Book Excerpt: My Own Medicine - The Process of Recovery from Chronic Illness
By Diane Kerner
Whether you've paid much attention to it or not, toxins are all around us in this day and age. We breathe toxic substances in our air, drink them in our water, eat them in our foods in the form of pesticides or added chemicals. They are everywhere and so it is easy to overlook and underestimate their presence and impact. It seems obvious enough to me that if your body is trying to get well, it isn't helped by dosing on chemicals of any kind. When your body encounters a foreigner — in my case, CFS — the immune system goes into action to get rid of the offender. The same thing happens when it encounters an environmental toxin. Where do you want your immune system to focus its attention? The goal should be less work for the immune system. You rest so it can do its job better. You don't want to add to its burden. Below, I've listed a number of areas to investigate for toxic substances in your life. These are the more obvious ones. You may find more on your own but this will certainly get you started.
There are lots of non-chemical cleaners available today in supermarkets and there are several good books with recipes for making your own out of common ingredients.
Many people with CFS have multiple allergies and sensitivities. Carpets harbor dust mites, pet dander, molds and more. Throw rugs that can be shaken out and washed are preferable. Chemicals are often used in the backing and installation of wall-to-wall and other carpeting.
Drink lots of water and make sure it's filtered or bottled. Cook with this water also. Wash your produce with it.
Eat organic foods, especially grains, produce, and if you drink them — coffee and tea. Avoid junk foods and heavily processed, nutrient-challenged foods. Plants contain many complex biochemicals that have been found to protect and detoxify the body. These consist mostly of fruit, vegetables, unadulterated grains, green tea, beans, flax seed. Watch what you eat. I don't believe there is one diet for all bodies. Find what is right for you. Pay attention to the way eating certain foods make you feel. A lot of people have food allergies that can be detected through blood and stool tests. Avoid foods that cause an obvious reaction. Food allergies can be responsible for a wide range of symptoms including headache, rashes, joint pain, anxiety, fatigue, mood swings and many other unpleasant effects you wouldn't ordinarily think of attributing to your diet. Again, the idea is to let the immune system rest by taking away things that make it work overtime.
Use natural fabrics for your bedding. You can purchase special mattresses and pillows that are hypo-allergenic but all the ones I've ever seen are prohibitively expensive for many people. Change your bedding frequently. Wash in hot water with a few drops of eucalyptus oil, which kills dust mites and their eggs.
Avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes (including second hand smoke), legal and illegal drugs of all kinds. Don't eat in restaurants that have smoking sections or, if you must, request a seat farthest from the smoking area.
If your mouth is full of mercury amalgam fillings and you have the financial means and a knowledgeable dentist to do the work, you could have them carefully removed and replaced with non-toxic material that is readily available today. This topic is controversial, as the American Dental Association maintains that mercury fillings are benign. However, mercury is known to be a highly toxic substance and it is apparently indisputable that mercury vapors are released in the mouth when chewing. More and more dentists and scientists are supporting the removal of dental fillings that contain mercury. I do have a couple of friends that have had this work done and report significant decrease in pain and an increase in overall function. It is not a panacea. Just one of the many bits, and perhaps a fairly large bit at that, that you can do to support your health and immunity.
Have your doctor check you out for lingering pathogens that might sabotage your recovery, like Candida Albicans, a naturally occurring yeast substance in the healthy flora of the digestive system. An overgrowth of this yeast, called Candidiasis, can be exposed with a stool sample. Naturopathic physicians are very familiar with this. Candida can grow out of control in the body, spurred by over-use of antibiotics, hormonal changes in women, the use of steroids or unhealthy eating habits and effect you in many ways, producing symptoms of fatigue, brain-fog, aches, digestive disturbances, headache and more. A significant number of people with CFS have been found to have Candida overgrowth as a contributing factor to their illness. Many are completely recovered or nearly so by re-establishing a healthy gut. Treatment includes taking anti-fungal herbs or medications and a diet free of sugar, yeast, known food allergens and simple carbohydrates. You may need to see a naturopath (N.D.) for diagnosis and treatment, as some M.D.s are skeptical or unaware of the role Candida can play.
Don't wear perfume or use scented body products. Stay away from magazines that contain perfume strips. I've noticed that I react to the inks in certain magazines, especially some of the art magazines with heavy graphics. Use simple, natural soaps and shampoos with few ingredients. Don't polish your fingernails; both the polish and the remover are toxic and many of their ingredients are known carcinogens. Non-toxic alternatives may be available in your area.
Plastic products do what is called "outgassing.” I don't claim to understand this, but prefer glass, wood, plain paper or natural wicker over plastic containers in my home.
Avoid car and bus fumes. If I am out for a walk, I use secondary streets so that I am not breathing the exhaust from traffic on the busier roads. Consider where you live. If there is a lot of traffic, don't keep doors and windows open that face the busy street. Open the opposite end of the house for fresh air.
Notice toxins where you live, walk, work and in your car. Make over all of the environments where you spend a significant amount of your time. Avoid places where a lot of chemicals are used such as home remodels and beauty salons. I don't even walk down the cleanser aisle in supermarkets. I figure if I can smell too much chemical smell, I don't want to get close to it.
Invest in an air purifier with a hepa filter. Keep heater and other vents cleaned.
Avoid freshly painted or carpeted rooms.
Practice good dental hygiene to keep bacteria down - another potential distraction for the immune system. My Own Medicine: The Process of Recovery from Chronic Illness by Diane Kerner is published by iUniverse, Inc., and can be purchased from Amazon.com by clicking on the following link: My Own Medicine: The Process of Recovery from Chronic Illness The preceding excerpt is (c) 2004 Diane Kerner, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of the author.