What You Can Do In The Meantime

By David & Ann Cheyne

UPdate Fall 1994

     If you are already on the waiting list for the Environmental Health Clinic, chances are you already have some knowledge from reading or contact with people facing the same sorts of health problems.

     The basic principles of treatment involve Clean Air, Clean Food, and Clean Water.  This may sound simple but it can bring a complete revolution to your life.  When making changes to optimize your return to health, do it slowly, one step at a time.  The changes can otherwise be overwhelming.

    Try to dwell on the positive.  You will gain from this experience.  Positive thoughts promote energy, while negativity and taking a victim role do not help you cope and can be very draining of energy.  This is not to say you won’t have days where it seems like your daily living is “Mission Impossible”.

     Allow yourself to have those feelings, i.e. anger, frustration, apathy, whatever.  The danger, however, is that you become those feelings, act on those feelings in ways that further prevent you from attaining your health and drain your energy.  Support is definitely necessary, whether it be from family, friends, or support groups.  Detach yourself from sources of negativity that are draining on you, as much as possible.

     As far as making changes in your environment, it is important to keep in mind that there are no two individuals the same.  What works for one individual, may not be as helpful for another.  Remember also that we are more than a series of body organs or systems, and plugging in the missing links physically does not necessarily fix the whole system.  We are spiritual, physical, mental, emotional beings, and complex at that.  A drain in any one of these areas affects the functioning of the whole system.  It is sensible therefore not to put your entire faith in one form of treatment!

     Unfortunately, this holistic concept has yet to be applied to any other area of medicine consistently, particularly where chronic illness is concerned.  Remember, you and only you are the one who lives in your body, and because of this only you are the one who ultimately knows what is right and what works for you and your situation.

     With whatever health professional you engage as a consultant to your health practices and treatment, it is important that you are partners in your care and that you are treated with respect.  A relationship in which you feel inferior, not respected, or not given the ultimate choice is detrimental to your healing.  There is only one God!  For many of us this is a change in the way we viewed health care professionals and for some of them being on a pedestal suits their ego and meets their own needs.  Stay away from this sort or you will be defeated before you even start.  Look for someone who is rigid and dogmatic in their approach, and is only too ready to tell you what is best for you.  It may mean a change from your present situation.

     Number one credo...Listen to your gut instinct.  Is the situation, be it a relationship or treatment, etc., right or working for you??  Many of us perpetually ignore that gut instinct!  It seldom fails us if we listen to it!  Secondly, if you can’t do everything you know would be ideal for your healing, especially due to monetary problems, be content if you are doing everything you can.  Don’t lay guilt trips on yourself -they do more harm than good.  Thirdly, strive for balance.  Being excessively rigid about avoiding every possible allergen can turn you into a social and emotional cripple.  Weigh the benefits with the risks.

     No one can live in the proverbial glass bubble.  However, there will be some things that are essential to avoid, especially prolonged or repeated exposures.  At some point, we believe you must weigh the physical consequences of an exposure to an allergen with the potential emotional benefits.  It really depends on you.  Common sense enters the picture here too.

     Remember, people’s situations are different and don’t expect that others will automatically understand the totality of your situation.  For example, a mother with children to take care of, unless she is independently wealthy, will have more demands on her time and energy, especially if they have any special needs, than someone who is single and is only responsible for themselves.  There is only so much of you to go around, especially if you are ill.  No two situations are the same, and to compare and hold the same expectations as someone else will only put further stress on an already overtaxed immune and detoxification system and spirit.  Be kind to yourself.

Specific measures which have been found helpful to people:

     Even if you do not have any chemical sensitivities, there is an added burden applied to anybody’s immune and detoxification systems from chemical/pesticide residues being there.  Your body has to break them down and excrete them.  Your body needs as much relief as possible, not a further load to process.

