2. This also Christmas 2003 with my dad and grandma again wearing my face mask:
Obviously I wanted to spend Christmas with my family so I spent the day at my grandma's house wearing my mask the entrire time except for when it came time to eat. I was willing to endure the ensuing symptoms to sit down and eat Christmas dinner with the family!
Fast Forward to 2008
My Christmas this year has been a total contrast to that of 2003 and I am grateful for every day that chemicals no longer affect me.
1. Christmas 2008 started off with me serving as an usher at a close friend's wedding on December 21st:
It was an honour to be involved in the wedding and I have to admit I do enjoy getting dressed up in a smart suit as it doesn't happen often!
2. Here we are back at my grandma's eating Christmas Dinner but this time my face mask was in a draw at home where it has been for a number of years untouched:
Now I am able to enjoy eating with the family fully without worrying about reacting to chemicals and feeling terrible for the next few days. Of course I can also enjoy pulling silly faces for the camera once again!
3. Finally here I am enjoying bringing in the New Year at the pub with friends:
Back in 2003 I would never have imagined I'd be able to have fun and going out with friends on New Year's Eve again but here I am! Of course I stick to drinking water these days but I certainly don't feel like I am missing out as much as I did 5 years ago.
Recovering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
I had the idea for this blog a couple of weeks ago and wanted to make sure it got written to show any of you out there suffering deeply with MCS that it is not a life sentence and it is possible to overcome it and reclaim your life.
I was just like you, reacting to minute amounts (that I often couldn't even smell) of fragranced products, soft plastics, inks, glues, vehicle exhaust and all the rest. I put my recovery down to strict chemical avoidance, an organic diet based on fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds, improving my liver function and detoxification capacity with antioxidant and liver friendly nutritional supplements, and improving my brain chemistry and stress tolerance by optimizing hormone levels (DHEA and thyroid hormones) and getting as much natural light and sun exposure as possible year round to maintain neurotransmitter and vitamin D levels.
These measures will almost certainly help you too although there may be other pieces to your puzzle you need to address as well. The point is you CAN recover from MCS! Search online to find others' stories of recovery and then take action!
Also have a look at the multiple chemical sensitivity books section of the book store and reviews section.
I'd particularly recommend Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Survival Guide by Pamela Reed Gibson, Ph.D.
Knowledge is power is a phrase that rings true for MCS and environmental illness so learn all you can, put your knowledge to use, and look forward to getting your life back!
My very best wishes to all.
A little while ago a member posted in the forums about a subject which hasn't been addressed specifically on the site before - 'pathological detoxifiers'.
I thought this subject deserved more attention as it can be a vital piece in the puzzle for those suffering from environmental illnesses including multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), and Gulf War syndrome.
To define what it means to be a pathological detoxifier first we need to understand the basics of how liver detoxification works:
The detoxification of toxins by the liver basically occurs in two phases. Substances the liver must detoxify can be exogenous (from outside of the body) such as alcohol, drugs, pollutants, or endogenous (from inside the body) such as hormones.
Most toxins are fat-soluble which means they are easily absorbed and stored in the body (particularly fatty tissues, including the brain), but are difficult to get rid of. The overall aim of phases 1 and 2 of the liver detoxification system is to make toxins more water soluble so they can be easily excreted by the body in urine. Some remain predominantly fat-soluble and are excreted into bile and eventually removed from the body during a bowel movement.
Phase 1 mainly uses a class of enzymes known as the cytochrome P450 system to oxidise toxins and make them more easily excretable and/or easier for the phase 2 system to pick up and carry on the job. Some substances such as caffeine go through phase 1 and are then directly excreted in the urine without going through phase 2. Equally some toxins can bypass phase 1 and go straight into phase 2. In the most part however (and this will become important in terms of the pathological detoxifier), toxins pass through both phases of liver detoxification before the body can rid itself of them.
Phase 2 involves the binding, or "conjugation", of certain substances to the toxins coming out of phase 1 so they can be removed from the body. There are six different conjugation pathways - glutathione conjugation, amino acid conjugation (e.g. glycine, taurine), sulphation, glucuronidation, acetylation, and esterification. Glutathione conjugation is generally considered the most crucial but this is not to say the other pathways do not play an important role and all need to be functioning optimally for good health.
So basically - phase 1 prepares toxins for conjugation by phase 2 which renders the toxins safe and able to be excreted.
The Pathological Detoxifier
Problems arise because when we are exposed to increased amounts of toxins this increases the rate at which phase 1 operates and it can usually continue to work at this rate indefinately. This isn't a problem if phase 2 pathways can keep up. Unfortunately in many people, if phase 1 activity remains elevated for a prolongd period the substances used by phase 2 tend to become depleted and phase 2 can no longer function efficiently and keep up with phase 1. When this situation exists in an individual they are said to be a pathological detoxifier. Substances coming out of phase 1 can't all be taken care of by phase 2, so instead they circulate throughout the body causing symptoms of toxicity and disease. What makes things worse is that substances produced by phase 1 are sometimes actually even more toxic than the original toxins being detoxified. This is why it is essential that phase 1 and phase 2 are in balance.
If you suffer from environmental illness or unexplained symptoms, or you feel "toxic"...it may be that you are a pathological detoxifier and you literally are toxic. Fortunately there is a simple test available from various functional medicine labs that can determine if this is the case. The test involves taking a small dose of caffeine, paracetamol, and aspirin, and then collecting urine over a specified amount of time. By measuring the amounts of detoxification products of these substances in your urine the lab can determine how quickly phase 1 and a number of phase 2 pathways are working.
I myself had a Detoxification Profile carried out by Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab (now Genova Diagnostics) back in 2000 to investigate the causes of my chronic fatigue syndrome. My results suggested a trend towards me being a pathological detoxifer. See the following blog:
For information about treating imbalanced liver detoxification see this blog:
I have been surprisingly impressed with LifeWave patches in the past. I have tried the Energy Enhancer patch for increased energy and stamina, the Silent Nights patch for improved sleep and the Glutathione patch and found them all to have powerful beneficial effects.
