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Environmental illness, corporeal chaos and the body as a complex system





J Eval Clin Pract. 2009 Aug;15(4):770-5.


'It just doesn't seem to fit'. Environmental illness, corporeal chaos and the body as a complex system.


Coyle FJ. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Environmental illness (EI) still remains something of an enigma, despite attempts to squeeze it into the increasingly flexible framework of the biomedical model or label it as 'psychogenic'. Consistently, environmentally ill bodies fail to respond to conventional medical tests, with the emergence of ambiguous, indecipherable or negative results. During a series of in-depth interviews in Canada, both patients and environmental health practitioners advocated the need for an alternative paradigm from which to view EI. They also spoke of the complex nature of the illness, a conundrum that is currently being explored at the Nova Scotia Environmental Health Centre through an alternative epistemological framework: complexity theory. In this paper, I present a tentative proposal, based on the juxtaposition of theoretical insights from this new science to discourses emanating from patients and doctors. Specifically, I argue that the diverse symptoms of EI can be comprehended through a study of complexity theory, a conception that has positive implications for treatment.


PMID: 19674234 [PubMed - in process]










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  • This is an interesting and important paper and is exactly what is needed to develop better understanding of environmental illness (EI) and ultimately effective treatment options for those affected. It is this kind of "out of the box" thinking that will ultimately provide the answrs that are deperately needed. Conventional wisdom has failed terribly in explaining EI so clearly new paradigms need to be explored. It is also fantastic to see patients and environmental health practitioners being engaged by researchers.

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