     Whenever possible, consume organic food (preferably certified organic), do your own cooking from scratch, avoid processed foods, avoid foods with any chemical additives and artificial products.  Increasingly there are more sources of organic, or less chemically contaminated products available.  There are also local organic food co-ops (Back to Basics and NSPIRG are two sources) which help reduce the cost of these foods, and the Halifax Farmer’s Saturday market holds a wealth of choices.  There are also many more organic producers in the province now.  Contact the Nova Scotia Organic Growers Association (NSOGA) for a list of suppliers.  Each year, this newsletter publishes a list of organic food sources (see Summer/94 issue).

     It is not surprising to anyone today that our drinking water contains various substances other than water.  Chlorine may head the list but there are loads of even what are noted at trace levels, and sometimes called “safe”.  The jury will always be out on this but again do what you are able and most comfortable with.  For some, bottled spring water is helpful, whereas others use various water purifiers which can range from very basic to complex.  A less common alternative is reverse osmosis water distillers.  There are pros and cons to the various choices.  Often finances are the deciding factor.  Just do the best you can, and find out what works for you.

     Chlorine in the bath, wash water is also better avoided.  Some people find whole-house water filters help with this, while others find shower filters acceptable.  If neither of these is an alternative, it has been suggested that once a poured hot bath cools, the chlorine content markedly evaporates.  Here again just do the best you can.

     This is a very complex topic largely due to the fact that there are so many factors that influence the air quality around us.  Many of us had no idea about this until we had to learn.  The quality of the air we are breathing in our home is influenced by many factors - chemical and biological.  Air filters can help, but they are only a band-aid effect if the air is polluted with toxic paint fumes, scented products, chemical cleaners, animal dander, mold spores, woodstove or chimney gases, food odors, dust and dust mites, and gassing-off chemicals form plastics, vinyl, carpets, and synthetic products, including clothes.  The list is endless.  It is up to you to be a detective and sleuth out what the problems are where you live and work.

     If you have cleaned the air by eliminating as many of the above-mentioned items as possible, some people find an air filter helpful, especially in the bedroom or the main living areas.  There are a variety of filters available and your particular sensitivities need to be considered in the various filter layer constituents.  For some, the electro-magnetic field generated by the machines are a problem.  Quite often, you can borrow a machine from the vendor on a trial basis.

     Air exchange systems can help improve ventilation, particularly in newer more airtight buildings.  Opening windows regularly can also help exchange the air.  However, if the outside air is sometimes polluted by smoke, incinerator, woodstove, oil refinery odors, airborne contaminants such as molds, and pollen, this can be tricky and timing is important.

     Generally, people find that carpet is a no-no from a chemical and biological point of view.  Chemicals, molds, dust, and dust mites are factors.  However, it is not always immediately possible for people to switch to ceramic or hardwood floors, which are recommended alternatives.  Sometimes if the situation warrants, people pull up the carpets and in the interim, plywood may be tolerated if old and off-gased of its natural and synthetic chemical content, or covered with aluminum foil.  If this is not possible, a good vacuum which exhausts to the outside, or a “Rainbow” vacuum are what many people find helpful.

     Clearing your home of all chemical products, cleaning products, scented products, paints, and pot-pourri, will help a great deal.  Ridding or encasing all dust-catching knick-knacks will reduce dust collection as well.  Keeping areas dry which are prone to mold-growth (i.e. basement, bathrooms, and kitchen) help, as does providing better ventilation in these areas.  Simply wiping down the bathroom tiles immediately after showers lowers the dampness that encourages mold growth.

     The cleaner the air in your home haven, the more your body will be able to rest and heal.  If someone in your home is a smoker, it is best if they stop smoking altogether since you will be always exposed to the residues off them and their clothes.  However, if this is not possible, they should at least smoke outside your living space.

     It goes without saying that spraying chemical pesticides or lawn fertilizers on your lawn is also to be curtailed.  Renovating an existing home, especially in the acute very toxic stages of an illness is not a good idea either.  Carefully consider what must be done now, what can wait, and which products are least harmful or reaction-producing.  This will involve a lot of self-education.  Nobody has all the answers about what is best and people’s individual sensitivities must be taken into account.