When trying the Glutathione patch previously I used a standard placement on the body recommended in the accompanying booklet. Since glutathione is the body's major antioxidant and promotes detoxification the LifeWave literature warns that the wearer may "experience detoxification symptoms such as a sore throat, headache, fatigue or nausea."
This is exactly what I experienced the first few times I wore the patches. Within 15 minutes of placing the patch on my body I experienced nausea, headache, and a toxic/flu-like feeling which I took as a sign that the patch was working as intended - raising glutathione levels in my body and mobilizing toxins for excretion.
LifeWave claim that the Glutathione patch increases blood glutathione levels by 300% in 24 hours. I would love to put this to the test personally and have blood levels monitored. I'm sure many readers would be interested in the results of this testing as much as I would so if I am able to get it done I will post an update here.
I haven't used the Glutathione patches for a while mainly due to cost and wanting to use my cash to try other things. However, after learning a little more about the LifeWave patches and how they work by stimulating acupuncture points on the body I decided it would be worth trying the Glutathione patch again but this time placing it on an acupuncture point directly related to the liver.
I have suffered from pretty bad liver toxicity for years as a result of gut dysbiosis (fungal and bacterial) and increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome). I experience symptoms including pale stools, jaundice, abdominal pain, headaches, flu-like feelings, fatigue and mood distubances. Liver testing has shown elevated GGT supporting the idea that I have an increased toxic load on the liver. GGT can be elevated by drinking alcohol or taking pharmaceutical drugs but I had done neither for years at the time of testing.
I have found a number of herbs which benefit my liver function including Tribulus terrestris, ginseng, guduchi and schizandra. The improvement in all symptoms when I take these herbs are associated with my stools returning to a normal deep brown colour.
So starting today I am using the LifeWave Glutathione patch again but this time placing it on an acupuncture point known as LV3 or its Chinese name Tai Chong which translates as 'Great Surge'. LV3 is used to directly stimulate the liver meridian.
Testamonials elsewhere on the internet from LifeWave Glutathione patch users suggest placing the patches on this acupuncture point can greatly improve liver function (presumably by elevating liver glutathione specifically). So I will now put this to the test myself and report back with my findings...
To read reviews of LifeWave patches or write a review yourself visit our LifeWave Patch reviews section.
It's that time of year again for those of us in the northern hemisphere, the days are quickly getting shorter now and for many that means symptoms of fatigue, lethargy, depression and more. As a result, it can require the willpower of a polar explorer just to drag oneself out of bed in the morning!
One solution to combat these symptoms is the use of a dawn simulator. These are essentially alarm clocks that instead of waking you abruptly with loud and irritating beeping (that makes you want to smash the thing!), produce light that gradually increases in intensity to mimic the rising sun. Many models use full spectrum light which is closest in appearance to sunlight as well.
By working in this way you can set your dawn simulator alarm for any time in the morning when it's still dark outside and be woken in a way that is more natural to the body. It is morning light that suppresses the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and switches production to the related chemical serotonin which is mood enhancing and helps to get us going in the morning. The daily cycle of melatonin and serotonin production is part of the circadian rhythm which regulates bodily functions over a 24-hour period. Disruptions in this cycle and excessive daytime production of melatonin have been implicated in seasonal affectice disorder (SAD). The use of a dawn simulator may help to maintain healthy circadian rhythms through the winter and ward off the symptoms of SAD and its milder form, popularly referred to as the "winter blues".
The treatment of choice for SAD is bright light therapy using powerful light boxes with a rating of 10,000 lux (lux being a measure of light intensity). Many studies have been conducted proving that this approach is effective for many patients. However, it can be difficult for some people who don't have time in the morning to sit in front of a light box for 30 minutes or more and may be a bit awkward in the office if you were to set one up on your desk - although your coworkers may also benefit!
Research into dawn simulators has been less extensive but the studies that have been done have often been favourable. One study even found them to be more effective than bright light therapy (although this result would have to be questioned), while another that tested a range of interventions found dwn simulators the second ost effective behind bright light therapy using 10,000 lux light boxes.
The upshot however seems to be that dawn simulators can be a very useful tool to help those adversely affected by lack of light get through the winter months. I have used one myself for a few years and it definitely helps, along with othert measures (I have severe SAD).
Dawn simulators are becoming more and more popular and are therefore now widely available and very affordable. If you search online you will find plenty of retailers offering these useful devices but to help you out here are a few useful links:
- Lumie (Europe)
- Healthy House (UK)
- TrueSun.com (US)
I will be adding a number of different dawn simulator models to the light therapy category of the site review section very shortly.
If you struggle with SAD or the winter blues you will be relieved to know there are a number of other effective treatment options available including high dose vitamin D therapy, negative air ionization, and the use of mood enhancing nutrients such as 5-HTP and herbs including St. John's Wort. Learn more on our SAD Treatment page.
Many people suffering from environmental illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and particularly multiple chemical sensitivity, lead very lonely existences. This blog entry will look at how pets can offer valuable company for some.
The symptoms of these disabling conditions such as fatigue, pain, and cognitive difficulties such as confusion, poor short term memory, and inability to focus, mean that sufferers are often unable to remain in their jobs or enageg in social activities. To make matters worse these symptoms and many others are aggravated by both physical and mental exertion, as well as environments that are noisy or have bright lighting - typical of work places and coffee shops, bars, and other places where people typically socialise.
It is a sad fact that people unaffected by these types of illness find it very difficult to comprehend what sufferers are going through, or even that they are ill at all. This leads to the breakdown of both friendships and relationships as partners inevitably struggle to understand and feel their lives are also greatly restricted.
People suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) undoubtedly live the most lonely lives in many cases as they are essentially restricted to their homes and often can't even have visitors - at least not without the use of face masks containing carbon filters or supplying oxygen; any exposure to everyday chemicals such as fragranced personal care products triggering an array of symptoms that can last for days and be serious in nature.
Obviously the loneliness associated with environmental illnesses in itself is enough to cause depression and anxiety but these illnesses themselves can also cause depression and anxiety due to various biochemical disturbances resulting from the disease processes.
