Is Exposure Making You Sick?
December 23, 2010 by Dr. Michael Cutler
There is no question that a large and growing number of people have developed illnesses largely caused from present-day environmental chemicals. Whether you have arthritis, memory difficulties, heart trouble, thyroid weakness, or one of a myriad of other chronic idiopathic (arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause) illnesses, exposure to chemicals may be to blame.
Chemical Exposure May Be The Root Of Your Health Problems
The symptoms caused by chemical or environmental exposures are usually multiple and sometimes disabling. It is a subtle process — one that has taken decades for our nation’s experts to figure out. These chemicals more classically affect the brain, nervous system or immune system. However, evidence is mounting that they also affect joints, heart muscle, the bowel, thyroid, intestinal lining and probably more.
We now know that they may be contributing triggers to many idiopathic illnesses. While the exact mechanism of how chemicals affect these tissues is not entirely clear, antibodies and markers of immune system inflammation are measurable and usually correspond with symptoms and history.
Let me share a case study to illustrate this. The February 3, 2006 issue of TheNewYorkTimes.com describes one patient’s plight that is all too common:
“During a nine-year period that ended in 2004, Ms. Riley, 47, visited almost 20 doctors, for a variety of intermittent and strange health complaints: blurred vision, urinary difficulties, and balance problems so severe that at times she wobbled like a drunk.
“She felt unwell most of the time, but doctors could not figure out what she had. ‘Each specialist ordered different tests, depending on the symptom,’ Ms. Riley said, ‘but they were usually rushed and seemed to solicit her views only as a formality.’
“Undeterred, Ms. Riley, an event planner who lives near New London, CT, typed out a four-page description of her ordeal, including her suspicion that she suffered from lead poisoning. One neurologist waved the report away as if insulted; another barely skimmed it, she said. ‘I remember sitting in one doctor’s office and realizing, ‘He thinks I’m crazy,’ Ms. Riley said. I was getting absolutely nowhere in conventional medicine, and I was determined to get to the root of my problems.’
“Through word of mouth, Ms. Riley heard about Deirdre O’Connor, a naturopath with a thriving practice in nearby Mystic, CT, and made an appointment. Right away, Ms. Riley said, she noticed a difference in the level of service. ‘Before even visiting the office, she received a fat envelope in the mail containing a four-page questionnaire,’ she said. In addition to asking detailed questions about medical history — standard information — it asked about her energy level, foods she craved, sensitivity to weather and self-image: ‘Please list adjectives that describe you,’ read one item.
“‘It felt right, from the beginning,’ Ms. Riley said. Her first visit lasted an hour and a half, and Ms. O’Connor, the naturopath, agreed that metal exposure was a possible cause of her symptoms. It emerged in their interview that Ms. Riley had worked in the steel industry, and tests of her hair and urine showed elevated levels of both lead and mercury. After taking a combination of herbs, vitamins and regular doses of a drug called dimercaptosuccinic acid, or DMSA, to treat lead poisoning, she began to feel better, and the symptoms subsided.”
I can assure you that I hear similar stories all the time. And I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences.
Testing For Chemical And Metal Exposure
The question for some people is what chemicals (xenobiotics) and metals are harming them and to what extent — not an easy answer. Others are content with doing all they can to eliminate their exposure to these harmful materials to remain as healthy as possible.
Specific antibody tests (IgG, IgM and IgE) have been developed that are specific to polychlorinated biphenyls (and other dioxin-like chemicals), DDT, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, ethylene oxide and heavy metals, including mercury.
But the measurement of antibodies is just the beginning. There is also the ability to measure the levels of killer T cells and several other white blood cell levels, which become elevated when chemical toxins, are driving the inflammation. These can be ordered by any licensed physician through Immunosciences Lab., Inc., in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Another test is designed to measure enzymes in the liver. Since the liver is the detoxifying organ that purifies the blood, it’s the front line of the battle-ground for good health. There are also measurements of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), the enzyme indicating liver function, or ALT and AST that can show liver cell damage or disease. An elevated GGT, combined with the finding of glucaric acid in the urine, signifies current toxic chemical exposure, but is a late finding in the process of the disease. These tests can be done by almost any lab in the country.
