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Recommended Reading: TOXIC, by Neil Nathan, MD

While COVID-19 continues to besiege the human population, it has had a positive impact, at least temporarily, in some of the most polluted areas on our planet.

Images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites show the stark contrast in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels over China before and during their quarantine (when transportation and industries were largely shut down).

Nitrogen dioxide is a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities.

Imagine what would happen if we were able to stop polluting the planet, filter pollutants out of the environment, and focus our efforts on restoring healthy ecosystems in air, land, and water.

Within a matter of years, we would see a big improvement in the environment overall. In just a few decades, we would start to notice increasing populations of diverse plants and animals as balance was restored.

Now imagine taking the same approach with the human body. What if we could avoid exposure to toxins in our food supply and environment? What if we followed that up by detoxing the body and then restoring every system in the body — the nervous system, immune system, endocrine system, gastrointestinal system, and so on? Over the course of a few months or maybe a year, we would probably start to feel amazing. We would be more energetic, think more clearly, and be much happier overall.

In his book TOXIC: Heal Your Body from Mold Toxicity, Lyme Disease, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, and Chronic Environmental Illness, Neil Nathan, MD, recommends such an approach for the many people who suffer from environmentally acquired illness (EAI).

And this approach closely aligns with the one we follow at BioDesign Wellness Center to restore optimal health and fitness to our patients:

  1. Reduce exposure to toxins.
  2. Detox the body.
  3. Restore healthy function to every system of the body all the way down to the cellular level.

In TOXIC, Dr. Nathan begins by touching on the two root causes of many chronic illnesses — direct toxicity and the body’s sensitivity to certain substances, which he associates with the nervous system, but which can be extended to immune system dysfunction.

After establishing the basis for many chronic illnesses in the body’s response to toxins, Dr. Nathan highlights what he believes are the four main causes of toxicity and sensitivity:

  • Toxic mold.
  • Bartonella bacteria infection can cause cat scratch fever, trench fever, Carrión’s disease, and other illnesses.
  • Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) — a condition in which certain immune cells release excessive amounts of chemical mediators, including histamine, which can cause severe and potentially fatal inflammation.
  • Porphyria and carbon monoxide: Porphyria refers to a collection of disorders resulting from the buildup of certain chemicals related to red blood cell proteins, which can affect the nervous system or the skin. Carbon monoxide also affects red blood cells by replacing oxygen (O2) molecules in the cells with carbon monoxide (CO) molecules, essentially starving the body of oxygen.

Dr. Nathan devotes most of the book to presenting his model for treatment, which he likens to rebooting a computer. Treatment consists of rebooting several of the body’s systems and functions:

  • Nervous
  • Immune
  • Endocrine
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Metabolic (to facilitate healthy weight management)
  • Methylation (to support healthy gene expression)
  • Detoxification
  • Sensitization (to dampen the body’s response to certain chemicals)
  • Stress response

Restoring health to key bodily functions sets the stage for a state of wellness to return. However, optimal health begins at the cellular level, which is why the system reboot approach is so effective. In Chapter 8, Dr. Nathan explains the concept of the cell danger response (CDR) developed by Dr. Robert Naviaux and his team of scientists at the University of California, San Diego’s Naviaux Lab. As Dr. Naviaux explains:

“CDR is a universal response to environmental threat or injury. Once triggered, healing cannot be completed until the choreographed stages of the CDR are returned to an updated state of readiness.

Although the CDR is a cellular response, it has the power to change human thought and behavior, child development, physical fitness and resilience, fertility, and the susceptibility of entire populations to disease.”

As most healthcare practitioners who have been working with EAI patients recognize, a comprehensive and blended approach of holistic and conventional medicine works best in close consultation with patients.

Throughout his book, Dr. Nathan reveals that a gentle hand is required to treat patients with environmentally acquired illnesses successfully. The gentle hand is both an analogy for doctors’ bedside manner (communication skills) and the prescribing of treatments.

Here at BioDesign Wellness Center, Tampa’s functional medicine clinic, we often consult with patients who have been treated for the environmentally acquired illness by other practitioners or who have self-treated for conditions such as mold illness and have experienced flare-ups (i.e., worsening of symptoms).

These flare-ups can often be attributed to treatments delivered without a gentle hand. Sometimes the flare-ups are the result of “too much too soon” or simply providing treatments out of the proper sequence.

Patients who start treatment to heal their bodies from environmentally acquired illness should feel better, not worse. A slow and gradual approach, doing things in the right order and for the right duration, is what ultimately restores a person’s health.

In today’s world of cookbook medicine, quick fixes, and a one-size-fits-all approach, environmentally acquired illness patients often suffer needlessly.

This is why we start with slow and gentle detoxification. Over time, this cleans up the person’s ecosystem and allows for healing. We can then proceed with additional treatments designed to optimize health and fitness.

If you or a loved one has been struggling with a chronic health condition, even if the symptoms are primarily considered psychological or behavioral, and conventional diagnosis and treatments have been unable to identify the cause or provide sufficient relief, we encourage you to read TOXIC and consult with a doctor who understands environmentally acquired illness and cell danger response, as well as the necessity to deliver treatment with a gentle hand.

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Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about environmentally acquired illness and cell danger response is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.