For people in this terrible situation a pet such as a cat or dog can offer significant companionship and comfort. Medical research is even showing that pets have a measurable positive effect on mental illnesses including depression and anxiety. A short article in The Gaea Times this week reported on just this issue.
The article asserts that having a "four-legged, furry pet" is one of the most effective safeguards against developing depression and anxiety, not just for those suffering from the isolation of environmental illnesses, but for everyone.
Rebecca Johnson, associate professor at the University of Missouri , is cited as saying "Research in this field is providing new evidence on the positive impact pets have in our lives." Johnson adds that "Pets provide unconditional love and acceptance" - likely to be an instrumental factor for environmental illness sufferers who find these qualities hard to find in people.
James Griffin, scientist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), agrees that so far research suggests "pet ownership may have multiple health and emotional benefits for both children and adults." However, he cautions that further research is required to confirm these findings and find out how having furry friends around the home have such seemingly profound health benefits.
Now I would be negligent in a piece about environmental illness and pet ownership if I neglected to add a caveat about pet allergies. Obviously those who suffer from allergies to cats, dogs, or other furry pets will not benefit from having them around. Research suggests having cats and dogs in the home with children reduces the risk of a child devloping allergies - but if allergies are already present avoidance is necessary in the absence of successful neutralisation therapy. Perhaps an alternative option would be a reptile or maybe a bird if that is your thing!
I personally have always been an animal lover and have had cats and dogs in the home since I was born. As the research suggests I never developed allergies to animal dander despite developing chronic fatigue syndrome aged 12, hayfever shortly after, and chemical sensitivities aged 21.
I would not be without a pet, they definitely provide comfort to me when I am down and can often put a smile on my face with their playful antics. I know not everyone loves animals like I do but since research points to the benefits discussed above I thought it would be interesting to hear from others on this subject.
Do you have pets? Do they help you get through the hard times of living with environmental illnesses? Please let us know using the comments box below!
Many people who develop chronic illnesses find that conventional medical care is inadequate for treating their symptoms and incapable of giving them the quality of life they desire. This is a major reason why many of us turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Many CAM therapies are proposed to work through the so called 'mind-body connection'.
Despite a now well established body of sound scientific evidence this connection is usually ignored by conventional medicine which still thinks of the body and mind as being seperate. In conventional medicine there is no room for a "spiritual" aspect to healing at all.
To many people it seems obvious that the mind and body are essentially one and the same. Science began to make this link experimentally around the 1950s and in 1980 Robert Ader introduced the term 'psychoneuroimmunology' during his presidential lecture to the American Psychosomatic Society. The term brings together research from disciplines including psychology, neurology, immunology and endocrinology. The field of psychoneuroimmunology has grown at a rapid rate over the proceeding decades and has led to research that demonstrates that the brain and nervous system, immune system and endocrine (hormonal) systems are all connected and in constant connection. A change in one does not occur in isolation to a change in the others.
For example, it was previously thought that the immune system acted autonomously and was not affected by our thoughts and emotions. However, it is now known through scientific experimentation that stress of any kind, whether physical (e.g. endurance exercise) or mental/emotional (bereavement, loneliness), activates the sympathetic nervous system which in turn triggers the release of stress hormones which ultimately suppress the immune system, reducing numbers of various subtypes of white blood cells such as T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cells which are vital for protecting us from infection. Equally the absence of stress and the presence of positive thoughts and emotions have the reverse effect on the immune system, promoting health.
The communication and effects are not one-way however. A stress on the immune system such as a chronic viral infection causes the sustained release of the adrenal hormone cortisol which then effects the nervous system. High levels of cortisol are found in people suffering from clinical depression, for example.
Many CAM therapies and stress reduction techniques are now thought to exert their therapeutic effects by acting on these interconnected systems and restoring a level of balance, thus reducing symptoms and improving health.
Many good books have been written on the mind-body connection and psychoneuroimmunology that explain further:
1. Molecules of Emotion - Candace B. Pert, Ph.D.
2. Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d - Candace B. Pert, Ph.D.
3. The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions - Esther M. Sternberg M.D.
For those with a more scientific/medical mind then a useful textbook is:
This is a really interesting area and has the potential to help all of us suffering from environmental illnesses. I hope my little introduction here will encourage you to look into it further.
As someone who has suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), adrenal fatigue (AF) and a host of related concerns for almost 19 years now, since the age of 12, I am acutely aware of the need to pace myself. I know I should not take on too much at once and allow myself time to relax and recuperate, at least to some small degree, yet after all these years I still find this extremely difficult.
ME/CFS patients have often been reported to be disproportionately Type A personalities as a group. This study refers to the "action-proneness" of patients i.e. our need to always be on the go and engaged in activity of some kind, whether physical or mental. I can certainly relate to that. Here I am so many years after becoming ill and I am singlehandedly running this website (which is now a BIG job!) and also trying to complete my studies for a bachelor's degree in nutritional health. I also find it very hard to say no to social invitations. I'm sure you can imagine I am not feeling too great at the moment as a result!
The following study talks about acceptance of the chronic nature of ME/CFS being associated with increased well-being:
I thought I had accepted this fact but looking at my life currently I think perhaps I have just directed my Type A action-proneness in a different direction. Not that this is all bad as my actions are hopefully helping others who are also ill. I have also discovered ways to help myself during work on The Environmental Illness Resource and my degree studies - I used to suffer terrible S.A.D. for example but am now able to get through the winters without feeling suicidal.
I concede however that once I complete my degree I do need to take a step back and look at how I can pace myself but still live a life that brings me a sense of well-being and fulfillment. It's a big ask as it is not in my nature to compromise and accept limitations but to enable myself to heal and be truly happy I know that some way, somehow, I must take this path.
Meditation and Eastern practices have helped me a lot in this area already but I have a long way to go. In any case....it's the journey and not the destination that are important...
What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you find it difficult to pace yourself? Do you accept the limitations imposed by your illness or try to ignore them and push back harder? Do you find it hard to say "no"? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!
Invisalign: A Near Death Experience
I would like to tell my story of a near fatal experience wearing Invisalign braces. I was 54 years old at the time, and have always been active and in great shape. I didn't even take any medication, except, Estrogen. I am, overly sensitive to chemicals and medications. I might be one in a million to have such a sever reaction, but even if I help one other person I will feel good.
