What is Environmental Medicine?
Simply stated, Environmental Medicine is the study of the interaction between mankind and the environment. More specifically, environmental medicine focuses on the adverse reactions experienced by an individual upon exposure to substances in the diet and/or the environment. The substances to which an individual may react to are found in air, food, and water and commonly found in our homes, workplace and school environments. Exposures to these substances may adversely affect one or more organ systems of a susceptible individual and have a cumulative effect for one's lifetime. In earlier stages disease subtle effects are commonly unrecognized by the individual or their physicians until they become more serious and "talk louder".
What is different about Environmental Medicine?
Environmental Medicine offers a sweeping reinterpretation of medical thinking, especially its approach to many previously unexplained and ineffectively treated chronic diseases. The basis of this view is the simple concept that there are causes for all illnesses and the obvious, but not well accepted fact, that what we eat or are exposed to in our environment may have a direct and profound effect upon our health. The goal of Environmental Medicine is to identify the cause of a health problem and eliminate or reduce the level of exposure as much as possible. This usually requires changes in one's diet and/or environment. By eliminating the cause of the condition successfully, there is much less need for medication.
On the other hand, some patients may be experiencing health problems due to lack of specific nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. These deficiencies often need to be corrected in order to bring about better health.
To put it simply, as environmental physicians, we strive to remove the cause of the condition and/or replace what is missing.
What are some of its basic concepts?
The basic concepts of Environmental Medicine include the total load, individual susceptibility and adaptation.
Multiple and chronic environmental exposures in a susceptible individual contribute to a breakdown of that person's defense mechanisms. Rarely is only one offending agent responsible for causing a diseased condition. Rather, multiple factors accumulate and coexist, usually over a prolonged period of time in bringing about a disease process. These factors that adversely affect an individual are usually unrecognized because they are so common in our daily living patterns that there is no obvious cause and effect.
We are all different. Adverse reactions to environmental agents occur for a variety of reasons including genetic predisposition, age, gender, nutritional status, level of exposures to offending substances, infectious processes and emotional and physical stress.
Adaptation is the ability of an organism to adjust to the gradually changing and sustained circumstances of its existence. More simply, adaptation is the ability to tolerate stressors of one kind or another. Maladaptation would be a breakdown of the adaptive mechanisms.
The accumulation of multiple stressors over a person's lifetime include not only psychosocial stress, but biological stressors such as bacteria, viruses, dust mites, fungi and foods. In addition, the impact of chemicals (both man-made and natural) contribute to the "total load" on any given individual.
Indeed, the conditions of modern civilization have exposed humans to food additives and many other man-made environmental chemicals that probably have had an effect, to some degree, on everyone.