If you have grown up in the United States, then you are no stranger to the world of allergies. From children in classrooms to colleagues and friends, we all know several people in our daily interactions who suffer from one or the other form of an allergy. In fact, allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the USA, with more than 150 million Americans diagnosed with allergies.
Allergies take on a more serious turn when seemingly simple, everyday activities become health hazards. This phenomenon is known as environmental sensitivities, and it arises when your body has a heightened reaction to the presence of chemicals and irritants in your surroundings. If you are someone with environmental sensitivities, a walk through the mall or going to work every day can become a challenge. Lingering smells of a freshly-sanitized office, or even shaking hands with someone who has used lotion can trigger an inflammatory episode.
People suffering from environmental sensitivities find that their body reacts inappropriately to low levels of environmental irritants such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, chemicals, fragrance smoke, etc. When such a person is exposed to one or more of these allergens, their mast cells will become hyper-activated and they will experience a flare-up of symptoms. Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in the immune system. They become activated when they encounter certain allergens or toxins, causing them to release histamine and other chemicals. In addition, mast cell activation can also impair the function of other immune cells, making you more susceptible to infection and other health problems. This can lead to a range of symptoms, such as skin irritation, headache, nausea, and more.
If you are someone who is environmentally sensitive, then you are bound to experience a mixed bag of mysterious, unexpected symptoms that occur at random times of the day. Some symptoms you may experience include:
On a daily basis, we come in contact with chemicals, ingredients, allergens, and pollutants that affect our health When it comes to environmental sensitivities, these seemingly harmless substances can turn into potential irritants. These can include:
Considered the first responders of the immune system, Mast Cells are formed in the bone marrow. When exposed to xenobiotic substances and foreign bodies such as chemicals and viruses, these mast cells release multiples of inflammatory molecules called mediators, resulting in debilitating allergic-like reactions. Some of these reactions can be quite severe and can affect everyday life in a big way. These reactions occur in response to a trigger, followed by periods of calmness when the trigger is removed from the environment. This onset and disappearance of symptoms is a signature pattern of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.
At times, mast cells can become sensitive to the repeated low-level presence of substances such as pesticides or aerosol sprays, resulting in high levels of inflammation and illness in the body. Recent studies have reported MCAS to be an underlying mechanism of Environmental sensitivities. Research published by several leading universities showed that the as the probability of a patient having MCAS increased, so did their probability of being environmentally sensitive. Both these disorders had almost identical lists of symptoms and intolerances, showing a connection between the two.
People diagnosed with environmental sensitivities usually are reported to have a toxicant-induced loss of tolerance. Known as TILT, this disorder occurs when our bodies lose their ability to tolerate chemicals and are often accompanied by food sensitivities, auto-immune disorders, and other types of sensitivities. According to research, TILT is induced by a reduction in levels of glutathione, the master antioxidant, in our bodies. Glutathione is a protective molecule that is present in every cell of our body, optimizing the absorption of other antioxidants such as Vitamin C, E, CoQ10, and alpha-lipoic acid in the bloodstream. As levels of glutathione begin to drop, a person becomes susceptible to chemical sensitivities and several other health disorders.
Treating environmental sensitivities with a functional medicine strategy may involve protocols to boost glutathione levels. Improving gut bacteria through an anti-inflammatory, veggie-rich diet with ample Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids may be prescribed. Keeping stress under control through frequent exercise and meditation is also an important factor.
Maneuvering a life with environmental sensitivities can prove to be quite a challenge, but is becoming increasingly common in a world filled with toxins. Functional medicine can get to the roots of your sensitivities and equip you with the tools required to make the necessary lifestyle changes. If you are experiencing unexplained and recurrent symptoms, get in touch with us through a discovery call today!