My dentist said that it would take two years with Invisalign because my teeth were so crooked. I started with them in November of 2007. My dentist was proud of me because he knew I was very disciplined and kept them in the required time. He said most people cheated and didn't wear them as many hours as suggested.
In early 2008 I started feeling poorly, tired, and achy. I went to a Rheumatologist, because I thought I had Fibromyalgia, I knew my mom had it. I was given blood tests and it was found that I had a slight hypothyroid condition. That doctor sent me to an Endocrinologist. I could not tolerate any of the medication that he gave me. He said that I was a very interesting patient because my Thyroid levels kept going up and down.
He sent me back to the Rheumatologist to see if maybe I had an autoimmune problem. I took more extensive blood tests. Nothing conclusive was discovered.
Meanwhile, I was getting worse. I could barely get around. I was weak and so tender and achy; I had to get up from sitting very slowly. My hair was falling out at an alarming rate, and was dull and straight. My eyebrows were also falling out. My vision was changing, my fingernails developed ridges and were curling up. I was unable to tolerate the heat. I had several acute spells where I literally thought I was going to die. It felt as though my life force was completely draining out of me.
By April of 2009 I had completely baffled the doctors. In early October of 2009, I was so scared. I was also having issues with my indigestion. Burping all the time, gas and a sever pain in my stomach. Also, at times my throat would feel like it was closing and I completely lost my appetite.
I decided to go to a gastrointestinal specialist. He ordered an Endoscopy and Colonoscopy test, which I done the first part of November 2009. The results were negative.
I was finally finished with the braces the last week of October 2009.
Only two weeks after finishing with the braces, I started to feel better. By the third week in November, my hair was shiny and back to normal, I had energy, my stomach issues disappeared. My nails were growing faster and looked normal. I joined a gym, and in a couple of weeks I felt about 10 years younger. I was suddenly feeling better than I had before the Invisalign.
I was disappointed that no one could figure out what was wrong with me. I started thinking what changed in my life in the last two years. INVISALIGN !!!! I started researching and found that some people had low levels of a toxic reaction. I knew I was on the right track. I found that some types of polyurethane contain cyanide, and when it breaks down the chemical composition changes.
It has been suggested that all dentists do a blood test to determine if the patient has a problem with plastics in dental appliances. All the people who care about me say I should sue the makers of the product, but all I really want to do is to make people aware, and try and get some kind of sensitivity test for all patients considering all types of dental appliances.
Thanks for your time, please tell anyone you know about this issue.
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is something that those suffering from environmental illnesses often struggle with. Poor thyroid function has been linked to many of then illnesses covered on this site and is often the hidden cause of a host of chronic symptoms including fatigue, poor cognitive function, low mood, low sex drive, cold intolerance, weight gain or inability to lose weight...and many others.
Assuming you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism (not easy in itself), unless the cause is obvious such as a tumour or autoimmune disease and is detectable using routine tests, chances are you will simply be given a prescription for thyroxine (the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland and also referred to as 'T4') and have your blood levels monitored, along with levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) - a pituitary hormone that stimulates production of T4 by the thyroid gland.
Unfortunately many patients find that T4 medication doesn't alleviate their symptoms, even when blood levels return to normal, and even if they do feel better they will need to take the medication for the rest of their lives unless the underlying cause of the problem is discovered.
Mechanisms by which Hypothyroidism may Occur
First of all lets look at the main reasons why someone may display symptoms of hypothyroidism:
1. Primary Failure - The thyroid gland itself fails to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone e.g. in autoimmune thyroiditis when the immune system produces antibodies that attack and damage thyroid tissue.
2. Control Failure - The systems upstream of the thyroid (the hypothalamus and/or pituitary gland) fail to stimulate and produce enough TSH to trigger thyroid hormone production in the thyroid.
3. Thyroid Hormone Conversion Failure - Although it is T4 that is produced in the largest amounts by the thyroid it is actually another thyroid hormone known as triiodothyronine (T3) that is most biologically active and exerts most of the effects associated with normal thyroid function. Failure of the tissues to convert T4 to T3 can be one cause of hypothyroidism.
4. Thyroid Receptor Resistance - For any hormone to have an effect it must bind to a receptor. Thyroid hormones bind to receptors within the cells (intracellular receptors). These receptors may become insensitive to thyroid hormones due to factors such as genetics, diet, environmental toxins, and chronic illness.
5. Adrenal Fatigue/Exhaustion or Insufficiency - The adrenal and thyroid glands work closely with the thyroid and poorly functioning adrenal glands almost always result in hypothyroidism.
Nutritional, Lifestyle and Environmental Factors that Might Cause these Problems
Any one or a combination of deficiencies of the following nutrients may contribute to hypothyroidism to varying degrees.
- Tyrosine (an amino acid) - Building block of thyroid hormones. - Iodine - Building block of thyroid hormones (e.g. 3 atoms bound to tyrosine in T3, 4 in T4).
- Selenium - Vital part of enzyme that converts T4 to T3, part of glutathione peroxidase which protects the thyroid from free radical damage. - Zinc - T4 synthesis, conversion of T4 to T3, binding of T3 to its receptor.
- Iron - T4 synthesis, conversion of T4 to T3, binding of T3 to its receptor.
- Vitamin E - T4 synthesis, antioxidant (protects the thyroid), aids T4 to T3 conversion.
- Vitamin A - T4 synthesis, needed for formation of T3 receptors and binding of T3 hormone to them.
- Vitamin B2 - T4 synthesis
- Vitamin B3 - T4 synthesis
- Vitamin B6 - T4 synthesis
- Vitamin C - T4 synthesis
- Vitamin D - Regulates the immune system and may protect against auto-immune hypothyroidism. - Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Improve binding of T3 to its receptors.
Foods and Supplements which may Interfere with Thyroid Function
Brassica Family Vegetables - contain chemicals (e.g. isothiocyanates) which inhibit the production of thyroid hormones when consumed in large amounts. The amounts needed to cause significant dysfunction would not usually be obtained from diet alone but may become a problem when supplementing with brassica extracts for other reasons (e.g. as antioxidants, detoxifiers). Brassica vegetables include brocolli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale.