Not only can the antibodies to metals be measured, (mercury, cobalt, nickel, and lead), but the amount of the heavy metal itself can be detected in blood or urine and then be treated much as described by Riley above. I have done this in my office through specialty labs such as Great Smokey’s Diagnostic Laboratory in North Carolina or Doctor’s Data in Illinois. Most CAM-trained physicians are familiar with these labs.
The Aspartame (NutraSweet®), Methanol And Formaldehyde Connection
Did you know that aspartame turns into methanol and formaldehyde when heated? Were you also aware that the American Diabetic Association (ADA) supports the use of aspartame (NutraSweet®) as an acceptable replacement for sugar for people with diabetes? This is despite the fact that aspartame has generated the largest volume of consumer reports (75 percent of them) describing adverse reactions.
To me this means the ADA is not willing to look at healthier alternatives to sugar and aspartame, such as whole food alternatives like stevia. The ADA’s official statement reads:
“The American Diabetic Association considers aspartame — as well as the other FDA-approved nonnutritive sweeteners (saccharin, acesulfame k, and sucralose) — acceptable sugar substitutes and a safe part of a diabetic meal plan.” Interestingly, Monsanto (producer of NutraSweet®) donates $250,000 a year to the ADA and is a Platinum Corporate Sponsor.
But worse is the FDA’s support of aspartame. Aspartame can be found in breath mints, gum, cereals, frozen desserts, coffee, juice, synthetic vitamins, pharmaceutical drugs, tea, wine coolers, yogurt supplements and of course, diet soft drinks.
That doesn’t sound so bad until you meet people who have linked their health problems to aspartame consumption. Aside from all the political and scandalous implications behind the supposed “safety” of aspartame, it’s equally appalling that Monsanto’s commercial brags that 200,000,000 people are now consuming NutraSweet® in more than 4,000 different products. Don’t think for a minute that they cannot afford the best lawyers and lobbyists to keep their product “legally safe” despite rising evidence to the contrary.
For example: A review of 164 studies on the safety of aspartame conducted by Ralph G. Walton, M.D., chairman of the Center for Behavioral Medicine and professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, revealed that of 74 aspartame industry-sponsored studies, all claimed that aspartame caused no health problems. However, he also found that of the 90 studies funded by non-aspartame industry money, 92 percent identified one or more serious health problems. And if you consider that the remaining 8 percent of the studies (which found no problems with aspartame) were FDA-sponsored and not really independent, it means that in reality, 100 percent of the independent studies found serious health problems with aspartame!
My take-home message is that a large body of scientific evidence now suggests that drugs, metals, toxins, industrial chemicals, low-grade herpes viruses and other xenobiotics can be stored in your body and persist for years. During this time they can continuously activate the immune system to cause low-grade tissue destruction in the wake of their battle to protect you. The detection of the IgG, IgM or IgA antibodies to these materials indicates chronic exposure or ongoing low-level tissue destruction.
What can you do to protect yourself?
First of all I would advise that you make changes in your life to prevent or at least limit the amount of exposure you may have to xenobiotics and toxins. Secondly I would suggest healthy lifestyle changes to make sure you are doing all you can to avoid inviting these invaders into your body via processed food, chemicalized water, overuse of medications or the polluted air you could be breathing in your own home.
As another precaution, consider liquid cleanses and seek out nutrients from Mother Nature’s pharmacy that can enhance your body’s own cleansing processes. Your liver is the great filter for your body, but if it is over-worked, clogged, and fatty it can’t do the job it needs to do to keep you healthy.
Nutrients that have beneficial effects on helping your liver do its job are:
- Milk thistle — known for supporting liver health and promoting regeneration of healthy cells
- Dandelion root — maintains water balance and encourages electrolyte balance
- Olive leaf extract — has powerful immune boosting properties to support a healthy liver
- N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) — a natural amino acid that helps protect the liver from toxic chemicals
- Burdock root — has the ability to neutralize many toxins that enter the liver
- Turmeric root — stimulates the production of bile, which is beneficial to the liver
I hope I have opened your eyes to the dangers of chemical exposure, the many ways it can affect your health and the preventative measures you can take to protect your health
–Michael Cutler, M.D.