     There are support groups which provide a wealth of personal experience and information.  The Back to Basics Allergy Support Group, the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome support group, and the Allergy and Environmental Health Association all have monthly meetings (see notices in this newsletter).

     There are various methods to detect hidden food allergies.  Commonly, avoidance of either suspected or common food allergens (such as sugar, wheat, milk, eggs, corn, yeast, and soy) with subsequent reintroduction of the foods one at a time over a slow period can be helpful.

     Sometimes allergy testing using the scratch method can give general guidelines, but the results are not always reliable and a negative test may not be accurate.  The mono-food rotation diet can over a short time help to identify problem and safe foods.  Sometimes it is hard to accept that what you crave most - sugar, coffee, that slice of toast - can be causing some of your most distressing symptoms.  With time and by avoidance, you may well be able to have it again on an occasional basis with or without minimal symptoms.  In the meantime, the hard part is getting off the merry-go-round of having just one cup of coffee or whatever, which causes you to want more and more.

     The problem here is also education of the individual.  It can be quite surprising the wide range of symptoms that can result from a food sensitivity or other allergy, such as traditional hay fever, hives, and anaphylactic reactions.  Virtually any part of your body may be affected, with symptoms including headaches, confusion, irritability, mood swings, leg aches, joint aches, digestive discomforts, back aches, circulatory changes, breathing and other changes.  It is quite amazing, and although more of the general public are becoming aware, it is still not as widely accepted.   People do not want to believe it either.  We are a society which is sometimes slow to accept what we don’t want to hear.  So again, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, you know best!!

     Stored toxins affect your general health and immune system.  The above-listed practices (clean air, food and water) can be employed to assist in cleansing them.  As well, therapies such as massage and saunas, along with a specifically monitored exercise program, are best done under the supervision of a physician.  Unless you can afford to have your own sauna, it is sometimes difficult to avoid the chemical exposures that are inherent with the use of public ones.

An Alternative Approach to Allergies, by Theron Randolph and Ralph Moss

The Whole Way to Allergy Relief and Prevention, by Jacqueline Krohn

Tired or Toxic?, by Sherry Rogers

The E.I. Syndrome, by Sherry Rogers

No More Allergies, by Gary Null

Is This Your Child?, by Doris Rapp

     The first step here is to become aware of the various reactions your body has.  It will tell us if we listen.  It is unavoidable that exposures to allergens will occur.  Reactions may vary from mild to severe, and depend also on many variables, such as the amount of exposure, previous exposures during a given time, if you have had enough rest, additional sources of upset or stress that put a demand on you, etc.

     What you tolerate one moment may be the “last straw” on another day to send your system into an overload state.

     Some people find that in addition to immediate rest/sleep, additional doses of buffered Vitamin C (1 gram with some water) or Trisalts (available to several local drug stores, pre-mixed) help to combat reactions.  Others find that exercise helps, while others find an epsom salts/baking soda hot bath (1/2 cup of each added to tub water) helps.  This should be followed by a cooling shower afterward to help wash off toxins which may be excreted through the skin surface.

     There are many things you can do to help yourself.  No one discipline or professional holds all the answers.  Gather as much information as you can or have a family member/friend help with this if you are unable to read or concentrate.  Even if at first you can absorb only a small amount of information, it is very empowering to help yourself.  It puts you in the driver’s seat, instead of being dependent on others.

     Remember to take time to nurture yourself along the way.  Emotional and spiritual needs are equally important.  For some people, their religious faith and practice becomes strengthened, for others it may mean dealing with overdue emotional baggage, and taking the time to truly care for themselves.  Counseling may help your overall level of coping through a difficult time.  Meditation in its various forms often help people on various levels.

     You may also want to explore other treatments such as Homeopathy, Shiatsu, Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Herbs, or Jin Shin Jyutsu.  Again, only you will be the one to tell what works for you!