Soy Foods - Soy contains isoflavones which may inhibit the enzyme thyroid peroxidase that is required for T4/T3 production in the thyroid. Isoflavones may also inhibit the response of the cell to T3 once it has bound to its receptor. Soy foods include tofu, miso, and many packaged foods, particularly vegetarian meat substitutes. Isoflavones are marketed as nutritional supplements as an alternative to HRT in menopausal women.
Flavonoids - Antioxidant flavonoids such as quercetin and naringenin found in significant quantities in a variety of fruits may alter thyroid function when consumed chronically in large amounts. Since these flavonoids are marketed as antioxidant nutritional supplements caution must be urged if hypothyroidism is suspected.
L-Carnitine Supplements - L-carnitine is sold as a nutritional supplement to increase energy and stamina since it is required for the production of energy from fats. However, it may inhibit the entry of T4 and T3 into the cells so should be used with caution in hypothyroidism.
Stress - Cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is required in small amounts for the conversion of T4 to the more potent T3 form. During chronic stress levels of cortisol become chronically elevated which has a negative impact on thyroid function - reducing conversion of T4 to T3 and increasing production of an inactive form of T3 known as 'reverse T3 (rT3)'. In addition high cortisol levels reduce production of TSH by the pituitary. If the chronic stress is severe and/or prolonged then adrenal fatigue/exhaustion may develop and the adrenal glands are no no longer able to produce even normal amounts of cortisol. The conversion of T4 to T3 is also reduced in this situation. Stress therefore can have a major impact on thyroid function and be a significant contributor to hypothyroidism.
Lack of Exercise - Exercise can increase both thyroid hormone production and the sensitivity of cells to these hormones thus improving thyroid function. Lack of exercise may therefore contribute to low thyroid function.
Fluoride - Since fluoride is similar in chemical structure to iodine it can compete with iodine and interfere with the iodination of thyroid hormones and slow down their production. Fluoride also competes with TSH and binds to its receptors in the thyroid gland thereby blocking stimulation of the thyroid gland and the production of thyroid hormones. The major sources of fluoride are fluoridated drinking water supplies and toothpaste/dental hygiene products.
Other Environmental Toxins - Other toxins present in the environment can also have a negative impact on thyroid function. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) for example are structurally similar to thyroid hormones and can bind to thyroid hormone receptors and prevent the hormones themselves from doing they. They may also mimic the action of thyroid hormones depending on the dose involved, causing the opposite of hypothyroidism i.e. hyperthyroidism. PCBs are used in paints, wood floors finishes, adhesives, electrical components and plastic wiring insulation, and a variety of other applications of plastics.
I could have gone into much more depth on this subject but I hope this post has opened your eyes a little to factors that influence thyroid function and the importance of considering diet, lifestyle and environmental exposures.
Genetic Testing for Detoxification, Immune and Neurological Risk Factors in Environmental Illness Featured
As an environmental illness sufferer myself and someone who is in the final stages of clinical training to become a Nutritional Therapist having obtained a bachelor's degree in nutritional health, I have become interested in genetic testing.
In the past genetic testing of any kind has been extremely expensive and has tradtitionally looked only for genes that identify hereditary diseases. Now however there are commercially available tests that many naturopathic doctors and other functional medicine-orientated health care practitioners are utilising to better help patients with environmental illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), as well as those with chronic unexplained ill-health but no diagnosis.
Such testing allows for the detection of single nucleotide polymorphyisms (SNPs - pronounced "snips"), small sections of genetic code that determine, for example, the efficiency with which an individual can neutralise and excrete toxins or synthesise neurotransmitters by affecting the functioning of various enzymes and other chemicals.
This information for the first time allows health care practitioners and patients to modify environmental factors such as diet and tailor treatment programs to take genetic predispositions and weaknesses into account. This could potentially improve the success of interventions as rather than using a "one size fits all" protocol for each patient or diagnosis, an individual can be treated as just that, a unique individual.
Most who are suffering, or who have suffered from, an environmental illness, whether ME/CFS, MCS, or gut issues such as Candida overgrowth will attest to the fact that treatments that have worked for others have not helped them, and vice versa. This is because these illnesses are not the result of a single inherited gene (or a few genes), or an infection, poisoning, or other environmental exposure - these illnesses are the result of a complex interplay between genetic susceptibilities and a variety of environmental exposures accrued during life (and even before birth).
It is my hope that profiling of SNPs controlling metabolic processes known to be dysfunctional in environmental illnesses (and those that become apparent in the future) will help many sufferers regain a better level of health more quickly than has been possible thus far.
Genova Diagnostics have pioneered commercial genetic testing with their Genovations tests. Those likely to be of most help in determining factors underlying environmental illnesses in individual sufferers are the:
- DetoxiGenomic Profile
- ImmunoGenomic Profile
- Comprehensive Inflammation Profile
- NeuroGenomic Profile
Some of these profiles overlap in the SNPs they look for so history, symptoms and previous test results will no doubt help to determine which would be the most appropriate in your particular situation.
I will be adding review pages for each of the above profiles with detailed descriptions of what they test for and what results might indicate and I will link to them from this blog post as I do so (you can also learn more at www.genovadiagnostics.com or ask your health care practitioner).
It would be great to hear from anyone who has had any of these tests and your experiences with them. Please leave comments below as always!
There is no doubt that chronic illness involves a lot of suffering, a lot of soul searching, and a great deal of loss, both of one's capacity to continue doing all the things that bring enjoyment and of self-esteem and fulfillment in life. But what if chronic illness could be turned into a positive experience?
This summer I completed a bachelors degree in nutritional health and was awarded first class honours by the University of Greenwich, London. At 31 I was beginning to think I would never obtain a degree after being forced to drop out of a computer science course at the University of Sheffield aged 19 due to ill health - this was therefore a great achievement for me. However, the degree was supposed to be followed by a year of clinical training to become a nutritional therapist/nutritionist. A recent downturn in my health as forced me to re-evaluate my current direction and it has become clear that in my current state of health I would be unable to complete the clinical work...and in any case, would be unable to cope with working as a full-time nutritionist after qualifying.
