Posts Tagged ‘nervous system’

This Canary Sings a Tale of Toxins

December 17, 2014

Chronic illness is on the increase. Why is it so? I first learned that multiple chronic illnesses have at least two common contributing factors over eleven years ago when I came across an arIMG_4246ticle in the Weekend Australian newspaper about Australian doctors getting significant improvements with autistic kids by using the same strategies my research had shown were successful in treating Chronic fatigue Syndrome (CFS); improving gut health and detoxifying environmental toxins like heavy metals and chemicals. Further research revealed that many other chronic illnesses have links to these same two factors. There are often also genetic and additional factors at play.

 

When the article was published on 22nd February 2003 it stated autism affected 1 in 500 to 1 in 1000 Australian children. Accelerating rapidly since then, a 2012 article puts the figure at 1 in 110. A startling increase. I’ll focus on environmental toxins in this blog post.

We’re all exposed to an increasing array of toxins and this can go part way to explaining the increase in chronic illness. IMG_3685Since the Industrial revolution billions of tonnes of toxic metals have been mined from the earth and used by humans to make things. They’ve been released into the air, water and soil and hence the food chain and there is a bio-accumulation effect in plants, animals and humans that has reached every corner of the earth. Seals, whales, polar bears and walruses, staples of the Arctic Inuit people’s diet have become deposits for the world’s 12 most toxic chemicals and they are passed on in breast milk. Toxic metals do not degrade into less harmful substances over time.

In the north of Greenland, where twice as many girl babies are being born to Inuit families than boys, scientists have discovered that toxic chemicals in their food are affecting their hormones and affecting the gender of the children being born.

 

We begin accumulating toxins in the womb. The Environmental Working Group in America (www.ewg.org) tested the umbilical cord blood of 10 newborn babies and found nearly 300 chemicals, including BPA, fire retardants, lead, PCBs and pesticides that were banned more than 30 years ago.IMG_4078

What do these heavy metals and chemicals do to our body? The short answer is damage it. They affect various enzyme systems, our excretory organs, liver and kidneys, our nervous, endocrine, immune and digestive systems and may contribute to allergies, chronic viral infections, Alzheimers disease and other neurological conditions like Parkinsons and Multiple Sclerosis. Genetic factors mean people with the same chemical exposure will manifest different symptoms .

Why are some people more affected ? It seems that some of us have a genetic predisposition to not excrete heavy metals and chemicals as well as others.

 

An article in the August Prevention magazine says “’We all have a IMG_3941different genetic ability to detoxify…it is not uncommon to be missing one or two detoxification genes or have a polymorphism (genetic variation) which may affect your ability to detoxify’…says Jan Purser, naturopathic nutritionist and clinical detoxification expert. ‘If someone says to me things like, ‘I can’t have more than a few drinks without getting a bad hangover’, or ‘I feel really unwell if I don’t eat vegetables every day’, I think to myself, ‘I bet they’ve got a polymorphism in their detoxification genes.’ “ .

A hair mineral analysis is one way to get information about the toxic heavy metals you have stored in your body. My hair analysis reveals that I still have high levels of mercIMG_3860ury, lead, arsenic, silver and uranium, despite years of detoxifying. I also used to have high levels of copper and aluminium. They all damage the human body.

The circumstantial evidence is strong that I, like many others, have genetic factors at play in dealing with the increasing amount of toxins we’re exposed to in our everyday lives.

When I was 18 I began going out to clubs with my friends, dancing, drinking, meeting boys and experimenting with this new freedom of being a ‘legal’ adult. One memorable ‘morning after’ saw me being  violently ill up until the next night. My friends who drank a similar amount to me had no significant side effecIMG_4218ts from our night out. Understandably I’ve been a cautious drinker ever since! Even one drink of alcohol can make me feel ill.

The other pointer to me possibly having a genetic pre-disposition to not excrete toxins so well is the fact that my sister Carole, the eldest of my 4 siblings, has also experienced Chronic Fatigue in her life and her daughter Fibromyalgia. When I told Carole earlier this year that I’d worked out the fumigation chemicals on the imported jewellery at work had been affecting my health, she recounted a story that I’d not heard before, which put another piece of the jigsaw in place for me.

