Monday, November 11, 2013

Discovering a Little Respect

There’s so much bad news about everyday toxins and such a lack of understanding of chemical illness that I always like to celebrate the victories. This week, I’m happy to highlight an article published in Discover magazine which describes chemical illness (which they call Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance, or TILT) in a respectful and serious manner. It makes the following points:

  • Sometimes when people get sick after a toxic exposure, their neurological and immune systems remain damaged and they lose tolerance for a wide range of chemicals. People with TILT can become more reactive to chemicals over time.

  • Substances that trigger symptoms are often unrelated structurally and include things like airborn inhalants, foods, drugs, lotions, soaps, detergents, and newsprint. Symptoms can include cardiac and neurological problems, headaches, anxiety, gut issues, asthma, depression, sleep disturbance, and impaired cognitive ability.

  • The wide range of symptoms and triggering substances has often led patients to be labeled as mentally ill.

  • TILT may be driven by epigenetic changes, which occur when an environmental exposure changes genetic expression. “Surprisingly low” doses of certain chemicals can strongly affect gene activity. Once a gene has been switched on and a cell has been reprogrammed, it’s hard for it to go back to its original state.

  • TILT has been documented in many different countries, including nine in Europe, as well as Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.

  • Because there is no blood-brain barrier in the olfactory system, toxicants can travel straight into the brain from receptors in the nose. Even healthy people demonstrate changes in brain waves during brief exposure to olfactory stimuli that is too low to be consciously perceived.

  • Studies have shown that people with chemical intolerance have greater sensitization of their central nervous system. They also have a decrease in blood flow to specific brain areas when exposed to everyday chemical fumes. A study of Gulf War veterans suffering from TILT found decreased blood flow through the central artery in the brain when they were exposed to acetone.

  • Despite the research, controversy over the condition remains.

The article is definitely much better than most I’ve read about toxic illness. It provides some validation for those of us who suffer from it, and I hope it will also serve as a warning to those who are currently healthy. We aren’t making this stuff up. Chemical illness is a real condition and you really don’t want it. Be careful, friends.

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