Paying close attention to my thoughts and emotions after making the decision to withdraw from the final stage of my course, I was pleasantly surprised. In the past I would undoubtedly have seen this as giving up and suffered a loss of self-confidence. My reaction here however has been the exact opposite. I feel like I am thinking more clearly again and starting immediately after making my mind up to withdraw from the clinical training I began having a flurry of ideas for re-developing The Environmental Illness Resource and writing my first book. These are both forms of work I can tackle at my own pace without the stress of deadlines and appointments but which are very rewarding, and importantly, fulfill my ultimate goal of helping others suffering from the chronic illnesses that have come to shape my life.
The issue of my ultimate goal is an important point here. It may be a cliche but there really is more than one path to a destination. I wanted to become a nutritionist to help relieve the suffering of others in a similar situation to my own but I now realise I can do this in so many other ways that are both better for my own health and are likely to reach more people in need.
I believe my regular practice of meditation over the past 6 years has helped to reshape my view of the events in my life and illuminate them in a more positive light. I now find it much easier to see the positive in any situation, no matter how negative it may seem on the surface. I therefore don't dwell on what might ave been but rather look to what I might do in the future.
Serendipity seems to have been at work today as just before beginning to write this blog entry I happened to check my email and in my inbox was an update from the Stress Management at About.com about a process referred to as 'reframing' by psychologists...which it turns out is exactly what I have been doing subconciously without knowing the theory.
What is Reframing?
An important observation of human behaviour is that different people react differently to the same event. One person may be sent into a spiral of depression by something "bad" that occurs in their life while another person who encounters the same event may simply shrug it off, forget about it, and get on with their lives.
Reframing is the term used to describe the process of changing how we look at something and, therefore, our experience of it. In the example above, the second individual was able to reframe a negative event as a minor obstacle to be overcome, thus reframing it in its proper context. The first person was not able to do this and as a result the event had a much greater impact on them.
Reframing can change a negative event into a learning experience and represents a tool that can be utilised to alter our perceptions of stressors and, thus, relieve significant amounts of stress. It is therefore possible to enjoy a more positive life even before any positive changes are actually made in our circumstances.
Reframing and the Stress Response
It is of great benefit to be aware that the body reacts to perceived stress, rather than actual events. It is our mental response to stimuli that results in the initiation of the body's fight-or-flight stress response. This means that by conciously reframing events in a positive way we can reduce the frequency with which our stress response is triggered as well as the intensity and duration of this response when it is.
This is very important for both physical and mental health as chemical messengers such as hormones, neurotransmitters and pro-inflammatory cytokines are all damaging if chronically elevated. Pro-inflammatory cytokines may trigger chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, adrenaline raises blood pressure and may put stress on the heart and circulatory system, and chronically raised cortisol is implicated in depression and mood disorders, to name but a few.
It is clear then that reframing may be a powerful means of reducing the stress and suffering that accompany chronic illness while also potentially reducing the risk of other chronic illnesses. Above all, reframing offers the potential to make life more enjoyable.
The following are a few basic methods of reframing that anybody can implement:
Learn About Thinking Patterns - educate yourself about some of these negative thinking patterns that may exacerbate your stress levels.
Notice Your Thoughts - catch yourself when you're slipping into overly negative and stress-inducing patterns of thinking.
Challenge Your Thoughts - As you notice your negative thoughts, an effective part of reframing involves examining the truth and accuracy (or lack thereof) of these thoughts.
Replace Your Thoughts With More Positive Thoughts - When you're looking at something negative, see if you can change your self talk to use less strong, less negative emotions. When you're looking at a potentially stressful situation, see if you can view it as a challenge vs. a threat.
Learn more about Reframing
If you have your own reframing techniques that you would like to share then please use the comment box below...
For those who are not regular visitors to The Environmental Illness Resource, I am a 31 year old male from the UK and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) in March 1991 around the time of my 12th birthday.
Recently my parents moved house and my mum dropped off a box full of old photos of me from my childhood. Looking through them I was struck by how happy I looked as a child. This was clearly the purest type of happiness borne out of freedom from worry and a true zest for life and the excitement of discovering new things every day. Naturally, it's easy and 'normal' to lose these things as we get older, but even more so when a chronic and misunderstood illness such as ME/CFS deprives you of many of the things that most people take for granted.
As I found photos of myself as a young teenager, following my diagnosis of ME/CFS, it was clear what a devastating effect becoming ill had had. I look tired and drained but also as if someone had stolen the magic that life had previously had to offer. At the age of 12 I was being asked to face a challenge so great that most people would find it hard to comprehend, never mind empathise with. It wasn't so much the physical symptoms of my illness I found hard to deal with, it was the loss of freedom to engage in all the sports I loved, spend time with my friends...and believe it or not, attend school every day and study. Despite what a particularly old school psychiatrist with an attitude problem and an apparent lack of a caring bone in his body would tell my parents and I, I loved school for everything it had to offer, the learning, the socialising, the extracurricular activities, the lot. So the worst thing about developing ME/CFS for me was not the symptoms themselves, but the frustration of being strapped into a metaphorical straight jacket. This has remained the case to this day despite having to cope with some pretty horrendous symptoms.
I also found photos of myself after I had developed multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) in my early twenties and was forced to wear a carbon filter face mask to avoid exposures and the exacerbation of my symptoms. This obviously added a huge amount of extra restriction to my life and I had the sense that the world was closing in on me. As time went by I was losing more and more of my freedoms due to my ill health. It felt like eventually I would be completely enveloped and unable to move at all, as if trapped alive in a coffin.
I digress. It was not my intention to write an autobiography today, I want to let the photos do the talking, so I will leave it there. I will just add that I have now developed a sense of empowerment and self-confidence that I never knew existed within me and I am slowly pushing back against the world and expanding my horizons once again. I am still frustrated by limitations my ill health places on me but I have overcome the MCS and am confident I will continue to get better. Hope and the tenacity to never give up are wonderful things and I pray that all of you on a similar journey to mine can find them.
My parents tell me I cried constantly as a baby...until I was mobile...at which point I didn't stop smiling...