She told me that when she worked as the Manager of a shoe store many years ago IMG_3808she became very sick and worked out that it was due to the chemicals used on the leather products. Leather tanning is one of the most toxic industries in the world because of the chemicals involved. She felt sick when she opened the shop door in the morning, as the off-gassed toxins had built up in the air in the shop overnight. It was the onset of many years of debilitating chronic fatigue. I asked her ‘when did you recover?’ and she said, ‘ I don’t think I ever have fully’.

Genetic predispositions to detoxifying may explain why Carole and I have both been affected by toxins in our work environments, whilst others working in the same or similar environments are not. Perhaps genetic pre-dispositions to detoxification may partly explain why some people develop chronic illnesses, from autism to MS and Parkinsons and some do not.

I was fortunate to find a doctor many years ago who diagnosed my illness correctly after one doctor told me my ill health was psychological, a common and distressing occurrence for people with these type of conditionsIMG_4247 and two other doctors shrugged their shoulders, having no idea how to help me.

That doctor explained to me the exponential affect of having multiple heavy metals in the body. Apparently adding one more heavy metal or chemical has the effect of times 10 or times 100 rather than plus 10 or plus 100.  One recent GP who had no understanding of environmental toxins on health said to me ‘Megan we are not taught about this in medical school’.

 

The Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine provides training and education in this field. Anyone looking for a doctor with awareness about these issues can look at a practitioner list on the ACNEM website.

Those of us with genetic issues impacting detoxifying can be considered to be the ‘canary in the coal mine’. Canaries were once regularly used in coal mining as an early warning system. Toxic gases in the mine would kill the bird before affecting the miners. Signs of distress from the bird indicated to the miners that conditions were unsafe. The use of miners’ canaries in British mines was only phased out in 1987.IMG_4158

There are things we can all do to support our body to detoxify, like eating foods that support our liver and support detoxification, including fresh green foods. We can have saunas and take herbs and nutritional supplements. I recovered my health this year, as I did previously, by following a comprehensive and extended detoxification program with a skilled and experienced practitioner and  I recommend getting professional support from a detoxification expert, especially if you have a chronic condition.

There are also ways to limit our exposure to toxins in the first place, like eating organic foods and using chemical free personal and cleaning products. The first step is becoming aware of what chemicals and toxins are in our environment, in products we use or eat and in environments we spend time in. There will be more than you think. You may already know about mercury in dental amalgams and aluminium in dIMG_4079eoderants for example but did you know there is often lead in lipsticks and mercury in eye drops?  Do you cook food in non stick or aluminium pans? We are surrounded by them in our homes and work places.

 

There are many resources available on this topic, one resource on my bookshelf is called Invisible Killers. It is an invisible but very real factor that contributes to a lot of ill health. I’ve learnt to trust my instincts and act on this when the tangible evidence is hard to find and when there is little awareness of these issues amongst medical professionals. When the word ‘neurotoxin’ popped into my mind during a massage earlier this year as my health was declining I listened and acted.

We can all make a positive impact on our own health as well as the health of the world by the consumer choices we make. It’s become much easier to source organic and chemical free products due to higher demand from a more aware populace.  As an Inuit leader said ‘We are the land and the land is us. When our land and animals are poisoned, so are we.’  Awareness is the first step.

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STOPPING BUSY

August 21, 2014

“Hi. How have you been?“. “Busy”, is an often heard response. I caught myself saying it recently and felt a slight twinge of something as I said it.  Justification? Pride? Our society has become addicted to ‘busy’, our worth is measured by activity or output, doing has become more valued than being. An excellent article in the New York Times in 2012 called it ‘The Busy Trap‘. We are in a rush to…where? I’ve found that being busy is not necessarily related to how much I have to do in a day. Stopping can be  scary. What’s left when I stop?  I’m on a quest to find and restore my lost ‘off button’. I’ve learned good health depends on it.

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In our modern world we’re all exposed to an increasing amount of environmental toxins that accumulate in our bodies if not released and this toxic load underpins many chronic health conditions. Constant busyness creates stress that gets in the way of that release as many essential and restorative bodily functions are put on hold. When we don’t deeply relax and switch off regularly in healthy ways,  it means in essence we wear ourselves out.

