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chemicals chemicals everywhere

So I got off the health kick wagon last night because we were at my old manager's sendoff party. And I had beer, and fried chicken and fried mozz sticks and ranch sauce. And then my allergies were particularly bad last night.

So I like to go to bookstores, and just pick up several books, and read them. Sometimes after skimming the first chapter I drop it. But one of the books I picked up last night, I managed to skim/read the whole thing at bookpeople. It's called: The Autoimmune epidemic. And it was pretty scary. Basically (and i didn't really know this), autoimmune means when your own immune system goes haywire and attacks your own body cells. This could be thyroid related, they attack your thyroid, or the myelin sheath in your nerve cells, which causes really bad things. MS and Lupus, and chronic fatigue, Type 1 diabetes, allergies are supposedly all in this category.

The book said that, iirc, 1 in 12 men, and 1 in 8 women will get an autoimmune disease, and that more people have it then cancer or heart disease. Hospitals and doctors see more and more patients in this category.

She talked about clusters, how people get MS or lupus in clusters geographically. And yet some people say they don't really know what causes these diseases still.

There was the "too clean" theory on allergies, the reason we have allergies is because we grew up in a too clean environment. But that doesn't explain babies and little kids who are already allergenic and have asthma.

So there was the "barrel theory", where you have this barrel where all the strange chemicals you eat, the estrogenic mimicking chemicals, pesticides, mercury, all go into this barrel. And as long as it doesn't overflow, you're fine. But the moment it flows over, then your immune system just cannot handle the onslaught, and it starts doing strange things, like attacking your own cells.

I remember hearing this barrel theory for Austin allergies. Most people are fine the first few years they move here, and then they can't handle cedar and oak anymore. The immune system gets over-active and over-enthusiastic. She explains that when you eat chemicals (which is in almost all processed food), the immune system has to decide what do with each of these chemicals. But sometimes some of these chemicals/foreign bacteria/fungus/etc are similar to some of your body cells, and the immune system gets confused, and attack your own body.

Apparently, the cord blood to fetuses now tests for so many chemicals, that your babies are born already carrying these chemicals in your bloodstream. American women breast milk carry 10 to 100 times higher toxins then European women.

Man, I've always been really into organic stuff, but this definitely pushes me further into that camp. I don't think a healthy immune system should react to tree pollen, or have food allergies.

I had my gross vegetable juice today. Throwing away my teflon pan.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 12th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
The too clean theory says that it's because children grow up in too hygiene an environment, so as they grow older they become more susceptible to allergies and such.
So newborn babies and toddlers with allergies is a counter argument for that.

(Deleted comment)
Feb. 12th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
Hmm.. perhaps. But it seems an awfully short period for the human body to develop allergies because things were too clean in utero.

it makes more sense that it was because the fetus was assaulted by all sorts of chemicals and pesticides.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 13th, 2010 02:21 am (UTC)
It could also relate to epigenetics, the mother's immune system's issues, and the fact you quoted later about toxins in breast milk.
Feb. 12th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
There are always going to be some people who have allergies. Where the too clean theory comes from is a perceived significant shift in the amounts of people (the reason I use "perceived" is that I've also read that much of the data for significant shift is anecdotal and comes from parents self-diagnosing their kids with food allergies).
Feb. 12th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
The book says it's not anecdotal based on the patient load of doctors with auto-immune diseases just in the last few years.

I think allergies is really low on the auto-immune disease pole. But those higher up, like lupus and MS, the number of people with them seems to be growing.

Anyways, this is definitely not mainstream medical stuff, but I think it will eventually be.

Feb. 12th, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
Auto-immune diseases covers a wide spectrum of illnesses. I was talking about the perceived increase in children's allergies specifically.
Feb. 12th, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
I don't know if it's perceived. Even if you take the evolutionary thought: more children are born nowadays that in the past would've died in childbirth or before. Modern medicine makes people who have difficulties having kids, have multiple births. So just on the evolutionary sense, we have children who are weaker that could make them be prone to allergies.
Feb. 12th, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
I'm saying perceived because I have not seen the increase substantiated with data from actual medical diagnoses. Whenever I've read about it, the claim has been based on anecdotes.

Also, I know of no reason why (once prevented) death in childbirth or infertility would cause weakness in surviving adults or toddlers/children. I know of even less reason why such things would manifest as autoimmune disorders. I don't think the amounts of people having modern medicine induced multiple births is nearly large enough to affect evolution yet. In vitro is very expensive, which creates a natural limit on how many people can use it.
Feb. 12th, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm sure we'll get the data on our generation when we're grandparents, but I know on my side, I will try to avoid synthetic chemicals when I can.

Anyways, I thought the book was very good, if you're really interested in knowing more, I would recommend reading it.

Feb. 12th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
Some of these are in the eye of the beholder, too, though. There's a lot of fad diagnoses -- see bipolar disorder and ADD/ADHD in children, and the sudden popularity of diagnosing things that fall under chronic fatigue.
Feb. 12th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
Well, I know 2 people who have chronic fatigue syndrome, and I feel bad for them since they have to defend themselves against people who think they're being lazy.
Feb. 13th, 2010 12:00 am (UTC)
Well, there are definitely people who really do have illnesses we haven't figured out yet. But for a long time, doctors were telling people with Lyme disease that either it was all in their heads, or that they had a form of chronic fatigue (which is still a hazy category). Then they figured out what it was.

Just like there are people who actually do have problems with gluten (celiac disease), but there are a lot more people who have never tested positive for celiac but think they have gluten sensitivities. It's moved to the forefront of our awareness and there's a lot of self-diagnosing going on.