...or pulling cheeky faces!
"Don't stop me dad!"
Happy with friends
A common site after ME/CFS diagnosis. No more boundless energy...one day of activity followed by one spent sleeping it off.
Not happy to be restricted to bed by an invisible force!
A few years later and still not looking happy at having to stay home...despite the company of my labrador puppy 'Toby' whom I loved dearly.
A typical scene following the development of multiple chemical sensitivity. I had to wear a mask when around family...
When around friends...
And when outside, even in the fresh air of the countryside.
Reward for never giving up...my graduation ceremony at the University of Greenwich, London. I may be pondering the future...or I might just like silly poses for the camera!
Enjoying a holiday in Turkey after completing my degree work.
I feel like this post has been a little self-indulgent but I do hope you got something out of it. My aim was to show those who dismiss ME/CFS and MCS or do not appreciate their seriousness, just how devastating they can be and how they completely change a person's life. I slipped the two most recent photos in at the end to show that despite the devastation these illnesses cause, if you have hope and refuse to give up on yourself (or loved one), life can once again be a positive experience complete with enjoyment and personal achievement.
To a happy and healthy future!
At the back end of last year I underwent a number of laboratory tests through my environmental medicine doctor. One of these tests, through UK-based laboratory named Acumen, looked for 'DNA adducts' (substances bound to DNA that should not be there) and found bisphenol A (BPA) to be an issue for me. The significance of the DNA adducts testing is that if a toxin such as BPA is present in in large enough quantities in the body to become bound to DNA then its concentrations in the body as a whole are likely to be quite high. Once these toxins become bound to DNA they may also damage it and change the way genes function. Our genes regulate every process in the body so this is not a good thing at all!
The purpose of this blog post however, is not to go into an in-depth discussion of DNA adduct testing, but rather to look at some of the effects BPA has been shown to have on health and the major sources of this ubiquitous manmade chemical.
According to a 2007 literature review by Vandenberg et al. BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals produced worldwide and is used in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins which in turn are used in the manufacture of countless consumer products. These researchers concluded that the levels of BPA reported in the body fluids of the general population in epidemiological studies are higher than the levels required to cause detrimental effects in biological systems in laboratory experiments.
BPA has been associated with increased risk of several diseases. It is considered an 'endocrine disruptor' since it can mimic the actions of estrogen in the body. One consequence of this is that BPA can promote the growth of human breast cancer cells. In men, BPA exposure has been linked to erectile dysfunction, while animal studies suggest it may lower sperm count. Scientists have also linked BPA to higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes and liver disease in adults as well as brain and hormonal development problems in fetuses and infants.
The major source of BPA for most people is food packaging. The chemical has been demonstrated to leach out of packaging and into the food it contains before the food is consumed. Heating materials containing BPA increases the contamination of food, so microwave ready meals and those "microwaveable" plastic containers you might reheat leftovers in are not a sensible option if you wish to reduce your exposure.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 97 canned foods sold in the United States and found detectable levels of BPA in more than half. Canned meats, pasta and soups were the worst offenders.
As widely reported in the mainstream media in 2010, BPA is also found in paper reciepts!
To reduce BPA exposure for you and your family consumer health groups such as EWG suggest you:
- Avoid canned foods
- Do not microwave plastic food packaging or containers
- Wash plastic containers on the top shelf of the diswasher, or preferably hand wash
- Avoid polycarbonate baby bottles and adult water bottles
- Avoid liquid infant formula sold in metal cans
- Wash hands after handling receipts or other printed material
- Be aware that BPA is increasingly used in non-amalgam dental fillings and many medical devices
Government regulations on safe levels of BPA exposure are considered to be outdated by many who fail to take recent medical research findings into account. See - About.com
I suspect my own high levels of BPA are likely due to childhood exposures when BPA-containing baby bottles were the norm and my lifelong consumption of canned foods. I have now removed the above sources of BPA from my kitchen cupboards and hope you will consider doing the same for the good of your health and that of your family.
Health and happiness!
After being chronically ill for 20 years, having been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) at the young age of 11, I have grown increasingly interested in psychology and particularly the traits required to survive an illness that robs sufferers of so much (what I would give to be able to just go for a run).
My ill health has also included multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.), and adrenal fatigue, which are all terrible things to deal with in themselves and have forced me to draw on every last bit of inner strength I could muster to keep going despite a distinct lack of enjoyment in life.
Rather than crushing my spirit however, these trials and tribulations that have shaped my life, have actually strengthened my resolve, given me greater confidence in myself and my abilities, and changed my outlook on life for the better. When one is suicidally depressed as a result of severe S.A.D. during northern England's dark winters, thoughts inevitably turn to the big questions. Some may be surprised to hear that I actually feel grateful for having experienced deep depression and uncontrollable suicidal thoughts. One cannot know true happiness without having experienced the depths of despair, I have discovered. When you are at your lowest is also a brilliant opportunity to truly learn about yourself and what makes you tick. I have come through these experiences with the feeling that I now have an appreciation of both the best and worst aspects of my personality. I am especially aware of my strong stubborn streak...which can be both a blessing and a burden!
So, I should really get to the title of this post before I go any further. In November of 2010 I had a panel of tests carried out looking for common genetic variations which affect the activity of key genes involved in environmental illnesses. Specifically, what the tests look for are known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (pronounced "SNiPs"). SNPs refer to the substitution of one base (C, G, A or T) in a DNA strand with another. These tiny alterations in the DNA structure of genes in turn can result in the substitution of one amino acid in a protein, commonly an enzyme , with another, and this can have profound effects on the activity of the enzyme.
Here's where I really started to find things interesting. Since my first memories as a child I had been aware that I was a very nervous person. In fact, I have always felt hugely conflicted as I am essentially an adventurous and outgoing person and want to sample all that life has to offer, yet I have always been held back, particular in social situations, by this invisible barrier - my nerves. With the arrival of my SNP test results came genetic and biochemical explanations for the nervousness and the conflict within my personality.