 

My highest health priority is to detoxify my body after being exposed to chemicals at work, and supporting my liver, kidneys and cells through nutritional, herbal and other natural methods is only part of the picture. At an early age my fight and flight response was triggered and whilst any threat is long gone my system does not naturally switch ‘off’ and this is  exacerbated by living in a society that values constant doing.IMG_1223

I’m feeling grateful for the choice I have made to work at half pace from home right now and the time this is giving me to reconnect with myself and delve inside, to loosen up the edges and identify ways of being in the world that are toxic and unhelpful… even damaging. I’m noticing the tension that I create for myself, even when there aren’t a lot of demands on my time.

 

For example, a health practitioner recently recommended that I spend some time relaxing after my morning walk. Relax? Normally I get back home and get straight into hastily preparing and eating breakfast, then immediately launch into whatever I’m doing that day, often rushing out the door. Rest and relax? Gosh that feels challenging. IMG_0713I’m gradually retraining myself.

On some mornings I’ve allowed myself to lay down and deeply relax after my walk and I feel much more energised, relaxed and focussed afterwards. More present. I’ll confess that the insistent list of things that I believe need my immediate attention beckon me on other mornings. It’s a work in progress.

Tuesdays and Thursdays have been my days ‘off’, unstructured days with all possibilities, yet my mind gets busy, wanting to work out what to ‘do’ in that day to get the most value from that precious time. A few weeks ago I even had a day off ‘to do list’. Oh No! A list of things to DO on my day off. Then I felt the pressure to decide what to do first! A relaxing day suddenly became unrelaxed. How can I retrain myself when my habits are so ingrained? Time to call in a specialist. Enter Kylie Martin.

 

I’ve started going to Kylie’s deep rest therapy classes. She says she ‘is a specialist in stress related illness and body-mind conditions’ and has healed herself using these methods. HIMG_0270er two hour classes are about deep release and relaxation, switching off the nervous system, to help release old patterns of holding that we may have carried for a lifetime. I found myself in the first class thinking impatiently, ‘well there’s not much going on, we’re just laying here, and I am paying for this and how many people are in the room? That means….!’. Of course stopping was the point, physically and mentally and I eventually got there.

Kylie’s given me homework, including inviting me to gift myself every day with a modified Shavasana relaxation.   Shavasana relaxation is the integrative period of stillness at the end of a yoga class. I’m noticing the accumulated effects weaving into my everyday life and a sense of stillness beginning to infiltrate my body. Let me talk you through the process in case you’d like to try it. I’ve been doing it at the end of the day before I cook dinner.

 

Grab a towel, an eye pillow and some blankets and put some nice relaxing music on. Because it’s winter and a bit chilly and it’s part of the process to have weight on top of you, I lay on my bed under my doona with my feet wrapped in a blanket and pushed up against the bed head (or wall). Having your feet against a wall helps your nervous system to feel safe to relax. You could also lay on a mat on the floor. Having your knees slightly bent over a cushion is optional and IIMG_0398 prefer it that way.  Having weight on top of you in the form of blankets also helps your nervous system relax, so lay some folded blankets over you.

Put the towel around your neck like you are carrying it to the shower and then lift the ends up and cross them over your forehead and wrap the ends behind your head. You are wrapping your head up so it feels nice and cosy and held. Extremely relaxing for the nervous system. Put an eye pillow on your eyes and lay with your hands, palm upwards, by your side. Now relax. It feels like you’re cocooned. Focus on noticing and letting go of any holding, notice your breathing and scan through your body, releasing tension, bit by bit by bit. It feels delicious. I do it for 15 to 40 minutes.

 

A popular quote doing the rounds is ‘stop the glorification of busy’. Let’s replace it with the power of stopping and the miracle of being. I am beginning to re-program myself to cure my busy habit and develop new nourishing habits. I am learning how to deeply relax and literally switch off to build a healthy and resilient body and to connect to what’s important ratheIMG_1133r than what I might have thought was urgent. Many years ago I wrote a poem about this topic unsurprisingly called Stop!. The last stanza says:

I stand within the stillness of stopping

Peace and joy permeate the space

I feel excitement, joy, the urge to create

Everything is possible…when I stop.

 

Kylie told me that she gives herself a period of deep rest every day and she is able to achieve a lot without depleting herself. She is now productive, energised and relaxed rather than busy and exhausted. Sounds good to me.  So how have you been?