Just like there are kids that actually have ADD/ADHD, and emotionally disturbed kids, and then there are kids who need discipline and consistency.

I could go on. I'm sorry about your friends. I think there are very real illnesses here, but I also think that once a disease gets trendy (and they do), doctors overdiagnosing and people diagnosing themselves leads to people with real conditions not being taken seriously, and ultimately holds us all back.

I dunno. Does that make any sense?
Feb. 13th, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
That makes sense. Ill-behaved kids tend to drive me nuts :)
Also, it doesn't help that doctors only spend 10 mins with patients before making a diagnosis too.

I do think people need to research and take ownership of their own health too. Like I'm anxiety prone and somewhat OCD, so I think partly it's mental, and party it's prob because I have serotonin deficiency. But I made the choice to not medicate myself and prefer more hippie solutions.
Feb. 13th, 2010 02:23 am (UTC)
2 cents
And then there are the kids so overloaded on sugar that they never had a chance.
Feb. 15th, 2010 12:28 pm (UTC)
Re: 2 cents
And then there's the parents who've got one explanation, and make anything conform to that.

I've got a nephew; if he does ANYTHING wrong, sugar is always the sole explanation. This includes if he's had precisely none of it for the last 10 hours, except for a single apple 3 hours ago.
Feb. 15th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
Re: 2 cents
Hah, I hadn't thought of that. Poor guy.
Feb. 15th, 2010 08:10 am (UTC)
I'd second the "perceived", I've not seen any actual data either, that confirms that in actuality more people suffer from allergies, and yes I've looked for it. All you find is a lot of anecdotes, but the plural of anecdote isn't data.

And yes, more people go to the doctor with allergies than before, but more people go to the doctor generally, with ALL sorts of things than used to be the case a few decades ago. That's more to do with the accessibility of doctors than with deteriorating health. (generally speaking, people are a lot healthier than they used to be, not less healthy)

I also have a slight problem with the "chemicals" label. It's typically used by the branch of alternatives who insist that natural == good and artificial == bad. All foods, organic or not, consist of 100% chemicals. I realize that's not what you mean, you mean pesticides and other substances of questionable healthiness, but it contributes to the general haziness of the issue. "chemicals" cause "disorders" is so general as to be nearly content-free.
Feb. 12th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
My mom has an auto-immune disease called Myathenia Gravas. She's pretty sure her grandmother or some older female relative had it too.
Feb. 12th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear that :(

The book doesn't explain why women are more susceptible then men to these kinds of issues.
Feb. 15th, 2010 08:05 am (UTC)
Good point
It seems that women are more susceptible to basically all sorts of vague hazily-defined diagnoses.

There's two main theories for this; one is that the reason is the reason is the same as the reason why women are more susceptible to believe in say they healing properties of crystals or arsenic diluted by a factor of 10^30.

The other, is that historically there's been under-research on problems that more commonly hit women, thus the problem is that we understand less about female health than about male health.

I'm not entirely convinced by either of these explanations though, if you compare comparable but gender-spesific diseases, you don't actually see the pattern. prostate cancer accounts for 25% of male cancers, breast-cancer accounts for 26% of female cancers, thus you could consider the two comparable, and in actual fact, there's been a lot MORE research into breast-cancer than prostate-cancer, not less.

Feb. 12th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
I had terrible allergies growing up in Corpus Christi, but when I moved to Austin 18 years ago, my allergies almost entirely vanished, and they've only shown up in very mild cases and very few times ever since.
Feb. 12th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
There seems to be some environmental component to autoimmune diseases but there is also definitely a genetic component. Having one autoimmune disease makes it *much* more likely that you will have a second, and having a family member who has an autoimmune disease makes you much more likely to have that same autoimmune disease and somewhat more likely any autoimmune disease.

(I am a case in point of this--I have two autoimmune disorders, hashimotos thyroiditis and also eczema. My mother has had different thyroid issues and my grandmother, her mother, had hashi's).

But the rates have definitely gone up in recent years. The amount of chemicals (unnatural ones, that is, since chemicals are all around us in nature) that we expose ourselves to has gone way up and I suspect there is a connection we just haven't figure out exactly what yet (Fluoride, for example, seems to be linked to thyroid disorders although there is no solid proof yet).

It could also be diet related. As a culture our diet has shifted radically in the past century and while almost all indigenous diets seem to be quite healthy (meat and fat heavy eskimo diets, fatty mediterranean diets, fish and rice and vegetable based japanese diets, etc.), the one that has proven most disasterous to humans is the Western diet which has grown in popularity as our rates for all kinds of diseases, including autoimmune, has skyrocketed.

Get a diamond non-stick pan. Even if it means a dreaded kitchen registry. Best damn thing we ever got.
Feb. 12th, 2010 11:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah the book mentioned that once you have an autoimmune disease, it makes it more likely to get another one.

She also said that people are genetically prone to it, but sometimes you don't have to be genetically prone to it, if say, you live right next to a toxic waste site.

It's a pretty good book, she covered stuff really well.
Feb. 13th, 2010 02:26 am (UTC)
My problem with this (the autoimmune blanket) is that it doesn't actually diagnose anything.

That's like calling a cold bronchitis. Infection of the bronchial tubes. Yes, that explains what is happening. That doesn't actually say anything about why, or how to treat, or cure, or anything.

As for cutting chemicals and toxins and hormones and crap - still trying to do that more and more in my life.

Don't forget they make glass tupperware now (and steel) and to check ingredients. Even organic garbage is still garbage =)
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


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