We have two copies of each gene, one on each chromosome (one from each parent), and my SNP results revealed I had inherited the poorest functioning variants of two key genes involved in neurotransmitter metabolism, from both of my parents. The genes in question being MTHFR, which is key to folate metabolism (as part of the methylation cycle) and neurotransmitter synthesis, and COMT, which controls the rate at which neurotransmitters are broken down.
Just looking at the SNPs in both copies of COMT it became apparent that a lot of the nervousness and shyness I had battled with all my life could be explained (at least in large part), by the variants of this gene I had inherited from my parents. It turns out SNPs in both copies of the COMT gene (a "homozygous" variation) significantly increases an individual's risk for nervousness, excitability and mood disturbances. As noted previously, the COMT enzyme (which the COMT gene regulates) controls the rate at which neurotransmitters, and also hormones, are borken down - particularly the catecholamines (adrenaline (epinephrine), noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and dopamine). Research has shown that people with SNPs in both copies of the COMT gene have significantly reduced activity of the COMT enzyme and this results in higher than normal levels of adrenaline in the blood at rest, a higher spike in adrenaline during the stress response, and also a greater subjective experience of stress. This was all a revelation to me. To have markers in my very genetic code that explained my subjective experience of life blew me away!
Thankfully SNPs in COMT are not all bad news as they are also associated with increased intelligence and mental peformance. Without bragging I think this has been vital for me. Without the confidence that I was intelligent enough to figure out my hugely complex illness and improve my condition with the right interventions I am not sure I would have coped with the mood disturbances, caused in part by the same genetic variation.
While I personally got very excited thinking about the implications of my SNP results and finding within them explanations for both my current health problems and my personality, I know many of you will not be so enthused by this aspect of genetic testing. The good news is that testing for SNPs can also be hugely beneficial for guiding treatment for illness or even as a guide for preventative medicine. Testing for SNPs in genes such as MTHFR and COMT which are important for many biochemical processes within the body (particularly in the case of MTHFR) means we know where are weaknesses lie and as a result we can supply our bodies with the correct forms and amounts of nutrients to nullify, or even bypass, our genetic weaknesses. In my case both my MTHFR and COMT results are of great use as they play important roles in neurotransmitter and hormone metabolism and the methylation cycle, to name just a few areas which have been implicated in ME/CFS and the other conditions from which I suffer.
I have been ill for a long time and endured a lot of suffering but with advances such as relatively inexpensive genetic testing I am hugely excited about the future, both in terms of what we can learn about ourselves indivudually and as a species, and with respect to more effective treatments for ME/CFS and other environmental illnesses.
I would love to hear your thoughts on genes, personality and illness. Please use the comment form below...
Visible Signs of Invisible Illnesses Featured
Those of us affected by what are frequently referred to as 'Invisible Illnesses' - chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia (FMS), multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) etc - are constantly frustrated by the fact that we feel lousy, yet appear perfectly healthy to the casual observer i.e. our friends and relatives.
Perhaps even more frustrating is that to the eye of the conventionally-trained doctor we also show no signs of illness, leading many to assume it's all in our heads and to send us off to the shrink. Which is of course unproductive, and often counter-productive, given that these illnesses may often be invisible, yet are nevertheless as real and legitimate as physical conditions as the likes of diabetes and arthritis. The medical literature is now full of decades worth of research documenting immunological, endocrine, and neurological abnormalities that overwhelmingly makes this case for us.
These illnesses may be invisible to the Average Joe on the street and even to most doctors but the signs are there if people knew what they were looking for. Some of these telltale signs include:
Pale or 'Washed Out' Complextion (The Corpse)
We invisible illness sufferers invariably look a bit closer to your average corpse than most people, especially on a particularly bad day or after some form of exertion. The reasons for this are many and varied but include poor oxygenation of the blood and difficulties getting sufficient blood to the head and face. Problems with the hypothalamus and hormonal pathways that regulate blood pressure account for some of this and ME/CFS patients have actually been shown to have less blood than healthy individuals. No wonder we look pale!
Dark Circles Under the Eyes (The Brawler)
If I spot someone who constantly has what look like minor "black eyes" then I know they are likely to be suffering from an invisible illness. The reasons for the circles are unclear to me from a scientific perspective, but common anecdotal reports suggest they are the result of liver toxicity or allergies (or both), which seems to fit with my own profile. My mother and sister also suffer from invisible illnesses and also sport black eyes so that when we are together we look like we have had one almighty family bust up!
Dizziness (The Drunk)
Whether it be someone with ME/CFS stumbling around just after standing up due to lack of blood flow to the brain (POTS, NMH, Orthostatic Intolerance) or an MCS sufferer looking unsteady on their feet after suffering a bad reaction to a chemical trigger - we invisible illness sufferers can often look like we've had one too many alcoholic beverages!
Lack of a Smile (The Grump)
This one is a bit left field but I have an unusually strong memory of a fleeting incident in high school when I was aged 14 (after having suffered from ME/CFS for 2-3 years). As I was walking down a corridor on a bright summer's afternoon a girl I knew quite well said something along the lines of "cheer up" or "give me a smile". At the time I was exhausted, was aching all over, and had a touch of nausea, so I politely attempted a smile but was angrily thinking "you try feeling as crappy as this and smiling!" Of course, had I been healthy I no doubt would have been smiling on such a nice day - they are rare here in Northern England so would usually bring a smile even to Mr Grumpy's face!
Forgetting Words or Names (The Amnesiac)
I don't know about the rest of you invisible illness sufferers but something I find infuriating about these illnesses is my frequent inability to remember even the simplest of words or the name of someone to whom I was introduced literally a minute earlier. I can be mid-sentence when talking to someone a draw a complete blank when searching my brain for a word that is a common part of my vocabulary. To the other person I must appear like a humanoid robot that has crashed and needs rebooting! I have yet to forget the word "the"...but I've been close.
Of course taken alone there could be any number of reasons why someone would exhibit these five signs. If someone displays them all chronically without other explanation though they may well be suffering from an "invisible" illness. So keep an eye out for us. We are the walking dead who have reached the depressed stage of drunkeness...and can't remember the bar fight we just had!
Now enough of my ramblings...as always, I would love to leave yours. Please post your thoughts and experiences below...