By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Environmental medicine has become a bigger part of my practice, especially as they can impact hormonal health and fertility, and neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. As we explore underlying causes of illness, it’s important to not overlook toxins.
Toxins and chemicals can be found in our food, water, home and work environments, outdoor air, and personal care products. They range from heavy metals, to pesticides, endocrine disrupting chemicals, solvents and mold toxins.
Systems impacted by toxins:
- Neurologic and psychiatric – Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autism, mood
- Immune – allergies, asthma, autoimmunity, multiple chemical sensitivity
- Mitochondria and metabolic – obesity, type 2 diabetes, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis
- Endocrine disruption – hormonal abnormality, thyroid disease, premature puberty, PMS, PCOS, infertility, endometriosis, fibroids, low sperm counts and sperm quality.
- Genotoxic / carcinogenic – cancer, birth defects, miscarriage
Detective work – tracking the toxins:
I often use a “Toxin Exposure Questionnaire” to screen for possible toxin exposure. It asks questions about:
- Food: eating non-organic or GMO foods; canned or farmed fish; processed foods; artificial sweeteners
- Water: drinking well water or having pipes installed before 1986 (may contain lead).
- Home environment: living in an old home; new construction; evidence of mold; cleaning chemicals, location near cell phone tower or high-voltage power lines, living near farms or golf-courses sprayed regularly with chemicals.
- Work environment: exposure to cleaning chemicals, air fresheners, toxic materials, recirculated air.
- Recreation: frequent visiting golf courses or parks treated with herbicides and fungicides; run or biking along busy streets, exposure to toxins through a hobby (paint, photo-developing, glues, varnishes).
- Travel: frequent air travel, sickness from travel.
- Personal care: sensitivity to personal care products, sensitivity to perfumes, gasoline or cleaning products; exposure to cigarette smoke.
- Alcohol, drugs, prescriptions: current or past heavy use of alcohol, recreational or prescription drugs.
- Dental: root canals, “silver” amalgam fillings, crowns, dental sealants, dentures, retainers, braces, mouth guards, dental implants.
Testing and assessment:
Once we have determined possible or likely toxin exposure, especially when they match a symptom picture we look at testing to confirm. This may be a urine test or hair analysis for heavy metals, urine testing for environmental toxic or mold, signs of toxins with mitochondria stress, mold toxins from an organic acid test to name a few.
Remember that standard blood test panels do not show information about environmental toxins, and when a symptom picture is not matching lab results, this may be an important area to investigate. This especially applies to neurological conditions (memory, mood, brain fog), and conditions like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and also hormone imbalances.
If you suspect that toxins may be part of your health concerns, please ask during your next appointment. We can go through an Environmental Toxin Questionnaire, discuss testing options, and build this into your treatment plan. With support, your body can clear some of these toxins which impact every system in the body.